By Bill Sullivan, Handy Racing Promotions Inc. Media Relations
PLACERVILLE, CA (8-14-10) – In recent weeks Placerville’s Andy Gregg has had his share of misfortune behind the wheel of the #52 Seven Industries sprint car as he traveled his way throughout California and the Pacific Northwest. For Gregg, returning home to where his career started on one of the season’s most anticipated nights may have been the cure for his recent bridesmaid blues.
Saturday night was Mountain Democrat Kids’ Night at Placerville Speedway. When the checkered flag waved at the end of night it was Gregg who mastered his way to the forefront of one of the season’s most electrifying races to earn his first win of the season here.
“We really needed this win,” said Gregg, who filled the roll of the finish line flagman for the kids’ bicycle races earlier in the night. “Everyplace we have run lately it’s just been one thing after another. I was about ready to just fire myself from this ride because I have been doing so terrible. It’s always fun to be here for Kid’s Night and to do with a win like this make it even better. I just gotta thank Brett (Ervin) and this whole team for keeping their chin up lately. Hopefully this can turn us around because we have some big races coming up”
The initial line up had Shingle Springs’ Justin Johnson and Mason Moore of Princeton on the front row Saturday night. After both drivers suffered uncharacteristic spins, the adjusted grid placed Gregg on the outside of the front row for the official green flag with Placerville’s C.J. Humphreys on the pole for the 25-lap feature race.
With the waving of the green, Gregg charged off the high line of the track and into the lead ahead of Humphreys with Placerville’s Scott Russell in tow along with Nicole Miller of Loomis. Lurking back in the line up was point leader Andy Forsberg of Auburn, who had his sights set on the lead position held by his arch rival.
For the last decade, the rivalry between Gregg and Forsberg has been one to produce a great deal of side by side racing, slide jobs and daring high side passes. Saturday night the Andy show returned to the banks of Placerville Speedway much to the fans’ delight as they were undecided where to sit or stand for much of the feature event.
With seven laps down Forsberg moved into second place to close in on Gregg and the duel began that continued for the remainder of the race. Both drivers swapped back and fourth for the lead in and out of lapped traffic. At one point, Forsberg made a change to his driving style and moved to the lower line while Gregg took possession of Forsberg’s trademark high line around the track. The end result was Gregg crossing the line ahead of Forsberg before an enthusiastic crowd. Miller finished a strong third place followed by Russell and Humphreys.
“That was pretty fun going up there and running his line for awhile,” snickered Gregg who received congrats from Forsberg shortly after the win. “I think maybe he let me win tonight because we’ve been having a tough time. We have always ran so well together out front. We both give it everything we’ve got to win.”
In the Pure Stock division on Saturday night, Jon Tilford of Folsom made a history making return to the track. Throughout the season Tilford racing has fielded their #92 car while rotating the driving duties among brothers. Defending champion Tom Tilford has one victory this year, Matt Tilford has taken home two wins and now, Jon Tilford in the third sibling to take home the win this year.
Since winning his title in the Pro Stock class back in 2006, Tilford has made limited appearances at the track where his family is rich in the win column. Saturday night he made his return with his two children in the stands and took home the win on the same night he won his first ever trophy at the speedway some 20 years ago when he won the bicycle races.
“I couldn’t ask for a better night to come back here and win like this,” said Tilford. “It’s Kid’s Night, we have a great crowd here tonight and I had tons of friends and family in the stands to watch me including my two beautiful children. Nothing feels better than to win with them watching their dad. I just want to thank everyone that helps with this car and keeps us out here. I’ll be back in a couple weeks to try it again and Tom will finish up the season after that.”
Tilford started fourth and found his way to the lead after just a trio of laps when he took the top spot from early leader Tim Mack of El Dorado. Once in front Tilford mastered his way to a lead of several seconds and went without serious challenge for the remainder of the event.
At the finish line Tilford picked up the win and was followed by Kris Wirth and John Durrett of Pollock Pines. Point leader Chris Curtiss of Placerville was fourth of Chris Van Roekel of Grass Valley.
In the Dirt Solutions Limited Late Models, defending champion Jerry Bartlett of Yuba City returned to the track after a long absence. The driver known as “Mr. Controversy” returned to his winning ways in the 20-lap feature event after an exciting fender to fender race with his local rival Tom Arbogast of Auburn.
Bartlett originally started in the third position of the event. After pole sitter Marek Bernert of Sacramento was penalized for a jump on the start, the adjusted line up placed Bartlett on the pole with Arbogast on the outside of the front row.
With the waving of the green flag both front runners stood on the gas and refused to give up an inch as early as the opening lap. Bartlett edged his way ahead of Arbogast to take the lead on the opening lap. For over half of the event these two drivers worked their way into lapped traffic nearly side by side at times in one of the hottest late model races of the season.
As the race reached the waning laps, Arbogast’s efforts fell short in turn four when he caught the cushion and it appeared he popped out of gear or lost power momentarily. The incident gave Bartlett some breathing room for the final laps where Arbogast gave it everything he had to catch the leader.
“They say it looked like he popped out of gear,” mused Bartlett, who requested his picture be taken with the black flag rather than the checkered flag due to his controversial nature and his character of being the driver that the race fans just love to hate. “That’s not really what happened, I was just on the gas so hard it looked like he almost stopped. It’s nice to be back here tonight, we had a great time. We had an ignition problem in the heat race and I want to that the Ahart team for helping me out with the part we needed or we wouldn’t have made it out here for the main.”
Saturday night, hundreds of youngsters participated in the bike races at Placerville Speedway. The event was sponsored by the Mountain Democrat and launched a brand new media partnership with the speedway that will extend through the conclusion of 2011. Richard Esposito, Publisher of the California’s Oldest Newspaper, participated in the festivities and presented a brand new BMX Bicycle to a lucky young lady who won the drawing.
Next Saturday night the Golden State Challenge Series Sprint Cars return to Placerville Speedway for the final series event of 2010. Don’t miss the crowning of the King of California Sprint Car Series. Top point runners that will be on hand will include point leader and prospective champion Kyle Larson, Brent Kaeding, Even Suggs, Alissa Geving, Jonathan Allard and more. The winged sprint cars will be joined by the Midget Lites of the Bay Cities Racing Association. For more information visit www.placervillespeedway.com.