(STOCKTON, CA--June 22, 1997)--It was like a blast from the past at NASCAR sanctioned Stockton 99 Speedway Saturday night when David Philpott held off a late race challenge from Hany Belletto to win the Winston Racing Series Late Model Sportsman main event. The victory for the Tracy driver--who was the track's premier division champion in l 992 and '93--was his first on Stockton's Budweiser-sponsored quarter-mile paved oval since September 23 of 1995.
First year competitor Jim Fair of Modesto lined-up on the pole for the 30-lap feature, but the opening lap lead fell to John Gaalswyk of Ripon, who continued to lengthen his lead lap-by lap to almost a ful1 straightaway by lap-eight and appeared to be on his way to registering his second ever main event win. By lap-11, though, Philpott, who was making only his third appearance of the year, found himself in third, then second two circuits later. Debris on the track brought out the first yellow flag on lap- 17 costing Gaalswyk his comfortable lead allowing Philpott to close for the re-start. Gaalswyk survived the initial re-start, but a second yellow a lap later gave Philpott another opportunity. On that one, Philpott made a dive under Gaalswyk going into turn one with Belletto of Modesto--who won the track championship in '95 and currently owns the point lead--coming to second behind him.
Gaalswyk hung tough in a battle for third as he and Ron Strmiska, Sr. of Manteca ran side by side for several laps before Gaalswyk's night ended when his distributor cap broke allowing Strmiska to move ahead. With Strmiska having won championships at Stockton in 1978 end '79, it seemed like old times with Philpott, Belletto and the "Manteca Missile" running one-two-three. When the checkered was waved, Mike Terpstra of Modesto and rookie Nathan Tucker of Sonora--winner of his first feature a week ago--completed the top five.
Nearing the half-way mark in the season, Belletto's point lead over Strmiska is now 73 (621-558) with Terpstra third (541) and the rookie Tucker fourth (499).
Jeff Thomas of Stockton took the early lead in the night's Grand American Modified feature that produced only two minor yellows over 25-laps. Thomas gamely held on to the point for 12 laps before bowing to Greg Potts of Manteca. Potts in turn looked in his mirror to see Howard Hoffman of Tracy hot on his heels looking for his first '97 victory and only the second of his career. Hoffman succeeded by passing Potts on the final lap heading to the checkered flag.
Stockton's Darrin Halterman produced his best effort of the season to finish third with Robert Knittel of Lodi and Thomas completing the top-five. With season point leader Steve Stacy serving a one-week suspension, Knittel and Hoffman cut into Stacy's margin. Knittel now trails by 102 (803-701) with Hoffman another 24 points back in third.
It took l l races, but the Street Stock feature finally produced a winner other than Jerry Tripp or Dan Dabbs. The crowd of close to 15-hundred was on its feet for what amounted to a three-lap trophy dash-type finish cheering John Vanderwerff of Manteca to his first career win in five years of competition. Mike Piona of Lodi led the first lap with John Gamble of Stockton
leading through lap-five. By then, Dabbs of North Highlands and Tripp of Stockton had made runs hom the back of the pack to the front with Dabbs taking the point on lap-six. Four laps later, the leader was hit from behind by Jerry Crawford of Stockton and spun out in turn four. Tripp, too, spun trying to avoid the Dabbs-Crawford melee resulting in all three going to the back of the 16-car field.
Vanderwerff inherited the lead on the re-start and cruised until a lap-22 yellow set up the trophy dash-like finish with Dabbs and Tripp in hot pursuit. With the crowd on it's feet, Vanderwerff held on with Dabbs and Tripp second and third. Crawford worked his way back to fourth with Lodi's Dewayne Apedaile completing the top-five. Nonetheless, Tripp's season point lead over Dabbs is a comfortable 172 (903-731) with Vanderwerff third at 678.
Kannai Scantlen of Stockton produced a new track record for qualifying in the Pure Stock division at 17.617, however, it was of little value in the 20-lap feature. The initial lead fell to Brian Castillou of Linden who eventually surrendered the point to Stockton's Gary Shafer, Jr, who progressed from his 18th place starting spot to the lead on lap- l0. Shafer never wavered in notching his fifth victory of the season as he finished ahead of f'ellow Stockton competitor Doug Lane, Castillou, and two other Stockton pilots Mark Mays and Donna Treadway.
Shafer enjoys a season point lead of 162 (585-423) over Lane while Treadway, at third, is the leading distaff side driver of any Stockton 99 division.
The fans were also treated to the Mini-Cup cars, who were making their third of five scheduled appearances at Stockton. Larry Hoover, Jr. of Turlock put his name in the record book with a qualifying effort of 16.235. In the group's 20-lap feature, Donnie Cannell of Riverbank took control of the first lap lead and held on before being passed by Ron Emmick of Sacramento, who was driving for the first time at Stockton. The event ran yellow free with Emmick receiving the checkered flag ahead of :Hoover, Cannell, Trophy Dash winner James Wright of Turlock and Brian Bettencourt of Modesto.