Monett Speedway prepares for MARS invasion
The Midwest Auto Racing Series (MARS) Dirtcar Series returns to action this weekend for the 14th annual Tony Roper Memorial at the Monett Speedway on May 25.
The annual event is named after the late Tony Roper, who cut his teeth on the red dirt at Monett according to track owner Randy Mooneyham
"Tony began racing here at Monett," Mooneyham said. "He won his first feature race edging out his uncle Dale. He was a good kid."
Roper was a NASCAR driver. He was born in Springfield to Dean Roper and Shirley Medley. Growing up his family was heavily involved in auto racing.
He started racing in 1986. For the next six years, Roper raced in International Motor Contest Association modifieds and late models on dirt and asphalt tracks across the midwest.
In 1992, Roper finished in second place for the American Speed Association Rookie of the Year award. He started racing in the Craftsman Truck Series in 1995, and the Busch Series in 1999.
On Oct. 13, 2000, Roper was racing in the O'Reilly 400 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, when he attempted to pass Steve Grissom.
Another truck veered up the racetrack in the tri-oval, forcing Roper to evade, turning him into Grissom's front bumper.
The contact caused Roper's #26 Ford to take a sudden hard-right turn, which then caused the truck to slam head-on into the concrete wall of the tri-oval. Roper died the next day as the result of the injuries he sustained from the crash.
"We named this race as way to honor Tony's memory," Mooneyham said. "His impact on local racing will never be forgotten. He was proof that a guy could come from a small-time track and win on the big stage."
Tony Jackson Jr., of Lebanon, won last year's event and was the champion in 2012 as well. He will lead a strong contingent of racers into action.
Other drivers expected include defending MARS champion and current points leader Jesse Stovall, of Billings; six-time MARS champion Terry Phillips, of Springfield; Jason Bodenhammer, of Centerview; Brandon McCormick, of Lebanon; Leroy Johnson, of Springfield; Justin Wells, of Aurora; Ken Essary, of Cape Fair; Dustin Mooneyham, of Aurora; Shane Essary, of Aurora; Justin Asplin, of Birch Tree; Brandon Morton, of Broken Arrow, Okla.; Dustin Walker, of Peculiar; Shawn Knuckles, of Poplar Bluff; Jack Sullivan, of Greenbrier, Ark., and many more.
The race will also feature USRA sanctioned A-Mods, B-Mods and Pure Stock classes.
Pit passes for the event are $35, grandstand admission is $20 for adults, kids 12-15 are $5, and children 11-and-under are free.
Grandstands will open at 5:30 p.m. and pit gates at 3 p.m. Hot laps at 7 and racing scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.