July 8, 2006 by Dale J Bosowski
Tony Hunt Dominates Open-Wheel Twin Bill at Stockton’s 99 Speedway
Tony Hunt was a man on a mission as the powerful open-wheeled Midgets and Sprints made their final appearance ever at Stockton’s 99 Speedway on Saturday night in an event co-sanctioned by the United States Auto Club (USAC), California Asphalt Sprintcar Association (CASA) and the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA).
Starting from the eighth spot on the grid, the 32-year-old third generation driver from Lincoln, methodically worked his way to the front of the pack before snaring the lead from Shauna Hogg of Citrus Heights on lap 21 of the 50-lap USAC/CASA Sprint Car main. Once in the lead, Hunt was untouchable as he simply checked out on the rest of the 16-car field to take the checkered flag.
"My car was just great tonight," explained Hunt, a two-time USAC Western Region Sprint champion who leads both the USAC and CASA Sprint Car standings in 2006. "Our team is completely focused on the goal of winning another championship."
It was a show of total domination by Hunt as he pulled off the rare feat of sweeping the race, his heat and setting fast time in qualifying for the 750-hp Sprints.
It was déjà vu all over again in the 30-lap USAC/BCRA Midget feature later in the evening.
Once again Hunt started from the eighth spot on the grid and once again he worked his way to the front, albeit with more difficulty than in the Sprint race earlier.
On lap 27, Hunt lurked in second behind Shannon McQueen of Bakersfield, when the two cars touched going into turn two, causing McQueen to spin out.
Hunt, #4, held off Stockton’s John Sarale, #32,the defending BCRA champion, during the final three laps of the race to earn his second victory of the night. El Monte’s Jerome Rodela, the defending and current USAC Midget points leader, completed the top three while McQueen ended up a very disappointing fifteenth.
"I haven’t had a chance to talk with her (McQueen) yet, but I am certainly going to," explained an apologetic Hunt. "It was totally unintentional and I feel really bad. We are friends and that’s not the way I wanted to do it."
Hunt also won his Midget heat race, but just missed out on complete perfection for the night when Evan Megeson of Tacoma, Washington edged him out for fast time in Midget qualifying.
"I have always wanted to do the double here in Stockton," said Hunt. "My heart is here in Stockton. I love this track. It’s such a great way to go out here."
The 99 Speedway, which is scheduled to close after the 2006 season, held its first USAC sanctioned event in 1959. Before the USAC/BCRA Midget feature, Tommy Hunt the vice-president of USAC West Coast Operations presented 99 Speedway promoter Ken Clapp with a plaque in recognition of his extensive contributions to open-wheel racing.
"I am honored. I was a charter member of USAC back in 1950 so this is really special to me," a surprised Clapp told the crowd of 2,460 from the start/finish line.
The battle for the Havoline Western Late Model track championship took a dramatic turn on Saturday.
Dave Byrd, #21, of Pacific Grove was leading in the early stages of the 50-lap race as Manteca’s #61, Guy Guibor, Salida’s Sam Solari and Stockton’s Pete Anderson Jr. all jockeyed for second place behind him.
When Guibor went low, Solari became the lunchmeat in the middle a three-car wide sandwich. He was forced up high going into turn three which pinned Anderson against the concrete wall, causing a spectacular shower of sparks that was reminiscent of the previous week’s 4th of July fireworks display.
Guibor escaped unscathed, but both Solari and Anderson were done for the evening.
"I had a good run on the outside and the #6 car (Solari) just came up into me. I didn’t have any room," said Anderson, the defending track champion and 2006 points leader going into the night’s action.
"They were points racing and their heads are all screwed up," countered a disgusted Solari. "They went three wide coming out of turn two and that won’t work."
On the restart, Guibor got around Byrd for first and stayed there for the rest of the race to post his first ever career win in a late model at Stockton. Guibor, who entered the evening second to Anderson in the Western Late Model point standings, also became the eighth different winner in just 11 races this season in the ultra competitive Western Late Model class.
"I can’t believe I finally won," exclaimed Guibor, who has been ever so close to a victory on several occasions this season. "To finally get one and get that monkey off my back is awesome."
Stockton’s #90 Ron Strmiska Jr. continued his climb up the points ladder with a strong second place finish, Mark Holeman of Los Altos took third, Eric Humphries of Chowchilla placed in fourth and Byrd rounded out the top five.
Season points leader #6, Mark Henslee of Lathrop cruised by pole-sitter Bryan Hitchcock of Valley Springs on the fourth lap of the crash filled, 30-lap Pro-4 Truck main and never looked back en route to capturing his fifth feature win of the year.
Stockton’s #24, Eric Figone stole second in the Pro-4 race when Ron Robeck of Milpitas spun in turn four of the final lap. Robeck recovered to salvage third, but ended up back in second when Figone was disqualified after failing the post race inspection.
Donny Darter, #99, of Stockton took over the lead in the 30-lap American Limited Stock Car (ALSC) feature on lap 12 from Darrell Hughes, #28, of Escalon and went on to pick up his third victory of the season. Hughes hung on for second and Pete Anderson Sr. of Stockton nabbed third.
Darter was also fast qualifier and won the dash to post his second straight ALSC sweep.
"I am really happy. I never had a clean sweep before and now I have two in a row," noted Darter. "This is pretty exciting for me."
On Saturday July 15, the NASCAR Southwest Series makes its final appearance at the 99 Speedway for the 15th Annual AutoZone 100. The NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series program includes the return of the Havoline Western Late Models for round #7 of the special HOTWOOD 1000 Series by JM Environmental, the American Limited Stocks and the Pro-4 Trucks in a program presented by Havoline/C.L. Bryant.
The Stockton 99 Speedway is located just off Highway 99 at 4105 North Wilson Way. If you are traveling south on Highway 99 take the Wilson Way exit. If you are heading north on Highway 99 take the Cherokee Road exit, loop over the freeway, turn right onto Newton Road and then turn left on Wilson Way.
For Stockton 99 Speedway information call the 99 Race Line at (209) 466-9999
or go to www.stockton99speedway.com on the web