September 4, 2006...
Marysville CA. The best way to keep your championship point lead is to sweep the show.
In a bizarre turn of events, three of the four divisions Saturday night were
swept. Two of the four division championships were decided by drivers who won
all of the events they competed in.
One of the great parts of doing what I
do is that I get to talk to everybody in the pits before every race. On the
tension packed final night for season championship points some of the
contenders were reflective, others focused.
“We came here to win, that’s when
it’s fun.” quipped steely eyed Hunt Magneto Wingless Sprint Car driver,
Charlie Marrs. Marrs came into Saturday’s show leading in the standings. His
bright red hot rod with the bold yellow numbers glistened in the afternoon
Phillip Shelby’s father and car owner
Phil Shelby remarked on his driver, “I told him how to win this thing, but
he thinks he needs to lead every lap.”
The black 86 TCS Stock Car seemed ready for the war.
Shelby’s closest contender, veteran
Billy Knoop greeted me with his charismatic smile and seemed relaxed, yet
poised for battle. Knoop was only six points out in the championship chase.
The full fendered rockets had the closest point battle going into Saturday.
Point leader Mike Merritt was sitting
next to his “Crazy Taxi” MiniStock. When I wished him well in Saturday’s
race he simply said “Thanks”. He went on about the business of the night.
Merritt’s closest challenger Joel
Giusti seemed content to cruise through the afternoon walking hand in hand
with girlfriend and fellow MiniStock driver Lisa Shelby. Lisa had a
mathematical chance going in, but Giusti and Merritt would have to settle it.
Winged Pacific Sprint Car point leader
Brent Dothage was strangely relaxed. He joked and had a smooth afternoon.
Preparation on the red and yellow car went on as usual. His closest
competition in the chase came from Yuba City’s own Kevin Lovell. Lovell had
begun his late season charge to the front and was ready. Lovell had been
brilliant lately and crept close to Dothage as the final night approached. I
saw Lovell only once during the early afternoon. He said “Hi”, cracked a
smile and disappeared into the hauler
Marysville’s Brandon Dozier had an
outside shot at the title if Dothage and Lovell had tough nights. If Dozier
swept he had a chance. So the wickedly fast driver had little to say when I
dropped by. He and his cohorts were working at a feverish pace and I didn’t
want to interfere.
In an effort to beat the nearly 100
degree heat and breeze of mid-day the track was watered and worked hard.
Practice created a monster cushion and a sticky bumpy surface. The fans would
get their money’s worth on this track that would become a drivers track.
Qualifying was rugged in more ways than
one. Dozier blasted through the dark clay, up high and clicked off an 11.640.
The gray 95 was teetering on the edge of disaster the whole way. The lap was
brilliant. No one got within half a second of the high- flying Dozier.
Two more cars qualified, then Lovell
took to the track. As he entered turn three about to take the green, his
silver 81 twisted left, slowed abruptly and began an easy circle toward the
infield light standard, out of control with no brakes. Lovell’s car
surprised corner workers as it slid through the infield. Lovell’s car
simultaneously hit corner worker Hal Smedley and the light pole coming to an
abrupt stop. Smedley was transported and taken to Rideout hospital after he
was stabilized. A shaken Lovell repaired his car and qualified for the show
The TCS MiniStock feature was the first
out and it was a great one. Young James Foster of Marysville jumped into an n
early lead that he would never give up. Last Year’s rookie of the year put
together twenty perfect laps. When you do that, you win. Foster’s quick, but
has not always shown the maturity to be a champion. In this observer’s
opinion, he may have turned the corner tonight with his outstanding victory.
Meanwhile. Back in the pack, Merritt
stayed two positions ahead of Giusti through three quarters distance. It was
more than enough to secure the title. Then the wheels fell off. As the point
leader turned onto the front chute at lap fifteen the motor went away. Merritt
rolled to a stop. Giusti motored on to a fourth place finish and the title.
The eighteen point turn around gave Giusti an eight point cushion at the end.
In the Hunt Magneto Wingless Sprint Car
feature Marrs bested Ty Hawkins for the victory after a torrid duel that
lasted nearly the entire distance. Marrs won his heat and merely needed to
ride around, keeping Rick Eversult in sight and he would have his
championship. But, that’s not how this one went.
Hawkins and Marrs hooked up in a
memorable slice and dice struggle that had the packed grandstands howling. It
was a gem. Marrs finally took the lead for good during the final five
circuits, but Hawkins never gave up.
Marrs’ sweep of the event kept any
challengers from making up ground in the point chase. Marrs’ close, hard
fought victory capped a successful 2006 campaign.
In the TCS Stock Car finale, Phillip
Shelby did exactly what his father told me he would do. He won them all,
sweeping the program. Shelby picked up his fourth straight win in an event
that saw Knoop pull off with mechanical problems at half distance. The rest of
the way it was clear sailing for Shelby. It appeared that Shelby was unaware
that Knoop had gone to the pits. With clear track ahead, Shelby was
unreachable for the entire race.
The Pacific Sprint Car feature was the
last on the card. The six car inversion put Brandon Dozier outside row three.
It also put Kevin Lovell in the front row. Dothage, with an
uncharacteristically poor qualifying time was mired deep in the pack.
As starter Tim Dillon’s green flag
fluttered, Lovell was gone. The surface had slicked up during the evening.
Only the very top had a workable cushion. Lovell’s winged rocket seemed the
class of the field and Dothage was not moving through the field. He was only
eighth by half way.
Then the complexion of the event
changed. Dozier moved his car onto the cushion and started to pass cars. He
made quick progress and found Lovell in his sights as the race stormed to its
conclusion. Dozier flew by the leader on the outside and never looked back.
A couple of late race yellows gave
Lovell a shot, but he could never get back by Dozier. Dozier’s third win was
his best as he took what the track gave him, tweaked the car just right and
went forward. Lovell remained second. Dothage stayed eighth, but it was enough
to salvage a second straight championship. Lovell was only seven markers
behind in the final tally.
The sprint car racing in both classes,
winged and wingless, was thrilling. Fan appreciation night drew a capacity
house and the racing was never better. Our thoughts are with Hal Smedley today
and we wish him the best in what will be a lengthy recovery period. Here’s
to you Hal!
Twin Cities Speedway will be dark on
Saturday night September 9th. The lights come back on Saturday night September
16th. The Hunt Magneto Wingless Sprint Cars, the TCS MiniStocks and
the Sprint 100s will be on the program. Spectator gates open at 5PM and racing
will begin promptly at 7PM.
can reach the business office at 530-675-2050 or on raceday call the track at
530-742-9222. All the latest points data is available at twincitiesspeedway.net.