On Saturday, March 27th, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series rolled back onto the high banks to get the New Season underway. It’s hard to believe it’s already time to go racing again in the New Year, but much to the anticipation of the nearly 3,500 in attendance, everything got off to a great start with some absolutely fantastic racing. On the docket for opening night were the Western Late Models, Grand American Modifieds, Street Stocks, Bombers and the MMRA Mini Cups.
It was definitely a welcomed sight to see the Western Late Model Division roll back onto the speedy asphalt surface to begin another year. There were some new players and some old players, but all shared the same desire to get this one underway. Paul Dorrity (44) of Modesto and Cody Hodgson (55x) of Escalon paced the field to full-throttle in this one. Hodgson jumped out to the early lead until lap 4 when first-year Late Model driver, Chad Holman (9) of Manteca, starting seventh on the grid, dove low coming off four to take the lead. From that point Holman would dominate the race, despite it being plagued by ten caution periods, until a lap 43 single-file restart when Jeff Belletto (12) of Modesto and Holman made contact going off into turn one with Holman spinning up the track and bringing out the final yellow. Holman was relegated to the tail-end of the field while Lodi’s Michael Wendt (2) took full advantage of his good luck and sped off to the checkered flag for his second career Late Model win and his first on the New Season. “I’m just happy to bring it home in one piece for a change,” said the very polite Wendt. Belletto would hold on to finish second after applying some extremely heavy pressure to Wendt over the last couple laps. Tim Spurgeon (86) of Danville brought her home third while Ione’s Frank Farran (30) finished fourth with Dorrity rounding out the top five. Holman would have to settle for a sixth place finish in his Late Model Points debut at Stockton.
The Grand American Modifieds rumbled onto the track in their high-powered machines, which excited the fans in the stands as only they can do. Larry Tankersley (96) of Stockton brought the field around to greet the green with David Crouch (2), now of North Africa, at his side. But, much to their surprise, by lap 1, it would be the #62 of Stockton’s AJ Ryder who jumped out to the lead. Unfortunately for Ryder, on lap 3, coming off turn four, he lost a motor in front of the field collecting Tankersley along the way. The red came out to clean up the mess, and, due to time constraints, the race was cut to 30 laps. On the restart, Mike Regelman (5a) of Ripon jumped out to the lead where he held strong until lap 15 when Gary Glenn (50) of Orangeville drove by to lay claim to that much-coveted real estate out front. On lap 21, the second yellow went flying as Mindy McCord (26a) of Billings, Montana suffered mechanical problems and came to rest against the turn four wall. On the restart, Glenn took control, but not without the constant gnawing at his back bumper from defending Champion Scott Winters (24) of Tracy. These two would wage an epic battle for the ages with Glenn crossing the checkers first and Winters all over him in front of 3500 ecstatic fans, all on their collective feet. “Everybody says he ain’t beatable, but everyone’s beatable,” said the excited Glenn, “beating him (Winters) tonight was one of my main achievements.” Of course, Winters finished second while Regelman slipped back a bit to finish third. Crouch finished fourth and Aaron Higgins (21), The Pride of Piketon, Ohio finished fifth.
If you’re a fan of hard-core racing, then the Street Stocks are the Division for you. And, as usual, they never disappoint. Jacob Cardoza (32) of Manteca and Matt Jones (50) from parts unknown brought this one to life from the front row. But, by time they came around to lap 1, Lodi’s Robert Daniels (17), after starting fifth, managed to take control of the top spot with some beautiful maneuvering through traffic. Daniels would enjoy the lead until lap 10 when Escalon driving sensation, Sammy Solari (79), coming from P8 on the starting grid, moved into the lead where he would never look back as he took the checkers in dominating fashion for his first win of the New Season. “We actually work on this car during the week. We don’t go around the pits worrying about everyone else’s car,” said a very confident Solari. Defending Champion, Jeff Ahl (31) of Lodi, worked his way into second at the finish with Stockton’s own Ben Lewis II pulling off a podium finish in third. Daniels and Livermore’s Mark Squadrito (32x) rounded out the top five. The race was slowed only once when Arron Shankel (47) of Lodi lost a rear wheel up in turn two on lap 29.
In the Bomber Division Stockton drivers Mike Massone (007) and Lisa Martin (808) brought this race up to speed from the front row with Massone nabbing the front spot until lap 4 when Tom Dahl (004) of Stockton, starting sixth on the grid, took the lead away only to be slowed immediately on a lap 6 caution when the #313 of Lodi’s Peggy Sue Jared slammed the wall hard coming off turn two which effectively ended her night. On the restart, Dahl held position out front until lap 7 when Martin came spinning off four down the front stretch bringing with her the second caution of the race. On the restart, Dahl took off like he was shot from a cannon, and, despite a mid-race challenge from Lodi’s Robbie Knittel (3), Dahl proved to be too strong as he took it to the house for the first win of the Points Season. “I was just hoping the traffic wouldn’t be a factor, and we were able to motor through it,” said the quiet-mannered Dahl, “It was a good race.” Knittel would hold on to finish a very impressive second while Stockton’s Freddy Rathgen Jr. (029) finished on the podium with an impressive third place run. Dave Grimes (810) of Livermore finished fourth with Martin battling back from earlier woes for a top five.
The Mini Cups got the evening underway with the #05 of Stockton’s Cody Johnston leading the way until lap 3 when Travis Affonso (11) of Manteca dropped low to overtake the #05 as he sped away from that point forward, virtually untouched, to capture the first Mini Cup victory of the year. “I’m feeling really happy right now,” said the 8 year old Affonso. Johnston would hold on to finish second with Modesto’s Michael Bettencourt (00) rounding out the top three. Earlier in the day Affonso also won his Heat Race and Trophy Dash for the near-sweep.
Don’t forget next Saturday, April 3rd, when the NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series is back for Race #2 with the Western Late Models Twin 50's, Grand American Modifieds, Street Stocks, Bombers, MMRA Baby Grands and 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, California Welding Supply, Budweiser, Alamo Alarm and Lodi Hampton Inn and Suites.