“Now this is what Plaza Park is supposed to look like on a Friday night.” – Jake Hagopian
“My dad would be proud,” he said as he addressed the drivers at the drivers meeting. After months of planning and preparation, the grand vision of Mark Hagopian had finally come to fruition. The pits were packed, the gate was open to the other side and drivers came in droves to contest for 5 thousand dollars.
The 2017 Inaugural Mark Hagopian memorial kicked off before a full house of fans at Keller Auto Raceway eagerly awaiting to see how the plaza park legend would be honored.
What they got was two days full of action-packed, on-track action and fanfare only rivaled by that of Indy Car or NASCAR.
It all started on Friday September 15, 2017. Night one would serve as an ordinary race night for Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park counting as the penultimate Round for their series championship. The only exception was the Super 600 class top 6 would directly lock into Saturday’s 50 lap finale through contesting the highly anticipated pole shuffle.
All four classes went to battle with Dalton Parriera picking up the opening night Jr Sprint victory. After months of charging and earning solid finishes, Carson Myrick went to victory lane for his very first time in the Restricted class. In the Non-Wing class, 2014 track champion, Tristan Guardino made a return to victory. Then there was the Super 600 class.
None other than Jake Hagopian drove his way to victory over Mason Daniel, Cody Christensen, Tj Smith, Raio Salmon, and Austin Stone. Those would be the lucky six locked into Saturday’s pole shuffle and qualified to contest for 5k over 50 laps. Adding to that big race feel they all went upstairs to answer questions given by Jason Meyers. Each one took turns answering questions in press conference style format all sharing what it meant to them to be in that position.
Then there was the money night. Saturday night at the inaugural Mark Hagopian memorial, championships were on the line.
Dalton the Sheriff Parriera marched to a sweep of the weekend after picking up the 20-lap Jr Sprint main event victory over Jade Avedisian and Wyatt Bookout.
Next up was the Restricted class where the eventual winner gave us a glimpse of what was to come in the year following. Corey Day, son of famed California sprint car driver Ronnie Day, found victory for his very first time in July of 2018. All year long he battled hard with Garth Kasiner and the MHM would be no different. The waged war over 25 laps with Day besting the green machine and taking honors of the inaugural Mark Hagopian Memorial restricted champion.
In the Non-Wing class, Bakersfield’s 12-year old prodigy Brody Fuson bested the field in Qualifying and got the opportunity to elect to drive for an extra $1500 for the Joe W. Lewis Front Row Challenge. He wisely elected not to go to the back of the pack as he would rather just go for $2000 against the likes of Tristan Guardino and Tj Smith.
When the race kicked off fans were delighted to a 30-lap duel between the 2014 and 2015 track champions in Guardino and Smith. Guardino came out on top on night one but Smith would not be denied on night two. He got in front of Guardino and drove his way to the inaugural mark Hagopian memorial Non-wing championship. Guardino came home 2nd and the 12-year-old grandson of Rusty Carlisle earned a podium against some of the fastest micro sprint drivers in the nation.
On to the super 600 class where the sparks would fly. Heath Duinkerken made it to the pole shuffle where he would give the crowd some excitement. He and Cody Christensen got together and tension arose. However, it wouldn’t matter as Hagopian went on the track to face off last and picked up the win. This earned him the right to start on the pole for the 50-lap finale with 5k and the MacGuyver trophy on the line.
As the main event went green Hagopian jumped to the lead. Mason Daniel was the driver on the move early. He was running down the leader turning some of the fastest laps of the race. But it wouldn’t be enough. Jake Hagopian held on to take the Inaugural Mark Hagopian memorial along with 5 grand and the coveted Macguyver trophy. Cody Christensen came home second and Brandon Carey completed an impressive performance to land 3rd.
The inaugural Mark Hagopian Memorial was commemorated in every possible way for drivers and fans alike. From the Sunday after the race anticipation for the 2nd annual mhm has been building.
Marking the 2nd running of this historical event Keller Auto Raceway is set to host the MHM Friday and Saturday, September 21-22, 2018. With bigger prizes, a deeper pay, and $2000 to win this year’s pole shuffle the event is growing rapidly. With the goal of garnering national attention te MHM is well on its way.
Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park is set to be packed once again as 5k and MacGuyver goes back on the line.
Mark Hagopian would indeed be proud.
BE THERE AS WE DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.
Friday and Saturday, September 21 – 22, 2018 at Keller Auto Raceway Plaza Park.
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.