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Top guns at MRP for Toller Memorial
By Bob Burbach
Marysville CA - February 25, 2013 --- Once again, the finishing touches are being put on powerful racing machines. Spring’s around the corner and Paul and Kathy Hawes’ Marysville Raceway Park has a great new surface, a fresh coat of paint and it’s time to go sprint car racing. The 2013 Sherm Toller Memorial Race will kick off MRP’s 45th year of continuous operation. It should be a mild day, in the mid-70s, according to the weather watchers. In other words, perfect conditions for wicked-fast sprint car racing. 

The mild, virtually rain-free winter has allowed the off-season work at MRP to move very quickly to completion. MRP is now one of the fastest, most competitive and nicest short tracks in the west from a fan friendly and racer friendly perspective. 

The 1st presentation of 2013 will be the 4th Sherm Toller Memorial Race. We’ll be switching on the lights for this great event this Saturday night. It’s a 360 sprint car only show featuring the mighty winged 360s and a special open show for the wingless spec sprints. The winged 360 sprint car feature will pay $2500 to win and the great folks at sprintcarfan.com will be offering an additional $100 to the fast time qualifier Saturday to kick off their year long sponsorship of winged sprint car qualifying at MRP. The wingless spec sprint feature will offer $1000 to the winner. 

The winged sprint car event has been presented as a stand alone special event on three previous occasions in honor of Toller who was a fixture at MRP. Jeremy Burt, the 2007 MRP winged sprint car champ, has triumphed twice in this prestigious event. Kyle Hirst took the victory last year. Burt has said he will be at this year’s event despite enduring severe back injuries in a bizarre crash in last season’s final event. Prior to his injury, Burt had been red-hot. He is a legitimate player and is likely to be as intense about securing his 2nd championship at MRP as he is about the Toller race. Burt has carried the checkered flag in all former pre-race salutes to Toller’s memory and will do so again Saturday.

Almost every winged and wingless 360 sprint car and driver of note will be on the grounds to try to grab the honors in this 4th presentation of one of MRP’s cornerstone events. Champion drivers in the winged 360 division that will challenge include Auburn's Andy Forsberg (Civil War, Silver Dollar and Placerville champ), Nevada's Mike Monahan (2004 MRP Champ and 4 time Montana State Champion), and the “Colfax Comet” Colby Wiesz (3-time MRP champ and 2-time Placerville champ). Wiesz also has 50 MRP feature event wins to his credit; by far, the all-time record for sprint cars. 

Grass Valley's "bad fast" Billy Wallace (2011 & 2012 MRP champ and 2-time Placerville champ/multiple Civil War victories at MRP) will also be in the hunt. Wallace has been on a spectacular streak at MRP over the last two years. He secured last year’s title even though he missed an event at mid-season. Wallace’s domination has had competitors scratching their collective heads wondering why the lanky champion has been so fast. Only an issue with lapped traffic (while leading) kept Wallace from winning last year’s Gold Fever Open after securing the title at MRP for the second straight year.

We were very pleased to learn that local star; Yuba City’s Korey Lovell will make the show. Lovell is recovering from painful injuries suffered late last year in a violent flip after contact with another car. Lovell is determined to be back...and be back as a winner. The 5-time champ told this observer that he does not want an accident to end a spectacular career spent in the famous Lovell #71; a team now owned by Korey. Lovell will be on the pedal Saturday night in this traditional kick off to the sprint car racing season in northern California.

King of California sprint car champion and World of Outlaws feature event winner Sean Becker is scheduled to saddle up in the John Taylor wrenched #35. This west coast bred sprint car superstar’s appearances at MRP have been limited, but he is one of sprint car racing’s hardest chargers. He has garnered multiple championships over the course of his illustrious career including California Sprint Car Civil War titles. 

