TEMPERS FLARE AT STOCKTON 99
BY: JIM SHIELS
The C.L. Bryant/Union 76 Gasoline Late Model series point battle for the 2001 season championship at Stockton 99 Speedway has been close and friendly all year, but the friendly portion may have come to an end this week. After the second leg of the twin-38 lap mains, the two leading teams and their pit members exchanged angry words and joint recriminations while officials pondered their fates.
Two-time division champion Dave Byrd of San Jose jumped to the lead on the first lap of the first main that only saw two short yellows for solo spins on laps nine & 29. Next in line behind Byrd was pole sitter Steve Belletto of Modesto and Steves brother Jeff, also of Modesto. Harry Belletto, dad to the two boys, came to fourth on lap-14. Byrd and Steve Belletto went bumper to bumper throughout most of the event with Harry taking third on lap-31, and second on the next go-round to chase Byrd past the checkered. Heat and dash winner Steve ran third ahead of his brother Jeff and Angelo Queirolo of Lathrop.
The second 38-lap NASCAR sanctioned feature saw Joey Zampa of Napa on the pole with Queirolo on the outside taking the early lead to a lap-seven yellow as Jeff Belletto made contact with Zampa in turn-two with Zampa spinning around. Harry Belletto made it to the yellow first to assume the lead. Kevin Gottula of Modesto brought out the next yellow on lap-14 with a spin in turn-two, and Queirolo brought out the next on lap-14 as he got into the leader Harry Belletto off turn-two, with Harry Spinning and giving the lead to Chris Wadsworth of Oakley. Two laps later the ugly started as Steve Belletto got into the back of Byrd in turn-three, with Byrd sliding to the wall backwards. Heat winner Buzz Devore of Stockton, Chuck Aguirre of Modesto, Gottula, and Mantecas Ron Strmiska Jr., were also collected in the melee. At this point, Byrd drove straight ahead towards the stopped Steve Belletto and gently nosed his front bumper against Steve in a driver-to-driver type of personal protest that added fresh fuel to the already burning fire between the two teams.
The race restarted with Bob Strandwold of Modesto at the front and ran smooth for 11-laps as Jeff Belletto came to third on lap-28. Leading rookie contender Eric Schmidt of Roseville tangled in turn-two with John Graham of Stockton on lap-30 to bring out the fourth yellow. Gottula was sent spinning off turn four for the fifth yellow on lap-32, and that cool-it flag was followed on the next circuit by another as Strmiska and Chris Wadsworth of Oakley got together in turn-one. Wadsworth was left sitting in the wrong direction and was hit hard on the right front by Harry Belletto costing both any chance at the win after pitting and losing several laps.
Strandwold, Jeff Belletto, Strmiska, Byrd, and Steve Belletto picked up the run to the final flag with the final yellow falling on lap-36 as the already battered Wadsworth got spun in turn-two.
As the cars went down the backstretch and into turn three, Steve got into the back of Byrd and Byrd again slid backwards into the high-banked corner. "I knew he was going to do something, I just didnt know when," said Byrd after the event. Strandwold, who set fast time on the night, finished first out of harms way, followed by Jeff Belletto, Eric Schmidt, Gottula, and Queirolo.
Track officials placed Steve Belletto behind Byrd on the final finish records and will consider addition fines or punishments for both. Officials also kept the pit gates sealed for an additional half-hour to prevent possible angry fans from both view points from stirring additional problems between the already overheated teams. Steve Belletto retained his current point lead over Byrd at 16-points with Jeff Belletto running third over Harry Belletto and Schmidt.
The first green flag on the Pro Stock feature was recalled after Lodi drivers Chris Monez and Jason White tangled off turn-four on the first lap. Mike Garcia added to the confusion when he split two drivers attempting to gain a spot at the yellow, which caused Paul Dorritty Jr. of Modesto to spin on the front chute.
Incoming point leader and defending division champion Cary Treadway of Stockton took the lead on the first official lap and never looked back as the nights fast timer scored his fifth season victory ahead of heat and dash winner Joe Hylton of Manteca. Jeff Lovelace and Jerry Crawford of Stockton followed in line, with Mike Monez of Lodi rounding out the top-five. Ed Cullom of Ripon scored the other heat win. Treadway now has a 75-point lead over Hylton who moved from fourth to second in points. Leading division rookie contender Jeff Lovelace of Stockton rides third in points.
Cindy Freitas of Lodi brought the Pure Stock division to their first feature green this week bowing to Bryan Clark of Lodi after a fifth lap yellow for a stall-out by C.W. Davis of Stockton. On the restart Clark was immediately challenged by Lodi pilot Jeff Ahl, who took the point on lap-seven. Contact from Aimee Sullivan caused a spin and yellow flag by early leader Freitas on lap-13, with the race running caution free to the checkered at that point.
Ahl recorded his first career win in three years of action followed by Tom Bolin of Morgan Hill, heat winner Mike Graham of Manteca, Chad Holman of Stockton, and heat winner Joey Stearns, also of Stockton. Additional heats were won by Steven Hall and Danny Guibor, both of Manteca. Guibor came back to post the dash win, with the C-Main event falling to Ray Davis of Galt. Tom Dahl of Stockton won the Semi-Main. Guibor continues his point lead over Ray Davis by 23-points, with Ahl climbing into a tie with Davis for second.
Incoming B-Main point leader Ray Bird of Stockton got a little too slow and could not make the C-Main transfer spot giving Dustin Himes of Stockton the chance to close ground in the points. Byrd now leads Himes by only 16-points, with Rodney Tripp of Stockton running third.
The Legends of the Pacific added to the fun on the night with a wild first lap wreck that saw dash winner Frankie Winchel of Sebastapol sliding down the front straight on his driver side door. The melee took out six cars including the fast time and heat winner D.J. Krentz of Reno.
Ken Schaefer of Modesto took the first lap lead, bowing to fellow Modesto driver Kelly Martin on lap-three. Ryan Mosher of Cupertino took the lead on lap-five with Ryan Foster of Anderson coming to third. Anderson came to second on lap-seven, and took the lead by a nose on lap-14. The nose held for two laps before Mosher showed his bumper first on lap-17. Anderson, the other heat winner on the night, tired of the side by side action and took control for good on the next circuit and cruised home with his third Stockton win of the year. Mosher held tight for second over Mark Bailey of San Lorenzo, Gary Hockman of San Jose, and Martin.
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