(STOCKTON, CA--August 31, 1997)--Dave Byrd left little doubt about his race plan for the final leg of Stockton 99 Speedway's Tri-Holiday Classic Saturday night. While pre-race discussion focused on the possibility of laying back during qualifying and trying to gain valuable points by passing, the pilot of the Tim Gillit owned Chevrolet Monte Carlo jumped in front of pole sitter Mike David of Modesto on the opening lap and never looked back in capturing the $2,000 first place race money and an extra $1,500 for the overall title. Byrd of Los Gatos won the Classic's initial event on Memorial Day weekend and was tied with Firecracker 100 winner Harry Belletto of Modesto as 19 cars lined up for the green on Stockton's NASCAR-sanctioned quarter mile paved oval. His wire-to-wire performance was most impressive as he was able to pull away from the field after each of the 100-lap affair's seven yellow flags which included two red's.
With yellows counting for three laps at a time, dash winner David averted one following his opening lap spin as fell to the rear of the field as the pack crossed with Byrd in control. Lap-seven saw a yellow as Stockton drivers Buzz Devore and Mark Youngblood tangled in turn one enabling season point leader Harry Belletto to pass his son Steve and move into second setting up what most of the Holiday weekend race crowd thought would be a classic duel. However, two more yellows on laps-12 and 16 slowed the action with 1978 and 79 Late Model champion Ron Strmiska, Sr. of Manteca moving past Belletto for second on lap-21. Byrd was able to stretch his margin to almost a full straight-away before fast timer Steve Belletto, running fourth, spun on lap37 after blowing a radiator hose entering turn-one and slammed into the outside retaining wall collecting fifth-place Brent Seitz of Stockton and a fast closing Mike David in the process resulting in the first red.
Following the re-start, the top-five consisted of Byrd, Strmiska, David Philpott of Tracy, the senior Belletto and Fremont's Troy Ermish. 28 laps later a yellow was displayed for debris on the track and another shuffle resulted on the re-start as Philpott took second. Philpott and Strmiska would flip-flop for second during the next two cautions. Then, after Harry Belletto pitted under the yellow for a fresh tire and fell to the back of the pack on lap-77 with 12 of the original 19 starters still running, the worst incident of the night occurred on lap-85 when Strmiska lost a tire coming off turn four resulting in a head on shot into the retaining wall. The impact caused the engine area to explode into flames, bringing fire and rescue personnel onto the track and the event's second red flag. Fortunately, Strmiska was only shaken and not seriously injured.
That left Philpott, Greg Potts of Manteca, Ermish and Modesto's Mike Terpstra in line behind Byrd but it was to no avail as Byrd streaked home for his fifth Stockton victory of the season. The only change coming down the stretch saw Harry Belletto close quickly to end-up third behind the Tri-Holiday champion and Philpott with Potts and Ermish completing the top-five. The Tri-Holiday top five after Byrd and the senior Belletto included Potts, John Gaalswyk of Ripon and Stockton's Wayne Pierce.
With only four races lefl in the '97 season, Belletto enjoys a 151-point (1237-1086) lead over Strmiska in the Stockton title chase with Mike Terpstra third at 1033.
The Grand American Modified feature almost ended before it began as 15 of 18 starters were involved in a melee that began when Thomas Meserall of San Jose and incoming point leader Steve Stacy of Stockton rubbed and turned sideways between turns one and two. Eight of the involved cars had to go into the pits for fresh tires and body work before a re-start was in order. Darrin Thomas of Atwater became the point man and took the lead before another fracas involving Manteca's Paul Guthmiller and two semi-main transfers--Bud Beltrama of Stockton and Randy Hill of Lodi--resulted in a second red flag. The three collided between turns three and four with Guthmiller ending up totally airborne on top of Hill. Once racing resumed, with Guthmiller stil1 in the field, the 16-year old Meserall, who has been impressive in his limited Stockton appearances, gained the lead on lap-11 and never looked back as he added the $300 feature triumph to his early dash victory. Thomas hung on for second followed by Bob Reichmuth of Manteca, the never-say-die Guthmiller and fast qualifier Stacy, who enjoys a 203-point margin (1390-1187) in the season point chase over Robert Knittel of Lodi.
1996 champion Dan Dabbs of North Highlands was a man on a mission in the Street Stock division. After establishing a new track qualifying record of 15.176, Dabbs registered his sixth trophy dash win and, in a backside interview, dedicated his efforts to his oldest daughter who was heading to the altar on Sunday. The proud father then went on to make daughter April's night one of perfection as he led the feature from pillar-to-post for his fifth feature victory of the season.
Only one quick yellow slowed the 25-lap action as Pete Anderson, Sr. of Stockton held tight on to second behind Dabbs before succumbing to current point leader Jerry Tripp of Stockton on lap-18. At the checkered, it was Dabbs, Tripp, Anderson, Cary Treadway of Stockton and Dewayne Apedaile of Lodi. With four events left, Tripp leads Dabbs by 253 (1562-1309) in the season point chase.
The final appearance of the '97 season for the Super Mini Cup cars saw James Wright of Turlock take the early lead and pull away from the field to a large margin. However, by lap-15,Jeff Jess of Stockton had made his way through the field and closed on the leader to make a sideby-side run on the next circuit and a pass for the lead a lap later. Jess was followed to the final flag by Wright, Larry Hoover, Jr. of Turlock, fast timer Donnie Cannell of Riverbank and Jason White of Stockton. A post-race tech inspection resulted in a disqualification for Jess giving the win to Wright; with Brian Smith of Modesto inheriting fifth.