MIKE DAVID NEW SHELL TRI-TRACK SERIES LEADER
(STOCKTON, CA--May 23, 1998)--A late race pass by Mike David over his Ceres based employer Ken Boyd Saturday night enabled the Modesto driver to register his second Shell Oil Tri-Track Challenge victory in three starts at Stockton 99 Speedway and assume the lead in the $130,000 10-race series. David topped a 20-car field in the NASCAR-sanctioned event that comprises 100-lap starts at Altamont Racoway Park and Madera Speedway, as well as Stockton 99. Despite several racing accident delays, a crowd in excess of 2,500 enthusiastically responded to David's lap-93 pass of Boyd that earned the winner $2,000 and an eight-point lead over erstwhile series leader Nathan Tucker of Sonora, who finished fifth.
Steve Belletto's California Hot Wood Monte Carlo was on the pole when the first green flag was displayed but gave way to fellow Modesto driver Bob Strandwold on the opening lap. A major red flag pileup occurred on the fourth go-round when Troy Ermish of Fremont, running near the front, momentarily slowed on the front straight and was tapped from behind by John Gaalswyk of Ripon. Gaalswyk, in turn, was over run by veteran Harry Belletto who was running full tilt. The collision forced Belletto onto the venerable Speedway's new retaining wall and when he returned to the asphalt driving surface his Monte Carlo was sitting atop Gaalswyk's mount. Both were heavily damaged and forced to the sidelines early.
Strandwold was able to hold forth until spinning on his own on lap-13 in front of the oncoming field. Although no contact was made, Strandwold found himself at the back of the pack with Belletto (Steve) assuming the lead with Boyd in second. The two enjoyed a slight margin at the front until another red flag was displayed on lap-36 when John Wood of Walnut Creek hit some oil and spun in turn-three and collected six other cars--including Burney Lamar of Sacramento, Jeff Belletto, the youngest of the Belletto clan, Ceres' Mike Ledbetter, Mike Walker of North Highlands and semi-main winner Kevin Gottula of Modesto in the process. The time it took to clean the track was a benefit to all but Wood and Lamar who were forced to retire.
Belletto and Boyd continued to breeze past the event's half-way point. By lap-62, Strandwold was back to fifth trailing Belletto, Boyd, David and Errnish. A re-start following a spin by Stockton's Brent Seitz saw Ermish drop back with Strandwold moving to fourth with Ron Strmiska, Jr. of Manteca grabbing fifth. Boyd got under Belletto on lap-74 and moved past a lap later with David, a Boyd employee, moving into second on lap-79.
A final yellow was displayed on lap-91 when Gottula and Walker made contact on the front straight with Gottula tackling the turn-one retaining wall ending his night. That set up a final few laps battle that saw employee David get under Boyd on the re-start and assume the lead one lap later. The win was David's second straight 100-lapper at Stockton. Afterward, Boyd, the employer, was asked if David still had a job. The response was as might be expected: "Yes, but I'm not sure if he'll like being a janitor."
Initially, the top-five finish was David, Boyd, Strmiska, Jr., Strandwold and Ermish; however a post-race disqualification put Tucker fifth. David now leads Tucker and Strmiska, Jr. by eight points (146-138), with two Belletto's (Steve and Harry), Mike Swanson, of Fresno, Strandwold and Walker all within striking distance heading into the next Shell event sponsored by Paul Oil Co. at Altamont on June 6.
The premiere division Grand American Modifieds put on a 30-lap feature that resembled a Joey Chitwood thrill show. Manteca's Bob Reichmuth was the early leader before giving way to fast qualifier and trophy dash winner Steve Stacy of Stockton. A six-car pile-up in the first corner on lap-five brought out a red flag, only to see an instant replay on the ensuing re-start. Stacy was chased by Orangevale's Mark Welch until the two collided while overcoming lapped traffic on lap-13. Stacy ended up in the turn-one wall, with season point leader Jason Fensler of Wilton inheriting the lead. It was non-stop then to the end with Fensler registering his third feature triumph, with Welch second followed by Tony Silva of Sacramento, Cole Tiwater of Modesto and Danny Contessotto of Stockton. Fenlser maintains a 26-point (378-352) lead over Welch in the season point standings with Stacy, the defending champion, another 28 back in third. Defending Street Stock champion Jerry Tnpp of Stockton finally returned to the winner's circle, tying him with current Grand Am competitor Steve Stacy at the top of the career win list at 21. Tripp passed Pete Anderson, Sr. of Stockton on lap-25, then held off North Highlands' Dan Dabbs and Anderson at the checkered flag. Modesto's Greg Albiani and Scott Chappell of Lodi enjoyed their best career efforts at fourth and fifth. Dabbs leads the current point chase by 50 (286-236) over Cary Treadway of Stockton, who registered his fourth fast qualifying effort and first trophy dash win of the year. A scheduled 20-lap Super Mini-Cup car event was reduced to 15 laps when the 18-car field produced a crash-marred, three red-flag performance on 99's Budweiser and "The Right Place" Pontiac of Stockton quarter-mile paved oval. The worst of the three reds took place on the eighth lap when Rick Ruzbarsky of Livermore crashed nearly head-on into the fourth turn pit gate, producing a jam-up that saw another Livennore pilot, Carl Winkler, get knocked on his side, hit from behind, and spun like a top in the center of the track. Fortunately, none of the Mini-Cuppers were hurt beyond bumps and bruises. Turlock's James Wnght was the eventual wmner with Jason White of Stockton finishing second ahead of Dennis Ortolan of Modesto, Bill Barrett, Jr. of Tracy and Brian Bettencourt of Modesto.
99 Speedway will host another 100-lap Late Model Sportsman feature Saturday, May 30, as part of the Fourth Annual Tri-Holiday Classic sponsored by Budweiser, I.B. Benedict of Galt, Stockton and Modesto, and Raybestos, the official brake of NASCAR.
Grandstand seating will open at 2:30 p.m. with time trials set for 5:30 and green flag racing at 7:00 p.m.
Stockton 99 Speedway is located at 4105 N. Wilson Way, a quarter-mile west of Highway 99. ,