The new racing season opened in big way Saturday night at Placerville Speedway located on the El Dorado County Fairgrounds. A standing room only crowd packed the grandstands and one of the largest car counts for a weekly point race in recent history filled every available space in the pit area to build a spectacular night of championship racing and a warm welcome to the 2014 Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort Championship season at the 59 year old racetrack.
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In the Sprint Car division, Auburn’s Andy Forsberg began the new year much like he finished the last with a victory. Forsberg was joined in victory lane by fellow defending champion Les Friend in the Pure Stocks, Limited Late Model winner Ryan McDaniel and Shawn Jones of the Nor Cal Dwarf Cars.
In the Sprint Division, Forsberg was one of 29 cars in competition Saturday night and started the 25-lap A-feature in the sixth starting position. With the drop of the green flag the 37-year-old Placerville Speedway track champion pushed his way toward the front where he joined the likes of pole sitter Andy Gregg of Placerville and Matt Peterson of Wilton who were in a heated duel for the lead.
It wasn’t until the 16th lap that Forsberg made the winning move that put him into the lead, gaining momentum off the fourth turn to power his way around Peterson to take the point he would never relinquish. While Mr. Excitement was running in the front amongst lapped traffic, Steven Tiner of Elverta worked his way into the dog fight between Peterson and Gregg to make it a three way battle for second place in traffic.
At the line, Forsberg picked up his first win of the season while Tiner finished second followed by Peterson, Gregg and Willie Croft of Sacramento.
“I have to credit Matt Peterson tonight for a great run, he was strong out there tonight and did a great job. Last year we got off to a slow start and we got the job done when came to the championship, this year we’ve started off with a win and I can’t complain about that, we’re happy,” said Forsberg. “Looking at this huge crowd here it’s nice to see people didn’t forget about the show we put on here on Saturday nights over the winter. I can’t say enough about the fans here. Alan Handy and his staff works hard all week to give us a great track to race at and thanks to Jackson Rancheria for stepping up and bringing this place some great sponsorship this year. This is where to be Saturday night so get back out here next Saturday and let’s keep these stands packed like this.”
The Limited Late Model feature starting off with its share of caution flags Saturday night which delayed the race several times and forced the 20-lap distance to be adjusted to 15 to allow for the additional divisions Saturday night. McDaniel was one of the few drivers that managed to dodge the mayhem and work his way to the front of the field.
Starting in the eighth position, McDaniel moved into the lead shortly after the halfway mark Saturday night after passing early race leader Marek Bernert of Orangevale who later got caught up in a last lap accident that pushed him to deep in the finish. At the line McDaniel was followed by Paul Gugliemoni of Vacaville. Ray Trimble of Auburn started fifth and finished third Saturday night. Defending champion Tom Tilford finished in fourth after starting 12th. Matt Micheli of Live Oak rounded out the top five.
“Somehow I managed to miss all of that out there tonight and find our way to the front,” said McDaniel. “It took a lot of turning left and right and dodging my way in and out of every opening I could find out there and here we are. Its nice to see this car count grown like it has.”
The Pure Stock feature was the most trouble free event of the night out of all four divisions. Friend started on the pole of the 20-lap feature event and took the lead at the waving of the green flag which he never relinquished. Friend drove to victory ahead of second place started Scott Grunert of Woodland. Chris Van Roekel of Grass Valley finished in third over Tim Mack of Diamond Springs.
Nathan Tilford of Orangevale capped off a strong night on the evening which started off with a touching tribute to his father, the legendary Donnie Tilford who passed away just two weeks ago. Tilford finished fifth at the checkered flag.
“What a great way to come back tonight with a win and a crowd like this, just look at this place tonight. It’s awesome to see such great support,” said Friend. “Tonight I have to dedicate this win to Donnie Tilford. He’s a guy that touched many lives in this sport and is really missed here tonight so this one is for him and his whole family. They’ve been part of the track for so many years and always will be and I know tonight was tough for all of them to come back here without him.”
The Nor Cal Dwarf Cars suffered a flag flogged feature event Saturday night. Shawn Jones of San Jose dodge the mayhem to return to victory lane. Jones took the lead at the waving of the green flag and powered out ahead of the 20 car field that had it share of excitement including a pair of non injury rollovers.
“It was a pretty tough night out here for our class but I managed to stay out in front of it,” said Jones. “I love coming to place, its one of our favorite tracks and we’re already looking forward to coming back in a few weeks.”
Placerville Speedway’s 2014 championship season is sponsored by the new Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort who invites the racing community to their newly remodeled 257,000 square foot entertainment facility just south of El Dorado County. Additional sponsorship provided by Hoosier Tires, Coors Light, The Mountain Democrat, Riebes Auto Parts, ADCO Driveline, the Paint Spot and more. Complete results of Saturday’s event will be detailed in the coming day at placervillespeedway.com.
Next Saturday night all three of Placerville Speedway’s divisions will be joined by the Midget Lites of the Bay Cities Racing Association for a full four division program. The grandstands will open at 5 p.m. with qualifying at 6:30 p.m.
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