(STOCKTON, CA--August 17, 1997)--After two yellow flags in two laps, who could blame the nearly 2,000 Stockton 99 Speedway fans for glancing skyward and nodding knowingly at the full August moon Saturday night. A first-lap yellow was displayed when a spinning John Wood of Walnut Creek collected three other cars between turns three and four. On lap-two, pacesetter Mike Terpstra of Modesto was spun by season point leader Harry Belletto and, after changing a tire, was given a one-way ticket to the back of the field by the NASCAR officiating crew with Ron Strmiska, Sr. of Manteca inheriting the lead. Then, almost as if the full moon suddenly disappeared, the event took off on a non-yellow romp to the 22nd circuit as Belletto slowly made his way through the field. The other racing Wood--Don, also of Walnut Creek--drew the final yellow as he spun in turn three and collected Terpstra in the process bringing Strmiska back to the pack. The former two-time track champion was equal to the task, however, as Belletto made his way past his son Jeff and Stockton's Wayne Pierce of Stockton on lap-24 Time ran out, though, as Strmiska recorded his second 30-lap feature win in four weeks followed by Belletto, Pierce, Tim Bost of Rocklin and John Wood.
After having failed to win in 112 starts dating back to August of 1992 before July 26, the 56-year old Strmiska said: "It was great to look in my mirror and not see Harry's (Belletto) orange hood on my tail. Winning is fun." In spite of his effort, however, Strmiska still trails Belletto in the season point derby by 134 (1111-977) with five races including two "double pointers" left.
Yellow flags also played a role in the Grand American Modified action as incoming point leader Steve Stacy of Stockton took the point from his outside pole starting position over Paul Guthmiller of Manteca. Not far back, however, was Robert Miller of San Jose--the defending division champion, who broke a motor early in the night during hot laps and was running the feature in a borrowed car. Miller put the Jack Stone-owned car into the second on lap-eight to set up a classic duel between himself and Stacy.
A lap- 18 yellow for a stalled car set up a side by side run to the checkered flag with Stacy keeping control by a bumper. Stacy held the point to another yellow two laps later with Miller beating him on the next re-start to take the lead on lap-21. Stacy turned the tables on Miller on lap-22; only to have Miller lead the lap that counts most as the checkered flag was displayed. At the finish, it was Miller and Stacy followed by Ed Lacey of Los Gatos, Yuba City's Eddie Laws and Bob Reichmuth of Manteca. Afterward, some of the glow for Miller's second straight victory was diminished when his engine (really Stone's) was claimed by Jeff Thomas of Stockton.
The Miller win had little effect on the season point chase as Stacy leads Lodi's Robert Knittel by 167 (1327-1160).
Kids' Night activities precluded qualifying with drivers drawing for starting positions, and, as a result, the Street Stock division's heavy hitters enjoyed front-row starting spots instead of their usual back-of-the-pack placements. Incoming point leader Jerry Tripp of Stockton was the initial front-runner, but he quickly surrendered to a fast moving Dan Dabbs of North Highlands on lap three. Only two yellows slowed the event, both for wall shots by first time runner Scott Chappell of Lodi--once on lap-five, and again on lap-14. Dabbs, the dash winner, was unstoppable as he cruised to his fourth feature triumph, but first since May 10. Tripp, who registered a heat race win, held on for second, followed by a pair of Stockton drivers--Cary Treadway and Jerry Crawford--with John Vanderwerff of Manteca completing the top-five.
Tripp's heat win was a significant one as it put him in a tie for the most heat wins (10) in a single season. It also gave him the all time division record for wins of any kind (heat, dash or feature) with 58..
In what was far from the norm (maybe it was the full moon?), the 20-lap Pure Stock division main event was halted twice for red flags. The first saw dash winner Gary Shafer, Jr. of Stockton climb the front stretch wall, roll onto his roof and slide into turn-one. Shafer was coming off a three-week hiatus with a brand new car. After some pit time, he was able to return as a convertible and finish the event.
Brian Castillou took the early lead and surrendered to fellow Stockton driver Mark Mays on the red flag re-start. The second red involved Kevin Touchstone of Stockton and Dave Wiles of Denair as they got together on the back chute and were in turn piled into by Richard Teicheira of Manteca and Doug Lane of Stockton. Castillou regained the lead on lap-19 to earn his first career feature win ahead of Mays, two other Stockton drivers--Jeff Lovelace and Royce Niceler--and Cindy Quarnstrom of Lodi.
24 Legend cars made their final appearance on Stockton 99's Budweiser-sponsored quarter-mile paved oval with the first lap lead going to Rob Lathrop of San Jose. Much of the attention, however, was focused on Randy Raduechel of Modesto. After losing an engine in his own car during a Friday practice session, Raduechel raced in a borrowed car, but it made little difference as he progressed from his 12th-place starting spot to sixth by lap-three. Following a red flag incident on lap-six, Raduechel took the point on lap-9 and never looked back as he cruised home in front of Dennis Webb of Los Gatos, early leader Lathrop, Mike Sullivan of Sacramento and Rick Rushton of Ceres.