Tom Tilford works long hours as the general manager of a Citrus Heights car wash. On Saturdays, he gets off at 3 p.m. and barely has enough time to get to Placerville Speedway for the Late Model qualifying, trophy dash and main event.
Fortunately, he comes from an accomplished racing family whose members make sure his car gets to the track each week. Tilford, a third-generation driver, credits the effort with helping him win the 2013 Late Model championship.
"My dad (Dean Tilford) gets my car up there and my crew gets the car ready each week," said Tilford, 34, of Citrus Heights. "I get off each Saturday just in time to make it up the hill and to the track. They all do a great job."
Tilford's division championship is his third. He also won Placerville Speedway Pure Stock titles in 2006 and 2009. Combined, the Tilford family has won eight track championships at Placerville, dating to 1968 when "Big Don" Tilford who was inducted into the West Capital Raceway Hall of Fame in 2011 won the Hard Top title. Tom Tilford's brothers, Matt and Jon, have won titles in Pure Stock and Street Stock, and uncle Donnie Tilford won Super Stock titles in 1977 and 1981.
Tom Tilford was the Rookie of the Year in Late Model in 2012 and followed with the track title this season. But it wasn't easy.
Every division title in Placerville other than Late Model already had been decided by Saturday, but Tilford had just a 10-point lead over defending Late Model champion Matt Micheli of Live Oak going into the final race. Late Model drivers can earn up to 45 points in one program, so losing the title was just a bad qualifying round or heat away.
And extra monetary incentives offered by various businesses enticed 19 drivers to the track, so two heats were needed with Tilford and Micheli finishing third. That meant Tilford needed to finish within nine spots of Micheli in the A main. Micheli took the checkered flag, but Tilford finished fifth and took the track championship.
"(Micheli) had more main-event wins than I did over the season, so I knew that if we tied he'd probably win the title with the tiebreaker," Tilford said. "It was nerve-wracking. It was cool to have all those cars, but it could have cost me the championship."
Larson wins Vermeil
If Kyle Larson raced tricycles, he'd likely dominate. Big Wheels? He'd win there, too.
But one title eluded the Elk Grove driver the Louie Vermeil Classic at Calistoga Speedway. Now he can cross that off his bucket list, too.
Larson, 21, actually completed a sweep of the Vermeil Classic on Sunday, winning the 30-lap AMSOIL USAC/CRA main and the Western Classic Sprint Midget race.
In just his second season in NASCAR, Larson has secured a spot for 2014 in the Sprint Cup series, driving for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
All American Speedway in Roseville on Saturday will raise funds for Matt Camp, a Street Stock driver who died Aug. 11 in a boating accident. For every ticket sold at the front and pit gates, $5.20 will be donated toward a fund to support Camp's wife and 9-month-old daughter.
The 60th running of the Gold Cup Race of Champions continues today and Saturday at Chico's Silver Dollar Speedway. Some of the best sprint car drivers in the nation will be there, including Larson, who will try to become the second person to win three consecutive titles. Only legendary World of Outlaws driver Steve Kinser has won three in a row.
Go to www.silverdollarspeedway.com for more information.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com.