STEVE BELLETTO REIGNS AT STOCKTON
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 5-5-01
BY: JIM SHIELS
Mother Nature finally allowed the NASCAR Sanctioned, C.L. Bryant/Union 76 gasoline sponsored Late Models to get in their second race of the 2001 season at Stockton 99 Speedway this week, with 7th place starter Steve Belletto of Modesto taking the 76-lap feature win in fine fashion fending off the hard charges of San Jose driver Dave Byrd.
Ron Strmiska Jr., of Manteca won his heat and the Trophy Dash and gained the pole starting spot for the feature with Byrd running alongside. Byrd grabbed the first lap lead as the field slowed on the next pass for a yellow when Joey Zampa of Napa spun coming off turn-four. Zampa was hit lightly by Jeff Belletto of Modesto as he sat crossways on the track. As the field returned to the yellow, Jeffs Father, Harry Belletto, also of Modesto, got tapped from behind and also spun collecting John Graham of Stockton and Jim-bo Fair of Modesto in the process. On the restart Eric Schmidt of Roseville moved to third as the pack raced to the next yellow on lap-nine as Dave Hogue of Elk Grove spun in the 1-2 turn area. By the 16th circuit, Steve Belletto had progressed to second riding behind the fast moving Byrd. Graham and Fair tangled once again on the 22nd lap to draw the third caution on the event in turn-two.
Belletto was able to overcome Byrd by inches on the restart and he surged to the lead on the following go-round that saw yet another yellow as Rookie point contender Angelo Queirolo of Lathrop got forced low coming off turn-four. Queirolo returned to the racing grove hitting Jeff Belletto in turn-one. sweeping up two other cars in the wild action.
Lap-39 saw a turn-two spin and yellow flag by Eric Schmidt with Strmiska being blamed and placed to the back by officials. By lap-52 it was the Belletto-Byrd show as the two leaders led the field by a full straight-away over Kevin Gottula of Modesto, heat winner Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas, and Brent Seitz of Stockton. Lap-60 saw Belletto ahead by 5-6 car lengths on Byrd as the pair stretched their advantage to a full half-lap lead over Gottula with Jeff Belletto coming to fourth on lap-66.
The remaining laps ran trouble free with Belletto coming home the winner ahead of Byrd, Jeff Belletto, Gottula, and Hogge. The second place finish by Byrd allowed him to take over the current point lead over Jeff Belletto and Gottula. C.J. Jahnke of Reno won the remaining heat. Steve and Jeff Belletto, along with Kevin Gottula now join the pre-qualified ranks along with Jim Pettit Dave Byrd, and Brent Seitz for the upcoming May 26th first of three, California Hot Wood sponsored "Tri-Holiday" 100-lap Late Model races.
Grand American driver Steve Stacy of Stockton had the hot hand early on as He lowered the divisions single lap record to 13.965 and came back to post the dash win over Paul Henry of Groveland.
Jason Kerby of Stockton had the front row duties for the feature as the first green flag fell with Kerby beating outside starter Steve Daniels of Orangevale to the lead. The first yellow came out on lap-three as Stockton drivers Pete Anderson Jr., and Buzz Devore tangled in turn-two On the restart Daniels starting showing smoke from a rubbing tire as a red fell on the next pass when John Unger of Stockton and Larry Hoover of Turlock tangled and hit the third-turn wall.
By the tenth lap it was Kerby, followed by Shawn Wentzel of Stockton, and a fast closing Stacy. Stacy made the move to second on lap-12 with Kerby in his sights before a backchute tangle by Daniels and Devore ended Stacys night. Devore and Daniels slid to the grass and Daniels tried to make the outside pit exit gate, pulling up in front of the oncoming field. The leader Kerby managed to avoid Daniels, but Stacy was not so lucky as he clipped Daniels hard driving him into the pit opening as Stacy smacked the outside wall tearing up his right side tire, and wheel assembly.
Kerby took the restart followed by Shawn Wentzel of Stockton, Paul Henry of Groveland and last weeks winner Greg Williams of Ceres. Henry came to second on the next pass to chase Kerby to the checkered flag. Two-time feature winner Jay Linstroth finished third ahead of Williams and Wentzel. Henry broke the incoming point tie with Wentzel and now leads by 16-points with Linstroth running third.
Mike Garcia of Lodi continued to impress the fans with another fast time in the Pro Stocks, this one good for a new track record of 15.006. Garcia came back to post the win in the dash event.
Jeff Lovelace of Stockton brought the field to its first green flag for the feature event and led on the initial pass with a quick yellow on lap-two as Garcia spun out in turn-two. A fifth-lap yellow fell as Chris Monez of Lodi spun on the backchute. Defending champion Cary Treadway of Stockton moved to second on the next green and made the pass for the lead on the following go-round. Two minor yellows on laps 12 & 13 slowed the pace and allowed Lovelace to take charge of the point on lap-14 with steady pressure by Treadway. Two more yellows for minor actions kept the field bunched up as Lovelace held strong for the win over Treadway, Ed Cullom of Ripon, Chris Monez, and Stockton pilot Jerry Crawford. Treadway now leads in the championship series with a 19-point margin over Lovelace, with Cullom sitting third.
