------------------------- Originally Published Friday, July 20, 2001 -------------------------------
Meeting settles Stockton 99 scuffle
By Bill Poindexter
Record Assistant Sports Editor
The hierarchy of Stockton 99 Speedway met with the top two drivers in the track's premier division Wednesday night to discuss an incident during Saturday night's program that left the hotshoes hot, the pit crews steaming and fans boiling.
The meeting ended with Steve Belletto of Modesto and Dave Byrd of San Jose shaking hands. Each was fined an undisclosed amount and placed on probation, but they'll be on the track when the Late Model Sportsman division returns to action July 28.
Racing this Saturday will be the Grand American Modified, Pro Stock and Pure Stock classes and the BCRA Midgets.
The trouble occurred in the second 38-lap main event. Belletto twice got into the back of Byrd, sending Byrd backward into the wall. Byrd responded by turning around and pressing the nose of his car against Belletto's. Byrd and Belletto finished 10th and 11th, respectively, in a race won by Bob Strandwold of Modesto. Byrd won the first 38-lap main, and Belletto was third.
Tempers continued to heat in the pits, which were closed to fans for an extra half-hour after the races.
Wednesday night, with four nights of sleep to think about the incident, Belletto and Byrd met with Stockton 99 general manager Ken Gross, chief steward Jim Cook and Late Model lead tech John Bussey.
Gross said the "veteran" in the drivers came out during the meeting. Cook also was pleased with the outcome.
"They both had an opportunity to have their say," Cook said Thursday. "When it got down to it, it appeared to be a misunderstanding on everyone's part. We expect these guys to toe the line. If we see anything happen like it did Saturday, we'll take the next step, which, of course, could be suspensions."
Cook also said the actions of the pit crews were discussed and will be addressed again at the next Late Model program.
"Things got ugly Saturday," he said. "If cooler heads hadn't prevailed, it could have gotten worse."
It shouldn't happen again, at least not among Belletto and Byrd. Belletto leads Byrd by 16 points in the race for the track championship. They also are in the running for the NASCAR Pacific Coast Regional title and possibly even a national crown.