DOUBLE POINTS STIR STOCKTON POT
BY: JIM SHIELS
Double points for the feature events at Stockton 99 Speedway played their usual role in changing the makeup of several title runs in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by DODGE.
Action in the HOTWOOD Western Late Model division resulted in a now tighter battle with Harry Belletto #74, of Modesto only able to pick up one point on leader Dave Byrd of San Jose who now leads by a slim 11-point margin after his win in Saturday’s competition.
Byrd started fourth on the field for the feature as Pete Anderson; Jr. of Stockton took the early lead, with Harold Rieker of Orangevale taking control on lap-three. By the fifth circuit as the cars sorted out it was Rieker, Anderson, Byrd, Harry Belletto, and son Jeff Belletto, also of Modesto.
Tracy Bolin of Valley Springs passed Jeff Belletto for the fifth spot on lap-15 with the first yellow of the night coming on lap-18 as first time Stockton runner Travis Combs, #12 of Roseville had a major fluid leak around the track.
A red flag followed suit on the restart as Joe Hylton of Manteca exploded a transmission heading into the third turn. Hylton took a hard hit into the wall and his oil in turn collected Anthony Swan, #48, of Newark, Johnny Berndt of Clements, and Lodi pilot Robert Knittel. Swan was back for more problems on the 26th go-round as he broke free off turn four and slid backwards into the front straight tires.
A race long crowd-pleasing battle between dash winner Rieker and Anderson terminated when contact was made between the two going into turn-one on the restart and Anderson took a hit on the concrete barrier. Rieker was placed at the rear of the field due to the ‘involvement rule’ and elected to head to the pits as opposed to running the remaining three laps of the feature. Byrd, the night’s fast timer, assumed the lead with seven cars remaining and took his fourth win of the season with heat winner Harry Belletto on his rear bumper. Wes Miller of Delhi finished third followed by Bolin, and heat winner Anderson, who now runs third in the season points, 154 marks off the leader Byrd.
The double points were a major ‘plus-minus’ combination in the Grand American division as incoming point leader Steve Stacy of Stockton saw his slim 16-point lead fall to a third place level and a 43-point deficit behind the new leader Danny Contessotto of Stockton.
Contessotto grabbed the first lap lead in the Steve ‘Rosebud’ Riley Memorial event with a solid jump from the pole. The first yellow fell on lap-four as Ben Lewis of Stockton stopped in the second turn in what officials deemed was a deliberate act to draw a yellow for needed repairs that in turn cost him a one lap penalty. Mike Regelman of Ripon continued to showcase his new car and much improved competition level by taking the lead on the restart and running to the next caution as dash winner Stacy had his rear end break free from previous damage, slamming him into the third turn wall. Another quick yellow fell on the next pass as Doug Lane of Stockton spun coming off turn four, with Contessotto gaining the lead at the line. Lewis, #20 brought out one more yellow with a spin in turn two on lap-23 as the field sailed home on the 30th-lap with Contessotto claiming his third career feature and first of 2002. Fast timer Jason Philpot of Sacramento claimed the second slot ahead of Regelman, Hap Ferree of Nevada City, and Sam Solari of Salida who moved to second in the season point standings, 24 back of Contessotto.
Pure Stock feature competition saw Chad Holman, #75 of Stockton with the early lead and a lap-five progression consisting of himself, last week’s winner John Medina of Galt, Joey Stearns of Stockton, fast timer Michael Wendt of Lodi, and Gary Shafer, Jr. of Stockton. Shafer came to fourth on the next pass with the pack running smooth to the first yellow of the night on lap ten as one of those rare and sometimes funny happenings took place. Stearns, running John Medina’s back up car, 6x, hit ‘the boss’ from behind going into the first turn causing the dash winner Medina to spin, while at the same time, Medina’s wife Stacy, a heat winner on the night, also spun in the middle of turns three & four. Officials placed Stearns to the back as all three restarted their own personal race.
Meanwhile, at the front, it was still Holman with Shafer on his bumper as the two rubbed and got out of shape off turn two. The resulting ‘checkup’ caused Wendt to get sideways near turn three and to be hit by Holman with Shafer taking the lead at the line under the yellow.
A restart of Shafer, Tom Bolin of San Jose, Danny Guibor of Manteca, Johnny Bird of Stockton and Holman looked like the final action as the cars headed for the checkered, before the dreaded red flag stopped the pace on the 21st circuit. Ron McCaul of Stockton lost a motor or transmission and slammed hard into the first turn wall, collecting Kannai Scantlen, #8, and Ken Ratcliff, #66, of Stockton and Wendt in the melee. Shafer continued on to post his second 2002 feature win ahead of Bolin, Guibor, Charlie Clawson of Modesto, and Johnny Bird of Stockton.
A post race check saw incoming second place point runner Holman disqualified for a weight violation that slid him to third in points, a painful 132 marks behind the leader Guibor who in turn leads the new second place runner Bird by a 112 point margin.
Ray Bird, #68 of Stockton won the other heat with the Semi-Main falling to Dave Ball of Stockton. Brian Miller of Railroad Flat, #25, now has an commanding lead in the Semi-Main title run with a whopping 222 point lead over Dustin Himes of Stockton, and a further 268 point lead over Karen Wagner of Lodi.
The Ultra Wheel traveling series was on hand for their third Stockton appearance of the season with Dave Byrd, #21, once again doing double duty and looking to continue his dominance after two quick times and two feature wins to his credit.
The quick time streak was ended by Mark Laeger of Temecula, #50, with Byrd starting tenth on the field for the feature. Jeff Womack of Modesto took the first lap lead with Mark Holeman of Los Altos coming to second on the third lap. A fifth circuit line consisted of Womack, Holeman, Kyle Evans of Hanford, Tom Stanton of Commerce, and Graeme Blackburn of Santa Cruz.
Holeman, a former Delta Speedway 250 & 600 c.c. Open wheel standout, grabbed the lead on the 10th circuit with Evans in second as Byrd remained mired in traffic at the back. It was Byrd himself who brought out the first yellow on lap-30 as he got into the marbles and got loose coming off turn four, slapping the wall with his rear quarter. Byrd continue off turn two getting into the rear of Laeger in what many thought was a ‘pay back’ move that resulted in his own spin out.
Contact between a slow moving Sheridan and the leader Holman almost cost Holman the lead as Sheridan spun to draw a yellow on lap-40. On the restart Byrd moved to second and was just as quickly spun with help from Evans coming off turn four. Due to the division rule of ‘up-trucks’ on the final ten laps, Byrd was able to restart with the lead pack and quickly progressed back to third on lap-41 and second a lap later. Byrd quickly closed on the leader Holeman, #27, and began to watch the rookie for a mistake that would give Byrd his third straight victory. Holeman instead showed his talent and held tight to the lead to post his first career Super Truck win with Byrd in tow. Third place fell to Bryan Arak of Clovis over Stanton, and Evans. Kevin O’Neil of Long Beach won the dash.
Action will continue at Stockton on July 27th as the HOTWOOD Western Late Models return to be joined by the Pure Stocks, and USAC/BCRA Midgets. Stockton is also proud to announce their selection as a location for the Motor Sports Press Association to hold a barbecue get togeather and interview local media and personalities. Track Co-partner and Promoter Ken Clapp who was recently inducted as a charter member of the Winston West Stock Car Hall of Fame will be one of many to be interviewed by the distinguished MSPA members.