Santa Rosa race-car crash victim remembered as beloved, well-mannered basketball ace

A 14-year-old Santa Rosa middle school student who was killed at the Marysville Speedway when his cousin's car flew off the track was an avid basketball player and part of an extended racing family.

Marcus Johnson was a powerhouse on the eighth-grade basketball team at Rincon Valley Middle School and known for working hard on the court and in the classroom, Principal Matthew Marshall said.

He was honored Sunday evening at a vigil held at the school.

Marysville Raceway Park Crash


"His two big passions were basketball and racing. It's just terribly tragic," Marshall said.

Johnson had been watching his cousin, Chase Johnson, 17, of Penngrove do warm-up laps at the Marysville Speedway at about 6 p.m. Saturday when his cousin's winged sprint car left the track, according to the Yuba County Sheriff's Department.

Chase Johnson's car was entering its first turn on the quarter-mile banked clay oval when the car instead careened forward, crashing into a concrete barrier where Marcus Johnson and another bystander, Dale Richard Wondergem Jr., 68, of Grass Valley, had been sitting, according to the Sheriff's Department and witness accounts.

Wondergem died at the scene. Marcus Johnson died at Rideout Hospital in Marysville, sheriff's officials said.

"Their whole world is shattered, and they're just great people," said Marshall of Marcus' parents, Rob and Gina Johnson.

Johnson's death also rocked his school, where about 200 people gathered in the courtyard at the Badger Road campus with candles, posters and memories. Teens stood arm-in-arm. Parents hugged children close.

The group stood in near silence as small groups walked up to an array of photographs, flowers, balloons, candles and a basketball gathered on a table.

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