John Moore-Dave Byrd Tangle Video!
Check out the final Fireworks Pictures.
and Holman Clinch Championships as
The grandstands were packed to overflow capacity on Saturday night as racing fans from all over the western United States converged on Stockton 99 Speedway for the final time before the historic track closed its gates for good after 60 years of racing excitement.
The pits were also jammed tight as drivers and teams came to test their skills one last time on the track called the “Little Bristol of the West”, necessitating B Mains for all three racing divisions on the night’s NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series program.
Promoter Ken Clapp opening the evening’s proceedings by thanking the fans, officials, drivers, teams and sponsors for their unwavering dedication to the facility. He singled out track director Pat Patnaude, track announcer Wayne Pierce and longtime friend Fred Erickson, who he credited with getting him started in the race promotion business nearly 60 years ago. Clapp also paid special tribute to deceased track publicists Duane “Boro” Borovec and Jim Shiels.
For the third straight week Stockton drivers Chad Holman and Pete Anderson Sr. locked up in a side-by-side duel that once again had the huge crowd on its feet. However, unlike in their two previous close encounters, on this night it was Holman who would not be denied as he charged to his fifth victory of the year and first ALSC championship.
“It’s amazing to come out here and win the last race here. I don’t think it will really hit me until tomorrow,” exclaimed Holman. “We tried and tried to win this the past five years and tonight we did it.”
It was a true storybook ending for the whole Holman family.
David Holman, Chad’s father, was invited by track official Mark Vincelet to join him on the starter’s stand to wave the green flag to open the 30-lap ALSC feature. He could hardly contain himself when the checkered flag waved as his son crossed the finish line in victory directly below him.
“I think this is the greatest moment in my life, except for the kids being born,” exclaimed the proud father. “What a night.”
“Chad is a heck of a racer. He drives really clean and he deserves the championship this year,” said Anderson. “He had a chance to win this the last three or four years and sometimes he can be his own worst enemy, but this year he kept his head and done a good job and he has earned this.”
The Belletto family name has been synonymous with racing at Stockton for nearly forty years so it could not have been more appropriate to see Steve Belletto, the son of the legendary three-time track champion Harry Belletto, stand on the hood of his #30 HOTWOOD sponsored Chevrolet, arms thrust high into the night, in celebration of his victory in the SRL Wild West Shootout 100-lap main.
“We have been working out butts off for the last three weeks trying to get this car ready to run good here because we really wanted to win this last race in Stockton and it all paid off tonight,” said the smiling Belletto, age 41. “This means everything to me. I am so happy we couldn’t do it at a better time. It is a really good way to leave here.”
Although Belletto survived a late race charge by SRL points leader #05, Eric Schmidt, who spun in the early going of the race, and #33, Jim Courage Jr., both of Roseville, to earn the win, the fireworks going on just behind the leaders were equally as exciting as the battle at the front.
Pacific Grove’s Dave Byrd and Escalon’s Eric Holmes, both driving cars owned by track legend Bob Strandwold and four-time late model track champion Ken Boyd, of Ceres, were slicing and dicing with each other throughout the second half of the race when a yellow caution popped out on lap 72. Their cars accordioned into each other as they attempted to slow down approaching the start/finish line, putting all three contenders on the sidelines for the rest of the race.
The incident turned out to be a prelude of things to come in the next feature.
Part of the night's festivities included the great Grandson of original promoter Billy Hunefeld, also named Billy Hunefeld, with his sister Allie, giving the last Western Late Model Main events command, "Gentlemen Start Your Engines"!
Three drivers – Manteca’s Guy Guibor, Stockton’s Ron Strmiska Jr. and defending track champion Pete Anderson Jr., also of Stockton - remained in contention for both the 2006 track championship and the special HOTWOOD 1000 Series title, presented by JM Environmental, as 21 cars glistened under the lights in preparation to take the green flag for the 100-lap Havoline Western Late Model main.
Granite Bay’s John Moore and Dave Byrd slowly migrated to the front as numerous accidents and spins shuffled and reshuffled the order throughout the rest of the field. Strmiska was making a strong bid to join in the fight for the lead during the second half of the race when he spun on some oil following a restart on lap 76, putting him to the back of the pack.
Anderson and Guibor would join Strmiska there as they both pitted during the caution. A few laps later, Anderson would head back to the pits for good, with various car damage, reducing the title contenders to two.
The battle for the lead reached its epic climax on lap 99 when Moore and Byrd tangled coming out of turn two. Moore was able to stagger on to the finish and to take a checkered yellow while Byrd spun around and was collected head on by Tracy’s David Philpott, who had worked his way to third.
“I thought I saw everything here, but this was a first, getting wrecked out twice in one night,” said Byrd.
Strmiska crossed the line two places ahead of Guibor, which was good enough to lock up the HOTWOOD 1000 title, but not enough to overcome his points deficit to Guibor in the battle for the track championship.
“We have been working for this since last winter and tonight we finally got it done. This is awesome,” said Guibor, age 30. “Everybody will remember the last one (champion). That was our goal in building this car and we got it.”
It was surreal setting as the crowd cheered and jeered the outcome while the number 99 remained brightly lit on the scoreboard lap counter. As Strmiska calmly stood by his car on the front straight, Guibor had his foot to the floorboard, the front of his car pinned up against the concrete wall under the starter’s stand, spinning his tires down to the rims in a smoking celebration for winning the 2006 track championship, an irate Byrd was storming back to the pits from his disabled car on the back straight and Moore was turning donuts in turn two near the spot where a flame behind the wall marked the location his son JD had been tragically killed two years ago in a test session.
“The 27 (Moore) hit Byrd just behind the door. The 27 went to the inside and I went to the outside and I hit him head on. Up to then we had a great race going,” said Philpott a former two-time track champion. “This is one of the weirdest ones I have been in. I can’t remember any other one quite this crazy.”
About ten minutes later the extraordinary scene became even more bizarre when it was announced over the PA that Moore had disqualifying himself. Soon after the #20 car of NASCAR diversity driver Pete Hernandez, of Chicago, Illinois, emerged out of the pits and onto the track as the winner of the race.
“I came here for one reason, to honor my son. My heart is so fulfilled right now nothing could make me feel any better,” explained Moore as he stood next to the flame. “I don’t care where I finished, it means nothing to me. My mission is accomplished. I did what I came here to do.”
The final order of finish for the top five in the last race ever to be staged in the 60 year history of the fabled Stockton 99 Speedway officially goes into the record books as Hernandez, Tracy’s Justin Philpott, Strmiska, Chowchilla’s Eric Humphries and Guibor.
“I feel really good to know that I won the final race ever run at Stockton 99 Speedway,” said Hernandez proudly. “You take them as they come. We have been in the wrong place at the wrong time this season and tonight we were finally in the right place at the right time.”
Ron Strmiska Sr., a two-time track champion who started racing at the Stockton 99 Speedway in 1969, spoke as he surveyed the high-banked quarter mile from the turn four pit entrance following the night’s spectacular fireworks show.
I really hate to see it go, but we’ll find somewhere else to race probably Altamont. I think we will be concentrating on my son Ross in the future and get him in a late model to see what he can do,” said Strmiska Sr. “I don’t know, maybe I’ll just go fishing.”
The Stockton 99 Speedway and Altamont Motorsports Park post-season banquet will take place on Saturday November 18th at the Four Seasons Restaurant in Modesto.
For Stockton 99 Speedway information call the 99 Race Line at (209) 466-9999 or go to www.stockton99speedway.com on the web.