Marysville hosts a wild 2017 opener
On February 25 a cold Saturday night Marysville Raceway kicked off its 2017 season with the Toller Memorial race to honor Sherm and Loree Toller, the couple who worked as an announcer and scorer respectively at the ¼-mile raceway for many years. Two sprint car classes were in action on a wet heavy track - there were 18 winged 360 cubic inch sprint cars on the grounds and 26 wingless cars entered for the opening round of the Joe Hunt Magnetos wingless tour.
As is typical for special events at Marysville, the event opened with qualifying for both classes. “Mr. Excitement” Any Forsberg topped the winged 360 sprint car qualifying with a best lap of 12.12 seconds which edged out second fastest Justin Sanders by just .051 of a second. In qualifying for the Joe Hunt wingless cars, presented by C&H Veteran Enterprises, David “DJ” Johnson topped the field in his #33 sprint car with a best lap of 13.681 seconds followed by 2016 series champion Klint Simpson at 13.80 seconds.
Each class then presented three heat 8-lap races. The first winged heat race was won by Geoff Ensign one of two drivers performing “double duty” in both classes. Tony Gualda, who will fill in for Forsberg at selected race in 2017 won the second heat race and Justyn Cox captured the third heat race. Wingless heat race victories went to Cody Spencer, Austin Liggett and in the final heat race of the night Terry Schank Jr. whose crew chief changed a carburetor following qualifying easily outdistanced young Kaleb Henry the night’s other double duty driver.
After a relatively quiet evening through qualifying and the heat races, the feature races were chaotic. The 25-lap Joe Hunt wingless race started with Simpson and Henry on the front row and Henry in his first career wingless sprint car start grabbed the lead. Henry the 2016 Silver Dollar rookie of the year held on through the first 20 laps though he later reported that he struggled with steering problems. Late in the race Henry faded to fourth place as Simpson claimed the point.
With a restart with two laps to go, DJ Johnson dove under Simpson and their contact started a multi-car crash that ended in a red flag situation. Cody Spencer and Schank were able to avoid the melee and finished 1-2 after several aborted restarts. Spencer in the Mark Dolner owned No. 7EJ sprint car scored his first career victory with the Joe Hunt wingless tour.
The winged 360 race was chaotic from the start, as the two front starters never completed the first lap. Prior to the green flag, Justyn Cox drove his family owned #31C machine off the track. Then on the first lap young Tony Gualda turned his #7M car over, and neither driver returned to the track.
Around lap seven, Forsberg made a move to the inside to grab the lead from Ensign, but ran into a pile of mud and came to a stop in turn four which brought out the caution, while at the other end of the track Shawn Conde flipped in turn one. Early race leader Ensign became involved and was eliminated for the night. All of this action left DJ Netto in the lead with the Clyde Lamar owned Tri-C #3C machine and he led the rest of the 25 laps to win over Justin Sanders. After his crew scooped the mud out of the nose of his #7C machine, Forsberg returned to the race and charged through the field to finish third.
Marysville Raceway remains dark the next few weeks but returns to action on March 18th for the first race of the track’s own 360 cubic inch winged sprint car and wingless sprint cars season-long series. The Joe Hunt Wingless Tour presented by C&H Veteran Enterprises returns to action on March 11 at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico in the annual Silver Cup program with the Civil War Series presented by Flowmeter 360 cubic inch winged sprint cars.