SURPRISE LATE MODEL WINNER IN STOCKTON 99 FINALE
(STOCKTON, CASeptember 26, 1999)The theme was "come early and stay late" as venerable Stockton 99 Speedway ended its 53rd season with a six division extravaganza Saturday night sponsored by Napa Auto Parts. With three regular NASCAR classes--Grand American Modifieds, Late Models and Street Stocksas well as BCRA Midgets, Legends, and a Powder Puff event in addition to fireworks, the program more than lived up to the theme. The ticket gates opened at 1:30 p.m. and the final checkered flag was waved nearly 12-hours later. Along the way, the program produced victories by three favoritesPacific Coast Region champion Mark Welch in Grand Ams, Cary Treadway in Street Stocks and Randy Radeuchel in the Legends--and a pair of surprise triumphs for visiting Kenny Ferris of DuPont, Washington in the Midgets and Jim Fair in the Late Models.
Fairs win was his first-ever and came against a field that included 99 champion John Gaalswyk, two-time former champ Harry Belletto, second generation stalwart Ron Strmiska, Jr. and up-and-coming Jason Fensler. Buzz Devore of Stockton was the initial leader of the 30-lapper with a quick yellow falling on lap-two as John Wood of Walnut Creek stalled in turn-two. Devore held forth for four more laps before spinning in front of Belletto on lap-six. Then, it was Belletto, Strmiska, Gaalswyk and Fensler and something had to give.
Strmiska slipped under Belletto on lap-12 on the front-chute entering turn-one and exited turn-two in the lead; only to have Gaalswyk follow suit on Belletto down the back stretch. Gaalswyk tried to get under Strmiska getting into turn-three only to collide and grind to a halt off the bottom of the track--both relegated to the pits. That left it to Belletto and Fensler, who ran one-two until Belletto spun out of the lead on lap-22. NASCAR officials determined that Bellettos spin was the result of being hit by Fensler and both ended up at the back of the field.
All of a sudden, it was Fair of Modesto--who goes by "Jim-Bo"--in the lead and being chased by two other non-winners, Devore and fellow Stockton pilot, Brian Griffitts. The three stayed strong and finished in front of the fast-closing Fensler and Belletto. The win for "Jim-Bo" paid $1,000, plus a $100 bonus from Napa Auto Parts.
The Grand American 30-lapper produced a series of accidents and yellow flags that started on the first lap as pole sitter Danny Contessoto of Stockton got squeezed from behind coming to the green. Contessotto, in turn, was hit by Scott Winters of Tracy and Modestos Eddie Wilcox, setting up a re-start. When the green was waved again, Lodi pilot Robert Knittel took the point with incoming point leader Mark Welch of Orangevale hot on his trail. Jason Kerby of Stockton worked his way to the lead on the fifth lap with Welch hanging onto second. A solo spin by Wilcox on lap-13 drew another yellow. As the cars slowed at the flag stand, Kerby was bumped and suffered a cut tire forcing him to pit and re-start at the rear.
Four laps and one yellow later with Welch leading, Kerby again suffered a cut tire. A red flag came out on the 20th circuit as Knittel, Welchs son Shane, also of Orangevale, and Stocktons Steve Stacy locked up going into the first turn. One more yellow fell on lap-23 but the senior Welch--the newly crowned NASCAR Region champion--capped his season with his 12th feature win in 24 starts. Welch was followed across the line by Robert Miller of Gardnerville, Nevada, Knittel, Jason Beltrama of Stockton and Kerby. In winning his first Stockton 99 title, Welch ended up with a 100-margin over Kerby (1354-1254).
The Street Stock action saw the initial lead go to Joe Hylton of Manteca with Lodi driver Scott Chappell pulling from fourth to second on the first lap. Newly crowned division champion Cary Treadway of Stockton worked his way to third and was pressing Chappell on lap-eight when Hylton and Chappell bobbled, enabling Treadway to move to the front. Only a single yellow slowed the pace, as Treadway never looked back. At the checkered, it was Treadway, Hylton, Chappell, Knittel of Lodidoing double-dutyand the nights fast timer Jerry Crawford of Stockton. The win by Treadway, was his 13th in 23 starts. The victory total ties him with Paul Guthmiller of Manteca for the divisions all-time single season record set in 1993.
Seventeen cars were on hand for the BCRA Midgets final show of their six-event Stockton series. Scott Dupont of Santa Rosa led early before bowing to Thomas Meseraull of San Jose on lap-11. Meseraull was forced to pit with overheating problems under a yellow on lap-25, giving the lead to Kenny Ferris, who made the long haul from DuPont, Washington. Ferris brought it home a winner ahead of Sterling Pratz of Mill Valley, who survived an early spin to return to second in front of Terry Tarditi of Lodi, Matt Streeter of Salt Lake City, Utah. and Dupont. Pratz second-place effort enabled him to win the Stockton 99 BCRA championship.
The 5/8th scale Legends also helped to close the season with their fourth Stockton appearance. Rick Andrews of Santa Clara led early, with incoming point leader Randy Raduechel of Oakdale charging from mid-pack to the second slot on lap-six. He moved to the front on the next go-round as the event ran non-yellow. Raduechels win earned him the 99 Speedway season championship. Andrews hung in for second ahead of fast timer Joey Zampa of Napa, heat winner Bob Johnson of Hollister and Rob Lathrop of San Jose.
A field of 32 novice women drivers answered the call for the Speedways annual Powder Puff race with 20 taking the green flag for their 25-lap feature. Thelma Bolin of Valley Springs led early but gave way to hard charging Angie Heffner of Morada. Heffner, however, tagged the front straight wall and collected three other cars in the process. Tory Sanchez of Stockton came home in front of CeresKathy Williams and early leader Bolin.
Stockton 99 will wind up the current season with its annual 250-lap Enduro event this coming Saturday. A field of more than 30 cars is expected to run 125 laps in each direction on a track slickened by soap and water. The Enduro will be followed by a rollover contest.
Ticket gates will open at 5:00 p.m. with green flag racing set for 7:00. Adult tickets for the Enduro will cost $12 with children six-to-12 and seniors over 65 being 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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