BYRD AND BELLETTO REPEAT AT STOCKTON
BY: JIM SHIELS
The NASCAR sanctioned C.L. Bryant Late Model GADORADE NIGHT features at Stockton 99 Speedway were won this by Dave Byrd of San Jose and Steve Belletto of Modesto, as the two continued their torrid pace towards the season championship. Both drivers are locked in a weekly duel for bragging rights and the lions share of the nearly quarter of million dollars in overall bonus money.
In the first 38-lap feature, it was all Byrd, as the heat and dash winner grabbed the lead from the pole and led wire-to-wire for his third win of the season. He was challenged briefly at times by second place runner Joey Zampa of Napa who settled for second in his best season finish to date. Zampa, a past Legend Division champion also parlayed his finishes on the night into a takeover of the C.A.R.S. Inc., Rookie of the Year point lead to 11-marks over Eric Schmidt of Roseville who fell to second for the first time this season. Schmidt was the fast man on the night with a clocking of 13.911 in time trials.
Steve Belletto started fifth on the event and moved to third on lap-15 as the laps flew by with only one brief yellow slowing the advance. Heat winner Chris Wadsworth of Oakley finished fourth ahead of Paul Guthmiller of Manteca on his first night out in several seasons.
Wadsworth was the pole sitter for the second 38-lap run and led the first circuit before bowing to outside pole runner Steve Belletto on lap-two, with Byrd coming to third. Steves Brother Jeff, also of Modesto, pulled into fourth on lap-seven and got a nose in front of Byrd on lap-ten. Byrd dropped another position on lap-12 as the fast running and impressive Guthmiller got under and around him for fourth.
A single event yellow on lap-18 by Angelo Queirolo of Lathrop bunched the field with Belletto leading Wadsworth, Jeff Belletto, Guthmiller, and Byrd, with Jeff Belletto coming to second on the next pass, and Guthmiller progressing to third behind him.
The last lap was the newsmaker as Byrd spun in turn-two for a 13th place finish, and Guthmiller made a flying pass under Jeff Belletto in the 3-4 turn to take second at the checkered. Chief Official Jim Cook ruled that Guthmiller had been "Over-aggressive" and set him back one position behind Belletto.
Steve Belletto picked up his 6th feature win of the season and added the extra $300.00 in GADORADE money to his nights earnings. Harry Belletto of Modesto and Wadsworth rounded out the feature top five. Steve Belletto increased his point lead to 29 over Byrd for the widest margin to date in the exciting season of Late Model competition.
Grand American action saw Greg Williams of Ceres grab the $250.00 GADORADE money and notch his sixth win in eight starts, leading wire-to-wire in a 30-lap romp. Incoming point leader Paul Henry of Groveland slipped in behind him on lap-seven and gave it his best to finish second and increase his lead to 14 over Robert Knittel of Lodi. Scott Winters of Tracy finished third ahead of fast timer Knittel, and Danny Contessotto of Stockton. Steve Stacy of Stockton won the dash, but was trapped in a chain-reaction pile up on the back wall to finish 18th.
Ed Cullom of Ripon led lap-one of the Pro Stock feature, bowing to Clements pilot Johnny Berndt on lap-two. Jeff Lovelace of Stockton took the point on lap-eight, losing it briefly to Jerry Crawford of Stockton on lap-16, before diving back under Crawford to take the lead for good on the next circuit. Lovelace picked up his second feature win in his rookie of the year leading role and also gladly accepted the $200.00 GADORADE bonus money. Fast Timer and dash winner Cary Treadway of Stockton finished second and moved his current point lead to 101 points over Joe Hylton of Manteca. Crawford finished third, with Lodi drivers Jason White and Mike Monez rounding out the top five.
Pure Stock action saw Joey Stearns of Stockton take the first lap lead and never look back as he scored his first career feature win with a wire-to-wire run that also netted him $150.00 GADORADE dollars. Second place point runner Jeff Ahl of Lodi hung to Stearns throughout the 25-lap event and settled for second at the checkered to cut the current point lead by Danny Guibor to 20.
Heat winner Chad Holman of Stockton finished third ahead of Tom Bolin of Morgan Hill, and Guibor. Guibor made history of his own this week by notching a new division single lap speed record of 16.912 becoming the first Pure Stocker in the 216-second bracket. Additional heats were won by Mike Graham of Manteca and Cindy Freitas of Lodi, with Graham coming back to win the dash. Ray Bird of Stockton added 2-points to his B-Main leadership over fellow Stockton driver Dustin Himes in a wild event won by Tom Dahl of Stockton over Michael Wendt of Lodi.
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