(Photo by Bryan Lugo) SPRINT CAR INSIDER — Visalia, Calif.(August 31, 2018) When Jake Hagopian learned of his father’s aspiration to promote an event on a grand scale, at the venue he coveted most; the Mark Hagopian Memorial at Keller Auto Raceway Plaza Park came together naturally.
Founded on the principle of putting the racers first, the 2nd Annual Mark Hagopian Memorial is set to roll out the red carpet once again at Keller Auto Raceway Plaza Park on Friday and Saturday, September 21-22, 2018. Highlighted by the, $5000 to win, 50 lap, Super 600 grand finale Saturday night, year number two of this one of a kind event offers more to race for, unrivaled fan interaction, and that “big game” atmosphere.
The Mark Hagopian Memorial is more than just a race – It’s a spectacle.
Mark Hagopian always wanted to give back to the sport he loved dearly: micro sprint racing. In just its second year, Mark Hagopian’s grand vision is being realized by the individuals he impacted most. Perhaps the only thing he loved more than micro sprint racing, other than his family, was Plaza Park Raceway. Recognized by the phrase, “if you can win here, you can win anywhere,” Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park, has a long-standing history as a premier place to race. The allure of Keller Auto Raceway, along with Hagopian’s desire to showcase the world-class competition of micro sprint racing, makes Plaza the only venue to realize his vision.
The goal of the MHM from the beginning was to create more than just a race. Mark desired to host an event that rivaled the biggest shows in the nation but focused entirely on giving back to the drivers. While that main focus remains the same, the unparalleled fan interaction is quickly blossoming the Mark Hagopian Memorial into an event recognizable far beyond the scope of racing alone.
With $5,000 up for grabs in the Saturday night, 50-lap feature, as well as an additional $2,000, in the Reitz Harvesting pole shuffle, money alone is not the sole factor in drawing in drivers.
The biggest races on earth become characterized by the trophy.
There’s the Harley J. Earl Trophy at Daytona. You have the Borg Warner trophy at Indianapolis. Now you have the “McGyver Trophy” at Plaza. A perpetual piece of hardware signifying you earned the coveted crown of MHM champion. Unless you can defend it, however, it’ll only stay around one year at a time. While the name of the victor remains forever, the hardware goes back on the line each year.
In addition to the money and the trophy, another aspect unique to both drivers and fans alike at the MHM, is the world-class commentary. Once again, Two-time World of Outlaw Sprint Car Champion, Jason Meyers will be on hand to share his insight. Meyers too, cut his teeth on the same tracks in his journey to the top. After being coached by Mark Hagopian, the Hagopian family holds a special place in Meyers’ heart. Meyers now plays a significant role in the footwork that makes this event what it is. Offering commentary with his first-hand knowledge offers a unique perspective to race fans. Along with being right in the mix, and readily available to race fans, Jason Meyers offers insight, information, and on more than one occasion; entertainment.
Making it to the World of Outlaws would be considered the pinnacle to many young drivers. To be interviewed and recognized by someone with his stature, perhaps even idolized by some of these drivers, is yet another aspect of this event that will never be forgotten.
Beyond the world-class first-hand commentary, a dad race around the track on bicycles for charity, and numerous giveaways, fans at the MHM get to put a face to the name that they see only behind a helmet. Not only does every car get placed on the front stretch for all to see; but drivers are introduced one by one. Rumor has it intros in year number two are rivaled only by that of the WWE. Taking it a step further, they come out before the grandstands and get to throw Frisbees into the crowd. So not only does the crowd get to hear the name they get to see the face, and perhaps see some personality.
Another element adding to the “big game” atmosphere is the moment the final qualifying field shares together to commemorate the experience. As some races still do, but have become almost a lost art, each one of the starting participants gets into formation for a “team picture.” Not only do they take the picture but as part of earning your way into the grand finale, you receive a copy of it to commemorate the occasion for a lifetime.
Then it’s time to race. With trophy presentations, an actual podium, and a real press conference, this micro sprint race leaves no stone unturned when it comes to giving fans and drivers alike a once in a lifetime experience. The 2017 Mark Hagopian Memorial offered a glimpse of what is yet to come. Individuals came to Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park from far and wide to pay honor to Mark, reminisce about the good old days, and put it all on the line to be crowned champion.
Mark Hagopian’s vision is alive and well. Mastering the “big game” atmosphere, giving back, and creating excitement between drivers and fans, is just what Mark would ask for. Although he’s not here to witness, perhaps it’s fitting, the event in his honor, is MUCH more than just a race. – It’s a spectacle.
JJ Cox -
Lead Contributor of Sprint Car Insider.
Sole Proprietor of Prodigy Race Promotions.
Current Freelance Announcer with educated broadcast experience.
Media Relations Advisor.
Fresno State Bulldog - Broadcasting and Public Relations.
Grew up going to 50+ Sprint Car races a year and Raced Motocross for 10 years.
Die Hard Dirt Race Fan
Just a rolling stone.