By: Brad Kennedy *
Placerville, CA (August 20)…For the third time in its 51 year history, the Placerville Speedway paid tribute to one of its local legends Donnie Tilford on Saturday night, with 74 cars signed into the pit area between the five divisions.
14 Domco Plumbing Limited Late Models swarmed the speedway to get a shot at the getting their name engraved on the Tilford trophy. Matt Micheli and Ryan Peter led the field to green flag for the start of the night’s 20 lap feature. Michelli jumped out in front, as long time veteran Randy McDaniel moved his way forward from fifth to second in the first lap.
Micheli ran the low line around the tight ¼ mile as McDaniel proved to be too tough up on the top shelf and cleared Micheli off of turn four to take the lead on lap three. After McDaniel took the lead it was smooth sailing as he went on to win the main event over Micheli, while Tom Tilford garnered Tilford family bragging rights by finishing third over Scott Woessner and Ray Trimble, who rounded out the top five.
“The car was phenomenal tonight,” McDaniel said in the winner’s circle. “I could just lay the right rear deep in the cushion and off it went from there. It was a true dream to drive this car tonight.”
The evening’s Fast Time Award went to McDaniel, who set a blistering lap of 13.193 to earn the RMI bonus for quick time, while heat races were won by Trimble and Micheli. McDaniel also earned the Hard Charger bonus in the feature with his fifth to first place charge.
20 Jay’s Mobile Welding and Fabrication Pure Stocks came through the gate on the night looking to become a Tilford Tribute race winner. Orville Owens and Scott Grunert led the field to green, but the yellow lights flickered as Owens was called for jumping the start, and penalized a row. The penalty became a golden opportunity for current track point leader Nick Baldwin to start on the pole next to Grunert, sitting second in points, just 6 markers back in the Red Hawk Casino Championship chase.
Baldwin found himself getting the jump on Grunert and pulled away from the field, as surprisingly, Grunert fell back to sixth in the opening three circuits. A yellow on lap 5 saw a grand opportunity for Dan Jinkerson to spoil Baldwin’s shot at victory on the restart. Jinkerson drag raced Baldwin into turn one and two on the top side of the speedway, taking the lead away in the process.
As Jinkerson stretched his advantage with three lapped cars separating himself and Baldwin, the yellow flags flew for Kevin Wirth. Meanwhile, the black flag was displayed for championship contender Scott Grunert who had heavy smoke pouring out the back end of his race car, ending his night and his chances for the season long title.
Jinkerson went on to win his fifth race of 2016 at Placerville, becoming the winningest driver of the season in all three weekly divisions of competition. Second went to Nick Baldwin who has virtually secured the Pure Stock title for the season finale this coming Saturday. Third went to Jay Bryant, followed by Jon Tilford, and Travis Emery.
“A lot of my pavement driving experience played a factor tonight,” Jinkerson stated proudly in victory lane. “Foot work and knowing where to place my car at the right time against the cushion was key and it felt great on the exit of the turns.”
Jinkerson also earned the RMI Fast Time Award bonus with a time of 14.825 seconds in time trials, while heat race wins went to Kevin Wirth, Jeff Sly, and Russ Murphy. Ted Ahart earned the RMI Hard Charger bonus in the feature by moving from his 17th starting spot to 7th in the final run down.
13 BCRA Midgets visited the ¼ mile for the fourth time in 2016. Brian Gard and Taylor Simas were the first drivers to see the green flag for the 30 lap feature. Gard snagged the early lead over Simas but Simas was immediately hard on the attack as he showed his nose to Gard multiple times. However, Simas lost power on lap 10, bringing out the caution.
On the restart, veteran Matt Streeter found himself in good position to challenge for the lead. Streeter rode the rim around the 1/4 mile clay oval and chased down Gard for the lead. The two raced side by side all the way up to lap 12 when Streeter finally got around Gard.
