On Saturday, tragedy struck at the Marysville Raceway Park in California as a young race car driver careened off the track and into the pit area, where he struck and killed his younger cousin and another older car owner at the track. Read on for more details on this deadly crash.
1. The Driver is Only 17 Years Old
Chase Johnson, the 17-year-old driver responsible for the crash, was preparing for the upcoming California Sprint Car Civil War race. His prospects seemed good, because racing at that track became, in many cases, a way to move up to NASCAR races in the future. Chase, a fourth-generation racer, wasn’t injured in the crash. His family was “the first family of the Petaluma Speedway,” the speedway’s announcer told The Daily Mail.
2. Chase Had Been Racing Most of His Life
Chase had been competing in races since he was 4 years old, and he was last year’s series champion at the Petaluma Speedway. The three generations of drivers in his family before him were champion racers at that speedway as well. According to the Daily Mail, Chase has competed in 503 races.
3. The Victims Were in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
Marcus Johnson, who was only 14 years old, and the other person killed in the crash, 68-year-old Dale Wondergem Jr., were standing in the pit row when the car crashed through it and hit them. Wondergem was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, while the boy was proclaimed dead in an ambulance or at the hospital. Wondergem owned several of the cars that were to compete in the race, but not the one involved in his own death.
4. It Was Probably a Mechanical Problem
Chase’s car didn’t slow down to complete the first turn on the track, which led onlookers to speculate that the crash was due to a mechanical failure. The vehicle crashed through the pit area at 90 mph, hitting a stack of tires and coming to rest on a cement barrier. This isn’t the kind of mistake that someone as experienced as Johnson would make due to negligence — it makes sense that a mechanical failure is responsible.
5. The Crash Wasn’t Actually During a Race
Chase was taking some warmup laps when the accident occurred. He was preparing for the California Sprint Car Civil War race, and given that he’s been a champion so many times in the past his standings were good. The 30 teams that were to take part in that race have agreed to donate their entrance fees to the families of the victims, which totaled to about $10,000.