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Forsberg and Simpson take home the gold.
Billy Knoop Memorial Race Saturday

By Bob Burbach
Marysville CA - October 7, 2012 --- The 17th Gold Fever Open was offered at Paul and Kathy Hawes’ Marysville Raceway Park Saturday night. GEICO Insurance and Econo Lube and Tune sponsored the annual event for winged 360 sprint cars and wingless spec sprints. Auburn’s Andy Forsberg flew to victory lane in the winged sprint car closer and Klint Simpson surprised everybody by pulling off an upset victory in the wingless sprint car portion of the show. It was a good ol’ fashioned super-fast sprint car race and was pure eye-candy for fans of the potent open wheelers.

The rapid fire heat races went into the books quickly, but not with out a thrill or two. One of the toughest rides of the night occurred in heat race #2 of the wingless sprint car show. Napa’s Joe Stornetta jumped the right rear of Tim Sherman Jr. of Sacramento on the back stretch. Stornetta’s car dug in, left side over, then tumbled end over end down the back chute, slamming into a huge implement tire at the turn 3 gore point bouncing the flipping car high in the air. He then sailed out of the park and disappeared behind the turn 3 boards. Stornetta was shaken but walked away from the battered racer.

Simpson and Terry Schank grabbed heat race honors in the wingless heats as Peter Paulson, Taylor Simas and Heath Hall rocketed to convincing heat race victories in the winged sprint car heat races. Jason Sanders won the B-main event and that set the 20 car starting field for the Gold Fever Winged Sprint Car feature event.

The wingless sprint car main event went off first and was a wild, memorable event with a fist full of twists and turns before the checkered flag flew. Pole sitter Peter Paulson got the hole shot as Ford mounted Joel Giusti had his issues with the MRP clay early on and fell back. David Sprigg in his familiar black 12 pressed Paulson as 6th starting Terry Schank did battle with Sherman and Jeremy Hawes. After Paulson, you could throw a blanket over the next 6 contenders before Sherman pounded the front stretch concrete bringing out the first yellow flag.

When the race resumed Sprigg was all over Paulson with Hawes and Schank in a vicious scrape for 3rd. Schank secured 3rd and went after Sprigg in a big way in turn 3 on lap 3. Shank wrestled 3rd away from Sprigg, but Sprigg retaliated and re-passed Schank with a bold move off the inside in turn 4. Then it got weird. Sprigg’s move caused Schank to lift and Hawes was there to take advantage. As Hawes tried for 3rd Schank was swaying back and forth up the front chute and tried to keep Hawes at bay. Schank and Hawes got together and Schank flipped his car to the top of the 1st turn banking prompting a red flag. 

All the cars stopped and Hawes was stopped on the front chute. Schank, unhurt, jumped from his torn up racer and marched, helmet in hand, straight for Hawes’ #7. While Hawes was strapped in the car Schank began to slam his helmet into Hawes repeatedly, first, through the cage on driver’s left, then through the cage opening above Hawes’ head. While Hawes was still seated in the car, one of the impacts split Hawes’ helmet. Schank needed to be restrained. The video clearly shows that MRP officials moved in. Schank was disqualified from the event for his violent assault with further penalties likely from MRP officials after the incident is reviewed.

Another individual left the pit area and moved toward the Hawes’ #7 while MRP officials tried to restrain Schank. On video it appears that this unidentified individual reaches into the engine compartment pulling electrical wires out the left side of the car. As a result, Hawes retired from further action.

The new green resulted in a flurry of bold racing moves up front as Paulson, Sprigg and now Simpson battled for the top spot. Sprigg got Paulson in turn 2 with a slick move but both drivers banged wheels in 3 with Paulson chugging to a stop. His night over in this one.

Sprigg and Simpson renewed their battle up front at the new green. With 4 to go Simpson tried a daring high side pass in 3 and it worked. He edged by Sprigg. Sprigg tried to rebound and made contact with Simpson on the front chute. It appeared that Sprigg damaged the front end of his car but accelerated hard into turn 1. Sprigg’s car never turned. He hammered the turn 1 concrete with terrific force and tumbled left side over once before landing on his wheels.

It took a moment for Sprigg to shake off the crash, but he walked away. 

Simpson cruised into victory lane after Sprigg’s retirement and led a rejuvenated Giusti and Ray Benkowski across the line. It was Simpson’s first ever win at the MRP clay and he talked for a long time after stopping on the front chute, thanking just about everyone he ever met in the process. There’s nothing like the exuberance of a first time winner!

The winged sprint car drivers saddled up and amazingly enough Peter Paulson was the pole sitter in this one as well. Paulson was the only driver doing double duty during this show. Paulson had formidable company on the front row in the person of 2 time MRP champion Billy Wallace.

After 2 aborted starts, Wallace jumped into a big lead as a frantic clay churning knot of cars tried to reel in the champ. An early yellow flag slowed the field and Stephan Allard aboard the Tri-C 3 had to stop at the pits to change a flat. Allard restarted 20th. Keep that in mind.

When the race resumed, Wallace sped off to another big lead while Forsberg, Paulson, Kyle Hirst and Sean Becker tried to decide the runner up position. The race was stopped on a couple of occasions. Once when Paulson laid it over on its wing in lapped traffic, ending his chances at the victory, and once for a tough ride taken by MRP star Jeremy Burt of Grass Valley. Burt took a couple of really hard hits as his car flipped violently in turn 4. Jeremy has taken hard rides before, but this one looked unusual, ugly as his #2B came to rest on its wheels. It looked like it hurt. Burt walked to the ambulance to thunderous applause. He was being evaluated as the ambulance left the scene.

The red flags came at just the right time as Wallace, Forsberg, Becker and Hirst were mired in slow traffic. As the field lined up for the new green Allard had come from 20th to 8th position by ½ way. Allard was flying around the rim and going forward, much to the delight of the large appreciative crowd.

The final 10 laps found the leaders, once again in heavy lapped traffic, but Wallace seemed to have everything under control. The 2 time MRP champ was looking for victory and it appeared that only an incident with a lapped car could KO Wallace’s run to victory.

But, that is exactly what happened. In turn 2 Wallace was screaming along on the cushion when he had to lift for a lapped car on the high side. That’s just the break that Forsberg and then Becker needed to slip by Wallace.

That’s how it ended with Hirst, Mason Moore and a charging Allard just behind.

It was a battle royal on a super-fast, super hooked up Marysville Raceway Park. It was a gem. Forsberg was welcomed by the customary combination of cheers and boos in victory lane. But Forsberg continues to be a dominant force in northern California sprint car racing. Forsberg blazed to quick time earlier in the evening and a fine 2nd place in his heat race.

The final open wheeled event of the 2012 season was filled with rocket fast speeds and thrills that typify MRP’s traditional fall closer, the Gold Fever Open.

Next week MRP will bring down the curtain on a supremely successful 44th season with the 9th running of the Great Taxi Cab Open. This year MRP will honor one of its most colorful drivers, Billy Knoop. The event will be the Billy Knoop Memorial Race honoring the late stock car superstar. The Limited Late Models will see action as well as the MRP Super Stocks. This year the MRP Hobby Stocks and visiting Pure Stock drivers will lock horns again in a single added open competition event.

Gates will open at 5pm with hot laps scheduled for 6. Racing will follow hot laps, so get there early for this fabulous, frantic, fendered extravaganza. 

Stay tuned.

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