Daily Updates

March 17, 2013

Man, boy die as race car careens off Calif. track

MARYSVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A teenage race car driver taking warm-up laps at a California raceway careened off the track and into pit row, killing a 14-year-old boy and 68-year-old man, officials said.

Six or seven cars were on the track Saturday night when the out of control car ran into the two victims, who were standing side-by-side, Yuba County Sheriff’s Capt. Ron Johnson said. He said the two were affiliated with one of the cars or drivers but did not yet know how.

Neither the 17-year-old driver nor anyone else was injured, he said.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene at Marysville Raceway Park some 40 miles north of Sacramento, and the boy was declared dead either at the hospital or in an ambulance, the officer told The Associated Press.

The raceway was hosting the California Sprint Car Civil War Series on the opening day of its season.

Steven Blakesley, a race announcer who was watching the race from the stands, said the sprint cars were doing so-called “hot laps” about an hour before the race when a car driven by Chase Johnson, traveling at about 90 mph, couldn’t make a turn.

“There must have been a mechanical problem,” said Blakesley, the track announcer at Watsonville’s Ocean Speedway. “The car didn’t slow down.”

Blakesley said the car ran through a gap between the track and pit row, hit an empty golf-style cart then ran out of the view of the stands, where fans were mostly silent and left to speculate about what was happening.

He said the next thing he was able to see was CPR being performed on two people, and later a body being covered and crime scene tape going up. The names of the victims weren’t immediately available.

“People getting hurt in the pits is extremely, extremely rare,” Blakesley said. “I’ve never seen anything like this, and I don’t know how you would even prevent it.”

The biography on Chase Johnson’s website says he’s a senior at Petaluma High School north of San Francisco and is a fourth generation race car driver.

Blakesley said the sprint car circuit is seen as a stepping stone to higher levels like NASCAR and many drivers start racing as young as 15 as Johnson did. Others on the circuit, where small, high-powered cars race on short dirt ovals, were older drivers whose careers had peaked earlier.

Johnson has been racing for three years at the Petaluma Speedway, where he’s won multiple races and was last year’s series champion. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were also champion drivers in Petaluma, where the family owns a muffler shop, said Ron Lingron, the track announcer at Petaluma Speeday.

“They’re the first family of the Petaluma Speedway,” Lingron said Sunday. “There’s not a better kid you’re going to find in the racing community than Chase Johnson. To have something like this put around his neck is a tragedy.”

The Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol were investigating to determine the cause of the crash, Ron Johnson said. The Sheriff’s Department also serves as the county’s coroner and would determine the identities and official cause of death for the two victims, he said.

An outgoing message on the track’s phone line said only that Saturday’s race had been canceled, and a message left for a raceway spokesman was not immediately returned.

The race track fatalities come less than a month after a crash on the last lap of a race at Daytona International Speedway injured at least 30 fans Feb. 23. The victims were sprayed with large chunks of debris — including a tire — after a car careened into the fencing that is designed to protect the massive grandstands lining the track.

At another NASCAR race in 2009 at Talladega, the crowd was showered with debris and seven fans were injured when a car sailed upside-down into the front-stretch fence on a furious dash to the finish line, showering the stands with debris. Seven fans sustained minor injuries.

And in 2010 at a National Hot Rod Association event in Chandler, Ariz., a woman was killed by a tire that flew off a crashing dragster at Firebird International Raceway.

 

1
Text Only
Daily Updates
  • 10 Things to Know for Friday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday.

    April 24, 2014

  • In Other News, April 24

    April 24, 2014

  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors

    An Afghan government security guard opened fire Thursday on a group of foreign doctors at a Kabul hospital, killing three American physicians and wounding a U.S. nurse, officials said.

    April 24, 2014

  • Nevada rancher condemned for racist remarks

     A Nevada rancher who has become a conservative folk hero for resisting the federal government’s attempts to round up his cattle faced sharp criticism Thursday for racist comments published in a New York Times article.

    April 24, 2014

  • NRA seeks universal gun law at national meeting

    With concealed weapons now legal in all 50 states, the National Rifle Association’s focus at this week’s annual meeting is less about enacting additional state protections than on making sure the permits already issued still apply when the gun owners travel across the country.

    April 24, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday.

    April 23, 2014

  • In Other News, April 23

    April 23, 2014

  • US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Justice Department is encouraging nonviolent federal inmates who have behaved in prison, have no significant criminal history and have already served more than 10 years behind bars to apply for clemency, officials announced Wednesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • High court tosses $3.4M award to child porn victim

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view their images online, throwing out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. Two dissenting justices said Congress should change the law to benefit victims.

    April 23, 2014

  • Airport security vulnerabilities not uncommon

    For all the tens of billions of dollars that the nation has spent on screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes themselves.

    April 23, 2014