(STOCKTON, CA--June 29, 1997)--In what was described as a tune-up for Stockton 99 Speedway's annual 4th of July "Firecracker 100" this coming Saturday, home town driver Larry Tankersley notched his second career NASCAR-sanctioned Winston Racing Series main event triumph Saturday night. Tankersley grabbed the lead on a re-start for the 30-lap feature, then held off the top-three season point leaders--Harry Belletto, Ron Strmiska and Mike Terpstra--to partially atone for a disqualification in early May. The second-year Late Model pilot won the WIX Filters 50 May l0, but was disqualified for using illegal tires. This time, using old tires, and just wanting to shake down his car, he ended up in the winner's circle with $700 in his pocket. Rookies Jim Fair of Modesto and Nathan Tucker of Sonora were initially in charge of the front row, but a re-start was necessitated when Tucker was squeezed out of the pack in turn one collecting three others in a melee that ended the night for Tom Prigmore of Stockton and Joe Flohr of Modesto. Tankersley advanced to the outside pole position for the re-start and jumped in front with the veteran Strniska of Manteca pulling to second. The two battled for the next six laps before a back stretch bumping incident resulted in a wild backwards ride into the infield tires by Strmiska. Fortunately, the former two-time track champion was able to remain in the race, but at the back of the field. Three yellow flags slowed the action from laps nine through 12 with the worst being the last that saw Mark Youngblood of Stockton ride the retaining wall between turns one and two collecting Brent Seitz of Stockton and Sacramentots Burney Lamer in the process. Youngblood was the only car unable to continue as the focus switched to the lead battle between Tankersley and season point leader Belletto of Modesto and Strmiska, who had worked his way back through the field to third. Only one additional caution slowed the action as the top three ran bumper-to-bumper to the checkered flag. Terpstra of Modesto was fourth with Wayne Pierce of Stockton completing the top-five. With half of the season in the books, Belletto--who won the coveted Late Model crown in 1995 and is seeking a second title in 27 years of driving on Stockton's quarter-mile paved oval--leads Strmiska, a two-time track champion in 1978 and '79, by 58 points (689-631).
Bud Beltrama of Stockton sat on the pole tor the 14-car Grand American Modified feature, but Mike Nascimento of Manteca grabbed the first lap lead with incoming point leader Steve Stacy of Stockton slipping to second. The front two moved away from the field by lap- l 0 with Beltrama, Robert Knittel of Lodi and Howard Hoffman of Tracy making up the top-five. That group was shuffled on lap-15 when Nascimento appeared to lift coming off turn two and was hit from behind by Stacy and was sent to the back for spinning the leader. Knittel inherited the lead for the re-start and cruised to his fourth feature triumph in the last seven races. Beltrama's second place effort was his best-ever Grand Am finish; while the same could be said for Jason Philpot of Sacramento, who ended up third. Manteca's Bob Reichmuth, who earlier tied a track record by winning his third straight trophy dash, was fourth with Jeff Thomas of Stockton completing the top-five. Before winning his first Grand Am main on May 17, Knittel trailed Stacy in the season point standings by 178-points. Now, seven weeks later, Stacy's margin is down to 77 (849-772).
As always, Lady Luck played a major role in the outcome of the Street Stoek feature. The divisions two dominate drivers--defending champion Dan Dabbs of North Highlands end '97 frontrunner Jerry Tripp of Stockton--were blocked, bumped and spun throughout the entire 25-laps before Manteca's John Vanderwerff won for the second week in a row.
Greg Albiani of Modesto took the initial lead, but John Gamble of Stockton squirted from fourth to the front on the first circuit. Tripp, who started 13th, was running fourth by lap-eight before he was hit and spun and forced to the back of the pack. Dabbs started 14th and progressed to second by lap-11, then got involved in a four-car fracas that included Gamble that resulted in Dabbs going to the rear with Tripp. The lead fell to Dewayne Apedaile of Lodi who led to lap-17 before bowing to Vanderwerff. The final few laps were like an instant replay of the previous week as Vanderwerff battled to hold off the hard-charging pair of Tripp and Dabbs. Tripp fell one position short of a clean sweep after setting fast time, and notching heat and dash wins. At the checkered, it was Vanderwerff, Tripp and Dabbs followed by two Stockton drivers --Jerry Crawford and Cary Treadway. Tripp still enjoys a huge season point lead over Dabbs at 990-786; however, Vandewerff's back-to-back wins has enabled him to close on Dabbs in third place at 744.
The Pick-n-Pull Pure Stock action saw the return of one of 1996's top runners--Jerry Tripp III of Stockton as part of the 20-car Auto Stop Auto Supply feature. Starting from the pole, Tripp led until lap-12 before being passed by this season's dominate driver Gary Shafer, Jr, also of Stockton. Shafer, though, got involved in a lap-17 pileup that enabled another Stockton pilot, Kevin Touchstone, to take the point. At the finish, Touchstone posted his second win in front of Stockton's Kannai Scantlen with Shafer third and Alan Ward of Modesto and Brian Castillou of Linden completing the top-five.