PLACERVILLE, CA (8-27-11) – For many years Placerville resident Mark Wells has dabbled in the sport of sprint car racing locally. Operating on a limited budget, Wells has made sporadic appearances at Placerville Speedway with a “go out and have fun” attitude. This past Saturday night, Wells had more fun at the speedway and he wasn’t even in the car.
For the past few weeks, former track champion Joey Magaruh of Vacaville has been strapping into the white and silver #94w that doesn’t don any fancy graphics and sponsorship hoopla. On this particular night, that car rolled into victory lane for the very first time as Magaruh outwitted the best of the best during the penultimate point race of the year at Placerville Speedway.
“This is pretty amazing,” said Magaruh. “This car is not a high dollar car, we all know that. It’s set up well, it has quality components on it but it is nothing when compared to what it is running against out here. Tonight the track was just how I like and I was able get out in front really well and hold them off. This is great for Mark, I’m really glad we got this win tonight for him, he deserves it.”
Magaruh started on the outside of the front row for Saturday’s 25-lap Hoosier Tires feature event. At the waving of the green flag he went wheel to wheel with Placerville’s Scott Russell. The two leaders rubbed wheels on several occasions and traded the lead in the early laps until Magaruh powered to the point using the high line of the dry slick track to his advantage.
After a pair of absences, Kyle Hirst of Sacramento returned to action Saturday night and muscled his way up to the bridesmaid position to challenge Magaruh midway through the race Saturday night along with point leader Andy Forsberg of Auburn. Despite having the two winningest drivers on his tail, Magaruh used the risky high line of the track as well as some psychological wit to maintain the lead that both drivers made several aggressive bids for.
One of Magaruh’s most successful strategies was on the restarts. As the leader, setting the pace was at Magaruh’s discretion. Each and every time, Magaruh would bring the field to the starting cone at a snail’s pace and then accelerate down the front stretch. The maneuver caught his counterparts off guard over and over, giving Magaruh a bit of advantage to gain an early lead each time.
“That’s really what it was, more about getting in their heads than anything else,” said Magaruh. “As the leader it’s your call as long as your between those cones so I was bringing them in slow knowing they had the power off that corner to slide under me. It threw them off a couple times and allowed me to get out a few car lengths by the time we reached the back stretch.”
Magaruh crossed the line Saturday night with Hirst in tow followed by Forsberg. With the finish and the lack of his rival Sean Becker of Roseville starting the main, Forsberg officially locked the sprint car title on Saturday, stretching his lead to 65-points. Russell finished in fourth followed by Brett Miller of Chico.
The battle for the Rookie of the Year continued to heat up Saturday night as well. The two drivers eligible for this division are Matt Land of Elk Grove and Jake Morgan of Fair Oaks. Land a graduate from the Capitol City Midgets while Morgan has advanced from the Outlaw Kart ranks. Saturday night Land finished 14th in the feature while Morgan rolled in 19th after a late race spin.
Entering next Saturday’s final race Land is currently leading the contest, tied for eighth place in the point standings while Morgan is currently 11th in the ranks, ten points behind land. According to the stated rules, the title will go to the driver who finishes the highest in the point standings unless both drivers end the year tied in points which is the only scenario in which a co-rookie title will be awarded. The rookie title is as contested as the championship with one final night left.
In the Pure Stock division, 21 cars started the feature event and Placerville’s Chris Curtiss was fortunate to start on the outside of the front row to avoid the traffic mayhem. Curtiss drover around pole sitter Scotty Grunert of Woodland. Once he took the lead the race was far from over for Curtiss. His first serious challenge was Burney McClure of Nevada City as he charged up beside Curtiss to bid for the lead.
Curtiss and McClure traded paint on several occasions until McClure got caught up in the traffic and sent into a spin in the second turn. Matt Tilford of Orangevale then became the biggest threat to Curtiss. Despite numerous caution flags and restarts, Curtiss held of the challenges of Tilford. Clarence Holbrook III finished in third to maintain his division point lead by 15-points. Les Friend of Galt drove duel divisions on Saturday and finished in fourth over Kevin Wirth from Garden Valley.
In the Limited Late Model Division, Live Oak’s Matt Micheli dominated the competition on Saturday night from start to finish. Micheli took the lead at the green flag and stayed out in front of defending two time champion Dan Brown Jr. of Grass Valley. Matt Davis of Auburn raced in the third position all the way to the finish line over Les Friend of Galt and Jay Norton from Cameron Park.
Point leader Thomas Arbogast of Auburn had a tire go flat during Saturday’s feature event and finished 8th. The championship in this division will be one to watch as only five points separate Arbogast and Brown entering the final race of the season next week.
The grandstands at Placerville Speedway will open at 5 p.m. on Saturday Adult tickets will be $13, seniors and juniors are $11 and Children are $6. For additional information please visit www.placervillespeedway.com or contact the track office at (916)783-DIRT.
Our thanks to Donna Peter from Race Photos by Donna for the use of her photos.