PLACERVILLE, CA – This Saturday will bring inflated winnings and heavy hearts together at Placerville Speedway as the second to Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort Championship event of the season pays homage to the late Donnie Tilford, one the most decorated and beloved in the history of Placerville Speedway, with the inaugural Tribute to Donnie TIlford Big Trophy Night at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds.
The first edition of the Tribute to Donnie Tilford offers inflated winnings to all three divisions Saturday night. The Sprint Car Division will be racing for a $2000 to win bounty while the Pure Stock division will earn $500 on this special night. The most notable money on the line will be in the Limited Late Model Division as they honor the stock car patriarch with a $1500 victory check while second place will earn a $300 bonus, third place a $200 bonus and the hardcharger of the night in the division that Tilford truly loved will earn $200 as well.
Saturday’s additional winnings are a collaborative effort of Dominic Stone, owner of Domco Plumbing, and track promoters Alan and Diane Handy. Domco added nearly $2000 in added funds to the Late Model purse alone for this special night while the track promoters have come forth with the extra rewards in the Sprint Car and Pure Stock divisions. In addition to the winnings, the event is the annual “Big Trophy Night,” ,making this a special night for a truly special racer that is missed by many this year.
“There’s a stereotype that that racers are supposed to be small in stature with cat like reflexes, well someone forgot to tell Donnie Tilford that long ago and he proved them all wrong with great success,” said Alan Handy, Placerville Speedway’s track promoter. “He was a winner, a multi time champion but most importantly an even better friend and I miss that big old bear every week.”
Much of the dirt track racing community was stunned in March of this year when Tilford passed away in his sleep at just 58 years old, leaving behind a legacy in the sport that spanned the beginning of his racing career well past his retirement in 1991 when he hung up his helmet and went to help his son and nephews find their place in the sport, not only assisting them financially but more importantly sharing his wealth of knowledge, his winning ways and mentorship in a very competitive sport where the combination of car set up is just as important as a winning attitude.
“Stock car racing on the clay at Hangtown is what brought this family together. It’s with all of our fans, fellow racers and the staff of Handy Racing Promotions that continues to keep this family tight and this sport strong,” said Jon Tilford, who won the 2006 Pro Stock Championship under the guidance of his late uncle and now spends his time trackside wrenching for his brothers Tom, Matt and his cousin Nathan. ” So this race in honor of, who in my eyes is the greatest stock car driver ever, means a lot to me and my family and my extended family which is the racing community so I can’t thank everyone who has made this tribute to Donnie the beginning of what we hope will become the best stock car race at Placerville Speedway. This is what he lived for. He believed in driving fast and taking chances.”
Defending track champion Tom Tilford of Citrus Heights will surely have his competition to contend with Saturday night as many of the region’s top talent are expected to race for the added cash in honor of Donnie. The driver of the #92 Late Model will undoubtedly be driving with a heavy heart in hope he will be taking home the night’s big trophy and the commemorative helmet that will go to Saturday’s winner. Like his brothers, Tilford feels the void of the man that was his hero, sponsor, crew chief and mentor built into one.
“He was one of the best stock car drivers on the west coast in one of the most important times for stock car racing,” said Tilford. “He brought technology and knowledge from his travels to the sport locally, much of it we still use today. He was what my brothers and cousins always strived to be in racing. Not only by winning but by earning the respect of our competitors.”
Matt Tilford will be in competition Saturday night in the Pure Stock division. Despite being one of the track’s winingest drivers in recent history, a victory Saturday night will by far be the high point for Tilford’s career and it has nothing to do with the money at stake but much more.
“It means a lot to see a race track commemorate Donnie for being one of the best drivers in this area and it’s great to see one of the people I looked up to growing up to be honored in this way,” said Matt Tilford. “I have really thank Handy Racing Promotions and Placerville Speedway for doing this in his memory.”
There will undoubtedly be many heavy hearts on both side of the fence this Saturday at Placerville Speedway and among them will be Donnie’s son, Nathan Tilford who drives the number three Pure Stock that replicates the Team USA car that Donnie drive in Australia early in his career. Following in his father’s footsteps, Nathan has been racing part time when his schedule permits and along with his sister Terena, looks forward to this event that pays tribute to his late Father.
“My Dad was my hero, he raced like he lived and always helped his competitors because competition makes you better. Not only in racing but in life,” he said. “The best thing about Placerville Speedway doing this special race is that it will give my son the opportunity to see how important his grandfather was to this sport.”
With the added money on the line in all three of Placerville Speedway’s divisions and just two point races remaining in the season there is no doubt that many drivers will be driving fast and taking chances Saturday night. This special night of racing is one any race fan surely will not want to miss with all three championship titles remaining undecided and field of competitors that will be second to none in honor of the late Donnie Tilford.
The grandstands will open at 5 p.m Saturday night on this big bang for buck night with five full divisions. Adults are $15, Seniors $13, Juniors are $12, Children $5 and those 5 and under are free. Placerville Speedway is located on the El Dorado County Fairgrounds at 100 Placerville Drive and is sponsored by the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort who offers $25 in free play to every race fan this Saturday night. Additional sponsors include The Mountain Democrat, Thompson’s Toyota, ADCO Drive Lines, Hoosier Racing Tires and Riebes Auto Parts of El Dorado County.
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