BELLETTO TAKES FIRECRACKER
TRI-HOLIDAY WIN AT STOCKTON
7-3-01 BY: JIM SHIELS
Defending C.L. Bryant/Union 76 Gasoline Late Model Champion Steve Belletto continued his quest for a repeat title with an impressive $2,500 win in the 28th annual Firecracker 100 and the second leg of the California Hotwood Tri-Holiday 100-lap feature at Stockton 99 Speedway this week. Steve performed in front of a tremendous crowd of over 3300 fans that were baking in the 110-degree heat and loving every minute of the NASCAR sanctioned event.
The Modesto pilot and early heat winner started third on the 20-car grid and fell in behind his dad Harry Belletto of Modesto, and early leader Chris Wadsworth of Oakley as the cars settled into a single file rhythm. Next in line was visiting NASCAR Southwest Tour driver Jim Inglebright, #27, of Fairfield and Eric Schmidt of Roseville.
The first yellow fell on lap-20 as Buzz Devore of Stockton, and Greg Lewellen of Groveland spun in turn-two, allowing the field to bunch up for the restart that saw Steve Belletto gain the second slot on the next pass. Belletto got side by side with the leader Wadsworth on the 22nd go-round and led by half a car on the next lap to complete the pass for the lead on lap-23. 10th-place starter Dave Byrd of San Jose, who slid to fifth on lap-33, joined the top four of Steve Belletto, Wadsworth, Harry Belletto, and Inglebright.
A second yellow fell on lap-52 as early heat winner Wadsworth did a solo spin coming off turn-two, leaving a restart consisting of Steve Belletto, Inglebright, dash winner Harry Belletto, Byrd, and Ron Strmiska, Jr. of Manteca. Brian Smith of Modesto brought out the final yellow on the fast moving event on the next circuit as he spun on the front straight.
The top five remained unchanged to lap-71 when they were joined by four time division champion Ken Boyd of Ceres as the field ran quickly to the final flag with Steve Belletto on the point followed by Inglebright, Harry Belletto, Byrd, and Rookie runner Joey Zampa of Napa. Steves younger brother Jeff Belletto of Modesto got by Boyd in the waning laps to finish sixth. Jeff Belletto and his #6 special "4th of July" Paint job!
Steve raised his current season point lead to 20 marks over Byrd and took control of the three-race Tri-Holiday series by a slim five points, also over Byrd. Eric Schmidt of Roseville nipped the quick time of the night at 14.248 with the remaining heat win going to Chuck Aguirre of Modesto. The $16,940 purse produced a strong 25-car field that resulted in a Semi Main event won by Kevin Pugh of Sacramento over David Philpott of Tracy.
A fun filled 40-lap Legend Division feature kept the crowd excited as Pete Currin of Redwood City took the first lap lead and passed it to fourth place starter Barney LaRue of Napa on the next circuit. Sixth place starter Randy Raduechel of Oakdale claimed the second spot from LaRue on lap-three, with D.J. Krentz of Reno running third on lap-five. Highly talented Ryan Foster of Anderson, #21, came to fourth on lap-six, and with the nights fast time and a heat win already in his pocket, looked like the man to win until he spun out on lucky lap-13 and headed for his trailer for the night.
A yellow for a spin on lap-26 by Gary Hockman of San Jose bunched up the field and allowed dash winner Krentz to grab the lead on lap-27. The event ran trouble free to the checkered with Krentz, #22, in control followed by heat winner Barney LaRue, Raduechel, Mark Bailey of San Lorenzo, and Ryan Mosher of Cupertino. Bob Wood of Auburn won the remaining heat.
Mike Soiseth of Stockton took the early lead in the 50-lap Pure Stock feature and pulled away from the field to the only yellow on the event on lap-12 as Bryan Clark of Lodi, and heat winner Mike Graham of Manteca tangled off turn-four. Tom Dahl of Stockton ran second on the restart followed by Ray Davis of Galt who passed Dahl for second on lap-14. It only took Davis one more round to grab the lead with heat and dash winner Chad Holman coming to second one lap later. By lap-20 it was Davis, Holman, Tom Bolin of Morgan Hill, a hard charging Cindy Freitas of Lodi, and Jeff Ahl also of Lodi.
Holman made the pass for the lead on lap-25 with Davis applying pressure lap by lap. Davis, #40, trapped Holman in traffic and regained the lead on lap-47 to sail home with the win over Holman, fast timer and new record holder Danny Guibor of Manteca, Tom Bolin, and Jeff Ahl.
Guibor retained control of the season point lead with a margin of only six points over Davis. John Medina of Galt and Joey Stearns of Stockton won addition heats. 39 cars in the division produced a C-Main event won by J.C. Saunders of Stockton, and a 15 car B-Main win for Eric Graef of Galt over Charlie Clawson of Modesto.
Stockton 99 Speedway drivers will take this Saturday July 7th off, returning July 14th with twin 38-lap Late Model features and events for Pro Stock, Pure Stock, and Legends.
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