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Hirst flies to Toller Gold
Hawes tops wingless warriors

By Bob Burbach
Marysville CA - March 4, 2012 --- Guess it doesn’t really matter what hot rod Kyle Hirst buckles into. He hammers the gas, goes to the top, starts moving clay and winds up with the big check at Paul and Kathy Hawes’ Marysville Raceway Park. He did it again Saturday night. Dave Vertullo’s bright orange 83v was Hirst’s ride into victory lane…and it was a thriller right to the end. Marysville’s Jeremy Hawes kept his stranglehold on the Toller trophy in tact by picking up his 2nd straight victory in the wingless portion of the event.

A mild evening and a rocket fast track greeted sprint car fans and racers alike. This event honors the life and times of Sherm Toller who was a mainstay at MRP. Taking the wraps off the newly refurbished raceway, MRP sparkled and the racing program was as good as the 44 year old speed pavilion looked.

8 heat races in both classes went into the books caution free. Willie Croft accumulated the most points in the duel heat race format for the winged cars by winning his first heat and then charging from 8th starting position to 2nd in his 2nd heat race. So not only was the place wicked fast, there were 2 lines and passing was the name of the game if you were brave enough to throw it in on top. Greg Decaires, Mason Moore, 5-time MRP champ Korey Lovell, 3-time MRP champ Colby Wiesz and Hirst figured it out.

After the slam bang B main the field of 20 was set to go for 30 laps. Wiesz was the pole sitter and out gunned fellow front row starter Decaires into turn 1. But Decaires jumped up to the cushion and blasted by Wiesz to grab an early lead. Wiesz was going after win #50 at MRP and tried to answer, but Decaires distanced himself from the field rapidly.

By lap 5 Decaires was closing in on fast lapped traffic. Entering turn 1 he got mixed up in it and slammed his white 18 into the 1st turn concrete ending his night on the hook. Wiesz took the new green with a new opportunity for win #50 but 600 ft after Don Dunlap’s green banner waved; Bill Aton took a wicked end over end ride that seemed to pitch the car some 20 feet in the air at times. Aton’s chassis is headed for the dumpster, but “Wild Bill” was uninjured in the night’s wildest ride.

The final 21 laps of the feature featured some torrid battles as Moore challenged Wiesz for the top spot. Neither of the top 2 saw 5th starting Hirst chewing up ground behind them. Hirst was turning the fastest laps of the race at this point. Hirst seemed to surprise Moore with a quick move in 3 for 2nd. Then Hirst set his sights on Wiesz and blasted through the top side clay to get there. It was a short, but stirring battle that Hirst won and from then on Hirst distanced himself from the field, but only for a while.

Former Mel Hall Memorial Race winner, Croft had gone to work from 6th and showed up in 2nd place with a handful of laps to go. Croft closed the gap with remarkable moves through traffic, while Hirst became mired in traffic ahead. At the white banner Croft had taken big chunks out of Hirst’s lead, but simply ran out of laps as Hirst flashed under the checkers with a brilliant victory. With all eyes glued to the lead battle, Tommy Tarlton’s charge to 3rd from 10th may have gone nearly unnoticed. But, like Hirst, Tarlton made the high side work and his late race charge just nipped Wiesz for the show spot.

Pre-race ceremonies honored the our fallen friend Sherm Toller and this entire event was a shining example of just how good sprint car racing is these days at Marysville Raceway Park. Winner Kyle Hirst quipped in victory lane, “I’d like to thank Paul for putting this track together. There’s nothing wrong with this place at all! It was great.” This observer thinks that sums it up perfectly.

2-time winner of the Toller Classic, Jeremy Burt took the checkered flag lap for Toller but had a mechanical failure in his heat race #2. He won the B, but was not a factor in the feature. Following Tarlton, Wiesz, Moore and Lovell completed the top 6 across the line.

Jeremy Hawes won the wingless portion of the show in a flawless performance. It had to be. Early leader and pole sitter Scott Hall faded quickly with handling issues and Hawes grabbed the top spot. But the box score doesn’t show what a fine race this really was. A couple of incidental yellow flags kept the pack tightly bunched and Hawes was unable to get much breathing room.

As the race headed into its final 5 circuits, Dave Johnson picked up the pace and was right on Hawes’ tail. But the real story in the late laps was Joel Giusti who, from 7th starting position was charging to the front. It seemed that Giusti aboard his #17 “Flyin’ Ford" surprised Johnson and pulled along side for the runner up spot. In turn, Johnson got a real wake up call and started to reel in Hawes. For a while you could throw a blanket over the top 3. Johnson went to the rim as Giusti hooked up low to middle and made it hard for Johnson to complete his exits in 2 and 4. It was a crowd pleaser as the assembled multitude seemed to start to root for Giusti.

As race roared to its conclusion, it appeared that Hawes heard motors or saw Giusti’s front end down low. Because, after that, Hawes turned a couple of qualifying laps perfectly balanced against the cushion to inch away from the challengers and tuck away his 2nd Toller victory. Johnson held off Giusti for the runner up spot. Jeff Ensign was 4th after the “Save of the Night” in one of his heat races. Ensign got a wheel on the front chute sending his black 3f into the sky. All 4 wheels were off the ground and the car started to lean sideways left. It looked like it was going to get ugly, but Ensign brought it down on all fours and motored on.

Like Hall, Dave Sprigg was a factor in the feature before mechanical gremlins sidelined his black #12. A non starter in the wingless portion was Terry Schank. A rare mechanical failure in his #1 racer sidelined one of the favorites.

Next Saturday is an open Play Day at the raceway for all racing divisions in advance of round 1 of the California Sprint Cart Civil War on the 17th. Many of these same stars here for the Toller Memorial will be here for the return of California’s premiere 360 winged sprint car series to MRP. Play Day prices will be $20 car/driver and $10/pit pass. Concessions will be available. We’ll get going at 10AM wrapping things up at 4PM. 

Life’s short. Live it. Race hard.

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. Complete finishes, stats and points become official and available at the close of business on Tuesday and will be posted to the web site.