PETTIT TRI-HOLIDAY WINNER; WELCH BLESSED AT STOCKTON
(STOCKTON, CAMay 28, 2000) --- Near perfect Memorial Day Holiday weather, a large car count and a seasons best crowd added up to a winning combination Saturday night at Stockton 99 Speedway. Jim Pettit II of Salinas led every lap in capturing the first leg of the Sixth Annual NAPA Auto Parts sponsored Tri-Holiday Classic for Late Models; and "luck" played a huge role as Orangevales Mark Welch won his seventh straight Grand American Modified feature.
By virtue of winning the four car, four lap trophy dash, Harry Belletto of Modesto held the pole position for the 100-lap Tri-Holiday event that marked the return of two-time track champion Dave Byrd to 99 Speedways NASCAR-sanctioned quarter-mile paved oval. Byrd did not disappoint in the Tim Gillit owned Monte Carlo, qualifying fourth; but it was Pettit who surged to the front from his outside front row starting spot and never looked back in posting his first ever Stockton 99 100-lap feature triumph.
The first of four-yellows fell on the fourth go-round as first-time Stockton runner Ruben Guerin of Oakley lost his motor in turn-four. Fast qualifier Kevin Gottula of Modesto pulled by Belletto to second on lap-eight as the event ran trouble free through the 25th lap before a series of yellows slowed the action. One of the problems led to the early departure of Byrd on lap-31. Coming to the green on a re-start, Gottula was tapped from behind and spun into the middle of the oncoming pack and in the process Byrd, now residing in Pacific Grove, took a hard hit into the first turn wall.
Once the green flag was displayed again, it was Pettit, Harry Belletto, Greg Potts, Jeff Belletto and Ron Strmiska, Jr., as the cars fell into single-file smooth racing to a yellow on lap-59 when the rear end of Tony Schmitzs racer fell off on the back chute. The action got intense over the next 30-laps as the drivers behind Pettit vied for the top spot. Potts moved past Belletto for second on lap-64 and was quickly followed by Strmiska and Steve Belletto as it appeared the senior Belletto was beginning to lose his tires. A late-race yellow fell on the 89th-circuit as Strmiska got spun in turn-two with Steve Belletto being held to blame and getting a pass to the rear of the "up" for the final 10 laps.
Pettit never wavered as he pulled away and crossed ahead of Potts, Ceres Ken Boyd, a fast returning Steve Belletto and two-time track champion David Philpott of Tracy. Pettit collected $2,035 of the nearly $10,000 purse and is now tied for third with Troy Ermish of Fremont in the Stockton 99 point chase behind Steve Belletto and Strmiska. With passing points a factor, Pettit enjoys only a half-point lead over Potts in pursuit of the Tri-Holiday title. The second leg of the NAPA Auto Parts trilogy will take place Saturday, July 1.
Barry Callouette did everything he could to win the Grand American Modified main, but racing luck played a huge part in his losing and Welch winning for the seventh straight time. A 22-car field was lined up in a total invert with Callouette on the pole. The Benicia pilot led for 24 laps in the scheduled 30-lapper that was marred by six yellow flags from laps nine through 18. In between the "cool it" flags, Welch, who started 15th, made steady progress finally coming to second by lap-16. All of the yellows raised concerns regarding fuel as two more yellows slowed the action and the chance for Callouette to post his first career win. As luck would have it, Callouettes mount coasted to a halt in turn-three on lap-24 out of fuel. Welch came around to a checkered yellow on lap-25 and was honest in assessing his seventh straight victory. "It was big-time luck," he said. "I would have been satisfied with second. I had nothing left and it was his race."
Semi-main winner and first-time Stockton runner Chris Wadsworth made an impressive debut. After transferring, the Oakley driver finished second followed by Stockton drivers Danny Contessotto and Steve Stacy with fast qualifier Jason Philpot of Sacramento claiming fifth. For the first time in eight events, Sacramentos Tony Silva finished out of the top-10 at 11th. As a result, Silva now trails Welch in the season point chase by 29 (460-431).
Mike Monez of Lodi grabbed the early lead in the 25-lap Pro Stock feature and became his own worst enemy as he spun out of contention on the 9th-circuit giving the lead to Stockton driver Pete Anderson, Jr. Season point leader Cary Treadway of Stockton slid into the second spot and the two battled to the end with a checkered-yellow on lap-24. Anderson, however, was later disqualified for not properly registering his tires before the race. Thus, Treadway inherited his fourth feature triumph of the season ahead of Jason White of Lodi, Mantecas Joe Hylton, Doyal Moen of Modesto and Jason Fisher of Ripon.
Treadway leads the season point battle by 53 over Hylton (401-348) with three other driversScott Chappell, Johnny Berndt and Jerry Crawfordall bunced within 20 points.
The nights four division program was concluded by a quick 30-lap I.B. Benedict Pure Stock feature that produced only one yellow flag. Mike Graham of Manteca took the initial lead and never looked back in registering his first-ever main event win. Former Pure Stock champion Doug Lane of Stockton made a brief run at Graham, but settled for second in front of Tracy Bolin of Valley Springs and the Guibor brothers of MantecaDanny and Guy.
Guy, the divisions defending champion, leads Stocktons Jeff Lovelace in the season point standings (403-382) with brother Danny third at 340.
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Saturday, June 3, Stockton 99 Speedway will feature three NASCAR divisionsGrand American Modifieds, Pro Stocks and I..B. Benedict Pure Stocks. The four division program will also include Legendsfive-eights scale model 1938 to 1940 Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford coupes and sedans.
Ticket gates will open at 3:00 p.m. with qualifying set for 5:00 and green flag racing at 6:00.
Adult tickets cost $12, eight for students 13-to-17 and seniors over 65, four dollars for children six-to-12. Children under six get in free.
Stockton 99 Speedway is located at 4105 N. Wilson Way, a quarter-mile west of Highway 99.
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