(STOCKTON, CA--August 9, 1998)--Ron Strmiska, Sr, of Manteca had reason to smile Saturday night after posting his 30th Late Model Sportsman career victory and first in nearly a year at NASCAR-sanctioned Stockton 99 Speedway. The 57-year old former two-time track champion topped a 17-car field and picked up the $1,000 first place money in the Lagorio Communications 50.
Starting third, Strmiska caught early leader Greg Anderson of Roseville on lap-five before the first of five yellows came out on the next circuit when John Wood of Walnut Creek spun in the first corner. Strmiska held off the challenge of defending LMS champion Harry Belletto of Modesto through lap-32 when John Gaalswyk of Ripon, second in the '98 point chase, passed Belletto and took his shot at the leader. The crafty veteran was able to weave his way through lapped traffic and keep Gaalswyk at bay while Wood was able to come from the back of the pack and pass Belletto for third. Harry's son Jeff, also of Modesto, rounded out the top five with current point leader and dash winner Ken Boyd of Ceres ending up sixth.
The four-position difference between Gaalswyk and Boyd enabled Gaalswyk to gain eight valuable points in their pursuit of the Winston short-track Series title. Boyd who is seeking a fifth track championship, now leads the Ripon runner by four (642-638).
The Winston Racing Series Grand American action saw outside pole sitter Jason Philpot of Sacramento take the initial lead seeking to add his first career feature win to earlier heat and dash triumphs. A series of spins and crashes slowed the action laps eight-through-10 and was culminated when season point leader Mark Welch of Orangevale, running inside in third place at the time, collided with outside runner Robert Knittel of Lodi exiting turn four. Knittel smashed hard into the front straightaway wall with Welch folding around Knittel's front-end and doing a slow roll-over at the start-finish line. Both cars received serious damage and were wreckered from the track.
On the re-start, it was Philpot7 Jason Fensler of Wilton and Ben Lewis of Manteca--with Fensler working low and under Philpot on lap-19 before taking the lead on the next circuit. Two more yellows slowed the 30-lap affair before Fensler got the checkered flag for his fifth feature triumph of the season. Philpot hung on for second followed by two Stockton drivers, Jason Kerby and Danny Contessotto, with semi-main winner Teresa Morten of Manteca completing the top-five. Fensler, who crashed and lost several points to Welch the week prior, took advantage of the role reversal and gained some ground back and now trails the leader by 18 (952-934).
Perhaps taking his cue from the Kid's Night activity, 1 9-year old Jason Beltrama of Stockton had a perfect night in the Street Stock division--recording his first career heat, dash and feature wins all on the same night. Starting on the pole, Beltrama took the lead on the green flag and never looked back. Defending division champion Jerry Tripp of Stockton came to second on lap-17, but had nothing left for the fast running Beltrama--fading to eighth on the final lap as he cut a tire and ended his night in a shower of sparks.
When the checkered flag was waved, behind Beltrama was a trio of Stockton drivers-Cary Treadway, David Stricklin and Pete Anderson, Sr. with season point leader Dan Dabbs rounding out the top-five. Dabbs' point lead over Treadway is 26 (772-746)
Stockton's Barry Mitchell appeared to have the Charterway Auto Recyclers Pure Stock feature well in hand before the only yellow of the 25-lapper was displayed on lap-20. Unfortunately, on the ensuing re-start, Mitchell was hit from behind and turned into the front-straight wall poking a hole in his radiator eliminating his shot at the victory. Joe Hylton of Manteca led briefly but bowed to defending champion Doug Lane of Stockton. At the checkered, it was Lane for his second '98 feature victory--followed by Hylton, Angelo Queirolo of Lathrop, Adam Ramsdell of San Jose and Guy Guibor of Manteca.
Two Stockton pilots--Joe Allen and Jeff Lovelace--are one-two in the Pure Stock point chase (740-708) with Salida's Sam Solari another 10 points back in third.
The BCRA Midgets will make their third Stockton 99 Speedway appearance this coming Saturday (8/15). BCRA point leader Terry Tarditi of Lodi registered his second asphalt win of the season last week at Lakeport; but is still seeking his first on Stockton's quarter-mile paved oval. Nick Geranio of San Ramon, a first-time winner July 25th at Stockton, will try to make it two in a row. The BCRA field is also expected to include a pair of San Carlos' competitors-- veteran Floyd Alves and second generation Chad Nichols, a three-time winner at Stockton in '97.
The program will also focus on a trio of tight season point chases at Stockton 99 including the Winston Racing Series Grand American Modifieds where Mark Welch of Orangevale leads Jason Fensler of Wilton by 18-points. In the Street Stocks, North Highlands' Dan Dabbs leads Cary Treadway of Stockton by 26; while Joe Allen is 32-points in front of fellow Stockton driver Jeff Lovelace in the Pure Stock division.
Ticket gates will open at 3:00 p.m. with qualifying set for 5:30 and green flag racing at 7:00. Adult tickets cost $10 with children six-to-12 and senior citizens over 65 being admitted for four-dollars. 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.