|Stockton 99 icon Jim Shiels
dies at 59
By Scott Linesburgh
Record Staff Writer
Published Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Jim Shiels knew
every driver who won every race at Stockton 99 Speedway for
almost a quarter of a century. But to him, auto racing was
about the people involved, not just the statistics.
track historian and statistician made sure racing fans knew as
much about the driver as they did the car.
away Monday at Mercy Hospital in Merced following a lengthy
illness, and an era ended at Stockton 99. He was 59.
''He was an icon
when it came to the history of the speedway,'' Stockton 99
co-owner Ken Clapp said. ''He knew more about the race track
than any human being ever has.
''There will be
somebody to take his job, but they will never replace him.''
birthday was Saturday, worked at many tracks -- including
Altamont Raceway Park and Delta Speedway -- but he's best
known for his time at Stockton 99. Shiels' job was to promote
the events at the track, and he had his own unique way of
When a new driver
showed up at Stockton 99, Shiels wanted to know more than what
everyone, and he wanted to know about everyone,'' said
three-time Stockton 99 Late Model champion Harry Belletto.
''It was always more than just his job. Jim wanted to know
about you, your wife and your kids. He really cared, and we're
going to miss him.''
As much as Shiels
cared about the drivers, the drivers cared about him. In 1996,
he became the first non-driver to win the sportsman of the
year award and last year was the first recipient of the Boro
Award, named after late track manager Duane Borovec and
signifying exemplary service at Stockton 99.
three books about auto racing. In ''Stockton 99 Speedway: 50
years And Still Turning Left'' he chronicled the history of
the quarter-mile, high-banked asphalt oval.
painstakingly went back and reconstructed the history of the
track,'' Stockton 99 managing partner Chris Hunefeld said.
''It was amazing. He knew it all. He loved the track, and it
was very apparent.''
Shiels was ill
for years, and in 1998, he had his left leg amputated below
the knee because of complications from diabetes. But Shiels
always came back to the track, and he spoke recently with
Stockton 99 general manager Ken Gross about filming a living
memorial at the track. Shiels also wrote his obituary.
''It was Jim's
idea to tape something at the track, but unfortunately, he
didn't get the chance,'' Gross said. ''Jim always planned to
come back next season. He had a hard time climbing up to the
press box. It came to the point where he planned to sit at
track level or find a way to build a hydraulic lift to get
upstairs. But he always wanted to be at the track.''
Belletto visited Shiels at the hospital Monday.
''We talked about
everything, and I told him that I would come visit him when he
got home,'' Belletto said. ''I think we won't know how much
we'll miss him until we got to the track and he's not there.''
service is being planned.
assistant sports editor Bill Poindexter contributed to this