Saturday was a special night at Placerville Speedway, paying tribute to a late friend of the speedway, Mark Forni, in the Mark Forni Classic.
This night is the richest race of the year annually at the 47-year-old dirt track at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds that is known today as the “Bullring.” Saturday night the track lived up to its name with plenty of charging competitors fighting for $5,000.
When the checkered flag flew for the 25-lap winged sprint car feature, defending track champion and current point leader Andy Forsberg of Auburn became a two-time winner of the classic. Forsberg charged his way up for the fourth place starting position and brought the spectators at Placerville to their feet with an electrifying takeover of the lead from Chico’s Jonathan Allard in the closing lap of the race.
“This is really special to win this race in honor of Mark Forni,” said Forsberg. “I didn’t spend a lot of time with Mark like many of the drivers here but I knew who he was and know his family and everything they have done for this place. They work hard to put this race together and it’s an honor to win it again. For this team, it’s three in a row so it’s a big night for them and I feel like we came out here tonight and defended our home turf a little bit by passing an out-of-town driver for the win; there’s some satisfaction in that for sure.”
Two years ago, Mason Moore of Princeton was the hired gun behind the wheel of the F&F Racing #X1 that Forsberg drives today. In the 2010 Forni Classic, Forsberg was chasing down Moore and ended up going upside down in the effort. Now, two years later, Forsberg has become the team’s winningest driver since they were formed with David Robinson behind the wheel under the guidance of team owners Alan Bradway and Steve Tuccelli. This team has always been known for big wins, now it is known for big repeat wins.
At the waving of the green flag, Placerville’s CJ Humphreys drove off the pole position and bested Cameron Park’s Stephen Allard for the early lead of the event. With three laps complete, Forsberg overtook Stephen Allard for the second position and began chasing Humphreys for the lead. Seven laps into the event Forsberg took advantage of a slight error made by Humphreys when he became slowed up against the high birm of the track surface.
Forsberg’s biggest challenge developed on the 10th lap with Jonathan Allard had advanced from his 8th place starting position into second place and closed in on the leader.
With 14 laps complete, Allard powered around Forsberg to raise the capacity crowd to its feet in the grandstands as they enjoyed the dogfight between the traveling King of the West driver and their local track champion.
Entering the final laps of the race it appeared Allard was on his way to the win as Forsberg and Placerville’s Andy Greg raced in his wake. With just two laps remaining, Forsberg pulled the hat trick on Allard and reeled him in with just two laps to go. As he redeemed the lead on the second to last lap Forsberg razed the crowd once again as he sliced and diced his way into traffic in an effort to hold off Allard’s pressure. At the checkered flag Forsberg picked up the win followed by Allard, Gregg, Kyle Hirst and Nicole Miller who rounded out the top five.
In the Limited Late Model division on Saturday, Matt Davis of Auburn charged his way to the win. Davis started third in the event and didn’t assume the lead until the tenth lap of the race. The event had its share of mechanical carnage that Davis managed to avoid all the way to the checkered flag that flew at the 15 lap mark. At the line Davis was followed by Ken Micheli, Mike Lightfoot, Matt Micheli and James Edens.
“It feels good to win another one of these special races,” said Davis. “I just feel bad so many guys tore their cars up tonight just as we were starting to get a good car count. Tonight I plan to take my winnings and share it with some of those guys to help them get back out here.”
In the Pure Stock division, point leader Matt Tilford entered the night with a historical eight race win streak and was looking to bringing it to the nine mark. A gentleman who likes to call himself ‘The Hitman’ returned to competition to change Tilford’s plans. Les Friend of Galt retired last year and decided he wasn’t quite ready to do so when he saw the recent headlines of Tilford’s domination at Placerville.
Hence, Friend has made his return to the dirt track community and met his mission on Saturday night, leading every lap of the 20-lap feature event to end the much coveted win streak that Tilford had built. As Friend pulled into victory lane, Tilford pulled next to him to congratulate him on the feat, displaying great sportsmanship that is such a big part of this sport.
“I have no plans about racing every week or when I will be back,” said Friend. “I just had to come back and beat Tilford with this win streak and we did it. I can’t thank my guys and my family enough for their support. I love this place and it’s good to be back, we’re just focused on having fun and that’s the way I like. Doing this tonight, now that was fun.”
Friend was followed across the line by Chris Curtiss, Tilford, Chris Van Roekle and Scott Lynch.
In the Nor Cal Dwarf Cars, eighth place starter Shawn Jones drove to his second Placerville victory. Ryan Winter finished in second place followed by early race leader Kevin Bender, Jeremy Blackshere and Josh Hiatt.
Saturday’s event was put together by the Forni Family and local resident Chuck Sept who collected the many sponsors for the annual event that now draws thousands to Placerville Speedway. Sponsors for the 2012 Forni Classic included Doug Veerkamp General Engineering, Hunt and Sons Petroleum, Les Scwhab Tires, Pape Machinery, Steve Gumalo, Armonds Tire Service, Vans Paving, Elderd Brothers Inc,, Roger Miller Concrete, Riebes Auto Parts, MRO Inc. and Mike and Jessica Poderick.
“We can’t thank Chuck Sept and the Forni family enough for all their work on this race,” said Alan Handy, promoter of Placerville Speedway. “This has become a great event and it’s their hard work and dedication that makes it happen. We’re already looking forward to next year with them.”
Racing action returns to Placerville Speedway Saturday, July 21 with champion point racing and Wednesday, July 25 with the ASCS National Tour. For further information on these events visit placervillespeedway.com.