SCHMIDT & BELLETTO SHARE STOCK WINS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 5-12-01
BY: JIM SHIELS
Eric Schmidt of Roseville, and Jeff Belletto of Modesto, banked the big bucks with feature wins this week in the C.L. Bryant/Union 76 Gasoline sponsored Late Model action at Stockton 99 Speedway, as the NASCAR sanctioned division split its normal 76-lap feature into two twin 38-lap events with separate points and purse money on the line.
A separate bonus plan started the action with the first two fast qualifiers, in the form of Schmidt and Harry Belletto, having to make a decision on their mutual starting spots. Earning 6th & 7th place starting positions for the main through their heat finishes, they were given the option to fall to the rear of the 18-car field for the first feature, a move that in turn would guarantee either with a $500.00 bonus if they could win the second main. To the delight of the crowd, both drivers pulled out of line on the parade laps and took up the rear position challenge.
Brothers Jeff and Steve Belletto of Modesto controlled the front row and brought the field to its first green with Steve jumping to the first lap lead. By the fifth circuit the top five consisted of Steve, Jeff, Dave Byrd of San Jose, Jim Fair of Modesto, and heat winner Bobby Hogge IV, of Salinas, with Harry Belletto and Schmidt already up to 10th & 11th respectfully.
The first yellow fell on lap-13 as Chris Wadsworth of Oakley stopped high in turn-two with a flat tire. The restart saw the trio of Steve and Jeff Belletto, and Byrd at the front, joined by Ron Strmiska Jr., of Manteca, and Napa Pilot Joey Zampa. Harry Belletto and Schmidt now rode in 6th & 7th place.
Yellows fell on laps-15 & 17 for minor problems with Harry Belletto restarting 4th. Only one lap went into the records before John Graham of Stockton spun in turn-2 for another yellow as Harry Belletto moved to second behind his son Steve. Dad Belletto blazed past his son on the backchute to take the point on lap-19 to prove, in this day of fast cars to the front, that talent can still win from the back. The win however was to be denied as action on the 25th-lap saw Graham take a hard backwards hit into the third-turn wall and in turn be hit by Brian Griffiths of Stockton. As the leader Belletto came into the turn he hit oil and slammed his passenger side door into the front of Graham, bending door bars and ripping off sheet metal as Steve Belletto and Byrd raced back to the yellow. Schmidt in the meantime, moved to third on lap-26, and second on the next pass, finally taking the lead on lap-33. A checkered/yellow ended the event one lap short of the distance as Angelo Queirolo of Lathrop and Brian Smith of Modesto got togeather in turn-3.
Schmidt took his first career Stockton win followed by Steve Belletto, heat winner Byrd, dash winner Jeff Belletto, and Strmiska.
Schmidt started the second feature in fourth looking for another $1,000 payday and a shot at the $500 back row bonus to boot. Jeff Belletto grabbed the lead from his pole position start and by lap five it was Jeff, brother Steve, Schmidt, Byrd, and Strmiska. The laps fell off the board at a fast pace as the event ran non-yellow with Jeff Belletto notching his second career win over brother Steve, Byrd, Strmiska, and a fading Schmidt.
Byrd left the track in control of the season points with a slim two-point margin over Jeff Belletto, followed by Steve Belletto, Schmidt, and Kevin Gottula of Modesto. Gottula should have received a special Miracle award for his repair efforts on the night. Breaking a wheel and hub assembly in his heat, the highly popular driver dubbed as "Mr. Excitement" made a fast round trip to Modesto for replacement parts and was able to make the feature field with seconds to spare.
Byrd and Hogge are now tied in points for the California Hotwood sponsored heat race bonus program.
Robert Knittel of Lodi led the pole charge and took the first lap-lead in the Grand American feature, with last weeks winner, Jason Kerby of Stockton coming from 6th-to 2nd after brief yellows on lap-two & four. Kerby surged to the lead on the fifth-circuit and was never headed as he powered to his second straight win. Behind Kerby came Knittel, Jay Linstroth of Citrus Heights, and Stockton drivers Danny Contessotto & Buzz Devore.
Randy Miller of San Jose won the Semi Main with a dash win and new track speed record falling to the much improved Paul Henry of Groveland. Henry continues to lead in the division points by a margin of seven over Linstroth, followed by Shawn Wentzel of Stockton, Knittel, and Contessotto.
Pure Stock action saw heat winner, dash winner, and feature event pole sitter Doug Lane of Stockton with the first lap lead with fifth place starter Tracy Bolin of Valley Springs slowly working his way to second and into the lead on lap-18. Heat winner Bolin held tough to post the victory ahead of Lane, Danny Guibor of Manteca, Jeff Ahl of Lodi, and Cindy Freitas of Lodi. Other heats were won by B.J. Treadway of Stockton, and Mike Graham of Manteca. Steve Hall of Stockton won the C-Main event, with the semi main win going to Lodi pilot Rick Bentz. Lane leads in the season points by a slim eight-point margin over Guibor, with Bolin, Ahl, and Ray Davis of Galt in hot pursuit.
The mighty Legends were on hand this week for their first season appearance with the first lap feature lead falling to Jack Randell of Reno. He was quickly passed on the next go-round by Don Krout of Pine Mountain Lake, who was slowed by the only yellow on the night on lap-four as Rob Lathrop of Santa Clara took a hard hit on the backchute. Lap-six saw a change for the lead as Ryan Mosher of Cupertino took control with Ryan Foster of Anderson coming to second. Heat winner Foster made the pass for the point position on lap-16 and never looked back he won by a large margin over Mosher, dash winner Mark Bailey of Cupertino, Gary Hockman of San Jose, and early leader Krout. Kelly Martin of Modesto won the other heat.
Stockton 99 Speedway will be closed on May 19th, but will return on May 26th for the first of its three-race Tri-Holiday Late Model events co-sponsored by C.L. Bryant/Union 76 gasoline and California Hotwood.
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