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MRP roars again. 91 cars race. Packed house sees thriller.
By Bob Burbach
Marysville CA - September 19, 2010 --- A phenomenal outpouring of support for the grand re-opening of Paul and Kathy Hawes’ Marysville Raceway Park is only the beginning of this story. 91 racecars swelled the pits and the biggest, noisiest crowd in recent memory celebrated while an action packed 5-division show provided the excitement. Virtually no one left the grandstands until the final checkered flag had fallen. Andy Forsberg flew non-stop to the feature win in the MRP Winged Sprint Car feature. Brian Southers grabbed the honors in the Performance Auto Supply Wingless Warrior Sprint Car Series. PJ Petersen posted the win and secured the title in the Pro 4 Sprint division. MRP’s own “Blonde Bombshell” picked up her 2nd MRP Mini Stock title as Gary Holsey appeared out of nowhere to whip a stellar field of Minis to the checkers. In the MRP Super Stocks feature Corey Hall kept his championship hopes alive with a stirring feature win.

Pre-race ceremonies included a heart felt checkered flag salute from racers and fans alike to Merle Shepherd. A/D reporter Ryan Klocke interviewed Shepherd’s brother James who made the trip from Oregon to salute his brother. Shepherd said, “Closing down is not what my brother would have wanted.” He continued, “All we did was race.” Several cars and drivers circled the track in the checkered flag tribute to Shepherd. Long time fried Jerry Witzke brought out his vintage super stock and led the parade of drivers by carrying the checkered flag.

Pre-race ceremonies also included a marriage proposal from 2-time MRP Mini Stock Champ and Pro 4 feature event winner Joel Giusti to his long time companion Megan. Giusti came up to the announcer’s booth, did the traditional “one knee shuffle” and she jumped up, screamed and said yes…despite jokingly being advised to reconsider by many.

Stock Car champion Jerry Bartlett showed up with an incredible creation. His new MRP Super Stock was awash with dazzling color and a “Gone Racing Forever” theme. It was truly a work of art and featured images of friends who have been involved with MRP and have left us to go racing forever. Bartlett’s new car was true eye-candy to any race fan. It was a brilliant effort and one that brought crowds of people to take a look at the car. It was displayed at the front gate prior to the races.

Promoter Paul Hawes’ efforts to provide a hooked up, high-speed surface for this event paid off. From the start, in every division the racing was fast and furious. 

Incredibly, it took only 4 minutes and 22 seconds to run the heart pounding MRP Winged Sprint Car main event. A 3-car knot that included Forsberg, Willie Croft and Colby Wiesz thundered around the MRP clay in desperate pursuit of the checkers. Croft (the 2000 winner of the Mel Hall Memorial Race) and Forsberg slugged it out in the early laps for the top spot as Wiesz worked his way into 3rd. On different occasions each of the lead trio turned in increasingly quicker laps. Then it got good and scary as the 3 combatants became mired in lapped traffic. Croft, Forsberg and Wiesz were involved in a frantic dice for the top spot.

As the event headed toward ½ way, leader Croft made a couple of mistakes in 3 that allowed Forsberg to flash by. Wiesz got into 2nd with Croft settling into 3rd… but not for long. Croft and Wiesz locked up into a tremendous battle for 2nd and started catching Forsberg again. Croft used lapped traffic as a pick and got back by Wiesz. But Forsberg was turning in a brilliant performance in traffic that the other 2 combatants could not match. Forsberg flirted with the wall and disaster constantly as he rushed into and through lapped traffic with a reckless abandon. This was sprint car racing at its finest on a smoking fast ribbon of clay.

The checkers seemed to pop out too soon in this entertaining struggle. Forsberg won with Croft keeping Wiesz in a frustrating 3rd place. With the furious action up front great drives by Mike Monahan and Reyna Krueger nearly went unnoticed, but they posted 4th and 5th place finishes respectively. Jamie Phillips, Krueger, Croft and Wiesz got the heat race wins.

The Performance Auto Supply Wingless Warrior Sprint Car Series is presenting the tightest battle for the title of any of the classes. Coming into this race, Terry Schank brought a slim 5-point lead in the championship standings. Stand out chauffer Taylor Simas resides in 2nd place. With 2 races left, these two will decide it all.

The initial green in the feature event saw front row starter Mason Myers pop into the crisp night air and flip wildly in turn 1. Myers was OK, but he was done for the night. Also caught up in the melee were pre-race favorites Brett Youngman and Billy Wallace. Only Wallace would return for the restart. 

