The Appreciation Was Overwhelming On Fan Appreciation Night As Was The Racing
4/21/12 - By David Holman / Stockton 99 Media Relations
On Saturday, April 21st, Stockton 99 Speedway presented the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Fan Appreciation Night, featuring Western Late Models in Twin 50’s, Super Stocks, Pure Stocks, NCMA Sprint Cars, Stockton 99 Mini Cups, and USAC Ford Focus Midgets in Twins of their own. The racing action was fast and furious for the over 2500 fans in the stands who were the grateful and well-deserving recipients of what was most likely considered opening night at last! If you missed this one, then you just don’t like Saturday Night Short-Track Racing, West Coast Style!
The Mini Cups got the show rolling and when their scaled-down dealing was done, it would be the #1 of Andrew Vanderpool standing high on the podium holding all the cards.
This one got underway with Discovery Bay’s Jared Cronk (44) nabbing P1 and Danville’s Colin Mullan (27) high and tight to the right. Mullan grabbed the holeshot going off into one and despite several restarts, he held strong to the point until lap 12 when Andrew Vanderpool decided he had the better car on this night as he got by Mullan and took it the rest of the way to the checkers for the Victory. Mullan, of course, would hold on to finish second, while Cronk, after falling off the pace just bit, brought her home on the podium in third. 2011 Champion, Bryce Napier (03) of Scotts Valley, after several brushes with disaster, held it together to salvage a fourth place run with Cameron Winninger (88) of Fremont rounding out the top five.
In the Western Late Model Twin #1, 2011 Champ Jeff Belletto (12) of Modesto, pretty much picked it up where he left off last year by taking this first race wire to wire for the very popular Victory.
Jeff Belletto started on pole with Tracy’s Justin Philpott (05) already nibbling at the right side door of the #12 at the drop of the green. Of course, Belletto, being the veteran he is, rarely lets such actions deter him from his goal, and that goal was to take it to the house just as he did by driving down into turn one with the lead, which he would never relinquish after he began chewing away at the warm asphalt and putting nothing but distance between himself and his nearest competitor, who just so happened to be Philpott. Belletto went completely unchallenged during this caution-free masterpiece as he sped beneath the flagstand with yet another notch in his ample belt. Philpott showed his usual strength in finishing second while Nic Belletto (15), also of Modesto, had a strong showing of his own by putting it on the podium in third. Pine Grove’s Matt Scott (35), and last year’s Track Champ at AAS in Roseville, put together a fourth place finish, with Billings, MO Mindy McCord (84), despite earlier problems, rebounded beautifully to finish up in fifth.
Next up, the Ford Focus Midgets put on a yellow-free show of their own. And when the high-speed dust had settled, West Sacramento’s Garrett Peterson (31) would be the one with the brightest smile by capturing the Victor’s share of the spoils in sweeping both Twins on this night.
The #3 of Sheldon Didinger inherited P1 honors to get this one underway with the #9 of Molly Helmuth out to the right. As the green flag broke through the evening sky, Didinger took full advantage of his new-found inheritance and drove down deep into the first corner, coming out the other side with the lead. That lead would be only minimally lived when, on lap 14, Garrett Peterson laid down a move going off into turn three that would not and could not be denied as he came up off turn four with an already stunning lead. Once out in the breathable air, Garrett would sail away into his own zip code, leaving the remainder of the field scratching their collective heads and fighting over that number two spot. Garrett crossed beneath the checkers well over a straightaway ahead of second place who came in the form of Ricky Bowers (42). The #24 of Tyler Edwards brought home a podium finish in third with Didinger sliding, if only slightly, to finish fourth. Helmuth fell off the pace, but still managed a top five in fifth.
In the Pure Stock Division, it appeared as though Manteca’s Marc Borges (60X) had brought home the bacon, but upon further review, the win was handed over to Stockton’s own Ben Lewis (22) after post-race inspection determined the Borges car had too much creative engineering involved.
Manteca’s Rick Irwin (210) and last year’s Champion Jeremy Tucker (7) of Stockton, were strapped in tight to row one and ready to go when the green rag fell with Tucker getting to the gas an inch quicker than did Irwin and the #7 jetted out to the early lead. Rather unfortunately, caution quickly befell the high-banks when, on lap 3, Stockton’s Roy Luft (21) came spinning off turn four and down the frontstretch, a maneuver that did not go unnoticed as the flagman threw an immediate yellow. Luft would be done for the night. On the restart, Tucker assumed the very familiar spot up front, however, on lap 8, Stockton’s Bobby Simpson Jr (819T) squirted through the middle of two cars to lay claim to that much-coveted real estate out front. Simpson appeared strong, just as he had all day by winning his Heat Race and the Trophy Dash, but fate was catching up and soon found the #819T, and that fate came in the form of the Racing God of Mechanical Woes as he pointed Simpson out the turn three gate which ended his fantastic night. Ben Lewis would inherit P1 on lap 22 with the woeful exit of Simpson. Much to Lewis’s chagrin, Marc Borges appeared on the scene and hungry for a comeback win. And, as luck and skill would have it, Borges wrestled the lead away on lap 28 with a power move up the middle where he would carry it out to the promise land for the apparent Victory, only to have it stripped away during post-race complications. Lewis gratefully accepted his surprising treasure of Victory. Stockton’s Mike Massone (007) was also derailed with the pointed finger of post-race tech, and with that, Tyler Guzman (93X) of Ceres moved up two notches to finish in second. Rick Irwin lost a little ground, but still got the nod for a podium finish in third. The #360 of Stockton’s Darin Alder came home in a solid fourth while Samantha Williams (454) of Ceres, moving up from the B-4’s, had an incredible fifth place finish in her Pure Stock debut.
