The grandstands were packed once again at Placerville Speedway Saturday night for the second Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort Championship event of the season presented by Hoosier Racing Tires, Coors Light and the Mountain Democrat. Four divisions were on tap for the event that brought four new faces to victory lane, celebrating their first successes of the fresh season.
In the Sprint Car Division, Prunedale’s Justin Sanders drove his way to victory. Sanders shared in celebration with Ray Trimble of the Limited Late Model Division and Scott Grunert of the Pure Stock class. Brian Corso of Ripon took home the win in the visiting Midget Lite Division.
In the Sprint division, Sanders began racing at Placerville Speedway on a regular basis last season and teamed with veteran car owner Rudy Warrington midway through the season. While also competing at Ocean Speedway on Friday nights aboard a different ride, the talented young driver had come so close to victory at the foothill speedway numerous times but just couldn’t crack the code to get the elusive win week after week.
This Saturday, that all changed as Sanders went untouchable in the 25-lap feature event. Starting on the pole position, Sanders muscled his way ahead of Elk Grove’s Greg DeCaires from the inside line to take command of a lead he would never relinquish. The race didn’t go without its fair share of challenges including numerous yellow flags almost every time Sander reached lapped traffic and had the opportunity to pad his lead with back markers from the hard charging DeCaires and defending champion Andy Forsberg of Auburn.
“The yellows didn’t bother me so much,” said Sanders. “Actually a few times I think they helped me out and gave me a clean track to race on.. I knew who was behind me the whole time and I couldn’t make a single mistake. We’ve come so close to winning here and I just haven’t been able to get it done. Tonight we did and I have to thank this whole team for all they do, Rudy and Bev for giving me this ride and everyone. This is a team effort.”
At the checkered flag Sanders was trailed by DeCaires and Forsberg. Billy Butler of Sacramento charged to fourth place with Mike Benson of Calistoga rounding out the top five.
In the Pure Stock division, Grunert took the lead at the green flag and held it throughout the entire 20-lap affair. Much like Sanders, Grunert too had his share of adversities in the way of lapped cars spinning in front of him and keeping second place just one error’s distance behind him each and every lap.
Lonnie Leonard was the biggest threat to Grunert’s lead, consistently nosing his way below the leader at nearly every turn trying to force him out of the faster grove and steal the lead. Grunert, maintaining the high line momentum the Placerville is known for, held off the efforts of Leonard all the way to the checkered flag where the two were followed by Eddie Gardner of Sacramento, Tim Mack of Diamond Springs and Chris VanRoekel.
“It’s great to get a win this early in the season, ” said Grunert.”Last year this took us awhile after coming so close too many times. I really wanna thank my Dad and family for all their help in doing this and all the sponsors that help us come here each week. That was a fun race tonight even in the lapped traffic.”
In the Limited Late Model class, another strong field of 14 firebreathing machines took to the track in just the second race of the year. In just his second Late Model race of his career, Trimble drove a superior performance, maintaining the lead from the green flag to the checkered and holding off numerous serious challengers.
Several years ago, Trimble raced in Placerville’s Pro Stock division before venturing to different venues. Saturday night, he scored his long awaited Placerville win holding off early challenges by former champion Marek Bernert of Orangevale and maintaining the lead at the finish line over most recent champions Tom Tilford of Citrus Heights and Matt Micheli of Live Oak. Matt Davis of Auburn finished in third followed by Rocklin’s Dan Brown Jr. who charged into the top five after starting dead last in the 20-lap event.
“A few years ago we ran up here in the Pro Stock division and a guy by the name of Dan Brown Jr. won just about every race that year so I’ve wanted to win at Placerville for a long time. I have wins at several tracks but this is one I’ve really wanted,” said Trimble. “I guess I have to thank my Dad tonight, he put a new set up on the car and I argued with him before we went out that it wasn’t going to work but now I can say he was right.”
The three track regulars were joined Saturday night by the Midget Lites of the Bay Cities Racing Association. In this event, Corso raced into the lead at the opening green and maintained it all the way to the checkered flag in lapped traffic where he claimed the win over Dakota Albright of Oakdale, Marcus Smith of Manteca and Scott Kinney of Citrus Heights.
“This is a good way to come back to Placerville this year,” said Corso. “We came here with a heavy heart tonight because its our first race here without Wayne Albright, a longtime member of this group who passed away this off season. He loved this place. We had a bad weekend in Bakersfield last week and I knew we had the ability to turn that around here tonight. We’re looking forward to coming back here in a few weeks for the tribute to Wayne and seeing if we can do this again without the wing.”
Next Saturday night the King of the West Sprint Cars roll into Placerville Speedway for the first of two visits here this season. The front gates of Placerville Speedway will open at 5 p.m. with qualifying starting at 6:30. For further information visit placervillespeedway.com.
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.
Catch the highlights and hear what the drivers have to say about Saturday night’s race on local El Dorado County Television. Tune into Foothill 7 TV on Comcast or on the web at foothill7tv.com to catch the weekly episode of “Foothill Thunder” presented by Thompsons’s Toyota.
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Photos by Donna Peter/racephotosbydonna.com