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77 loads of new clay, improvements greet drivers Sat.
Wallace-Burt rivalry renews at Shepherd Memorial.

By Bob Burbach
Marysville CA - August 8, 2012 --- Paul and Kathy Hawes’ Marysville Raceway Park will host the 2nd Merle Shepherd Memorial Race Saturday. Once again, as other promoters try to juggle and slide their way through the 2012 season, MRP continues to have its Super Season of 2012 go on unimpeded. Here’s an example. The 2 week summer break allowed promoter Paul Hawes to get 77 additional semi loads of clay added to the already hooked up and smokin’ fast surface. 

Promoter Hawes’ told this observer that, “I finally got sprint cars (at a recent closed practice) on my 77 semi loads of new clay to test it and it looks good. I re-ripped and soaked it in preparation for final lay-down this week… it holds moisture so well and has no rocks…and it doesn't make dust”. Promoter Hawes continued, “We also installed a new motorcycle parking area up by the ticket booth that will hold 12 or so bikes for our weekly shows and I am ready”. (I also) “bought a backup water truck”…just in case. It is exciting and noteworthy, in these times, to see a promoter digging down deep to improve, renew and refresh his facility. MRP’s improvements can only help this Super Season that has featured excellent, high speed sprint car racing with lots of passing and the fewest crashes of any season in the last decade. It is also worth noting that all classes have run every lap of every show all year long. There have been no disappointing early checkered flags to move a show along or curfew a program. At the urging of race director Craig Hall, MRP has also returned to the traditional sprint car qualifying format and has increased the feature event length to 25 laps for the sprint cars: this to give everyone in the field time to make their way to the front. Promoter Hawes is a former driver and Race Director Hall has been a Crew Chief on many successful sprint cars. MRP race management continues to listen to the drivers and car owners concerns and acts accordingly.

But the biggest news is that the MRP Sprinters will be back Saturday with another 100 MPH sideways slide through new clay. More than that, the two Grass Valley hotshoes that have pretty much shown they are the quickest racers in the place this season will renew their bitter rivalry for the title. Yep, Jeremy Burt and Billy Wallace will be at the house to start the stretch run for the title. Wallace is looking for a 2nd straight crown while Burt is looking to back up his 2007 title with a convincing charge to the front. 

Wallace is a mechanical hiccup away from being overtaken in his most dominating season yet. A couple of personal issues have crept into both drivers season long struggles and the all important point accumulation was affected each time. But, both drivers have bounced back with a vengeance that this observer hasn’t seen in a while. Wallace’s comeback has included a couple of impressive feature event victories while Burt’s appearances have featured breathtaking charges from the back to the front that have kept the fans on the edges of their collective seats.

It’s not often you can hear the roar of the crowd over the scream of the tightly wound up 360s, but that has happened a lot here lately as MRP continues to present the most competitive sprint car show in northern California. That is not this observer’s opinion, as a groundswell of support and increased numbers in the grandstand will attest. There are 4 events left in the sprint car title chase and while all of the top 5 drivers in points have a mathematical shot at it, it appears that the Burt-Wallace rivalry will decide it.

I would expect that a couple of protests to that opinion would come from the fans of Cort Dozier and Brent Dothage. Dozier has been nipping at the heals of the aforementioned duo and last time out Dozier outgunned a surprised Colby Wiesz and led impressively until traffic allowed Wallace to close in that non stop 25 lapper. Dozier is ready for a breakthrough and the Shepherd race may just be the stage he needs to get it done.

Lurking in 4th position in points is one of the all-time greats at MRP. 3 time champ Brent Dothage can attest to the damage a feature event DNS can mean to title hopes (early this season Dothage had a tough heat race crash on the front chute that prevented him from gathering valuable points in the feature event that night). Dothage has made an exciting charge and has since picked up a feature event win and some fine finishes, but Dothage lies some 40 points off the pace. He needs a little help from lady luck if he’s going to grab an unprecedented 4th title.

All MRP sprint car events remain Contingency Connection events with some $1500 in contingency prizes offered to the feature event winner.

Another young charger who is on a roll is Super Stock Super Star Brent Hall. The likeable, mild mannered charger is making a runaway out of the MRP Super Stock point race. Hall has been mired in the last row and everywhere in between and still chalks up feature event wins in a class that has been filled with entries and loaded with action. 

The fenders have provided fan friendly action from the word “go” this season, but the one constant factor has been Hall. Look for James Castleberry to keep the pressure on, but Castleberry must win to knock Hall out of the top spot and that’s been a tough proposition all season.

James’ wife Misty has been rock solid all season. She is likely to cruise to yet another dominating championship. Her fendered career has included a record setting 10-in-a-row run that caused everyone, including seasoned veterans to blink. However, the run to 2nd in points by young Travis Carter has been the other fine story of this amazing season. Carter hasn’t won yet, but he’s not afraid to mix it up and get involved. His rookie performance is one for the record books and he merely needs to add a win in the last handful of races to make this season a roaring success. 

Young guns are featured in positions two through five in this year’s MRP Mini Stock title chase. Kyle Davey has shown a maturity beyond his years lately and he’s poised to be a real factor in years to come. Surely, like Carter, he is just a step away from his first feature event win. Miranda Hammons has been the picture of consistency this season in her rookie season and is an impressive 3rd in the standings. Rookie Austin Merritt comes from a long line of successful Mini Stock racers and he is fifth in the title chase.

Young Jeremy Hammons is not only a rookie in the MRP Hobby Stock class, but he is pulling away from his closest pursuers. Jim Waller has been better lately, but he’s got to win in order to close on the consistent Hammons. This is a two horse race to the title as the MRP Hobby Stocks continue to gather momentum in popularity with the fans.

The Merle Shepherd Memorial Race will celebrate the life of Shepherd with all four primary MRP divisions invited to compete in the annual event.

Don’t forget to monitor our facebook page during the coming week; we’d love to hear from you. Updates are constantly being forwarded to the page on race night. Every Thursday night at 8PM MRP gives away 2 free tickets to the following week’s events. So, pop on to facebook (marysvilleracewaypark) and grab a couple of freebees on Thursday.

IMPORTANT: 2012 minor releases must be signed by parents for all minors entering the pits. 

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.