"DAD" BELLETTO SWEEPS STOCKTON
9-8-01 BY JIM SHIELS
Fifty-nine-year-old Harry Belletto of Modesto proved that age is no barrier to winning by sweeping both ends of the split 38-lap features at Stockton 99 Speedway this week. Harry, the father of Late Model standouts Steve and Jeff, returned from a pre-race practice crash into the third turn wall to blister the quarter-mile pave track and hand a driving lesson to the remaining field.
The first feature for the NASCAR sanctioned C.L. Bryant/Union 76 Gasoline sponsored Late Models saw the pole position covered by two-time Stockton champ Dave Byrd of San Jose in the potent Tim & Jackie Gillit owned Lumina with Byrd grabbing the first lap lead. On lap-nine, Roseville pilot Eric Schmidt got side by side and took the point on the next pass, only to wind up spinning in turn one as he and Byrd got together with the lead falling back to Byrd at the yellow. Chris Wadsworth of Oakley took the restart flag in second with Bob Strandwold of Modesto coming to third on the next circuit, and Belletto gaining fourth on lap-14. Belletto moved up one position on lap-17, with the second and final yellow falling on lap-19, as Troy Ermish of Fremont pulled a solo spin coming off turn four. Belletto restarted outside Byrd and took the point on lap-20 and simply lit the afterburners on his way to the final checkered. He was chased across by Heat winner Byrd, Fast timer Strandwold, Jeff Belletto, and Wadsworth.
The second feature saw Steve Belletto of Modesto on the pole trying to improve on his current fourth place NASCAR Regional position. Steve immediately became involved in one of the best races to date in the 2001 season, as Wadsworth stayed side by side with the defending division champion Belletto for 17 laps as the lead changed by mere inches five times with five laps so close even the video camera could not show a clear leader.
Steve finally took a decided advantage on lap-17 with Strandwold gaining second by a nose on the next lap. Harry Belletto gained third by a nose on lap-19, and moved to second on lap-24. On the next pass, Harry got beside son Steve and took control on lap-26 to sail home with the win to notch his 3rd feature of the year and his 67th of his career, leaving him just four short of a tie for the all time division win record of 71 held by four time champion Ken Boyd of Ceres.
Harry was followed across by his son Steve, Bob Strandwold, Chris Wadsworth, and the younger Belletto brother Jeff. When asked why he took a potential win away from the Regional chances of his son Steve, Harry simply said, "Part of the values I hope I have instilled in all my son’s include the fact that they must earn what they get, and I was simply faster this night."
Buzz Devore of Stockton took the other heat win and also scored the dash victory. Steve Belletto padded his current season point to 44 points over Brother Jeff, with Byrd in third 57 points off the pace.
The Grand American contest saw rookie runner John Moore of Granite Bay on the pole and the first lap lead falling to Stockton pilot Danny Contessotto. A second lap yellow fell as dual-division runner Buzz Devore got ‘shipped’ on the front straight allowing for a restart consisting of Contessotto, Shawn Wentzel of Stockton, Moore, and Steve Stacy of Stockton. Seventh place starter Greg Williams of Ceres gained the fifth position on lap-six, and added one more spot on the next go-round. He moved into third on lap-11 and into second on lap-16, as a yellow/red condition prevailed when incoming point leader Robert Knittel of Lodi climbed the third turn wall while being pressed by fast timer Jay Linstroth of Citrus Heights and John Unger of Stockton. Fluid on the track was blamed as the possible culprit. Williams took quick advantage on the restart and stormed to the lead followed by two more yellows in short order for a minor spin and additional fluid problems. Wentzel moved to second and chased the dash winner Williams to the checkered. He was in turn followed by Contessotto, Paul Henry of Groveland, and Devore.
The win by Williams, his 10th in 13-starts, allowed him to move into second in the tight point battle, just nine points behind the new leader Paul Henry, with Knittel slipping from first to third in the standings 19-points off the lead. A double point event next week, and a 50-lap, $1,250 to win, first annual GOLD CUP CLASSIC on September 22nd will give Williams the chance to prove his metal against some solid competition in his come-from-behind drive towards his first Stockton championship.
In Pro Stock action, it was incoming point leader and defending champion Cary Treadway with the first lap feature lead over Joe Hylton of Manteca. Potential Rookie of the year winner Jeff Lovelace of Stockton took second on lap-10 with Hylton taking the position back a few laps later. Hylton then moved past Treadway to take the point on lap-16, never looking back as he notched his 4th season win. Fast timer and heat winner Treadway finished second ahead of heat winner Lovelace. Mike Monez of Lodi and Doug Ollis of Modesto rounded out the top five. Treadway’s current lead of 109 points over Hylton looks to insure his fourth career championship.
The Pro-Four Trucks were on hand this week with Troy Ermish of Fremont leading wire-to-wire to pick up the feature win. He was followed to the line by Gary Franks of Manteca. Mike Sims of Turlock, heat winner Tim Fernandes, Sr., of Modesto, and Tim Mattson of Stockton rounded out the top five.
The Baby Grands were also on hand with Mark Smith of Tracy again in charge of the action as he continued his dominance of the division with his 3rd straight Stockton feature win following a fast time and heat victory. Brian Carter of Saratoga finished second ahead of Ron Simmons of Brentwood, Bill Byington of Concord, and Don Houston of Patterson. Dave Figuerido of Tracy won the dash.
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