(STOCKTON, CA--August 2, 1998)--Troy Ermish had a night to remember at Stockton 99 Speedway Saturday when he registered his first-ever NASCAR-sanctioned Late Model Sportsman victory. The 31-year old Fremont driver started on the pole and fought off several challenges in winning the seventh race of the Shell Tri-Track Challenge series. In all, 31 Late Models were on hand to vie for the coveted 20 starting positions on Stockton's quarter-mile paved oval.
Ermish gained the pole when the invert for the 100-lapper was set at 10. He grabbed the lead off the get-go and held firm through a series of early-race yellow flags and one red. The first caution came when defending track champion Harry Belletto of Modesto spun in turn one on lap-three. The re-start saw Ermish dogged by Greg Potts of Manteca and current Stockton point leader Ken Boyd of Ceres, with Boyd going to second on lap-six. A red flag was displayed on lap-10 when the mount of Kingsburg's Mike Swanson was engulfed in flames off turn-two when his power steering system broke. Fortunately, after being pushed into the pits, Swanson was able to continue and wrestle along without the power steering.
A lap-12 spin by Ron Strmiska, Jr. collected fellow Manteca driver Potts; and, during the resulting yellow, Bob Strandwold of Modesto went to the pits to replace a flat tire sending all three to the back of the field. The race re-started with Boyd chasing Ermish followed by a trio of Modesto pilots--Tri-Track point leader Mike David, his teammate Mike Ledbetter and Kevin Gottula. Lap-27 saw Gottula begin to smoke and lose ground to the leaders as David passed Boyd for second on lap-36. That was short-lived, however, as David spun out off turn-four coming to the start-finish on lap-39 falling to the back of the pack.
Boyd was back in second; but couldn't get past Ermish. The four-time Stockton 99 champion eventually succumbed to pressure applied by Mike Walker of North Highlands, who moved past Boyd for second on lap-63. It was full bore ahead from that point as the event ran trouble free to the checkered with Ermish picking up the $2,000 first place money ahead of Walker. Dash winner Strmiska bounced back for third, followed by fast qualifier John Gaalswyk of Ripon and Strandwold. The Shell Series point leader David was sixth and still holds a 12-point lead over Strandwold with three events to go--the next, August 29 at Madera Speedway.
Gaalswyk's fourth-place finish enabled him to gain precious points in the Stockton 99 points chase as Boyd faded to 12th. As a result, Boyd's lead over Gaalswyk is just 12 (596-584).
A field of 19 cars took the green flag for the Winston Racing Series Grand American Modified feature, but things turned ugly off the start as six cars piled up coming off turn-two. As a result, Jason Philpot of Sacramento was sidelined with division point leaders Mark Welch of Orangevale and Jason Fensler of Wilton re-starting from the back. Defending division champion Steve Stacy of Stockton was able to avoid the melee crossing the start-finish in third after starting sixth. Lodi's Robert Knittel paced the field to the next green as Stacy moved to second on lap-six and to the lead on lap-eight.
A red flag flew on lap-17 as Fensler apparently blew an engine and spun into the turn-three wall collecting Stockton drivers Jason Kerby and Johnny Unger in the process. Fensler was taken to a local hospital and checked out and later returned to the track. The re-start saw Stacy ahead of Knittel, Danny Contessotto of Stockton, Modesto's Cole Tiwater and a fast returning Welch. The final outcome was still in doubt as trophy dash winner Welch came to fourth on lap-19 and third on lap-21, but was unable to get past Knittel settling for third at the checkered. Tiwater and Contessotto completed the top five.
Fensler's 17th place finish enabled Welch to stretch his season point lead to 44 (926-882) with Stacy's second main event victory leaving him third at 826.
Joe Stearns was the initial leader in the 18-car Pure Stocks feature. However, the Stockton pilot bowed to another Stockton driver Jeff Lovelace on lap-five. Lovelace, in turn, gave way to Orville Dahl on the next circuit. Dahl, also from Stockton, held on for nine laps before spinning in turn-two and being rammed by Manteca's John Hylton. Lovelace then took over and posted his second straight main event victory. Next in line came Adam Ramsdale of San Jose with his best career finish to date, two Stockton drivers--defending division champion Doug Lane and fast timer Joe Allen--and rookie Guy Guibor of Manteca.
Allen's effort enabled him to take a 20-point lead in the season standings over Sam Solari of Salida (700-680) with Lovelace third at 676.
Legends were the fourth division for the night's action and produced a new track record for a single lap by Joey Zampa of Napa. Their 17-car feature saw Jim Klopp of South Lake Tahoe lead the first lap with a wild eight-car skirmish taking place off turn-four that ended the night for seven of the 5/8-scale 1934 to 1940 Ford, Chevy and Dodge coupes or sedans. Zampa, after starting 13th, was able to make his way through the carnage and assume the lead. He was pursued by Randy Raduechel of Oakdale, who moved to second on lap-five. The two then conducted their own private battle as the event ran non-yellow from that point to the checkered flag. Zampa registered his first career Stockton win--followed by Raduechel, who survived a perfect 360 on the front straight on lap-26, Doug Rocha of Oakdale, Robert Lamb of Manteca, and Teague Williams of Ridgecrest. The trophy dash win went to Mike Sullivan of Sacramento.
Next Saturday is Kids' Night at NASCAR-sanctioned Stockton 99 Speedway and will feature a program of Late Models, Grand American Modifieds and Street and Pure Stocks.
Ticket gates will open at 3:00 p.m. with Kids' Nights activities--big wheel racing on the front stretch--set for 5:30 and green nag racing at 7:00.
Adult tickets will be available for $10 with children six-to-12 and seniors over 65 four dollars. A family ticket--two adults and two children--will cost $25.
Stockton 99 Speedway is located at 4105 N. Wilson Way, a quarter-mile west of Highway 99.