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Life of Marcus Johnson, teen who loved racing, to be celebrated Sunday

Marcus Josef Johnson started racing 5-horsepower go-karts at age 5 and in nine years won more than 200 races and four championships, working his way up to karts powered by 500 cubic centimeter engines.

Johnson, a 14-year-old student at Rincon Valley Middle School in Santa Rosa, longed to race faster still.

"His dream of all dreams" was to drive a Ferrari Formula One race car at 200 mph on tracks around the world, said his father, Rob Johnson of Santa Rosa.

Marysville Raceway Park Crash

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Marcus, also a dedicated basketball player, was killed Saturday in a freak accident at an oval dirt racetrack in Marysville.

A sprint car driven by his cousin went out of control and flew off the track at high speed, striking and killing Johnson and race-car owner Dale Richard Wondergem, Jr., 68, as they walked through the pit area 200 feet from the track.

Hundreds of people are expected to attend a celebration of Marcus Johnson's life at 2 p.m. Sunday at Santa Rosa Bible Church, 4575 Badger Road, Santa Rosa.

Johnson was a seventh-generation member of a pioneer Sonoma County family with about 30 members living in the area, Rob Johnson said.

The boy's grandmother, Judy Johnson, lives on an Alexander Valley ranch purchased from the original settler, Cyrus Alexander, in the 1800s.

An eighth-grader at Rincon Valley, Johnson played basketball there and at the North Bay Basketball Academy, "where you could usually find him the last guy on the court still giving 110 percent until it was time to turn off the lights," his father said.

Hitting the books hard, as well, Johnson spent up to two hours a night on homework, qualifying for his school's honor society with a 3.5 academic average. Art and math were his favorite subjects; English and history were challenges.


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