MARYSVILLE, Calif. – Time and time again, the human spirit has proven that anything is possible.
Mike Monahan, a sprint-car racer at California’s Marysville Raceway Park, recently proved that notion.
On April 3, Monahan cut off the four fingers on his right hand at the palm in an industrial accident. The horrendous injuries were addressed by surgeons and the fingers were reattached.
The prognosis was depending on whom you listened to. Some said that Monahan would never drive a sprint-car again, or he’d be in rehab for six months to a year and the healing fingers would, one day, work again, maybe, but he’ll never drive a sprint car again. Or, he’ll be gone a year and maybe he’ll go back to work, but he’ll never drive a sprint-car again.
That last phrase “he’ll never drive a sprint car again” seemed to be the expressed, recurring sentiment.
On May 26 Monahan showed up for MRP’s signature annual event, the Mel Hall Memorial Race, a California Sprint Car Civil War Series event. These guys were among the best sprint car drivers in northern California. He didn’t come to watch, but to race.
The determined former MRP sprint car champion had devised a way to glove the injured hand then velcro the glove to the steering wheel.
Monahan couldn’t transfer out of the B feature that night, but he had finished the race. His battered and beaten body had not regained its full capabilities as Monahan had to deal with his body refurbishing itself from the massive blood loss incurred during the accident.
The next day Monahan hauled to another California Sprint Car Civil War Series event. This time he transferred and finished the feature.
But he didn’t want to just finish, he wanted to win. On June 9 at Marysville, Monahan did just that.
Monahan jumped to an early lead from his outside front row starting position and was never headed. That, however, does not remotely describe the intensity of this event. For Monahan it was a particular challenge as it went non-stop, no yellows. What it meant for Monahan was that he would get no rest.
Lady star Reyna Krueger jumped into second at the green flag as sixth starting Wallace looked for a way to the front.
The consistent northerly winds had caused the track to change rapidly by the time the feature rolled out. Wallace went low, high and through middle trying to get to the front. No one was faster than Monahan, except Wallace, and Wallace was coming hard.
As the race came rapidly to a close Wallace finally clawed his way into second past the persistent Krueger and started to close on Monahan. Lapped traffic was in the mix and Monahan was being held up.
As the white flag flew Wallace was all over the blue Monahan No. 49. Wallace simply ran out of time as Monahan took away Wallace’s line on the last lap through turns three and four.
Monahan came to the checkers as the MRP crowd went cheered him on. It was one of the most emotional and popular victories in recent history at Marysville. Monahan seemed exhausted, but pleased as he climbed from the car to the cheers of the appreciative crowd.
Monahan received a wild cheer from the grandstands each time he made an appearance on the track Saturday. After Monahan’s qualifying lap the grandstand rose almost in unison cheering for the tough, veteran campaigner.
It was a moment in sprint car history that will be remembered for as long as Marysville Raceway Park turns the lights on.
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