2005 "99" Schedule 

Rumors of 99 Speedway sale red-flagged

By Bill Poindexter
Record Staff Writer
Published Saturday, February 5, 2005

STOCKTON -- The rumor has spread like a synthetic oil spill from a blown engine. Ken Clapp just hopes it will be quicker and easier to clean up.

Stockton 99 Speedway co-owners Bob Hunefeld of Stockton and Clapp said this week the 20 acres on which the 58-year-old NASCAR track sits on Wilson Way hasn't been sold, contrary to popular belief.

"Nobody has bought Stockton 99 Speedway," Clapp said of the track, which is scheduled to start the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series season April 3 with a program that will include a 100-lap doubleheader. "Nobody has made a deposit on Stockton 99 Speedway. Nobody has ventured to say they'd like to make a deposit."

On the business end, Hunefeld and Clapp are contractually bound for two more years. They also have contracts with sponsors. Personally, Clapp said he has no interest in selling the track or retiring. He has a daughter and son-in-law who work at the track, and Hunefeld's son, Chris, runs concessions.

Word was Stockton 99 was sold during this offseason, but the buzz gets better - or worse, if you're Clapp and Hunefeld. Only Stockton 99 wasn't just sold; it was purchased by Stockton developer Alex G. Spanos. The story became juicier when word spread that Stockton 99 would relocate to the Arch Road-Highway 99 area near the airport south of the city, where a state-of-the-art facility in the mold of Irwindale Speedway in Southern California (with suites, elevators, a plush press box, etc.) would be built.

"It makes a great story, and I'm very flattered, but there's no truth to it," Clapp said.

Before the truth could come out, however, the rumor became airborne - and Web-borne. It spread north to Galt, where 2004 Pure Stock track champion John Medina heard about it; south to the Modesto shop of three-time Late Model track champ Harry Belletto; and even to the popular coastal destination of Monterey, where 2004 Western Late Model champ Dave Byrd had his eyes opened.

"I heard it last week from a couple of people in Monterey and Campbell. From what these guys say, it's on all the Web sites, too," Byrd said with a chuckle. "Racers are the worst. In the winter, people are just craving. I don't know who started it, but it's picking up legs. Somebody's having fun doing the race track rumor."

The scuttlebutt opened the eyes of Elk Grove's Steve Fensler, since the SRL Wild West Shootout series he coordinates has four dates for 100-lap races penciled in on the 99 calendar this season.

"Telephone, teletype, tell-a-racer, the three best modes of information," Fensler said Wednesday.

While Clapp again is excited about the 2005 schedule, he acknowledged that for several years, developers and investors have come calling as to the availability of the land. The Spanos Group wasn't one of them, according to Clapp and Hunefeld. Spanos spokespersons couldn't be reached for comment.

Clapp said interest in purchasing the track began in the early 1990s, and an offer was made about four years ago. He said he and Hunefeld were approached two years ago by a "mega-million-dollar development company." Clapp described three of last year's suitors as "big enough to play in the game."

Clapp and Hunefeld passed each time.

"We haven't done it," Clapp said. "We haven't sold it."

"I'm totally committed for the next few years at Stockton, totally committed," Clapp said.

* To reach assistant sports editor Bill Poindexter, phone (209) 546-8289 or e-mail bpoindex@recordnet.com

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