With every turn of the wheel, Misty Sinnott-Castleberry is trying to turn the page. But that’s a hard task for the 38-year-old Browns Valley sprint car driver. To Sinnott-Castleberry, her dad wrote the book on father-daughter relationships, how to run a successful family business, drive race cars and how to run a popular, small-town dirt track.
Richard Sinnott died last November, leaving his daughter distraught and disinterested in racing, something they shared most of her life – especially since she started driving and winning from age 17. Sinnott-Castleberry has won nearly 100 main events in 20 years and multiple track championships in multiple divisions. The Sinnotts own Marysville Flea Market and the adjacent Marysville Raceway, a quarter-mile clay oval. Now Sinnott-Castleberry runs the track operations, but she said racing just isn’t what it used to be without her father.
“It’s been a rough year,” Sinnott-Castleberry said. “Racing is a whole lot different now. My dad let me start racing at age 17, I met my husband, James (Castleberry), here, and I’ve won a lot of championships. But when I raced this season, my heart just wasn’t into it.”
This late in the season – just two races remain in five divisions – Sinnott-Castleberry usually has a bounty on her helmet offered by track promoter Dennis Gage. Sinnott-Castleberry has dominated the Pro-4 and Mini-Stock divisions so much that promoters have offered cash incentives to other drivers to beat her. Drivers in the Pro-4 division voted last year to put the winner of the previous week’s main event at the back of the field for the next week’s race.
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The vote was seen as a shot at Sinnott-Castleberry and an attempt to end her dominance. She’s won nine track championships between Marysville Raceway and Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, and she set a Marysville Raceway track record last year in mini-stocks with 10 consecutive main event victories.
Sinnott-Castleberry is in fifth place in the wingless sprints division, the only one she’s competing in this season with off-track duties taking most of her time. She’s 44 points behind division leader Josh Vieira of Marysville. With one race remaining in the season, it appears this be the first year since 2008 that she will not win a single track-division title.
Her husband, James, is in a battle for the Super Stocks title with Yuba City’s Phillip Shelby, who holds a one-point lead with one race left. A division title would be Castleberry’s first since 1999 when he won the mini-stock championship. He’s been his wife’s biggest fan since they locked-up fenders nearly 20 years ago at Marysville Raceway. James lost the race but gained a date.
“I told him after the race that the least I could do was take him on a date,” said Sinnott-Castleberry, who ran into the back of James’ mini-stock car while he was leading the race.
“But I still paid,” he pointed out.
“Like a true gentleman,” she said.
Big money at Vermeil Classic
Ryan Robinson of Foresthill and Gold River’s Holly Shelton will get their first look at the half-mile Calistoga Speedway this weekend for the Ninth annual Louie Vermeil Classic, a USAC Western Midgets race that features wingless sprint cars.
The Vermeil Classic pays $10,000 to win either of the A-mains on Saturday and Sunday.
Robinson, 16, is the son of David Robinson Jr., who won multiple track championships at Placerville Speedway and won multiple times in the Civil War Sprint Car Series before concentrating on his son’s driving career.
Shelton, 21, a Sacramento State criminal justice major, honed her driving skills in the Outlaw Kart ranks at Cycleland Speedway near Chico. She was selected by Toyota Racing Development to learn from race team owner and driver-development expert Keith Kunz.
For more information, go to calistogaspeedway.org.
Kyle Larson at Cycleland
Kyle Larson’s Outlaw Kart Showcase returns to Cycleland Speedway near Chico on Tuesday. The event will offer a $25,000 purse in the Outlaw Kart Open Division with $6,000 going to the winner.
The Elk Grove native, who last Sunday won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race, will host and drive in an additional Open Division, stand-alone, race Monday night with $1,000 going to the winner.
“Bringing the race back to Cycleland Speedway for 2016 was a no-brainer for me,” said Larson, who spent the majority of his childhood racing career at Cycleland before jumping to 410 sprint cars and later NASCAR. “As a kid, we used to run the Tuesday night at Cycleland before the Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway. It was always the race I looked forward to running every year and continuing to be a part in bringing it back feels great.”
World of Outlaws
The World of Outlaws 2016 Western Swing begins tonight in Skagit, Wash. The six-race West Coast swing also includes events in Elma, Wash., Lebanon, Ore. and culminates Sept. 9-10 at Chico's Silver Dollar Speedway for the 63rd annual Gold Cup Race of Champions.
Grass Valley's Brad Sweet is second in points going into the Western Swing behind seven-time Outlaws champ Donny Schatz. Sweet is looking for his first Gold Cup victory. The driver of the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49 has seven wins this season and led the standings for much of the first months of the season until Schatz got hot. Daryn Pittman, David Gravel and Joey Saldana round out the top-five in points coming into the Western Swing with Sweet, Pittman and Gravel locked in a tight battle for the runner-up spot in the standings. Just seven points separate the trio and all three traditionally run strong on the West Coast.
For more information, go to www.silverdollarspeedway.com
USAC Benevolent Fund in Clauson’s name
Donations to the United States Auto Club’s Benevolent Fund are being accepted in Bryan Clauson’s name.
Clauson, who was born in Carmichael and was a Citrus Heights native, was killed in a USAC race two weeks ago in Kansas.
Established in 1959, the USAC Benevolent Foundation’s mission is to provide financial assistance to injured or needy auto racing participants and their families with ties to USAC and IndyCar.
To donate online, go to usacbf.org/cash-donation. Checks should be made to the USAC Benevolent Foundation in the name of Bryan Clauson and sent to 124 E. Northfield Dr., Suite F #129, Brownsburg, IN 46112.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.