MARYSVILLE (CBS13) – Families and friends are grieving after a race car driver lost control of his vehicle and killed a man and a teen at a Marysville track on Saturday.
“Everybody’s hurt. There’s nothing we can do. It’s just terrible,” said Rob Johnson.
Rob’s son, 14-year-old Marcus Johnson, was one of the two people killed after a race car careened off the track.
The driver behind the wheel of was another Johnson family member: Marcus’ 17-year-old cousin Chase Johnson. Chase is a young but relatively experienced driver and was said to be Chase’s best friend.
“Something strange happened and the steering wheel came off, and Marcus was walking back and the car flew probably 100 to 150 feet and hit him,” said Rob.
Witnesses reported seeing the spring car not turning when it should have during a warm up lap. Instead, it flew into the pit crew area. While the Johnson family continues to mourn, so do those who knew the other victim: 68-year-old Grass Valley resident Dale Wondergem.
“Dale was doing what he loved the most, which is that sprint car,” said Stephen Hawks, one of Wondergen’s good friends..
Hawks says Dale loved racing and mining.
“He was as humble of a man you could find. He knew more than most people learn in half a lifetime,” said Hawks.
Two people were lost in one moment and for one father it’s a tough realization.
“He had so much to look forward to, high school ball and he couldn’t wait to go and enjoy life,” said Rob.
In Petaluma, the Johnsons are known as the “first family of Petaluma speedway.” In 2012 Chase won the Pit Stop USA Sprint Car Series championship.
Family members say Chase was a racing role model for Marcus, who was on Chase’s pit crew.
Now people in Petaluma’s racing community are worry about the Chase and want him to know he has support.
“For someone being that young and having that on his shoulders, it’s hard,” a friend said. “They are pretty well-known in this county, so I hope he doesn’t get discouraged and keeps racing.”
His parents declined interviews, but provided a statement saying, in part, “they love the sport that has now brought them so much pain.”
The Yuba County Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the incident and haven’t said why Chase lost control.
It’s estimated Chase was going 90 miles per hour when the crash happened. Race announcer Steven Blakesley says he never slowed down.
Investigators are also looking into reports that Marcus wasn’t an official member of the pit crew.