(STOCKTON, C:A--June 1, 1997)--A classy field of 27 Late Model Sportsmen was on hand Saturday night at NASCAR-sanctioned Stockton 99 Speedway all looking to put a stop to Dave Byrd's dominance of the $120,000 Mega Power Tri-Track Challenge. Alas, it was to no avail, as the Los Gatos driver overcame a mid-race flat tire, a series of yellow flags and a number of individual challenges to post his fourth straight $2,000 triumph in the 10-race, three track series. Byrd set sixth fast time and started third on the grid, while fast qualifier Harry Belletto of Modesto started eighth in the 20-car field. The front row duties for the 100-lap affair fel1 to Johnny Vega of Newcastle and Ron Strmiska, Sr. of Manteca, with Strmiska taking the first lap lead. A quick yellow fel1 on the second lap as four cars--Fresno's Kenny Kinchen, Rob Iverson of Carson City, Jim Pettit II of Prunedale and Belletto--got tangled up coming off turn-two. They all were able to remain in the race, but the caution provided an interesting side bar. After three circuits under the yellow, scoring stopped the lap count and fortune smiled on Mike Terpstra of Modesto. Terpstra, who suffered serious cuts to an arm in an accident a week earlier, had made a pre-race decision to pit at the earliest opportunity and turn over the driving chores to former four-time Stockton track champion Ken Boyd of Ceres. The driver switch was made without a loss of laps and Boyd fel1 in at the rear of the field for the re-start. Vega took the lead on the second green as Strmiska bobbled coming off turn-two with Byrd running third. Byrd moved into second on lap- 10 and the tone for the evening was seemingly set on lap-16 when the eventual winner took the lead with Strmiska second and Bob Strandwold of Modesto taking third. A 27th lap re-start saw Strandwold move from third to first followed by Mike David of Modesto easing Byrd back to third. Lap-36 produced a yellow for oil on the track and as soon as the lap count stopped, Byrd headed to the pits for a fresh tire at which time Boyd in the Terpstra machine had progressed to eighth place. By mid-race, Belletto had returned to the top-10 with Byrd on his tail. Five laps later, a quick spin by David dropped him from second to the back. Belletto progressed to second by lap-60 and was running outside of Strandwold on a 63rd lap re-start when the two banged together going into turn-one. Strandwold kept control and ran to another yellow as Belletto fell a lap down. By this time, Byrd was on Strandwold's tail and the two became the focus of the paid crowd of 2,531 with both cars running several laps side by side swapping the lead back and forth. With 20 laps to go, 18 cars were still running with Strandwold holding his final lead on lap-91 and Byrd taking it back for good one go-round later. At the checkered, it was Byrd ahead of Strandwold, Strmiska, Boyd and Larry Tankersley of Stockton. With four of the 10 Mega Power events in the books, Byrd holds a 36-point lead (232-196) over Steve Belletto of Modesto. Only 28 points separate the next seven competitors-with Orangevale's Billy Clarkson third, Pettit fourth, Mike David fifth, Harry Belletto sixth, Kenny Kinchen seventh, Ken Woodall of San Mateo eighth and Rob Iverson of Carson City, Nevada ninth. The fifth race in the Tri-Track Challenge will take place this coming Saturday (June 7th) at Madera Speedway. The senior Belletto continues to lead the Stockton 99 Winston Racing Series point count by 51 over Terpstra (474-423). Pettit, Strmiska, Sr. and rookie Nathan Tucker of Sonora complete the top five.
19 Grand American racers filled the front straight area for their 25-lap feature with Bud Beltrama of Stockton on the pole and fast qualifier Steve Stacy of Stockton starting 10th. Beltrama took charge of the early laps with last week's winner Greg Potts of Manteca taking the point on lap-six, and Stacy sliding into second one circuit later. The season point leader took advantage of a yellow flag re-start on lap-10 to move to the front only to have Potts surge back to the point on lap-12 as Stacy backslid to fit'th. Potts was denied a second straight win as he fell out of the race on lap-19 with fluid running from under his mount. Robert Knittel of Lodi took the lead on the re-start; however, a red flag was displayed three laps later when Mike Summerlot of Turlock got snagged in traffic and took a wild ride onto the third-turn retaining wall coming to rest upside down with flames bringing the safety crew on the run. Summerlot was not hurt; but his night was done, as Knittel proceeded to take his second 1997 feature followed by defending champion Robert Miller of San Jose, Jim Marchino of Modesto, Howard Hoffman of Tracy and Stacy. For the season, Stacy continues to enjoy a 147-point margin (659-522) over Hoffman. A field of 17 Street Stock cars fired off their main with Dave Conway of Modesto taking charge of the first lap lead with 10th place starter Dan Dabbs of North Highlands progressing to fourth by lap-five. The defending champion took the lead on lap-eight, with Stockton drivers Pete Anderson, Sr. and Jeny Tripp moving to second and third by lap-12. Tripp, the current point leader, took second on lap-17 and moved to the front on lap-23 as Dabbs spun in turn-two. At the finish, it was Tripp for this sixth time in nine races followed by Anderson, Sr., John Vanderwerff of Manteca, Jeremy Hammon of Lodi and Kim Mountjoy of Stockton. However, post-race disqualifications dropped Anderson and Mountjoy out of their spots making the official finish--Tripp, Vanderwerff, Hammon, Dewayne Apedaile of Lodi and Ken McCarty of Groveland. Point-wise, Tripp's domination of the division is 164 over Dabbs (738-574). The final event of the night saw Richard Teicheira of Manteca post his first-ever win in the Pure Stock division. In a wire-to-wire performance, Teicheira held off Scott M:cHale of Modesto. The top-five for the crowd pleasing affair was completed by two Stockton drivers-Jeff Lovelace and Doug Lane--and Aaron Mundello of Denair.