Besides all the fun and competition at Redwood Aces on Saturday, Aug. 25, there was a ceremony and quiet words for the man who used to sit behind the wheel of Thunder Roadster No. 25.
Chris Banfill, 36, who raced the white car with the red numbers in the Thunder Roadsters class as recently as 2009, and who drove in the Mini Stocks years ago, was last seen in Garberville on July 16 and reported missing on July 22.
He recently was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to information released by the Rio Dell Police Department.
Humboldt deputy coroner Roy Horton said Banfill’s death has been ruled a suicide.
On Saturday, after prayer, the national anthem and before the start of racing, Thunder Roadster drivers Dave Henderson in his silver-gray car No. 2, and Paul Peeples, Jr. in his yellow car No. 15, led two long parallel lines of cars slowly around the track, stopping before the finish line in front of the grandstands. Banfill’s father drove down the center in a black Corvette, across the finish line, and was given the checkered flag before driving away.
”He was real shy, not outspoken, a respectful type of guy,” said Bruce Ziemer, who followed behind Peeples, Jr. driving his blue car No. 5. “We called him the ‘Wild Child’ because of the way he raced, like it was a dirt track.”
Peeples, Jr., concurred with Ziemer, and the pair of drivers smiled as they fondly recalled Banfill.
”He was the first guy that could go sideways around the track,” said Peeples, Jr. about Banfill’s all-out style on the Acres’ 3/8 miles asphalt oval.
Henderson, who knew Banfill well, described his quiet persona, hard-racing style, helpful nature and love of his family.
”He was a one-on-one type of guy, with few people who really knew him,” said Henderson.” When he was racing, he had to drive hard, he wanted to drive the wheels off it.
”Away from the track? He was always there to help, and never asked for anything in return.”
Banfill is survived by his wife, Shawlyn, and their daughter and son, ages 9 and 4, respectively.
”He was a great dad and loved his kids more than anything,” said Henderson.
On Sept. 16 - which would have been Banfill’s 37th birthday - there will be a celebration at the Elks Lodge on Herrick Avenue in Eureka.
”Everybody is invited,” said Henderson.