SEVEN TITLES FALL AT STOCKTON 99 SPEEDWAY
BY: JIM SHIELS
Stockton 99 Speedway returned to action this week with six full divisions and a record total of 126 cars and trucks on hand in a night which saw seven season titles clinched after a highly emotional crowd stirring post race memorial parade by all cars on hand. All 126 cars passed before a group of Stockton Police, Fire, and Ambulance personal assembled on the front straight in honor of those lost in the attacks against our country on September 11th.
Harry Belletto of Modesto won his heat and the dash event to earn the pole position start in the 50-lap NASCAR Sanctioned, C.L. Bryant/Union 76 Gasoline sponsored Late Model feature, but it was his son Steve who emerged with the first lap lead that ran to a fourth lap yellow when Joey Zampa of Napa, Angelo Queirolo of Lathrop, and Greg Potts of Manteca tangled coming off turn-four. Harry Belletto took the lead on the restart and held through a minor yellow on lap-eight. Cars got three wide in turn-three on lap-11 and Paul Guthmiller of Manteca got squeezed out of the pack off turn four. His car overcorrected and he came back into a melee that collected Dave Byrd of San Jose, Brian Griffitts of Stockton, Kevin Pugh of Sacramento, and Jason White of Lodi.
A yellow fell on lap-15 as Pugh lost power and could not make the safety of the pit, followed by another yellow on lap-17 as Joey Zampa and Jeff Belletto of Modesto took a slide against the turn-three wall with both able to continue in the event.
By the 25th-lap halfway mark it was Harry Belletto, Steve Belletto, Chris Wadsworth of Oakley, Byrd, and Ron Strmiska, Jr. of Manteca at the front. A final yellow fell on lap-34 for a solo spin by Zampa in turn-two, as Harry Belletto charged home for his 68th career feature win, leaving him three short of a tie for the all time division record of 71 held by Ken Boyd of Ceres.
Wadsworth made a pass on the final lap to take second ahead of Steve Belletto. Strmiska finished fourth ahead of heat winner Byrd. The heat win by Byrd ensures him a winning first place payoff of $2,000 from California Hot Wood in the season Heat Race Bonus program. Greg Potts was fast time on the night, with the other heat win falling to Guthmiller.
The JM Environmental Gold Cup Classic for the Grand American division saw a wild fight for the $1,250 feature win and the season championship to boot as Scott Winter of Tracy led the first lap of the 50-lap feature with Greg Williams of Ceres coming to third on lap-two. Williams had made up for three missed events in the early season to trail incoming point leader Paul Henry of Groveland by only nine-points in the title battle.
A minor yellow on lap-17 produced a restart consisting of Winter, Barry Callouette of Benicia, Williams, Fast timer John Unger of Stockton, and fellow Stockton pilot Danny Contessotto, with the group racing to the next cool it flag on lap-22 as smoke erupted from dash winner Jay Linstroth’s car. Williams became the leader on the restart trailed by Unger with Henry sitting in fifth needing one more position to freeze out Williams for the crown by one slim point. Henry used a wicked slide job two laps later to insure his needed slot as two more yellows slowed the fun on laps 29 & 30. Another yellow was unfurled on lap-34, as a car was unable to reach infield safety leaving a restart consisting of Williams, Unger, Steve Stacy of Stockton, and Henry. Steve Johnson of Modesto brought out a yellow with a spin on lap-36 that led to the championship title by Henry. As the cars came off turn-4 for the restart, Williams felt pressure by Unger and checked up hoping for a no-good response by the flagman. Williams instead saw the green drop when he was off the pace and quickly found himself several spots back as the field roared past with Unger taking control. Unger headed home with his first career Grand Am win followed by Stacy, Callouette, the new champion Henry, and Greg Potts of Manteca.
The 50-lap Pro Stock feature saw Doug Ollis of Modesto with the first lap lead with spins by incoming point leader Cary Treadway and Jeff Lovelace bringing out the first yellow on lap-nine. Rookie pilot Tracy Bolin of Valley Springs grabbed the lead on the re-go with Treadway gaining the top spot on lap-17. Joe Hylton of Manteca took the lead on lap-24 and Treadway took it back on lap-27. Hylton gained it back on lap-37 as Treadway slid to fourth with oil on his tires. The leak forced Treadway out of the event on lap-42 as Hylton charged home to win his 5th feature of the year. Pete Ramirez of Manteca ran second ahead of Bolin, Mike Monez of Lodi, and Ray Davis of Galt. Treadway was the fast man on the night, and won the dash to insure his fourth straight season crown and second in Pro Stock action.
Chad Holman of Stockton paced the Pure Stock feature in its 50-lap event that ran 26 circuits before a single yellow for debris slowed the fun. Incoming point leader Danny Guibor of Manteca took charge on lap-28 with Tom Bolin of Morgan Hill coming to second on lap-31. A yellow/red condition transpired on lap-44 as Joey Stearns of Stockton lost a motor and caught fire as he stopped off turn-two. A quick blast to the final flag saw Guibor notch his 6th win of the season and clinch the season crown. Fast timer Bolin finished second ahead of John Medina of Galt, Kannai Scantlen of Stockton, and dash winner Jeff Ahl of Lodi.
The Legends of the Pacific staged their final 2001 event this week with Rick Andrews of Santa Clara in control of the first lap lead. Bumper LaRue of Napa took charge on lap-three just before a yellow/red condition as Tim Farquhar of Pinole took a wicked roll on the front straight that sent him to the local hospital. His car was hauled off with two tires missing and severe frame damage, but Tim returned to the track with only heavy bruise’s to show for his ‘E’ ticket ride.
Heat and dash winner Ryan Mosher of Cupertino took the point on lap-12 and sailed home with the win ahead of Heat winner Mark Bailey of San Lorenzo. Redwood City pilot Pete Currin finished third ahead of heat winner Kelly Martin of Modesto, and Bruce Jorgensen of Palo Cedro. Frankie Winchel of Sabastopol set the quick time for the night.
The interwoven division saw three drivers emerge with Stockton titles. Mosher earned the Semi-Pro crown, Bailey took the Master title, and Ryan Foster of Anderson ended up with the Pro division championship.
Nine of Ten Pro-4 Trucks took time trials this week with six of those able to contest for the feature win. Tim Fernandes Jr. of Modesto took the first lap lead but bowed quickly to Tim Mattson of Stockton on the next pass. Fernandes surged back to take control on lap-four, running to lap nine before being overhauled by Troy Ermish of Fremont. Ermish took the checkered first to make it a perfect night when added to his fast time heat and dash win. Fernandes finished second ahead of Gary Franks of Manteca, Mike Sims of Turlock, and Kevin Lockerby of Merced.
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