Folsom drivers honor their lost friend with victory in Donnie Tilford Tribute race in PlacervilleBy: Staff Report
PLACERVILLE, CA – Two Folsom residents took home big wins Saturday night at Placerville Speedway that paid tribute to the late Donnie Tilford, a resident of Folsom who was influential in the careers of many drivers during his life, which was cut short in 2014 due to heart complications.
Saturday’s event was the second Annual “Tribute to Donnie Tilford.” The event offered added winnings to all three divisions, but for two local drivers, the added cash was secondary to the honor of the victory. For Jon Tilford of Folsom, it was the biggest win of his career that paid tribute to his late uncle and mentor. Tilford was joined in victory lane by Folsom’s Dominic Stone, a longtime friend of Donnie Tilford and sponsor to the Tilford team. Stone drove to victory in the Limited Late Model division in honor of his lost friend.
Tilford started Saturday’s race in the fifth-place starting position while his brother, Matt Tilford of Citrus Heights, started on the pole position. Matt Tilford charged into the lead in the early laps of the race. However, Jon Tilford was forced to the pits in the early running to replace a missing fuel cell cap that posed a fire danger.
Returning the track after the needed repair, Jon Tilford restarted at the rear of the 20-car field for the restart. While his brother Matt was leading the event in a heated battle with former champion Les Friend of Galt, the veteran Tilford used patience and smart moves to work his way through the competitive field one lap at a time. On the 14th lap, he threw patience and conservatism out the window and charged to the low side of turns one and two to pass both friend and his own brother to take a lead that brought the crowd to its feet in the grandstands at the checkered flag where the two brothers pulled aside one another to salute the crowd on the cool down lap. Matt Tilford finished in second followed by Friend in third.
“I am so excited I can’t even think straight, said Tilford. “All I could think of was how my Uncle Donnie’s last car enabled him to stick his inside front tire against the edge of the infield and enable him to pass multiple cars. I had gotten all the way back up there so I decided to give it my all. I don’t know if it’s something I learned from him by watching him race as a kid or if he was in this car with me tonight. Maybe it was a little bit of both. No race can ever compare to winning this one here tonight. This is my biggest moment here and always will be.”
For Stone, saving the best for last was the motto in the Limited Late Model division. The current point leader and championship hopeful started fifth in the 20-lap feature event. Early in the race, Tom Tilford of Citrus Heights fought his way around early leader Jay Norton of Shingle Springs to lead the event. Tilford appeared to be en route to become the second Tilford relative in victory lane all the way until the final lap.
Traveling down the backstretch, Stone powered his way to the inside of Tilford and carried his momentum into the final turns where he drove side-by-side to the finish line. Stone edged Tilford at the checkered flag stealing the win. A longtime sponsor of the Tilford family, Stone and Tilford celebrated in victory lane.
“I have to dedicate this win tonight to Donnie Tilford, he was a great friend of mine,” Stone said. “He was a big part of this racing community and a big part of the Folsom community and I miss him. My car wasn’t perfect tonight and it took me some time to get up there. It feels great to win this tonight in honor of Donnie and celebrate with the Tilfords.”
Stone returns to the Placerville Speedway on Saturday, September 19 for the season finale where he hopes to clinch the 2015 Red Hawk Casino Season Championship. Stone is the owner and operator of Domco Plumbing in Folsom. Tilford is the manager of Folsom Glenn Car Wash. Both drivers reside in Folsom.