BELLETTO & STRANDWOLD SHARE STOCKTON WINS
BY: JIM SHIELS
The C.L. Bryant/Union 76 Gasoline Late Models took center stage for the Lagario Communications night at Stockton 99 Speedway with the twin 38-lap features producing wins for Modesto drivers Steve Belletto and Bob Strandwold.
Strandwold, back in action for the first time at Stockton since May of 2000, showed no sign of rust as he nailed the divisions quick time at 13.966. He than ran second in his heat behind the winner Eric Schmidt of Roseville. Strandwold then stormed back to grab the kiss from the trophy girl to earn a pole position start for the first 38-lap battle.
Strandwold took the first lap lead with Steve Belletto coming to second on lap-two. Incoming point leader Dave Byrd of San Jose moved to third on lap-nine as Strandwold & Belletto pulled to a half straight lead ahead of the field. Lap-16 saw a side by side run for the lead with Belletto taking control as the field was halted by one of the worst looking red flags in recent track history as Manteca driver Ron Strmiska, Jr., lost his front brakes and slammed backwards into the third turn wall. His car continued several more yards and climbed the wall again with the right front. The car came to rest on the track just short of the pit gate, but impact had ripped off the fuel filler tube and the car exploded in a ball of flames that completely engulfed the entire car, inside and out. The flames quickly died out and Strmiska climbed from the car unhurt to a mighty cheer from the fans.
On the restart it was Steve Belletto, Strandwold, second heat winner Byrd, Harry Belletto, and Schmidt as the race continued through two minor yellows and several fiberglass ripping grinds as Belletto held off Strandwold for the win. Harry Belletto of Modesto finished third ahead of Byrd and Jeff Belletto of Modesto.
The second 38-lap feature saw rookie runner Angelo Queirolo of Lathrop with the pole position, flanked by Jeff Belletto. Queirolo spun in turn one and got away clean, but the ensuing boxcar effect blocked the track and caused damage to Byrd, Brian Smith of Modesto, and Stockton drivers Brian Griffitts and John Graham. All but Graham returned to action. Steve Belletto found himself in the front for the restart with another yellow flying on lap-four, as Chris Wadsworth of Oakley appeared to check up with Harry Belletto and Strandwold bending bumpers in the melee. Joey Zampa of Napa ran second on the next green to be passed one lap later by Queirolo. Three yellows fell from laps-14 through 18 with Strandwold taking control on lap-19. Strandwold pulled ahead to notch his 20th Stockton career victory ahead of Steve Belletto, Jeff Belletto, Byrd, and Harry Belletto.
Steve Belletto cut Byrds season point lead to just five marks with Steves brother Jeff running ten more behind. Six drivers, in the form of Harry Steve & Jeff Belletto, Strandwold, Byrd, and Schmidt are now also pre-qualified for the second leg of the three-race California Hot Wood Tri-Holiday series set to run on July 3rd.
Jason White and Mike Garcia, both of Lodi, shared the front row duties for the Pro Stock feature with White taking the early lead to a third lap yellow as first time career fast timer Joe Hylton of Manteca spread oil around the track. Defending division champion Cary Treadway of Stockton, the dash winner on the night, took the lead on lap-seven and ran untouched to the final flag followed by Jeff Lovelace of Stockton, White, Jim Earl of Oakdale, and Ripons Ed Cullom. Treadway extended his current point lead to a strong 62-points over second place Garcia.
Ray Davis of Galt brought the Pure Stock field to its first feature green and took the early lead with a wild pile up producing a yellow on lap-two as five cars got together in turn-one with the usual cut tires and bent sheet metal. Third place starter Chad Holman of Stockton got under the leader Davis on the 15th pass and took the lead on the next circuit to post his second career feature win adding to an earlier heat victory. Mike Graham of Manteca finished third ahead of Jim Lewallen, also of Manteca. Tom Bolin of Morgan Hill rounded out the top five. Steven Hall and Kannai Scantlen of Stockton and Jeff Ahl of Lodi won the other heats. Ahl posted a new track record in time trials, but was found to be off-spec for his ride height and the record was not allowed to stand. Ahl won his first career dash on the night and also took the B-Main from an 18th place start. Manteca driver Danny Guibor was the official quick time man on the event.
Stockton Speedway action will continue next Saturday, June 16th with Twin 38-lap features for the Late Models. Also joining in the fun will be the Grand Americans, Pure Stocks, and a return to action of the mighty BCRA Midgets.
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