The Union 76 gasoline sponsored Late Models will return next Saturday with twin 38-lap feature events. They will be joined by the Grand Americans, Pure Stocks and the Pacific Coast Legends, on the high-banked quarter-mile paved oval.
PETE DAVIS EXCITES WITH WIN
By Floyd Busby
STOCKTON, CA., MAY 5: Pete Davis drove to an exciting win in the Bay Cities Racing Association midget feature at the Stockton "99" Speedway. Davis became a prime contender half way through the 30-lap event aboard his Esslinger-powered TCR after starting in the eleventh position and overcoming a penalty.
The crowd-pleasing event began immediately after the completion of a 76-lap late model stock car race on the quarter-mile paved and banked oval. This presented to the midget contingent a very greasy track on which to operate, which would later help account for what can accurately be described as a real "dog fight", not for the faint at heart! Popular Chuck Gurney Jr. experienced a faulty magneto and rookie Jim Fowler a fuel pickup problem as they were pushed off for the feature, resulting in both being sidelined before the start.
Nick Geranio jumped into the lead at the green aboard the Haynes Gaerte/Stealth. The Chandler Chevy V4/Beast with Jim Silva at the helm held second over Ken Molica's Fontana/Beast and the trusty VW/Diego of Bill Lindsey.
Defending BCRA champion Glenn Carson quickly jumped the Bock Esslinger/Stewart from eighth to fourth on the second lap with tenth-starting Floyd Alvis following into fifth. Methodically moving from the rear forward were Davis and visiting Washington pilot Rory Price. By the third round Davis and Price were nose-to-tail behind Alvis' Interstate Batteries Gaerte/Stealth.
Approaching the completion of the eighth lap, first-time rookie pilot Joe Lindsey took the moveover flag literally and dove to the inside as he raced down the front chute. Unfortunately that was at the same time that leader Geranio was passing on the inside. The resulting contact send Geranio airborne and sideways, nearly flipping. It looked to be at the very least a hard spinout for the leader, but almost miraculously, Geranio regained control, and with slightly bend suspension, continued in the lead. Both Silva and Molica, running their best race in some time, continued in second and third. Davis had gained the advantage over Carson and Alvis for fourth.
Several laps later Molica began slipping back behind Davis Carson, Alvis and Price. On the 13th circuit Price attempted a pass under Alvis as the duo entered the first turn, but had to brake hard, sending his car into the side of Alvis' machine with Alvis spinning to bring out the yellow flag.
From this point on the race for the top six positions took on the "dog fight" approach. In anticipation of the green, Davis moved up along side of Silva before the flag was thrown by the starter, and moved into second. On the next lap Carson moved by Silva and one lap later it was Price moving up one slot into fourth. Molica moved back up to take fifth on the 17th round as all of the top contenders were putting on smokeless slides on the slippery surface. The crowd was holding it's collective breath as the cars slid wheel-to-wheel toward the wall exiting the fourth turn on a lap-after-lap basis! Strong-running Price topped Carson for third on the 18th lap as the top five cars were joined by sophomore driver Shain Matthews in the CMR Motorsports Gaerte/Lightning.
On the 21st lap Davis ran high in the fourth turn and took the top spot. One lap later Molica experienced an engine shutdown and coasted to a stop on the front stretch to bring out the second caution flag. Fortunately for Davis, this gave referee Rick Eisenbeis the opportunity to send Davis back one position for his earlier breach of the "nose-to-tail before the green flag" rule, putting Geranio back into the number-one slot.
At the green the dog fight continued. Exiting the second turn on the 23rd circuit Price made an inside move on Davis, only to get crunched, sending him into the infield dirt and dropping him back to fifth, where his forward momentum was extinguished as he slowly slipped to eighth.
Slipping-and-sliding, Davis continued his pursuit of Geranio, making good his bid to lead the 28th lap. After the final two rounds, Davis took his first win in six seasons over Geranio, Carson and Alvis, who had worked his way back from last after his earlier spin. Silva crossed the line in fifth, but was docked two positions by the referee for having duplicated Davis' earlier miscue following the 22nd lap caution period. This moved Brian Azevedo and the Ferrari Pontiac/Beast into fifth over Matthews. Following Silva's official seventh-place finish was Price, Bill Lindsey, Cliff Servetti and the lapped rookie Joe Lindsey in his own VW/Diego. Price began the evening by outqualifying his California hosts aboard his Esslinger/TCR.
Geranio took the first eight-lap heat over Molica and Azevedo. Gurney came on to win the second heat over Alvis and Price.
The four-lap trophy dash was bagged by Alvis over Gurney, Price and Davis. With his fourth-place finish, four-time BCRA champ Alvis moved into the point lead.
The BCRA midgets make their first appearance in several years at the Watsonville Speedway next Friday (May 11), then join USAC in a co-sanction race at Kings Speedway in Hanford the following night on May 12.
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