BYRD DOMINATES TRUE VALUE NIGHT ACTION AT STOCKTON 99 SPEEDWAY
BY: JIM SHIELS
A fast time was the only missing piece of the pie for San Jose driver Dave Byrd, as the two-time Stockton Speedway Late Model champion pulled off a near sweep of the first leg of the three race California Hotwood Tri-Holiday series at Stockton 99 Speedway this week after starting on the pole and sliding back to second in the early laps.
Byrd led the first lap of the 100-lap event to be passed by Harry Belletto on the second go-round. Harrys sons, Steve & Jeff rounded out the top four by lap-three as the C.L. Bryant/Union 76 Gasoline Late Models settled into stride for the long haul.
A quick yellow slowed the pace on lap-11 and allowed Byrd to showcase his restart abilities as he stayed side-by-side with Harry and took the point on lap-13. A yellow for a solo spin by Stockton driver John Graham regrouped the pack on lap-33, with the lead pack remaining the same. Jeff Belletto gained third on lap-38, with Modesto Driver Kevin Gottula taking control of fifth after starting 13th.
By the halfway mark it was Byrd, Harry Belletto, Jeff & Steve Belletto, and Gottula as the lead pack played a game of bumper tag to a 55th-lap yellow as Eric Holmes of Escalon lost power and stopped high in turn one. On the restart Byrd and Harry Belletto tangled and Belletto lost several spots getting under control before another yellow two laps later as Kevin Pugh of Sacramento spun off turn-four. Greg Lewellen of Groveland hit the binders but was shoved into the side of Pugh by Brian Smith of Modesto. Brent Seitz of Stockton, with no place to go, got pinched against the pileup and the outside wall to also suffer heavy damage.
The restart saw Byrd in front of Jeff Belletto and Jim Pettit II of Salinas who had made his way from 17th. Gottula and Steve Belletto followed in line to a yellow on lap-60 as Greg Potts of Manteca stopped on the front straight. The restart once again produced a melee as Steve Belletto and Pettit rubbed in turn one with Pettit getting the worst of it, spinning out with front-end damage. Brian Smith, Burney Lamar of Sacramento, Joey Zampa of Napa, and John Graham also suffered damage in the resulting spin-cycle action.
A tap from behind by Ron Strmiska, Jr. of Manteca resulted in a spin by Gottula in turn-two that brought out the 6th-yellow on the night with Pettit heading to the pits for good at this point. The field only witnessed one more quick yellow for debris on lap-72 as the 12-remaining cars of the 22-car field screamed towards the checkered flag with heat & dash winner Byrd in front of fast timer Steve Belletto at the finish. Strmiska ran third ahead of Jeff Belletto and Lamar. Jim Fair of Modesto and Pugh were heat winners on the night.
Byrd now leads in the series points over Steve Belletto with the next Tri-Holiday event slated for July 3rd. Byrd also retained control of the regular Late Model series points over second place Jeff Belletto.
Grand American action saw a non-yellow charge for the first time this season as Greg Williams of Ceres claimed his second feature win of the year. Jason Kerby reset the one-lap time record for the open-wheel class at 13.917, becoming the fourth driver in four straight weeks to do so, a division record in itself.
Steve Stacy of Stockton was the pole sitter for the feature event, but Williams took the first lap lead and never looked back as he finished first over Jason Philpot of Sacramento, dash winner Robert Knittel of Lodi, Stacy, and Shawn Wentzel of Stockton. Mike Regelman of Ripon won the eight-car semi main over Stockton pilot John Unger. Paul Henry of Groveland continues to hold the point lead over Wentzel and Knittel.
The Pro Stock division saw its first 14-second time trial as defending champion Cary Treadway of Stockton blasted a 14.713 and gained the eyes and attention of tech officials almost as quickly.
Mike Monez of Lodi took the early feature lead with a yellow falling on lap four as Treadway got into the back of Manteca driver Joe Hylton with Hylton spinning backwards to be hit by Jason White and Chris Monez, both of Lodi.
Mike Garcia of Lodi made his way to second on lap-nine, with Treadway back to third by lap-14. Garcia took the point on lap-17 as Treadway pulled in behind and took final control on lap-19. Garcia and Monez finished two-three behind the leader, with dash winner Hylton and Clements driver Johnny Berndt rounding out the top five. Current division points show Treadway leading over Garcia and Jeff Lovelace of Stockton.
The first eleven laps of the Pure Stock feature produced a wild fight for control of the lead as first lap leader Ray Davis of Galt, and Danny Guibor of Manteca raced side-by-side and traded the lead by inches seven times. Guibor took final control on the 11th-circuit and led Davis to the final flag with the duo followed by heat winner Mike Graham on Manteca, heat & dash winner Doug Lane of Stockton, and Tom Bolin of Morgan Hill.
Additional heat wins on the night went to Kannai Scantlen and Tom Dahl of Stockton. Tracy Bolin of Valley Springs won the C & B features and finished a respectable 7th in the feature. Doug Lane continues to hold the division point lead over Guibor and Tracy Bolin.
The NASCAR sanctioned Grand Americans will be back in action next Saturday to be joined by the Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, and the Legends of the Pacific as the historic quarter-mile paved track continues its 2001 program dedicated to the memory of past track manager Duane Borovec.
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