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Intense main events spark Shepherd Memorial
By Bob Burbach
Marysville CA - August 14, 2011 --- The 1st Merle Shepherd Memorial Race was real a credit to the celebration of life that a boisterous crowd enjoyed Saturday night at Paul and Kathy Hawes’ Marysville Raceway Park. Brett Youngman scored his 1st ever MRP Wingless Warrior Sprint Car Series feature win after a titanic struggle with his closest rival in the championship standings. Colby Wiesz won his 48th Performance Auto Supply Winged Sprint Car Series career feature event. Misty Castleberry scored a remarkable double by capturing both the Pro 4 Sprint Car main event and the hectic, fast paced MRP Mini Stock closer. Shawn Jones capped the intense Nor Cal Dwarf Car feature with a great ride around the rim.

Youngman’s first visit to MRP’s victory lane cushioned his lead at the top of the standings by 3 markers. But, if there were no points involved at all, this was a good one. Youngman bolted to an early lead and started to run away with some ease as a knot of cars slugged it out behind him during the opening laps. Joel Giusti, Dave Sprigg and Josh Vieira put on and outstanding show as last starting Jeremy Hawes started his march to the front. Hawes was sidelined in his heat and started scratch when the green flag fluttered for the feature.

Vieira’s challenge slowed somewhat as the white 3v seemed to skip a beat or two. As Youngman pulled away the tussle behind him became more intense as Hawes carved his way into 3rd with some daring moves. When Hawes got to 3rd, 2nd running Giusti gave the yellow 7 quite a run for the runner up spot. It seemed clear that Hawes was faster, but Giusti was just fast enough to keep Hawes at bay. The nearly caution free event was helping Youngman maintain his straightaway lead as the dice for 2nd continued past ½ way.

Then the yellow flew and all of Youngman’s lead disappeared with it. The final few laps is what sprint car fans crave; a shootout at the end. Hawes finally slipped by Giusti and rushed up to Youngman’s tail.

But, tonight was Youngman’s night to shine as he repelled every challenge thrown at him by Hawes. A pass by Hawes would have knotted the point standings, but Youngman’s great drive actually bumped his lead heading into next weeks event. Youngman immediately dedicated his win to Merle Shepherd’s memory in an emotional outpouring to the fans that stood throughout much of the last half of the race.

Colby Wiesz started 4th in the Performance Auto Supply Winged Sprint Car Series feature event. He quickly marched to 2nd and camped on the tail of front row starter Tyler Haylett who ran up a big lead in the early laps. Haylett in only his 4th race after nearly a decade of semi-retirement had everybody’s attention, as Wiesz was unable to close on the rapid white 22. Fans who had never really heard the name all that often began to stand up and cheer as Haylett was able to keep some 10-car lengths on the popular 3-time champ. A couple of incidental yellows closed the field while the pair were in lapped traffic but Haylett sprang to a 10 car length lead once gain at the new green.

The race at the front was a good one but Haylett seemed to be in control. While all this was going on, 7th starting Billy Wallace who’s lack luster qualifying performance mired him in row 4 was marching toward the front. Wallace used the top and bottom as the black #1 roared to the front. Wallace was the show throughout the hotly contested event.

Wiesz tenacity and quick thinking in traffic finally paid off in the latter stages of the event, as Haylett just didn’t maneuver through traffic as well as Wiesz. Wiesz flew by Haylett off of turn 2. Haylett fell into the clutches of Wallace as the event concluded and Wallace’s great ride to the front garnered the point leader a well deserved 2nd as he, too, just got by Haylett near the end. Wallace continues to impress with heart-stopping rides on the cushion and cross over moves that keep the fans buzzing. Wallace is at the top of his game at MRP these days (with a board on top or not as, witnessed during the Hunt Wingless Shootout Series event staged at MRP 2 weeks ago).

What a night it was for MRP’s own “blonde bombshell” Misty Castleberry. Say what you will, Castleberry and her crew are on their game. Castleberry went wire to wire for yet another trip to victory lane in the MRP Mini Stock feature. But one of her best races ever found her in victory lane after a non-stop 5th to 1st ride to the checkers in the Pro 4 finale.

That race was a very entertaining event as new comer to the circuit Dan Morgan was putting on a clinic by dominating the 1st half of the event with a sterling performance up front. Morgan threw it in hard and on a couple of occasions made a couple of incredible saves. 3-time champ Tim Maclaughlin tried but couldn’t do anything with Morgan.

Then the hard charging Castleberry got to the lead duo. Castleberry made short work of Maclaughlin. Then, as the laps were winding down she reeled in Morgan. A brief exchange between the two resulted in Castleberry making the pass and getting the top spot. Morgan tried hard to catch the fleet Castleberry, but to no avail. Morgan’s great rookie ride was only overshadowed by Castleberry’s outstanding run from the back. Morgan and Maclaughlin stayed 2nd and 3rd.

The run to the checkers was a little easier for in the Mini Stock feature but by no means easy. The concluding event on the program found Castleberry pretty much in control from the front row. But, the event was a thriller as Mark Hill and Shaun Merritt provided the fireworks. Hill had another great ride from 5th into 2nd. Hill and Howard Law slugged it out for 2nd for most of the event before Hill finally prevailed. Merritt wound up 5th after an early race spin relegated him to the back. Merritt got back to 5th and had a very entertaining battle in the final laps with Eric Jones. Merritt was all over Jones, but lapped traffic got into the mix and Jones nipped Merritt in the end.

Castleberry’s nearly tearful emotional address in victory lane after the MRP Mini Stock main pretty much said it all as she dedicated her victory and her night to Merle Shepherd. The celebration of Shepherd’s life was highlighted with a checkered flag lap during the early evening as the sun settled in the western sky.

Shawn Jones rim rode his way to an impressive Nor Cal Dwarf Car feature win. For more on the Nor Cal Dwarf Cars and results go to www.dwarfworld.com. 

Next Saturday night the 5 primary divisions at MRP will be presented on Taco Bell Night. The Performance Auto Supply Winged Sprint Car Series, the MRP Wingless Warrior Sprint Car Series, the MRP Super Stocks, Mini Stocks and Hobby Stocks will all be featured.

The Pit Gate opens at 3pm. The front gates open at 5pm with racing at 6.30pm.

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.