Multiple Marysville based sprint car teams will be coming out of the Performance Auto Supply stable of racers. Hot-shoes Brandon Dozier and MRP champion sprint car driver Cort Dozier are scheduled to be at MRP Saturday. It’s been a while since Brandon Dozier has saddled up against major competition. But this fierce competitor will be a welcome addition to this star studded field. Cort Dozier is a seasoned pro that is always in the hunt. This entertaining duo will be worth watching.

Other notables expected are California Sprint Car Civil War champion and former track record holder Greg Decaires. Decaires was running away from the field in last year’s event when he crashed while trying to negotiate lapped traffic. Former winner of MRP’s Mel Hall Memorial Race, Willie Croft is expected. Croft has always been a factor at MRP where he won his first ever major event. Our latest information has Oregon star Vern Wheeler of Medford headed toward MRP. Wheeler has the distinction of winning at MRP the very first time he ever saw the raceway. Better than that, he won the features in two of his first three appearances. Wheeler’s crew is among the most colorful in the pits. During Wheeler’s visits to victory lane he tends to grab the microphone and interviews himself!

Woodland’s Peter Paulson will be one to watch as well. Paulson has been a significant factor lately nearly winning in several late season winged car races last year. Spectacular high-side runner Jason Sanders may have found a home at MRP. Sanders has been particularly quick at MRP lately. If he gets a break, he’ll find victory lane. “High Flyin’” Herman Klein in Dale Wondergem’s beautiful hot rod will be another driver to watch for. Klein has a dozen feature wins at MRP. 9-time Hawaiian sprint car champion Dean Freitas will be back. Freitas took home an MRP trophy home to Hawaii after beating Mike Monahan by a whisker in a thriller two years ago. Additional championship caliber entries from California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada will be at MRP for this one. This is the first sprint car event of the season and no other events are scheduled against it.

A quality field of wingless cars & stars voiced their intent to participate in that division’s companion feature. Marysville’s Jeremy Hawes and Santa Rosa’s Klint Simpson are the most recent winners in the Wingless Warrior open events at MRP. Hawes has been unstoppable in previous Toller Memorials dominating the last two events using his unique, one-handed driving style. His spectacular “on the hammer” approach makes Hawes a formidable force at his home track. A bizarre and memorable series of events in the last wingless open show prevented Hawes from being a factor. Simpson charged to the front of that race last October and scooped up the checkers.

Of particular local interest is the debut performance of 4-time Mini Stock champion and Pro 4 feature event winner Misty Castleberry. Castleberry has a ride in the famous “Flyin’ Ford” wingless sprint car for the upcoming season. Castleberry had no problem making the transition from fenders to winged 4-cylinder open wheelers. The step to wingless 360 racing is an entirely different ball game, but Castleberry’s ability to adapt quickly may make her competitive right out of the box. On several occasions Castleberry has “doubled”; winning both Mini Stock features and Pro 4 features on the same night.

In a recent conversation, champion driver Billy Wallace intimated that he would be in the wingless portion of the show in the car formerly driven by Jay Youngman. Wallace, in fact, seemed to think he would be competing for both sprint car titles, winged & wingless, in the upcoming MRP championship season. Wallace is no stranger to both styles of racing. He is the only driver ever to win in both classes at MRP and his storied career includes victories in both divisions at MRP’s Mel Hall Memorial Race. Wallace has won often lately and is headed toward the top in total victories at MRP. 

The winged sprint car feature will run 30 laps and the wingless feature will be a 20 lapper. The winged sprint car qualifying will be sponsored by sprintcarfan.com and will offer an additional $100 to the fast time qualifier.

This race, an open wheel classic, is our annual opportunity to honor one of the nice guys of racing, Sherm Toller…and it’s one of the biggest on the schedule. See you there!

Gates open at 5. Hot laps at 5.30. sprintcarfan.com qualifying follows hot laps at 6pm. Racing is scheduled immediately after qualifying.

The text is based on information we have at the time of its release.

Note: Please make this observer aware of any names that are misspelled or incorrect.