Silver Dollar Speedway”s 2011 sprint car track champion Tyler Wolf of Redding died Saturday night after a crash during a race at Calistoga Speedway.
Wolf, 20, was making his first career start at Calistoga, according to Silver Dollar announcer and communications director Troy Hennig, who was announcing the race Saturday in Calistoga.
A half-mile oval dirt track, Calistoga is the largest sprint car track in California and Hennig said the cars there reach their highest speeds of any track in the state.
The crash happened on the third lap of the 30-lap A main event. Hennig said Wolf”s car went off the track at a high rate of speed and collided with the K-rail, the white walls on the outside of most race tracks. The car flipped and came to a stop. The wreck happened around 9 p.m. Saturday.
Hennig said paramedics rushed to the scene, and reported that Wolf was unconscious but alive. He was transported to St. Helena Hospital, and Hennig said he was told that Wolf was pronounced dead at the hospital at 9:59 p.m. of head trauma injuries.
Wolf is the second sprint car driver who raced regularly at Silver Dollar Speedway to be killed this year. On June 8, 30-year-old David Tarter of Chico, the track”s 2011 sprint car Rookie of the Year, died from an accident in the pits at the Chico race track when a tire and rim he was working on exploded.
“I”ve been here since 1998, and we”ve never had a fatality, and within a few months, we”ve not only had two fatalities, we”ve lost two young, promising drivers,” Hennig said Sunday by phone. “That”s never happened in any kind of racing. It”s just awful.”
Wolf was 19 and raced in a black No. 19 sprint car when he won the 2011 track title at Silver Dollar Speedway, becoming the youngest sprint car champion in the track”s history. Tarter was last year”s top rookie.
Wolf won three sprint car main events in his career, all at Silver Dollar. This year, he won the main event in the final regular-season race of the season on Aug. 25, for which he was awarded the perennial 6-foot Pepsi trophy for that race.
If a driver wins the Pepsi trophy three years in a row, they get to keep the trophy, which is engraved with all of the past winners” names. No sprint car driver has ever won it three straight years.
Hennig said the trophy will now stay with the Wolf family.
“We”re going to call it the Tyler Wolf Perpetual Trophy in honor of Tyler,” Hennig said.
Wolf”s father, Chuck Wolf, said by phone Sunday that Tyler started racing go-karts locally at age 6, and by the time he was 10, he was racing in the Open division, the youngest to do that.
Tyler Wolf started racing sprint cars when he was 14 years old.
“Most all the kids around his age, he was the leader,” Chuck Wolf said. “He didn”t drink or do drugs. When he was 13, he was going on 20. He was always way advanced for his age.”
Chuck Wolf continued, “He worked on his own cars during the week, and he built the cars all by himself. He had some people work with him at the race track. I built the motors for him. I couldn”t tell him no. He was my kid.”
Chuck Wolf and his wife Kellie lost another son six years ago to illness. Tyler was their youngest son. They also have two daughters.
Funeral arrangements are pending in Redding.
Hennig said that Silver Dollar Speedway may possibly have a memorial service for Wolf at the track, though no date has been set.
According to Hennig, the last fatality at Calistoga Speedway was in 1983.
Sports Editor Dave Davies can be reached at 896-7779 or by email at email@example.com.