[by Brad Kennedy and Dean Mills - Andy Forsberg celebrates in Victory Lane following his 360 Sprint Cars victory Saturday evening at Placerville Speedway. Forsberg, along with Limited Late Models winner Ray Trimble's and Pure Stocks top finisher Scott Grunert, were crowned 2016 "Placerville Posse" Challenge champion in each of their divisions. Courtesy photo by Donna Peter
The final event of 2016’s four-race “Placerville Posse Challenge” did not disappoint Saturday evening at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, as forty-seven cars were on-hand to take part in the action, battling across three separate divisions — as well as virtually every inch of track — at Placerville Speedway.
At its conclusion, Saturday night saw drivers Andy Forsberg, Scott Grunert and Ray Trimble crowned as this season’s “Placerville Posse” champions in each of their respective divisions.
Forsberg fought for victory in the 360 Sprint Car division’s 25-lap feature event, taking advantage of an early placement shuffle and restart at the beginning following a start infraction. Jake Morgan and Chase Majdic intitially led their field to the green flag, but the track’s yellow lights flickered immediately following the initial surge as Majdic was called back for jumping the start and penalized a row for the infraction.
On the second start attempt, Mason Moore was moved to the front row, and took advantage over Morgan entering turn 1. Meanwhile, sixth-place starter Forsberg utilized the top of the speedway to quickly move to second in a single circuit. Forsberg challenged Moore for the lead on lap 5 going into turn three, but Moore shut the door on Forsberg exiting turn four.
On lap 6, Forsberg got around Moore for the lead with a move that had both leaders just inches apart. As Forsberg pulled away, Sean Becker surged from tenth to challenge both front runners, effectively utilizing the top-side terrain of turns one and two to exhibit excellent maneuvering around Moore before transitioning immediately into heavy pursuit of Forsberg.
Despite stellar efforts from his chaser, Forsberg endured a lap-20 caution and held off the charge by Becker to claim his Placerville Posse title. In victory lane, Forsberg admitted he was concerened with Becker’s advances and was well-aware of Becker’s efficient leap into second.
“After I got by Mason (Moore),” Forsberg said, “I kept watching the scoreboard and saw the No. 35 (Becker) go from fifth to fourth, and then second, in three laps. I figured Sean would be running up top and I thought I heard someone behind me. When I moved upstairs, then I didn’t hear anything again.”
Becker’s bold charge secured second place while third went to Moore. Morgan and Greg DeCaires finished fourth and fifth, respectively, to round out the top five.
Forsberg received a courtesy bonus for fastest qualifying time while Madjic and Logan Seavey were the evening’s two heat race winners. Justyn Cox was awarded the hard charger bonus after finishing seven spots higher than his 13th place starting position.
Saturday’s Pure Stocks division had 14 competitors in attendance, with weekly points leader Nick Baldwin and Rick Grunert leading the field to green. Grunert got the jump over Baldwin and stretched a significant lead until Jay Bryant spun in turn one to draw the caution. On the restart, Grunert pulled away as Baldwin’s car did not take off immediately, which ended up allowing Dan Jinkerson to get by Baldwin as well.
On lap 4, Baldwin made a power move around Jinkerson to reclaim second place, then drag-raced Grunert across the line on lap 6. Grunert and Baldwin each impressed, and navigated narrow windows and limited space while continuing to battle hard as traffic came into play. Jinkerson wasn’t done charging, however, and on lap 8, Baldwin jumped the cushion in turn one, allowing Jinkerson to pull alongside for second again.
Baldwin and Jinkerson ran side-by-side right up through turn four when the lapped car of Anthony Vigna got sideways pushing Jinkerson to the infield which allowed Scott Grunert — son of Rick Grunert and Placerville Posse points leader — to claim second place. As the younger Grunert passed Jinkerson for third, Oroville Owens made contact with Jinkerson in turn one — sending Owens off the embankment and drawing the caution on lap 9.
On the restart, Baldwin’s car again did not take off, allowing Jinkerson to get around in turn two and claim second as Scott Grunert challenged Baldwin for third. On lap 12, Baldwin once again overtook Jinkerson and applied pressure to Rick Grunert for the lead. The trio raced hard until traffic became a factor again in the late stages of the 20 lap feature. Nick Baldwin raced side by side with Rick Grunert as the leaders raced under the white flag.
Rick Grunert ran the middle of the speedway going into turn one, opening the top up for Baldwin to pull alongside. That route left the bottom open for Scott Grunert to go three-wide all the way down the backstretch, through turns three and four and to the checkered. The three leaders were separated by inches at the finish line as Scott Grunert grabbed victory on the last stretch over Baldwin and father Rick Grunert.
“I really wanted to see my dad win,” Scott Grunert said in victory lane. “He was fast all night and it was kind of sketchy doing a complete lap three-wide at the end — but I am happy that we won.”
Jay Bryant and Tim Mack were the two heat winners earlier in the evening, while young Grunert was awarded the hard charger bonus after seventh-place starting position.
While mid-race restarts and cautions had created key moments of note for Forsberg and Grunert in their 360 Sprint and Pure Stocks races, Ray Trimble’s Placerville Posse championship title in the Limited Late Models division was earned without a single mid-race stop, as Trimble faced off against Randy McDaniel for much of the 20-lap event.
Three separate starting attempts kicked off action, as Tyler Lightfoot and Ken Michelli — who had set the field originally — each were penalized for jumping separate starts. Michelli jumped the start first, which penalized him back a row. On the second attempt, pole-sitter Tyler Lightfoot jumped the start, putting him back a row. A third attempt saw original second-row starters Scott Woessner and Ryan Peter set the pace for the green.
Going into turn one, Woessner washed up the track, opening the bottom for Trimble to grab his lead out of turn two and also allowing McDaniel to claim second down the back stretch.
From there, action went from green to checkered without pause as Trimble and McDaniel raced side-by-side for most of the circuits. Trimble maintained his position and cruised to cross the line and win his third Placerville main event in 2016 and take home the Posse title by a single point over second-place finisher McDaniel. Third went to Matt Michelli while Woessner and Lightfoot finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
“Any of these guys that show up can win on any given night here,” Trimble said. “I tried not to watch the scoreboard, but I knew McDaniel and Michelli were right there … I’m just glad we held them off long enough for the win.”
McDaniel and Matt Michelli won the two heat races, while McDaniel was awarded hard charger honors with his run from ninth place to second.
Placerville Speedway returns this weekend with action for the 2nd Annual Donnie Tilford Tribute event — a five-division program featuring Limited Late Models, Pure Stocks, BCRA Midgets, Sport Mods and Dwarf Cars. Pit gates open at 2 p.m. while front gates open at 3 p.m. and racing starts at 7 p.m..