2 killed as car slams into pit at California race

(CNN) -- A car lost control and slammed into the pits at a racetrack in California on Saturday evening, killing two people, authorities said.

The crash took place during warmup laps -- an hour before the race -- at Marysville Raceway Park, about 40 miles north of Sacramento.

"It appears the driver had a stuck throttle," said Steven Blakesley, an announcer for sprint car races. He was at this race, however, as a spectator.

"He hit the left side of an opening (of the wall) near the pit area, he hit two big tractor tires, which sent him airborne."

The Yuba County Sheriff's Department said one victim, 68-year-old Dale Richard Wondergem Jr. of Grass Valley, California, died at the scene.

The other victim, 14-year-old Marcus Joseph Johnson of Santa Rosa, California, was transported to a hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived, according to a sheriff's department statement.

No one else was struck or injured, including the car's driver, identified as 17-year-old Chase Dominic Johnson.

The statement said that patrons of the event were never in jeopardy.

"I thought he was hurt -- the driver," Blakesley said. "And then (I) saw that two people were on the ground receiving CPR and people pumping on them.

"I would say it got very silent and very serious."

According to Chase Johnson's website, he is a fourth generation race car driver and a senior at Petaluma High SchooI in Petaluma, California.

"Chase Johnson is a 17-year-old with bright, bright future," said Ron Lingron, an announcer and spokesman at Petaluma Speedway, Johnson's home track. "Through not fault of his own, something happened. It's something could happen to anyone, doing anything." 

Sprint cars are high-powered cars that usually run on dirt or paved oval tracks.

Saturday's race was the season opener for the California Sprint Car Civil War Series.


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