Victims of Raceway Crash ID'd; Driver Was 4th Generation Racer

One victim was the driver's cousin; another owned a race car at the track

Monday, Mar 18, 2013  |  Updated 8:10 AM PDT
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Victims of Racetrack Death Identified

Associated Press/Appeal-Democrat

This Sunday, March 17, 2013 photo shows the racetrack where a sprint car accident killed two people, were killed the day before at Marysville Raceway Park in Marysville, Calif.

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The victims of a raceway crash on Saturday have been identified as a race car owner and the 14-year-old cousin of the teenage driver.

The Yuba County Sheriff's office on Sunday said 68-year-old Dale Wondergem Jr. of Grass Valley and Marcus Johnson, 14, of Santa Rosa died after they were struck by a race car in the pit area. The crash occurred during an event at Marysville Raceway Park about 6 p.m. Saturday.

Officials said Marcus Johnson is the cousin of 17-year-old driver Chase Johnson of Penngrove, who was not injured in the collision at the racetrack about 40 miles north of Sacramento.

Chase Johnson is a senior at Petaluma High School, north of San Francisco, and is a fourth-generation race car driver, according to his website, Chase Johnson Racing.

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

"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.''

Wondergem owned a race car at the track, but not the one involved in the crash. He was pronounced dead at the scene, while Johnson was pronounced dead shortly after being transported to a hospital.

"It was reported that Marcus was not an official member of Chase Johnson’s pit crew, his presence in the pit area is still being investigated," the Yuba County Sheriff's Department said in a Sunday afternoon news release.

Investigators said the crash occurred when the race car driven by Chase Johnson of Santa Rosa careened off the track and into the pit row.

Six to seven "winged sprint cars" were completing warm-up laps when the crash happened.

The cause of the accident in under investigation, and autopsies of the victims will be conducted Monday or Tuesday.
 

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