(STOCKTON, CA--April 19, 1998)--With El Nino apparently taking a break (race fans would hope permanently), 41 Late Model Sportsman filled the pits at Stockton 99 Speedway Saturday night to participate in the first event of the ten-race Shell Tri-Track Challenge which offers a season purse of more than $ 130,000. And, after a lengthy delay precipitated by a synthetic oil spill, Mike David of Modesto topped a field of 20 starters to collect the $2,000 first place money. The oil spill which occurred on the final hot lap session eliminated qualifying for all but the Late Models and created the unusual sight of most of the drivers manning brooms to help clean 99's quarter-mile paved oval in order to get the racing program underway. Running only two trophy dashes--for the Tri-Track participants and the NASCAR sanctioned Winston Racing Series Grand American Modifieds--and semi-mains as required pushed the completion of the 100-lap feature well past the midnight bewitching hour. Further complications included a roll over in the Street Stock feature, numerous accidents in the 30-lap Grand American main and a freak accident that resulted in four-time Late Model champion Ken Boyd of Ceres suffering a broken wrist while warming the tires prior to the start of the Tri-Track feature when another car spun in front of him. Thomas Meseraull of San Jose was the initial leader in the Shell Oil event which ran smoothly for 10 laps when the yellow was displayed as Ryan Foster of Anderson and Greg Potts of Manteca got together off turn four with Burney Lamar of Sacramento gaining the lead at the flagstand. Lap-14 saw another yellow as Jeff Belletto of Modesto got turned in the second corner. As the cars came to the next green, Lamar and second place runner Jason Fensler of Wilton bumped with Fensler ending his night with a hard hit against the front straight wall. Buddy Dold of San Leandro got collected under Fensler as both cars dragged to a stop past the flagstand and out of the running. Lamar continued to hold the lead with Nathan Tucker of Sonora gaining second on lap-19. By lap-30, the Belletto gang--father Harry and son Steve, both of Modesto, had moved into the top-five. Tucker took the point on lap-34 with Steve Belletto coming to second and Harry to third as Lamar brought out a yellow after spinning on the back chute. Steve Belletto moved past Tucker on the 39th circuit as the event ran smoothly to lap-51 when another yellow was displayed for debris on the track. Bob Strandwold of Modesto caught fire under the yellow; and, although he was able to continue, cost him any chance at the win. Another pile-up occurred on the lap-54 re-start as Belletto chose the outside line with Tucker on the low side. Both spun off turn-two in front of the field leaving a seven car melee in their wake. John Gaalswyk of Ripon was the first back to the yellow to take the lead before a red flag was waved one lap later at 55 laps. The eventual winner David, who started 10th, moved into second on the 60th go-round and pressed Gaalswyk for 10 laps before taking the lead on lap-70. The event finally settled down and ran trouble free to the end with David picking up his first career 100-lap feature triumph in front of Tucker, Semi-main winner Mike Walker of North Highands, Gaalswyk and Ron Strmiska, Jr. of Manteca. The Grand American crashathon saw Bob Reichmuth of Manteca taking the early lead with two-division runner Jason Fensler running second. Lap-10 started a lap-by-lap yellow flag parade of spins, crashes and pile-ups producing seven yellows and a red flag through lap- l 7. Fensler led the final laps without yellows finishing ahead of Reichmuth, Walt Haas of Antioch, Cole Tiwater of Modesto and Robert Knittel of Lodi. Two races into the '98 season, Fensler and Knittel share the point lead just four points in front of defending champion Steve Stacy and Reichmuth. Thirteen cars took the first lap green for the Street Stock feature with a red flag halting the event before a single lap was completed when Stockton drivers Kannai Scantlen and Cary Treadway along with Erik Davidek of Wilton crashed into the back chute wall with Treadway's 1980 Cutlass getting airborne and on it's side. Once the field got underway again, defending division champion Jerry Tripp of Stockton took the lead and looked strong until getting hemmed in by lapped traffic on lap-six allowing Pete Anderson, Sr. to take the point. On the 14th circuit, Jerry Crawford of Stockton, who started 11th, got side-by-side with Anderson and powered by for the front slot. Crawford never looked back as he collected his third career win over Dan Dabbs of North Highlands, Dewayne Apedaile of Lodi, Anderson and Tripp. Gary Shafer, Jr. of Stockton cruised to a win in a wild 17-car Pure Stock semi-main, then made his presence felt in their 20-lap feature, as weld. C.W. Davis of Stockton was the initial main front-runner before surrendering to another Stockton pilot Kevin Touchstone on lap-eight. Touchstone was never headed as he crossed the finish line in front of Mark Mays of Stockton, Sam Solari of Salida, the hard charging Shafer and Jeff Lovelace of Stockton.


* The Late Model fast time honor went to Harry Belletto who parlayed that into a trophy dash win. The defending Late Model champion also ran well in the Shell Oil feature until brake problems ended his night. Mark Welch of Orangevale was the dash winner for the second straight time in the Grand American division. The Ultra Wheel Spec Trucks will make their first appearance at Stockton 99 Speedway Saturday, April 25. The program will also include Grand American Modifieds, Street Stocks and Pure Stocks on 99's Budweiser and Pontiac of Stockton sponsored quarter-mile paved oval. Gates open at 3:00 p.m. with qualifying set for 5:30 and green flag racing at 7:00. 99 Speedway is located at 410S N. Wilson Way, a quarter-mile west of Highway 99.