2002 Schedule

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Even More SWT Coverage

4-27-02      BY: JIM SHIELS

Home grown talent and a little luck allowed Ron Strmiska, Jr. of Manteca, #90, to bank over $3,900 dollars from his win in the prestigious Featherlite Southwest Series event at Stockton 99 Speedway.

Strmiska, a local talent and second generation Stockton driver for many years, had to start in the 17-car semi-main event and work his way forward to the top two finish positions to make the transfer to the feature race. With only two laps to go and riding second, Strmiska saw Adam Andretti, #86, (above), of Brownsburg, Ind. Make a move on the inside of turn four. Andretti was unable to make the car stick and slid into Strmiska with Strmiska coming back against him. Andretti rode up and over the left front tire of Strmiska’s racer and ended up on his roof in a long slide into turn one.

Officials had every intention to restart the event and run the final few laps which would have left Strmiska out of contention, before Mother Nature intervened with a brief rain shower that caused the event to be canceled under the red flag. Scoring was forced to revert to the previous lap for the final results giving Strmiska the feature transfer.

John Baker of Tucson was the early leader, with West Sacramento driver Burney Lamar taking charge on lap-48. By lap-100 Strmiska had moved from last to third in the 22-car field, coming to second on lap-118. As he edged closer to the leader the fans started to react and might cheers could be heard for the local driver to ‘go to the front.’

Strmiska made the move and took the point on the 123rd pass to post the win as the stands went crazy. Lamar held for second over Todd Souza of Poway.

It was the first time since 1996 that the Series had run at Stockton, and if 37-cars in the pits, one of the strongest b-mains in track history, and a blazing feature were any example, the sleek cars will most certainly return in 2003.

The HOTWOOD Western Late Models that make up the premier division for the Stockton NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge, were on hand with Harold Rieker, #12, (above with Mark Welch), of Orangevale posting a new single lap record of 14.174, and Jeff Belletto of Modesto taking home a dash win plaque.

Belletto led the first lap of the feature before a four-car scrape and a yellow flag gave the point to Rieker. Rieker survived three more mild yellows and posted his first Stockton feature win over Harry Belletto of Modesto, Dave Byrd of San Jose, Tracy Bolin of Valley Springs, and Mark Welch of Orangevale.

Heats were won by Welch, Joe Hylton of Manteca, and Jeff Belletto. Byrd retained his early season point lead.

Cindy Freitas of Lodi took the early lead in the Pure Stock feature and ran to lap13 before getting pinched tight against the back straight wall by Tom Bolin of San Jose. Freitas backed out but chased Bolin into turn-four and turned him around in an apparent ‘pay-back’ that resulted in both of them restarting from the rear of the 22-car pack.

Incoming point leader Danny Guibor of Manteca took the lead on the restart and never looked back to post the win over a fast returning Bolin, Steven Hall of Manteca, Freitas, and Johnny Bird of Stockton.

2001 division Rookie of the year, Michael Wendt continued his 2002 rise with a fast time effort to become the first 2002 driver into the 16-second bracket, with Chad Holman of Stockton grabbing the dash win.

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