The night was filled with door-to-door racing action, hot tempers and plenty of thrills and spills Saturday night at Placerville Speedway — indicators that the 2013 championship season is nearing its completion.
With only one remaining points race on the schedule next week, Andy Forsberg poised himself for his fifth track championship after his fifth win of the season. In the Late Model division, 75-year old Ken Micheli proved he still has his competitive edge with a victory while Scott Grunert won a highly competitive Pure Stock feature event and Doug Nunes returned to the winner’s circle in the visiting Midget Lites.
In the Sprint Car feature, Forsberg started in the sixth place starting position and drove his way to second place on the opening lap. Justin Johnson of Shingle Springs took the initial lead and raced close with Forsberg for the first four laps when Forsberg passed the leader exiting the fourth turn.
Once in front, Forsberg drove his way to a lead of several car lengths as Johnson drove a strong second, holding off Placerville’s Andy Gregg who powered into third on the ninth lap and then into the second position with 16 laps complete.
Although he closed in on the leader, Gregg was unable to threaten Forsberg and finished in second followed by Johnson. Jimmy Trulli of Placerville finished in fourth followed by Placerville’s Matt Barber. The checkered flag flew along with a red flag as Cody Spencer of Cameron Park went upside down on the closing lap of the race.
“I just can’t complain at all about this awesome team I drive for, in fact nobody can complain about them, it’s just me they can complain about because these guys are awesome,” Forsberg said. “This is a great weekend, after winning the Tyler Wolf Memorial in Chico last night and then coming here and winning. I’m hoping to see this place filled with fans next week for the final race of the year because your time is running out to boo me before winter. Let’s continue to support this place like we have all year.”
In the Late Model division, a wild 20-lap main event saw two different leaders, its share of paint trading, collisions, black flags and drama in the chase for the championship. In the end, veteran Ken Micheli used his patience and decades of skill to drive his way to victory lane.
Micheli took the lead from the pole position after a brief battle on the opening lap with Dennis Ahart of Shingle Springs. Once in front, Micheli was then challenged by former champion Dan Brown Jr. of Grass Valley. Brown closed in on the leader and made several bids for the lead and stole it from Micheli down the backstretch and into the third and fourth turns in the closing laps.
In the final turn of the final lap, Brown was leading the way to the finish as the two continued to race hard in traffic and the result was Brown breaking but salvaging a third place finish as Micheli and Jason England slipped by for first and second, respectively, Tom Tilford was fourth and Danny Malfatti, fifth.
“That was a pretty wild race tonight I have to say,” said Micheli, who then proudly informed that the crowd that he turns 76 in December. “It wasn’t a good night for my son, he has a lot of work to do this week and some ground to make up so we have a busy week ahead.”
Micheli’s division is the only one where the championship is still fair game. Tilford sits in first, 10 points up on Matt Micheli, the defending track champion.
In the Pure Stock division, Tim Mack of Placerville took the opening lead before Grunert moved in and gained enough momentum to take a lead he’d never relinquish.
At the finish line, Grunert picked up his first win of the year where he was followed by Mack, Dominic Stone of Folsom, Randy Hill of Auburn and Lonnie Leonard of Elk Grove.
“I’ve had a lot of third places and second places this year and was starting to think I wasn’t going to get a first,” said Grunert, who races with his father Rick and brother Kyle weekly. “It feels good to finally get a win here.”
The three track regulars were joined Saturday by the Midget Lites of the Bay Cities Racing Association. Doug Nunes drove his way to victory in this event, followed by Dakota Albright, Scott Kinney and Bradley Dillard at the line.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve been here,” Nunes said. “Placerville has always been one of my favorite tracks, we do well here. I’m already looking forward to coming back next month.”
Next Saturday is a big night of racing at Placerville Speedway. It’s Steve Stymeist Night for the final points race of the year in which the perpetual trophies will be passed on to each feature winner. Additionally, the Late Model division will be racing for a $1,000 win in a special season finale. Gates will open at 5 p.m. followed by qualifying at 6:30.