By Bill Sullivan for Placerville Speedway
PLACERVILLE, CA – Entering Saturday nights fifth Jackson Rancheria championship point race at Placerville Speedway, Justin Sanders was poised to put another notch in his early season win streak aboard his Beverly and Rudy Warrington owned #18 sprint car that recently carried him to the top of the point standings. When the checkered flag flew at the end of the night, the young man from Prunedale was celebrating once again in victory lane.
“I had a good starting spot up front tonight and we just have the right set up at the place now,” said Sanders, who is competing for his first Placerville championship while also competing Friday nights for the title at Ocean Speedway. “This is a new car and we have great people working hard on it every week. I can’t thank them enough.”
For Sanders, all the ingredients were perfect Saturday night to make it three in a row and capitalize on a rough night for defending four time champion Andy Forsberg of Auburn to tally up some digits in the point standings. Sanders started on the pole of the 25-lap A-feature and never relinquished his lead.
Chasing Sanders to the line the whole night was Penryn’s Charlie Cagle who trailed the leader by 1.876 seconds. Colby Wiesz of Colfax was the third place finisher over Elk Grove’s Greg DeCaires and Cory Eliason of Kingsburg. Entering the night, Sander’s early season point lead was 2 points over Forsberg. Forsberg started deep in the field and suffered a tough night with a challenging dry slick track and damage to the top wing that resulted in an 18th place finish.
While Sander’s trio of wins brought its share of fanfare an emotion on Mother’s Day eve at Placerville, the evening was also special for the Tilford family as the Tilford Brothers scored duel victories and celebrated with in victory lane. The celebration had its share of smiles and tears as dedicated Mother celebrated with her sons who gave her an early present and the entire team remembered the late Donnie Tilford, the family patriarch who helped all of their generations succeed behind the wheel who passed away just before the start of the season.
In the Limited Late Model division, Tom Tilford of Citrus Heights led every lap to drive his way to his first ever victory in the division in which he advanced to two years ago. In the closing laps he was challenged by fellow former champion Matt Micheli of Live Oak on the wind damaged quarter mile that offered very little traction. Tilford finessed his way to the finish line to score the long awaited win, a tough one that came without the presence of his late uncle.
“There’s no doubt this race tonight is for Uncle Donnie,” said an emotional Tilford as he celebrated in victory lane with his brother Matt with their Mother, Carla, embraced between them. “He helped us so much and there’s nothing I wanted more was to win a Late Model race for him, it means more than the championship to be here and to do it with my brother Matt makes it even better. I can’t thank my family enough for all their support and to Donnie for all the advice he’s given me my whole career, I really miss him.”
Jason Englund of Citrus Heights finished in third followed by Dominic Stone of Folsom and Ray Trimble of Auburn.
In the Pure Stock feature, Matt Tilford started fifth and quickly worked his way into the front to take the lead on the 12th lap from early leader John Durrett of Pollock Pines. Once in front, Tilford distanced himself by several car lengths over Durrett to drive to his first win of the year. It was the first time he joined his brother Tom in victory lane, several years ago Tom Tilford won a pure stock race on the same night as his brother Jon who now dedicates most of his time to wrenching and assisting financially on the family team cars. On this night, it was Matt’s turn to park beside his brother.
“For a long time I have always thought how special it would be to do this and win on the same night,” he said. “It’s not easy to do with the competition in these two divisions now and we’ve struggled up until tonight. This car was totaled at the end of last year and we’ve have a few issues the last few weeks getting everything back to how it was. This one is for Donnie for sure and our Mom here, we couldn’t do all this without her. I have to thank my brother Jon for all his help and my Dad (Dean) who probably works the hardest, working on my car, then Tom’s, loading them up and getting them here each week. He works so hard to help us, we couldn’t do this without him.”
In the Nor Cal Dwarf Car feature event, Shawn Jones of Kingsbury went to battle early in the race with Kevin Bender of Rocklin as the two dueled for the lead. Jones spun out after taking the lead early in the race and rallied back to the second position behind Bender, who drifted off the track surface on the final lap to relinquish the potential win. Jones was followed over the line by Brian Quilty and Mike Grenert.
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.
Racing resumes this Saturday night with all three divisions returning along with the visiting Midget Lites of the Bay Cities Racing Association. Gates will open at 5 p.m.
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