PLACERVILLE – The stands were packed at Placerville Speeedway Saturday night as the penultimate race of the season paid tribute to legendary local driver Donnie Tilford. The second to last Red Hawk Casino Championship event of the season presented by Thompsons Auto Group, Domco Plumbing and Jay’s Mobile welding offered inflated winnings in honor of the late Folsom resident who was known well for his fierce competition as well as his support for the sport in the way of driver and car development all the way up to his untimely passing in 2014 due to heart complications.
While heavy winnings were the theme Saturday night, no cash value could be put on the win on this very special night for Folsom’s Jon Tilford. The veteran driver and former champion, won the $500 Pure Stock feature event to earn the most memorable victory of his career in the event that paid tribute to his late uncle who was responsible for his beginnings into the sport and long support. Tilford shared the celebrating in victory lane Saturday night with Sean Becker of Roseville who won $2000 in the Sprint Car division and Dominic Stone of Folsom who won $1000 in the Late Model division.
The Pure Stock division saw Matt Tilford start on the pole position where he was overtaken on the initial start by second place starter Dan Jinkerson of Diamond Springs. Jinkerson took a commanding lead and led through several late starts that took place in the first six laps of the race. It was lap six during a yellow, however, that Jinkerson suffered front steering failure and retired to the pit area, putting Tilford back to the lead position for the restart with Les Friend of Galt on the outside. Friend overtook Tilford on the seventh lap only to have Tilford answer back and muscle his way past the former track champion as he made a slight error in the second turn.
Once in front, Tilford lead a caution plagued event past the halfway point where he restarted the race with Friend on the outside. It was at the 14th lap however, when Jon Tilford charged into the picture as he worked his way up in the previous laps from the final position into fifth for the restart in which he charged to the low side and passed both Friend and Matt Tilford to take the lead with a crowd razing pass.
After his fan pleasing pass, a yellow flag forced a double file restart with Friend on the outside of Tilford and his brother right behind him. The green flag saw Tilford power into the first set of turns and assume a healthy lead once again while Friend and Matt Tilford battled for the second position. At the finish line it was Jon Tilford with the emotional win over Matt Tilford. Friend finished in third over Nick Baldwin and Jason Palmer.
“I am so excited I can’t even think straight, said Tilford. “All I could think of was how my Uncle Donnie’s last car enabled him to stick his inside front tire against the edge of the infield and enable him to pass multiple cars. I had gotten all the way back up there so I decided to give it my all. I don’t know if it’s something I learned from him by watching him race as a kid or if he was in this car with me tonight. Maybe it was a little bit of both. No race can ever compare to winning this one here tonight. This is my biggest moment here and always will be.”
In the Sprint Car division, Becker started Saturday’s race in the sixth place starting position. With the waving of the checkered flag, Logan Seavey of Sutter powered his way into a healthy lead early in the race while Becker worked his way into podium contention, racing with point leader and defending champion Greg DeCaires of Elk Grove to race his way into second place behind Seavey.
After stalking Seavey for 14 laps, Becker made his move on the 15th lap. Driving to the extreme high line of the track, Becker gained momentum to pull aside Seavey as the two exited the fourth turn. Traveling down the front stretch, Becker powered into the lead on the outside before reaching the next turn.
Once in front, Becker never relinquished his lead all the way to the finish line in his Dan Monhoff owned sprint car, where he finished ahead of Seavey, DeCaires, Benson and Placerville’s Jimmy Trulli. Becker has one all notable events at Placerville Speedway in his career, the Forni Classic, the Tribute to Al Hinds and now, the Tribute to Donnie Tilford.
“Anytime you have a memorial race the win is always special, it’s not about the added money its about the meaning of it and how it honors someone that did so much for a track or a community. I’m honored to win this race tonight and be down here with the Tilford family. Logan Seavey drove a heck of a race here tonight and that kid is loaded with talent. He’s starting to run strong up front each week and is going to be winning some big races.”
In the Limited Late Model class, Jay Norton of Shingle Springs led much of the race after starting on the outside of the front row. Former Champion Tom Tilford of Citrus Heights started third in the field. Racing with very high emotions on the night that honors his late uncle and mentor, Tilford gave it everything he had to get past Norton for the lead and did so on the 16th lap when he muscled below Norton in the second turn and took the lead down the backstretch.
Once in front, Tilford began working his lead to one of a couple of car lengths over Norton who was overtaken for second place by Stone, who started in fifth position. Once in second place, Stone closed in on Tilford’s lead and pulled to the inside of the turns three and four approaching the checkered flag and the two leaders raced hard to toward the finish line where Stone stole a heartbreaker of a win from Tilford. Tilford finished in second place followed by Norton, Ray Trimble of Auburn, and Ken Micheli of Live Oak.
“I have to dedicate this win tonight to Donnie Tilford, he was a great friend of mine. He was a big part of this racing community and a big part of the Folsom community and I miss him. My car wasn’t perfect tonight and it took me some time to get up there. It feels great to win this tonight in honor of Donnie and celebrate with the Tilfords.
Racing returns to Placerville Speedway on September 19th with the season finale and the Tribute to Al Hinds event.
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