Harry Belletto is becoming somewhat of a renaissance man at NASCAR-sanctioned Stockton 99 Speedway. While the track is celebrating its 50th year of racing, Belletto, at 53, is coming off his first-ever Late Model Sportsman championship and since winning his first race in late June, the veteran Modesto campaigner has won seven of 12 races. Saturday night, Belletto made it look easy, leading wire-to-wire in posting his sixth Winston Racing Series feature win in the last eight races. The current second place point runner put his Monte Carlo through the time trial lights with the fast time of the night and in turn got a lucky draw for a stand up start in the main and made it look like a turnkey operation in capturing the 30-lap affair, his 56th career victory on the venerable Speedway's Budweiser and Plummer Pontiac sponsored quarter mile paved oval.
While Belletto cruised, the battle for second place between Stockton's Larry Tankersley and current point leader and 1994 champion Dave Byrd of Los Gatos became the focus. After starting 4th in the nine-car field, Byrd slipped past Ron Strmiska, Sr. of Manteca to pursue the rookie Tankersley. The first year Late Model driver was equal to the task, though, holding off Byrd, who finished just ahead of Strmiska and Greg Kamper of Ripon.
In spite of his late season surge , Belletto still trails Byrd in the season point chase by 126 points (1470-1344). Byrd, in fact, gained two points Saturday--combining his third place feature effort with heat and trophy dash victories for 74-points to Belletto's 72.
San Jose's Robert Miller continued his season-long dominance of the Grand American Modified division-- winning for the 18th time in 22 starts--but as Miller said afterward: "This was one of the more challenging races of the season." Second place GAM point runner Tony Silva set quick time and took the lead on the first green flag of the 25-lap feature which saw only three yellows slow the action. The second yellow spelled the downfall for the first year Sacramento driver as Miller, a 19-year veteran, pulled one of his standard hole shots to grab the lead going down the backchute on lap-14. Miller was untouchable after that as he finished ahead of Silva, regular Late Model competitor Eric Holmes of Escalon, who was making his Grand Am debut, Stockton's Steve Stacy and Robert Knittel of Lodi.
With only three races left, Miller enjoys a 166-point lead over Silva (1518-1352). However, Stacy and Knittel--two long-time Street Stock combatants in their rookie seasons as grand Am drivers-- are waging a tight battle foe third with Stacy currently leading 1150-1126.
Street Stock point leader Dan Dabbs of North Highlands nailed the divisions quick time and turned his pole starting position into an early lead. However by the sixth circuit, Jerry Tripp of Stockton was on his bumper and the race turned into a fan pleasing side-by-side battle as the two swapped the lead several times over the next 10-laps without either car putting a single mark on the other. Tripp finally took command though and was in charge of the lap that counted for the record books as he posted his tenth victory of the season. Dabbs was second with Pete Anderson, Sr. of Stockton third, John Vanderwerff of Manteca fourth and Jerry Crawford of Stockton laying claim to the fifth spot.
With seven wins in his last eight starts going back to July 13, Tripp is on a roll that has seen him move from fourth to second in the season point standings; but Dabbs' consistency-- two wins, 20 top-five and 23 top-ten finishes in23 starts-- has enabled him to build insurmountable margin of 278 points (1528-1250) with only three races to go.
Donna Treadway of Stockton took the early lead in the 15-car Pure-Stock
feature event, but was quickly passed by Lodi's Rick Bentz on the second go-round. Bentz
kept a steady grip on the wheel and his foot on the firewall as Pete Anderson, Jr. of
Stockton, the next to last position starter, began his patented romp through the field to
take control and collect his 12th victory of the season. Bentz held on to second and was
followed to the checkered flag by an all-Stockton cast of Mark Youngblood, Kevin
Touchstone, and John Prigmore.