On lap 19, Gard reclaimed the lead when Streeter’s car began to fade on the top side of the speedway. Fortunately for Streeter, a lap 23 yellow for Bobby Wilson allowed Streeter to make some in car adjustments. Streeter utilized the top again to drive back by Gard on lap 27.
On the last lap, Streeter got tight on the turn one cushion allowing Gard to pull alongside once again. However, Streeter’s car was just too good to be beaten as he won his first race at the speedway since 2007.
“The track was absolutely a blast to race on tonight,” Streeter said with enthusiasm after the evening was over. “The car was good for the first portion of the race, then it got really loose in turns one and two, and that allowed Brian to get back by. But, we made some adjustments and were able to get him back and go on to win.”
The evening’s fast qualifier, Cory Elliott finished second, nipping third place finisher Brian Gard on the last lap, while the female duo of Randi Pankratz and Maria Cofer rounded out the top five. The two heat race winners were Matt Streeter and Brian Gard.
25 Nor-Cal Dwarf Cars made the trip for their fifth and final appearance of 2016. Zack Hurst and Josh King set the pace for the 20 lap endeavor. Unfortunately, the red flag flew on the opening circuit, as eighth place starter Scott Dahlgren flipped violently in turn three. Dahlgren walked away with no serious injury.
Josh King got the jump on the restart, and pulled away from the field early on. However, Shawn Jones worked his way through the field to chase down King by lap five. Jones threw a masterful slide job to take the lead on lap 6.
King returned the favor the following lap in turns one and two, only to see Jones re-slide King again in three and four to take command. Jones pulled away while leaving King to fight off Mike Grenert for second. On a late race restart, Grenert made major contact with King in turn one, sending King off the track and to the rear of the field.
Jones dominated the race from there and won his third feature in a row at the speedway. Kevin Bender came home second, while third went to Zack Hurst, followed by Mike Grenert and Johnny Reeves to round out the top five. Heat wins went to Scott Dahlgren, Mike Grenert, and Shawn Jones.
“Three in a row running the cushion all 20 laps for the victory. I’ll take it”, an exuberant Shawn Jones said in the winner’s circle. “The top was tricky tonight for me actually”, he went on to say. “The first few laps I could sail it in there on the cushion, then I had to actually be smart and hit it with some intelligence (later in the race),” Jones stated.
7 IMCA Sport Mods came for their third and final visit of 2016. Josh Gish and Damian Merritt led the field at the drop of the flag. Gish grabbed the lead until lap 4 when Todd Cooper drove by to take the point and brought his brother Brian Cooper along in second. The brothers raced side by side just like their last two appearances here at the track. From lap 12 to lap 18, the siblings raced hard and clean side by side until Brian tripped up just a little bit to allow Todd to pull away by about two car lengths over the final two circuits. Todd Cooper went on to win and made it two out of three wins at Placerville in 2016. Brian Cooper finished in the runner-up position while Jerry Bartlett led Josh Gish and Damian Merritt across the line. Merritt was also the lone heat winner earlier in the night.
“That was the most fun I’ve ever had in a racecar,” Cooper beamed on the front stretch following the night of action. “My brother and I raced so hard for so many laps, that it was just awesome. The track was incredible tonight. I just wish we raced here more than three times a year.”
Placerville Speedway returns next Saturday night for the final race of the 2016 Red Hawk Casino Championship season. Pit gates will open at 2PM with the front gates opening at 3PM. Racing begins at 7PM.
For complete details of the 2016 Red Hawk Casino Championship Racing Season, visit Placerville Speedway’s official website at www.placervillespeedway.com.
Join the nearly 8000 followers of Placerville Speedway on Facebook, where you can interact with fellow fans, drivers, and staff. You can also find Placerville Speedway on Twitter for schedule updates and more by following us @pvillespeedway. In addition, Placerville Speedway is now on Instagram. Please follow us @PvilleSpeedway.
Placerville Speedway is located on the El Dorado County Fairgrounds at 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville. The racing facility is operated by Russell Motorsports Incorporated, which can be reached at the track business office at 530-344-7592.
*Additional writing contributions by Dean Mills