Stockton 99 Speedway Rivalry in LMS turns ugly
Byrd and Belletto at center of on-, off-track incidents
By Rick Brewer
Record Staff Writer
For a moment there, Dave Byrd was groovin'. Not on a Sunday afternoon, mind you. But groovin' nonetheless.
A couple hours later, Byrd was fumin'. He wasn't the only one.
Byrd, from San Jose, and Steve Belletto of Modesto provided a tense duel Saturday during a heated night of featured-event racing at Stockton 99 Speedway.
Bumping and grinding in the Late Model Sportsman trophy dash led to more of the same in the first of two 38-lap main events. Byrd was the winner of that one, taking his first main event since Memorial Day Weekend.
But things got worse in the nightcap race, eventually won by Modesto's Bob Strandwold. Belletto spun Byrd out on Lap 18. It was the first of what would be several incidents between the drivers.
Byrd immediately turned his car against the flow of traffic and headed toward the Modesto driver and tapped his front end to Belletto's in a serious breach of etiquette. Byrd likely will be fined by NASCAR for the stunt, but made his point well known.
"I've never done anything like that before," Byrd said. "But sometimes, enough is enough. And I didn't think the officials were going to do anything about it. They've got to worry about you sometimes."
"He should have been parked for that," Belletto said.
The drivers were sent to the back of the pack, but after a series of crashes and spinouts, Byrd and Belletto found themselves back in third and fourth, respectively, with two laps remaining.
That was enough time for the pair to tangle again. Between turns 3 and 4 on the final lap, Belletto rammed Byrd from behind, sending him into the wall.
"I knew he would try something. He waited until I couldn't get him back," said Byrd, who physically and verbally challenged his rival in the pits after the race. "It's a lack of respect."
Those were the exact words Belletto used to describe Byrd's hood tap moments before.
Belletto was penalized, with a 12th place finish, one spot behind Byrd. That won't be all. Chief steward Jim Cooke said track officials will decide on fines later this week.
In the Legends main event, a nine-car pileup that included the rolling of fast qualifier Frankie Winchell near the end of Lap 1, brought out the red flag. Although no one was seriously hurt in the accident between Turn 4 and the start-finish line, six cars failed to make it back to the track. The race went smoothly thereafter, and Ryan Foster of Anderson took the checkered flag for the third time in his last four races here.
In the Pro Stock division, Cary Treadway of Stockton was able to maneuver through lapped traffic on Lap 24. His chief competitor, Joe Hylton of Manteca, got stuck, however, and Treadway won his fifth main this season. In the Pure Stock division, longtime bridesmaid Jeff Ahl of Lodi, won his first career main event in three racing seasons.
* To reach reporter Rick Brewer, call 546-8292 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I've never done anything like that before. But sometimes enough is enough. And I didn't think the officials were going to do anything about it." -- Dave Byrd,
Stockton 99 Speedway racer