The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

March 18, 2013

Sheriff: California race crash victim was driver’s cousin

SAN FRANCISCO — A California raceway crash killed a race car owner and the young cousin of the teenage driver whose vehicle careened off the track before it struck the two victims, authorities said Sunday.

Dale Wondergem Jr., 68, and Marcus Johnson, 14, were in the pit area when they were hit about 6 p.m. Saturday at the Marysville Raceway Park, about 40 miles north of Sacramento, according to the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department. Wondergem, of Grass Valley, was pronounced dead at the scene, and Marcus Johnson, of Santa Rosa, was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at a hospital, authorities said.

Marcus Johnson was identified by authorities as the cousin of 17-year-old driver Chase Johnson, who was not injured in the collision. The younger victim was not an official member of his cousin’s crew. Authorities are investigating why he was in the pit area, according to Undersheriff Jerry Read said.

The Marysville raceway was hosting the California Sprint Car Civil War Series on the opening day of its season.

Wondergem owned one of the race cars at the track Saturday, but not the one involved in the crash, Read said.

The crash occurred when six or seven “winged sprint cars” were doing warm-up laps before the start of a scheduled race. Chase Johnson’s car left the track at an undetermined speed and hit Wondergem and Johnson before it tipped on its side, sheriff’s officials said.

The Yuba County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol are investigating the cause of the crash. Investigators will conduct autopsies on the victims today and Tuesday.

No one else was injured in the crash, and spectators were never in jeopardy, authorities said.

Don Johnson, who is the driver’s father and victim’s uncle, issued a statement Sunday on behalf of his family, thanking the racing community for their thoughts and prayers.

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