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“O-Man” wins Knoop Memorial in Billy’s car!
Michelli wins in Lates & Friend grabs Hobby $

By Bob Burbach
Marysville CA - October 14, 2012 --- Super Stock Car star Jeff Olschowka saddled up in Billy Knoop’s abandoned #73 and charged to an emotional victory at Paul and Kathy Hawes’ pristine facility, Marysville Raceway Park Saturday night. Olschowka took the laurels in the Billy Knoop Memorial Race after a tight battle with early leader Ray Trimble and Ray Benkowski. Matt Michelli went wire-to-wire in the Late Model headliner and Les Friend made an infrequent visit to MRP and won the Hobby Stock Feature in the 3-class offering.

The night featured 73 entrants in the biggest stock car race of the season. This race, typically dubbed the Great Taxi Cab Open, this year became a celebration of the life of Billy Knoop. Knoop won 17 races in a career that also garnered him a championship title at MRP. Olschowka got the nod from Billy’s wife Joy to fill the vacated cockpit of the famous #73 car.

The Super Stock feature was the best race of the night, by far. The race plowed through a series of caution laps early as a lot of bent metal and frayed feelings punctuated the event that everybody wanted to win. Olschowka chased early leader Trimble for the first ½ of the event. Mitch Machado used much of the race to claw his way into contention and reached 3rd in his winged #22m eclipsing Benkowski, who retired with mechanical issues. 

The stage was set with a mid race yellow flag slowdown. Trimble, Olschowka and Michado then saw the new green and it was on from there. Olschowka jumped up to the high side and had a daring run on Trimble heading onto the back stretch. The “O-Man” wrestled away the lead heading into turn 3. The crowd collectively rose and cheered as the “O-Man” forged his way into the lead in Knoop’s 73. He was never again challenged after his bold move to the top of the charts. Michado also clawed his way by Trimble in the final laps and that’s how they finished.

In victory lane when I asked Olschowka where this victory ranked among his many he replied, “This is #1.” Knoop’s wife Joy and the entire family joined in the victory lane celebration as Olschowka thanked promoter Paul Hawes. Olschowka continued, “This track was really hooked up and you could go anywhere to pass.”

It was a storybook ending to an almost unbearable tragedy in the northern California racing world. But, it was as good as it could be when Olschowka grabbed the lead. 

Dominic Stone, Machado and Corey Hall won the preliminary heat races. Steve Studebaker won the B-main event.

Matt Michelli was simply unstoppable as he led from the front row in the Late Model Stock Car closer. Michelli was bothered late by a fast charging Olschowka who saddled up in his own Late Model for this event. Olschowka was one of 8 drivers to enter multiple classes in this salute to Billy Knoop. A late race caution gave Olschowka an opportunity with 3 laps to go. But, at the new green, Michelli was just too quick and pulled away to a convincing victory. The “O-Man” stayed 2nd with infrequent visitor Tommy Tilford 3rd in the final run down.

Tilford, Randy McDaniel and Ryan McDaniel picked up heat race wins earlier in the evening.

The companion Hobby Stock feature was dominated by Les Friend. He simply ran away from the field of 20 starters in that event. Clare Holbrook and Keith Edwards were a distant 2nd and 3rd respectively. Friend, Forrest Carnet and Rick Campbell grabbed heat race honors.

With this event, Marysville Raceway Parks 44th year of continuous operation draws to a close. The next event on the grounds will be the annual Racers Swap Meet on Saturday November 24th. After the event, promoters Paul and Kathy Hawes provided a gourmet Italian dinner for employees and officials of MRP, thanking everyone who has contributed to 2012’s Super Season. The celebration went on into the wee hours of Sunday morning. The Hawes’ team of dedicated workers get a tip of this straw hat for their efforts at MRP this season. The new clay and a consistent push forward to improve this facility for both racer and spectator alike have paid off.

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.