|Stockton driver enjoyed his
John Unger, 48
By Scott Linesburgh
Record Staff Writer
Published Sunday, March 16, 2003
For John Unger, few things in life were better than a night at
the race track.
by family and friends, he would happily toil in the pits at
Stockton 99 Speedway, fixing and racing his cars. His wife,
Terry, said he loved the sport, and he got to enjoy it through
his final season in 2002.
Unger, a veteran
Stockton racer who competed for nearly three decades, died
Friday at his home after a five-month battle with liver
cancer. He was 48.
family were John's passions,'' Terry Unger said. ''He loved
racing on all levels. It meant a lot to him.''
Unger spent many
years as a NASCAR Late Model Sportsman competitor and raced in
the Grand American Modified division since 1998. He was
diagnosed with cancer shortly after the 2002 season.
Johnny being a calm gentleman and a fine man,'' said veteran
driver Harry Belletto of Modesto. ''He never got excited, and
he always had something nice to say.''
Unger never had
the big-name sponsorship some of his competitors had, but he
and father-in-law Arnold Phillips would build their engines
and prepare their cars. Unger proved he could be competitive.
In 1995, Unger,
Belletto and David Philpott engaged in an exciting three-way
duel for the Late Model title. Belletto won the championship,
but Unger had his best season in the division, winning three
races and finishing third in points.
In 2001, Unger
won the first 50-lap Gold Cup race in the Grand American
''John took great
pride in what he accomplished,'' Terry Unger said. ''He just
got so much enjoyment out of it.''
Steve Stacy of
Stockton remembered when he was in the Street Stock class and
Unger owned a local auto parts store, The Auto Stop. Unger
later worked for San Joaquin County.
''John had his
own racing program, but he and Terry would put up prize money
for some Street Stock races,'' Stacy said. ''I was the
recipient a few times. John supported this sport on many
levels, and he was one of the most easygoing guys you could
meet. He will be missed.''
Unger also is
survived by daughter Shelby, 9, and brothers Ed Unger of
Stockton and David Unger of Lodi.
There will be a
celebration of his life at noon Thursday at the Italian
Athletic Club, 3541 N. Cherryland Ave. Memorials may be made
to the trust fund of Shelby Unger at Union Safe Deposit Bank,
1340 El Dorado Street, account No. 2069100350.
* To reach
reporter Scott Linesburgh,
phone 546-8281 or e-mail
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