Fast start to MRP season

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Giles Thornton, general manager at Montana Raceway Park, at the track on Friday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Montana Raceway Park general manager Giles Thornton said the “car count was good” for last weekend’s season opener and he expects those numbers to steadily improve as the weather heats up along with the action on the high-banked, quarter-mile asphalt oval north of Kalispell.

Week 2 is tonight with bandoleros, hornets and hobby stocks on the track. Gates open at 6 p.m. with racing at 7.

Legends and super late models have the weekend off.

Thornton said there will be “racing” or track action every weekend through Sept. 7th.

Super late models from Canada and the Pacific Northwest make their season debut on June 8th with the Can-Am 125. A big event for that class is the following month with the 29th annual Montana 200. There will be a test and tune day on July 18th with qualifying the following night and the 200 lap finale on the 20th. Drivers compete for a purse of more than $50,000. First place is worth $15,000.

Thornton said two former champions have already signed-up for the 200 — 2018 winner Jeremy Doss of Upper Lake, California, and 2017 winner Owen Riddle of Naches, Washington.

But it’s not just about racing at MRP.

Monster Trucks invade the raceway for two nights of thrills June 28th-29th.

“A big hit,” Thornton said of the trucks.

“The shows we hold up here appeal to a lot of families around the Valley.”

And he said family is the key word for all events.

It’s Mud Bog time July 6th with the Mud Bog Championships on Aug. 3rd.

The Tuff Truck competition is Aug. 10th.

“We have a lot of special events,” Thornton said. “That brings some added flavor to the Valley.”

But the main attention is racing.

Thornton took over his current position midway through the 2016 season. Assistant manager and promoter Tom Allabaugh has been with Thornton for much of the ride.

Thornton, who is 21, started racing at MRP in 2005 in bandoleros. His first full season in that class was 2006.

He moved up to legends full time in 2009 and made the successful jump to super late models in 2013.

“This place has a lot of memories,” he said.

“Racing goes through my blood.”

And that passion has helped make his transition from the track to the front office be a smooth one.

“I had time to prepare (for this),” Thornton said.

“When you surround yourself with good people, it makes the job 100 percent easier.

“I was raised with a business mentality,” he continued.

“Racing helped provide me with the understanding of what goes on in a racer’s head.”

As a result ...

“I get along with all the racers on the track,” he said.

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