WELCH TOPS GRAND AM ACTION AT STOCKTON 99
(STOCKTON, CA--April 26, 1998)--When Grand American Modifieds were selected over the winter to be the premier NASCAR-Sanctioned Winston Racing Series division at Stockton 99 Speedway, there was much anticipation as to whom might participate during the 1998 racing season. Now, after three events, the points standings feature three former champions at the top and a host of challengers not far off the pace. Mark Welch of Orangevale--a veteran of many northern California tracks, won for the second time Saturday night and is now sandwiched in the standings between 1997 Altamont Raceway front-runner Jason Fensler and defending 99 crown winner Steve Stacy.
Walt Haas of Antioch brought the 19-car feature field to it's first green and took the early lead over outside pole starter Cole Tiwater of Modesto. Fensler of Wilton, the fast timer and dash winner, and Stacy of Stockton got in trouble early by scraping together off turn-four with both taking quick trips to the infield under the yellow and re-starting at the back. On the 10th go-round, Welch, who started seventh, took the lead by a nose with Haas coming back on the following circuit to lead by the same scant distance. A yellow for action in turn-two on lap-14 allowed Welch to gain the lead for good with Stacy sliding to fourth. Another yellow four laps later involving four cars ended the night for Robert Knittel of Lodi as he came to rest against the back chute wall. On the re-start, it was Welch, Haas, Bob Reichmuth of Manteca and Stacy with the latter gaining third on lap-22.
A lap-26 re-start saw Haas go low into turn-one in an attempt to hold off Stacy behind the leader only to have both cars get together and spin in front of the oncoming field. Victor Machado of Escalon actually got airborne as he drove over Haas as six cars were collected in the melee. Fensler benefited the most as he drove around the carnage to move back into the top five. Welch held the point the final three laps to collect the $500 first place money in front of Reichmuth, Fensler, Stacy and Danny Contessotto of Stockton. Fensler, at 160, leads the season point standings by 16 over Welch with Stacy (140) and Reichmuth (136) not far off the pace.
The evening also featured the first of four season appearances for the Ultra Wheel Spec Trucks on 99's Budweiser and Pontiac of Stockton quarter-mile paved oval. The 75-lap, 17 truck feature produced a nip and tuck battle that had the fans applauding at the end. The race produced seven yellows and ten lead changes between three drivers. The early leader was Timothy Woods of Chino, who bowed on lap-nine to Steve Smith of Escondido. Smith and Jon Nelson of Hemet then swapped places nine times over the remaining 66 laps. Nelson posted a track record qualifying lap of 14.666, won the trophy dash and lead the feature for the final time on lap-71 before Smith took the checkered flag. Smith and Nelson were chased by Greg Tracy of Long Beach, Jeremiah Robins of La Jolla and Steve Subith of Hemet.
Defending champion Jerry Tripp of Stockton had a night to remember in the Street Stock division. Dewayne Apedaile of Lodi was the early leader in the 25-lap affair with Tripp taking the point on lap-four as another Stockton competitor Jerry Crawford eased into second a lap later. After winning last week, Crawford had already won the dash and was primed for his second straight feature victory. Crawford passed Tripp on the 11th circuit with Dan Dabbs of North Highlands taking third a lap later. Crawford's night ended early, however, on lap-18 as he suffered a flat tire with Tripp regaining the lead looking for a career record tying 21st feature triumph. Tripp's luck went sour, though, when--after taking the white flag--he charged down the back chute and noticed the Winston scoreboard showing 25 laps. Thinking the race was over, Tripp slowed in turn-four only to see Pete Anderson, Sr. of Stockton and Dabbs stone by to the checkered flag. Tripp hung on to finish third ahead of Cary Treadway and Apedaile. Afterward, Tripp was philosophical: "Hey, there's nobody to blame but myself. I know you're supposed to race to the checkered flag. I know it's not the first time it has happened, and it probably won't be the last." When told that Winston Cup driver Mark Martin had done it in a Busch Grand National event, Tripp said: "That's not bad company to be in. I know it cost him a hell of a lot more money than it did me."
Several rookie arums from Stockton's dirt Delta Speedway continued to make impressions in the Pure Stock division. Two-time champion Guy Guibor of Manteca captured the trophy dash. He also led the feature from his third place starting position before succumbing to Sam Solari of Salida on lap- I 1. Solari was never headed as he posted his first career asphalt win ahead of a quartet of Stockton drivers--fast timer Mark Mays, Jeff Lovelace, Kevin Touchstone and Kannai Scantlen.
Late Model Sportsman return to Stockton 99 Speedway this Saturday with the running of a 50-lap main event sponsored by Lagorio Communications. In addition to Late Models, the program will also include Grand American Modifieds, the initial 1998 appearance of the BCRA Midgets and Street Stocks.
NASCAR-Sanctioned Winston Racing Series action will begin at 7:00 p.m. Time trials for the Lagorio Communications 50 will begin at 5:30, Adult tickets cost $10, four for children six-to-12 with those under six getting in free. A family ticket--two adults and two children--will be available for $25.
Stockton 99 Speedway is located at 4105 N. Wilson Way, a quarter-mile west of Highway 99.