The new green saw Southers rocket away from the field and would go on to win virtually unchallenged. The Simas/Schank struggle saw Schank after being surprised by Simas with a wild back stretch move claw his way back to a 2nd place finish as Simas had to settle for 5th. In between it was an entertaining dice for position that included Jeremy Hawes (finishing 4th) and a really quick newcomer named David Johnson (finishing 3rd).

One of the big movers in this one was Josh Vieira as he dashed up through the field to 6th. Vieira put on quite a show as he went forward all night. Southers, Schank and Wallace won the heats.

Corey Hall needed a big night if he was to have any shot at point leader Jeff Olschowka in his run for the MRP Super Stock title. Hall would have to win…and Olschowka would have to have his worst finishing position of the year. Both scenarios appeared like magic as Hall bested a stout, fast field of MRP Super Stocks. The race was a rip-roaring thriller as Willie Horn and Hall hooked up in a torrid race for the lead. Tommy Arbogast and James Castleberry became factors, but Hall and Horn were going to decide this one.

A mid-race caution found Horn with Hall on his tail. When the green flag flew, Horn did not go. Hall flew on by as Horn started to pick up speed. But from that point on Hall was in control and reached victory lane again. 

That was part 1. 

Part 2 saw point leader Jeff Olschowka wrestle with mechanical ills that eventually forced his retirement. Olschowka finished a distant 17th. Hall picked up 21 points and now has only 12 markers between himself and Olschowka headed into the final race October 9th. A spectacular field of 23 Super Stocks took the green flag in the main event as promoter Hawes decided to allow all the cars that participated in MRP’s reopening participate in main event action. 

The MRP Mini Stock feature was filled with slam-bang carnage and great racing action. Misty Castleberry pulled the dreaded “complete inversion” pill and started last with all the other hot shoes from heat race action.

The first laps of this one had the fans up and yelling as Castleberry, Jason Clayton and Howard Law came from the back to the front. Olschowka was in the mix as well and 3 wide racing became the norm for a while. Then the whole complexion of the race changed in an instant. Cars started twirling and hammering each other as a big crash developed off of turn 2. Who was at fault would depend on who you talked to, but Clayton’s potent 53 was junk. Olschowka’s car was hammered hard but was still limping around. Jimmy Ford’s 12 had ALL the bodywork ripped from the right hand side. But, through the middle of the crash, Castleberry hammered the gas and pushed her way through the wreck and into the lead. While impressive, it would be short lived as the stout 95 had received terminal damage while pinballing through the crash.

The last few laps of the race saw a resurgent Law in the lead, but lurking in 4th and coming fast was Gary Holsey in his familiar #2. Holsey, a 3-time winner of the Mel Hall memorial Race (when they ran Mini Stocks in the event) was carving a quick path toward leader Law. Whether Holsey was saving the best until the last we don’t know, but all of a sudden he was the fastest hot rod on the track and all over leader Law. Holsey powered by with a fine run through the center of 3-4 and never looked back. Holsey has made only a few appearances in his Mini Stock as his focus has been on his sprinter lately. But, he showed tonight he still has what it takes to win. Castleberry, Clayton and Ford got heat race wins.

PJ Petersen became the youngest driver in the history of Pro 4 Sprint Car racing to grab the title. He did it in fine style by winning the hard fought feature event. Brandon Ternora was flying in his purple 50 and for a while seemed to have a real shot at Petersen. Ternora has been quick of late, but the former winged sprint car driver could not quite make it to the top spot. In the end, Petersen was the class of the field as he was easily able to separate himself from the other competitors with ease.

Petersen’s closest competitor in the series was MRP Mini Stock champ Misty Castleberry. Castleberry’s long-shot hopes for the title went out the window when she flipped hard in turn 3 during her heat race. She would return for the feature but wingless and battered, she rode around securing Rookie of the Year honors in the series.

The final point race for 2010 will be on Saturday night October 9th. It will have all 5 primary divisions on the card. The MRP Winged Sprinters, the Performance Auto Supply Wingless Warrior Sprint Car Series, the MRP Mini Stocks, Super Stocks and Pro 4 Sprints will all be presented.

Pit gate opens at 3PM. The spectator gates will open at 5 PM with Hot Laps at 6 PM. IMPORTANT: The first race will start after hot laps at about 6:30. 

Note: Please make this observer aware of any names that are misspelled or incorrect. The text is based on information we have at the time of its release.