The NCMA Sprints are always a track favorite, and this night would be no exception. And, of course, as he very often does, Napa’s Gentleman Driver, Dr. David Goodwill (3) reigned supreme.
David Burchett (77) of Tracy shared the front row honors with Bob Dias (24) of Sacramento to get this race up to speed. And, with the green flag wrinkling wildly against the warm Spring sky, Burchett had the heavier right foot as he beat the field down into turn one for the early lead, however short-lived, because on lap 3, Dias came careening down the frontstretch and hit the inside wall and brought with him the first yellow of the race. The hit was hard enough to end the night for Dias. On the restart, Denny Burrell (88) of Ripon, took advantage of his starting spot and motored out to the pristine beauty of P1, only to be slowed by the second yellow of the night when, on lap 5, David Goodwill, in something you don’t see every day, came spinning low out of four and caught the immediate attention of the flagman. On the lap 5 restart, Burrell once again pulled out to a comfortable lead while, in the meantime, Goodwill was majestically working his way back to the bumper of the #88. And, on lap 21, Burrell had no choice but to succumb to the gnawing at the rear of his car under the careful guidance of Goodwill, who performed a stunning move through turns three and four into the lead where he would take it through to the checkers for the always popular win for one of Napa’s best. Burrell would hold on to finish second, while Patterson’s Steve Amador (7) landed on the podium in third. Burchett fell off the pace, but still managed fourth with the Legend from Modesto, Ed Amador (76) rounding out the top five.
The Pride and Joy of the Speedway, the Super Stocks always put on a great show. And, although the car-count was considerably low, that certainly didn’t detract from the outcome of this one with Atwater’s Jason Aguirre (45) edging Lodi’s, Robbie “The Kid” Knittel (03) by .017 at the stripe.
This one went green with West Modesto’s Garland Tyler (73) and Jason Aguirre pacing the field to the flagstand. Tyler got the great jump and led the field down into turn one to lead the first lap. However, coming back to the stripe on the second circuit, Aguirre nosed Tyler at the line and took up residence on that much-sought-after real estate out where the fresh breeze caresses the attitude of a race car. Once there, Aguirre enjoyed the solitude of P1, if only momentarily, because Knittel was on the move and began to gnaw and chew at the back bumper of the #45, but Aguirre held off every challenge, including the final one when Knittel pulled alongside coming off turn four and Aguirre squeaked across the finishline in what was the closest finish in Super Stock history at the storied venue. Knittel, with pieces of bumper and paint still stuck to his teeth, finished a most exciting second, and one he won’t soon forget. Oakdale’s Sammy Solari (79), a constant threat whenever he races, suffered handling problems throughout the raced, but still managed a podium finish in third. Tyler slipped back in the fray to finish her up in fourth, while Stockton’s own Terrible Travis Tucker (53) filled in the fifth spot quite nicely.
The Western Late Model Twin #2 may well have been one of the greatest side-by-side battles ever. And when all was said and done, newcomer to Stockton, 20 year old, Matt Scott (35) of Pine Grove, after his win, threw down the gauntlet and proclaimed he would be racing for the Championship at the Speedway this year.
Modesto’s Mike Beeler (6), due to an eight invert off Twin #1, inherited the pole to get this one under the gun. NASCAR D4D driver, Juan Pitta (11) of Galt, nabbed P2, but the experience of Beeler grabbed a quicker gear to beat Pitta down into turn one for the early lead where he would enjoy the beauty of the vista view, unencumbered with what was going on behind him until lap 26 when, somehow, the young man from Pine Grove had quietly worked his way up to second and made the pass for the lead over Beeler coming up off turn four. Once out front, Scott ran an extremely smooth line which gave him the upper hand until the wily old veteran, Modesto’s Jeff Belletto (12), starting P8 on the grid after his win in the first Twin, had maneuvered brilliantly through traffic to find himself at the bumper of the young gun Scott. On lap 30, Belletto got underneath Scott and over the next 20 laps, the side-by-side, back-and-forth racing, simply had to be some of the finest ever witnessed at the Speedway. The two drivers made slight contact at different times, but neither blinked in their conquest of each other until Belletto slipped slightly coming out of four with two to go, which gave Scott just the edge he needed to pull off the stunning Victory over Belletto, not an easy task by any means. Of course, Belletto would finish a close second while Modesto’s third generation driver, and nephew to the elder Belletto, Nic Belletto (15), had an impressive run of his own, finishing on the podium in third. Beeler’s car appeared to lose grip late on, but he still managed a fourth place finish, while third generation and 2009 Track Champion from Tracy, Justin Philpott (05), rounded out the top five.
Next Saturday, April 28th, the NASCAR Whelen All American Series rolls back into action with the Grand American Modifieds in Twin 50’s, Pure Stocks, Basically-4-Cylinders and Stockton 99 Mini Cups.
The New Stockton 99 Speedway is located at 4105 N. Wilson Way, ¼-mile west of Highway 99. For more information on tickets and times, please contact the Speedway Office at (209)466-9999 or visit their Website at www.stockton99.com.
The New Stockton 99 Speedway is sponsored by Jackson Rancheria Casino Hotel, Budweiser, Alamo Alarm and Stockton Hampton Inn and Suites and Lodi Holiday Express.