Bella Hall’s young mind must have close to sensory overload on her recent trip to the racetrack with daddy.
Whether it was the roar of the engines, the smell of the concession stand food or just all of the pretty cars, the 20-month-old, Mark and Carrie Hall’s first-born, couldn’t have been more happy to be there.
“She loved it. As soon as we got to the track and she heard the sounds (of the engines) she started getting antsy,” Mark Hall said.
Like father, like daughter.
Mark Hall, a 1982 graduate of Nevada Union High school, has parlayed a lifelong need for speed into more checkered flags than you can shake a camshaft at.
Hall and his No. 54 Sprint 360 have racked up nine top-10 points standings finishes – including five track championships – since 1993.
Brad Sweet, a top sprint car driver in his own right, remembers watching Hall tear it up at Grass Valley’s Ernie Purssell Speedway way back in the day.
“He was the guy people came to see. The black No. 54 car. Mark was the local hero,” the 2004 Bear River High School graduate said. “I remember watching him win tons and tons of races over the years. I even got his autograph (when I was kid)”
The Ernie Purssell Speedway and the Central State Racing Association which ran it, folded up their tents after the 1995 season, but not before Hall made his mark.
Hall, whose father Mel Hall won the first CSRA title in 1972, drove off with a combined 21 main events and 14 heat races en route to three-straight association crowns from 1993-95.
“Probably the most special thing in my career was that my dad won the first (title) and that I won the last,” Hall said.
Mel Hall, who began his racing career on the drag strip in his native Hot Springs, Ark., before moving to Grass Valley in 1960, passed on his love of all things racing to his son early on.
“My dad didn’t race from the time I was 2 to 7, but we still went and watched,” Mark Hall said. “As a matter of fact, that’s what my parents used to hold over my head so I’d be good.”
“They’d say I was going to have to stay at grandma’s’ house,” he added. “Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with grandma. But who would want to go to grandma’s house when you could go to the races?”
In those early years, the closest Mark Hall could get to the track was with the rest of the fans the grandstand.
Up until he was 16, that’s just where he stayed.
It was that year when he struck up a deal with dear ‘ol dad.
Mark Hall was well aware CSRA rules didn’t allow drivers under the age of 18 to compete.
He asked his father if he’d be allowed to drive the family race car if he somehow got the association to lower its’ age restriction.
They shook on it.
“(Mel) said he’d never get it passed. That there was no way (the CSRA) would go for it,” Mark Hall’s mom, Marlyn said.
Chalk one of up for the boy.
Mark Hall lobbied board members as well as the association’s rank and file and the rule was eventually changed.
He could drive.
“Mel was okay with it. He got the rule changed,” Marlyn Hall said. “The only problem was now we had one race car and two drivers.”
‘Mark would drive at all of the local races, and my husband would look for any other race he could find. I remember we went to a lot of (tracks) that year,” she added.
THE FAMILY BUSINESS
Mel Hall, the owner of a local transmission shop, teamed with Marlyn to promote the Twin Cities Speedway beginning in the 1995.
The duo worked behind the scenes at the Marysville speedway until 1999 when Mel Hall passed away due to illness.
The dual responsibilities of running the auto repair shop and helping his mom at the track fell to his son.
“It was a very hard time for both of us, but he stepped in and did an excellent job,” Marlyn Hall said.
The Hall family ended their stint at Twin Cities that same year.
Mark Hall was then able to shift his focus back on the job running the shop the making his car go fast.
He tried to get back into the weekly routine which helped make him into one of Northern California’s top drivers, he was missing the most important member of his crew: His father.
“Looking back, the time we spent together (working on the car and at the track) is more important than you realize at the time,” he said. “It’s funny, the older you get, the more you realize how special that time was. You miss it more when you don’t have it”
HERE AND NOW
Currently, Mark Hall holds down the No. 2 spot in the California Sprint Car Civil War Series with 537 points.
In eight starts, he’s got six top-10 “A” Main finishes, including three top-5 finishes and one “A” Main win.
Sweet said while Mark Hall is a fierce competitor on the track, he’s a teddy bear off of it.
“When I first got started (in sprint cars), some of the drivers were like, ‘Who’s this punk kid?’ But Mark came over to me and said ‘hi’ and we’ve built a pretty strong relationship since then,” Sweet said. “I know if I need something or have a question, I can always go to him and he’ll tell me.”
” Even though he’s a lot older, he’s one of my closest friends at the racetrack,” he added.
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