At the annual awards banquet earlier this season, sprint car driver Justin Sanders vowed that he would be a driver giving Placerville Speedway’s veteran drivers a run for their money in the 2014 Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort-Hoosier Tires Championship at the famed bullring. Saturday night, Sanders continued to back that statement with his second straight victory in just three events.
“At the end of last season I knew this team had what it takes to win, we just hadn’t gotten the job done,” said Sanders, after celebrating atop his car in victory lane on a chilly night at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds. “I can’t thank everyone on this team enough for all their hard work and dedication. We came so close to winning here so many times last year and to have two of these this year is really something great. These guys really work hard.”
For Sanders, Saturday’s victory was his second trip to the podium this weekend after he had a top run at Ocean Speedway on Friday night with another team. The recent success of this talented young man is creating a momentum that is sure to produce a championship battle for the season to come that race fans of all ages will not want to miss.
The last time Sanders won at Placerville he accomplished the feat from the front of the field and held off several hard chargers to the checkered flag. This round, he muscled his way up from the seventh position and worked his way past six top drivers, including two former champions to score the win.
“Starting seventh at this place can be tough, I knew we had the car to do it if we could just get up near the front and stay out of trouble in lapped traffic,” said Sanders, who passed polesitter and early race leader Jimmy Trulli well after the halfway point of the race. “He (Trulli) was running good down low and I knew if I was going to pass him it would have to be up high.”
While Trulli had the fans on their feet cheering for their local track veteran who was running strong out front for the majority of the race, Sanders changed the cheers to that of the Sanders’ clan when he muscled around the outside of Trulli exiting the second turn and down the backstretch to steal the lead and the win. Trulli finished second at the line holding off Greg DeCaires of Elk Grove, Colby Wiesz of Colfax and Placerville’s C.J. Humphreys.
In the Limited Late Model division, Ryan McDaniel of Olivehurst was also a two time winner Saturday night. McDaniel started in the fourth position and took the lead in the fourth turn of the second lap when he powered his way past Jason Englund of Citrus Heights and Paul Gugliemoni of Vacaville.
Once in front, McDaniel distanced himself by a few car length on the field to the finish line. Randy Shafer finished in the second place position after overtaking Englund in a several lap battle. Englund claimed third over Matt Micheli and Jay Norton.
“It’s great to get a second win here,” said McDaniel, a veteran champion at many tracks and campaigns in the region who also made one young fan’s night special when won the Riebes Auto Parts Kids Dash earlier in the program, giving the young lady his trophy and the victory lane experience. “We always enjoy coming here and supporting this track as much as we can, the crowd here is always great even when it’s cold like tonight and it’s a great field of cars. We look forward to coming back in a few weeks.”
In the Pure Stock division, Tim Mack of Diamond Springs celebrated his career first victory. After coming so close many times, Mack used patience to his advantage Saturday night and was in the right place at the right time to take the lead position.
Former track champion Matt Tilford of Citrus Heights drove from seventh to take the lead of the race with just six laps down. Tilford appeared to be on his way to his first win of the new season with a distant lead until the 11th lap when a broken steering box cost him the lead exiting the fourth turn and forced him to race a handicapped car from deep in the field for the remainder of the race.
Mack started third in the event and overcame a heated battle with Grass Valley’s Chris Van Roekel and Elk Grove’s Lonnie Leonard to find his way into the second position where he was in pursuit of Tilford. After taking the lead the local favorite held off a heated charge by fifth place starter Scott Grunert of Woodland who finished second over Eddie Gardner of Sacramento, Rick Grunert of Woodland and Van Roekel.
“This was definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time,” said Mack. “I’ve been so close so many times it feels great to finally be standing here with our first win. I have to thank everyone that helps me do this, my family, crew and sponsors. I couldn’t do it with them. Scott Grunert gave me a good there at the end but we were able to pull it off.”
The three track regulars were joined Saturday night by the Midget Lites of the Bay Cities Racing Association. In this division, Second generation driver Dillard of Oakdale started on the pole position and drove to his fourth career win.
Dillard quickly powered his way into lapped traffic in the caution flag plagued event. At the finish line Dillard finished ahead of Brian Corso of Ripon who started in fifth followed by Hunter Kinney of Citrus Heights who started in the third position and Manteca’s Marcus Smith.
“It was about this time I won my first race here at Placerville last year so it feels good to do it again,” said Dillard. “This is my fourth career win. We always enjoy racing here and look forward to coming back in a few weeks again. A big thanks to all my sponsors and family for their support.”
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.
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