Andy Forsberg is as much a natural storyteller as he is a race car driver.
Forsberg, the defending champion in Saturday’s Mel Hall Memorial at Marysville Raceway, said Hall gave him his first chance to drive a sprint car, much to the chagrin of Hall’s wife, Marlyn. She was in charge of the office and making sure drivers were of age to get behind the wheel of an 800-horsepower rocket.
“I was only 15, and back then you had to be 16 to drive on the track, but Mel let me have three full sessions all by myself,” Forsberg said. “This was at the Grass Valley track in 1992 during a practice day, and I remember sitting behind the wheel up near the pit exit when I see Marlyn run at Carl Lewis speeds from the office to where Mel was standing in the infield. She somehow found out that I was only 15 and sprinted up to Mel and tore him a new one. Mel walked over to me and told me to park the car.”
Forsberg, who started competing when he turned 16, has been one of the best Northern California sprint car drivers since Mel Hall bent the rules that day to give a young driver a break. Hall died in 1999. Marlyn and her family will be at Saturday’s race.
With no other 410 sprint car events in the region Saturday, the 17th running of the Mel Hall Memorial – a Civil War Sprint Car Series race with $3,000 to the winner – will have a top-notch field, including Forsberg, Chico’s Jonathan Allard, Roseville’s Sean Becker, Fremont’s Shane Golobic and Colfax’s Colby Wiesz, a six-time Mel Hall winner. DJ Netto, who won in 2014, and Justyn Cox, the 2013 winner, also are in the field, along with Sacramento’s Kyle Hirst and Willie Croft.
“I expect 40-50 cars each night, because we’re also racing Sunday at Silver Dollar Speedway” in Chico, Forsberg said. “The best of the best will be out there and the field will be a tough nut to crack.”
For more than four decades, Hall was either a driver or promoter at Auburn Speedway, Ernie Pursell Speedway in Grass Valley, Placerville Speedway and Twin Cities Speedway, now Marysville Raceway. When Hall became the promoter of Twin Cities in 1995, he made numerous improvements, including new restrooms and a revamped concession building. In 1999, he led the effort to replace the grandstand’s worn bench-style seats with aluminum seats with backrests.
“The wins sometimes tend to blend together,” Forsberg said. “But I know I won the Mel Hall Memorial.”
For more information, go to marysvilleraceway.com.
McAnally Racing off to fast start
With Chris Eggleston’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory Saturday at the Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, Bill McAnally Racing has three wins in the first four races of the season.
The victory on the historic quarter-mile oval – which the K&N Pro Series West has not visited in 38 years – was the first of the season for Eggleston, the defending series champion, and the fourth of his career.
“Eggleston ran strong, as did the entire team,” McAnally said. “(Riley) Herbst and (Julia) Landauer are still looking for their first wins, but they’ll get there this season. Julia now has two straight top fives, and we’ll get her into the top three and a win very soon.”
McAnally said Herbst ran better than he finished (16th). Herbst and the other BMR driver, Todd Gilliland, were involved in a mid-race pileup, and both had to nurse damaged cars across the finish line. Gilliland leads the series’ points chase with 178, followed by Ryan Partridge (174) and Eggleston (169). Landauer is fifth (148) and Herbst seventh (143).
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com.