BELLETTO SETS MARK; WELCH NEARS ONE AT STOCKTON 99
(STOCKTON, CAAugust 22, 1999)Saturday nights NASCAR-sanctioned action at Stockton 99 Speedway had something for everyone. History was made when veteran Late Model driver Harry Belletto won his second straight feature to pass Dan Reed for second place on the all-time victory list. And, in the Grand American Modifieds, Mark Welch won his fourth in a row and is on the verge of creating some new history. Belletto, of Modesto, now has 64 lifetime wins and only trails five-time Late Model champion Ken Boyd, who is atop the leader board with 71. For Welch, one more win in the next three weeks would clinch the Winston Racing Series Pacific Coast Region championshipan honor that would earn the Orangevale driver more than $40,000.
Twenty-two cars were on the grid for the 30-lap Grand American feature that saw pole sitter Paul Henry of Groveland jump in front and run the race of his life. Four yellows in the first 10 laps slowed the pace as Henry survived while the shuffling behind him was extensive. After starting seventh, Welch was third after the first caution on lap-two. Another yellow on lap-four allowed Welch to re-start in second, followed by Dan Dabbs of North Highlands, and two Jasons from Stockton--fast timer and dash winner Kerby and Beltrama.
Henry put on a game fight to hold off Welch until two back-to-back yellows halted the action on laps-nine and 10. Welch played the re-start green to his advantage and took the lead down the backchute, with Kerby coming to second on lap-12. Lap-14 saw a yellow as Beltrama and Dabbs tangled in turn-two, with the re-start consisting of Welch, Henry, and another Jason--Philpot of Sacramento and Kerby. Only two more "go-slow" flags were waved as Welch sailed home the winner for the 24th time in his Stockton career and for the 10th time in 20 99 starts.
Welch was chased to the checkered by Philpot, who finished second ahead of early leader Paul T. Henry. Unrelated Doug Henry of Antioch was fourth with Kerby completing the top-five. Welchs season point lead over Kerby is now 90 (1090-1000) with only three races left before NASCAR region competition concludes September 12.
Bellettos history making run came in a 50-lap feature with 15 cars. Stockton's John Graham was the first lap leader with a three-car melee coming about on the second lap in turn-two, that allowed sixth and eighth-place starters John Gaalswyk of Ripon and Ron Strmiska, Jr., of Manteca to re-start in second and third. Gaalswyk took the point on the next pass with Strmiska following into second one go-round later. Two more quick yellows fell on laps eight and nine followed by a long charge of clean laps that saw 55-year old Harry come to third on lap-12. His charge was thwarted temporarily, though, on lap-28, when track officials ruled he was responsible for spinning second place runner Strmiska with both re-starting from the back.
The worst wreck of the evening took place on the 30th-pass as Bob Wood of Auburn drifted up into Ceres driver Mike Ledbetter on the backchute. Ledbetter got two wheels on the wall while cars scattered to avoid the conflict. Damage was sustained by Mike Mueller of Woodbridge, Steve Hernandez of Stockton and Modesto's Brian Smith.
The re-start included Gaalswyk, two Belletto sons--Steve of Modesto and brother Jeff of Salida, Buzz Devore of Stockton and early leader Graham in the top-five. By lap-36, "Papa" Harry was back to fourth, third on lap-38, and second on lap-40. The final yellow came on lap-41, with the senior Belletto grabbing the lead on the next pass. He crossed in front of Gaalswyk, son Jeff Belletto, fast timer and dash winner Strmiska and son Steve.
For the season, Gaalswyk holds a 102-point margin (646-544) over Strmiska with Harry Belletto now third at 406.
The 25-lap Street Stock feature produced a first-time winnerJoe Hylton of Manteca. Marc Borges of Banta led early with Hylton taking control on lap-11. Fast timer Scott Chappell of Lodi settled into second and did his best to overcome Hylton, but the 34-year old second year driver was able to hang on for his first ever checkered flag. Borges finished third ahead of Jerry Crawford and dash winner Cary Treadway, both of Stockton. Treadway still leads Chappell in the season standings by 110 (1098-988).
Pete Anderson, Jr. of Stockton made a runaway of the popular Pure Stock main event. After starting on the outside of the front row, Anderson was never headed as the remaining 19-drivers fought for position. Doug Lane of Stockton was in fourth by lap-eight, and third by lap-10. The 30-lap affairs only yellow was displayed on lap-18 with Lane moving to second three laps later. Dash winner Danny Guibor of Manteca slipped into the third slot on lap-25; but it was to no avail as Anderson eased home for his second triumph in three weeks. He was followed to the checkered by Lane, Guibor, Joe Stearns of Stockton and Albert Silva of Denair.
Lanes second place effort enabled him to gain on season point leader Guy Guibor of Manteca. Lane now trails by only 14 points (1040-1026).
Mark Welch will continue his pursuit of the Winston Racing Series Pacific Coast Region championship at Stockton 99 Speedway this coming Saturday, August 28. The NASCAR-sanctioned action will include Grand American Modifieds, Street Stocks and Pure Stocks plus a final season appearance of the Ultra-Wheel Spec Trucks.
Ticket gates will open at 3:00 p.m. with qualifying set for 5:00 and green flag racing at 6:00. Adult tickets will be $12. Children six-to-12 and seniors over 65 will be admitted for four dollars. A family tickettwo adults and two childrenwill cost $28.
Stockton 99 Speedway is located at 4105 N. Wilson Way, a quarter-mile west of Highway 99.
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