Two Killed In Accident At California Racetrack
March 19, 2013

Two Killed In Accident At California Racetrack

Everyone knows that racing is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Safety regulations are put in place in the cars to protect the driver from crashes resulting from blown tires, accidental contact, and even debris on the track. The walls that surround most of the tracks they race on are also fitted for safety with high fences to protect the spectators, and safer barriers to protect the drivers.

However, pit crew members have minimal protection and are subject to injury or even death every time a racing event is going on. In 1990 at the Atlanta race, Mike Rich, a rear tire changer for Bill Elliott was killed when Ricky Rudd lost control of his vehicle and crushed Mike between the two cars. Two other members of the crew were also injured. Tommy Cole and Dan Elliott.

Even with all the safety features there is still a risk to racing fans. A crash happened earlier this year at Daytona where a car was pole-vaulted into the fence and debris sailed into the bleachers injuring over 30 spectators. In 2009, at Talladega, seven fans were injured when debris from a crash flew over the safety fence. At a drag race event at Chandler Arizona, a woman was killed  by a flying tire from a dragster crash. Even at my local track, many years ago, a man was killed by flying debris. Every race has incidents and crashes that involve the drivers, pit crews, and sometimes spectators.

On Saturday evening March 15, 2013, an hour before the actual race began at the Marysville Raceway Park in California, a 17 year old driver, Chase Dominic Johnson, lost control of his vehicle during warm up laps. Apparently the throttle of the vehicle stuck and Chase hit the left side of an opening in the wall which shot him into tractor tires. He then went airborne and the car flew into the pits, striking two people.

One victim was 68 year old Dale Richard Wondergem Jr. who died at the scene. The other victim was 14 year old Marcus Joseph Johnson, Chase’s cousin, who was pronounced dead at the hospital. No one else was injured, including the driver. After the crash, the season opener of the California Sprint Car Civil War Series was canceled.

Ron Lingron, an announcer for Petaluma Speedway, Chase’s home track said, “Chase Johnson is a 17-year-old with a bright, bright future. Through no fault of his own, something happened. It’s something that could happen to anyone, doing anything.”

“It appears the driver had a stuck throttle,” said Steven Blakesley, sprint car race announcer, who was at the track as a spectator for this race. “I thought he was hurt — the driver, and then I saw that two people were on the ground receiving CPR and people pumping on them. I would say it got very silent and very serious.”


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