DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — The Belletto family and Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway are a natural combination. Three generations have been racing around the quarter-mile paved oval for parts of five decades.
"California Track Is Racing Home To Success-Filled Family"
The Bellettos are front and center again as the 65-year-old track’s season heads toward its final three NASCAR Whelen All-American Series point events of the season.
Second generation driver Jeff Belletto, 45, of Salida, Calif., is Stockton’s defending NASCAR Western Late Model division champion. He leads the late season point race by a slim margin over Matt Scott. Third generation driver Nic Belletto, 22, also of Salida and Jeff’s nephew, is third in the track point race. Western Late Models are Stockton’s NASCAR Division III classification.
“Dad (Harry) started racing in the 1970s and I was born in 1967,” Jeff Belletto said. “I’ve been around Stockton 99 my whole life.”
Harry Belletto, 69, of Modesto, Calif., is Stockton’s all-time leading Late Model feature winner with 89, and a three-time track champion. Sons Jeff and Steve, 47, of Modesto, have each won Stockton titles. Oldest son Rick, 49, of Modesto, has been a longtime guiding force in the pits and race shops. Nic is Steve’s son.
“Stockton 99 is a track where family and friends all get together. It’s like a community gathering on race nights,” Jeff Belletto said. “Tony Noceti (who with his wife, Carol, operates the track) owned, raced and built race cars and reopened the track in 2009. Tony and (1977 Stockton champion and 1991 Daytona 500 winner) Ernie Irvan were best buddies.”
The Stockton facility was closed and abandoned as a target of developers after the 2006 season. When those plans fell through, the Nocetis rescued the track, rehabbed and reopened it in 2009.
“I love to win races at Stockton,” Jeff said. “We compete with a lot of pride in a family name our dad established for us here.”
Jeff joined the Western Late Model ranks in 1995 and formed his own team with California HotWood CEO Les Scott in 1997.
Nic began his racing career in Street Stocks, and got his first win in 2008 driving a 1967 Chevy Malibu in Madera, Calif., while Stockton was closed. He advanced to the Western Late Model division when Stockton reopened and became a winner this year. He won both ends of twin 50s at the track on July 21, and another 50 lapper last Saturday.
“We had been struggling,” Nic Belletto said. “I was having trouble with handling and communicating what the car needed.
“We got some help from Roger Braken (crew chief for part-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver Jason Fensler), and he pointed us in the right direction. We figured out the front end geometry and the shocks.
“We’re a small family team and we do everything in-house,” Nic said. “I’ve seen more races in my life than I’ve ever raced in. Living up to the family name brings pride and pressure but I’m finally having some success.
“Our shops are a mile apart, but we’re still a family team,” Jeff said. “Between us it’s an open book.”
Jeff leads the current Stockton 99 Western Late Model division point standings with a 14 race record of four wins, 12 top-fives and 13 top-10s. Nic is third in the point race with three wins, 10 top-fives and 11 top-10s in 14 starts. Both drive Port City chassis. A close second in track points is Matt Scott. Scott, 20, of Pine Grove, Calif., is also bidding for his third-consecutive Western Late Model championship at All-American Speedway in Roseville, Calif.
Nic’s race car is owned by his crew chief and father, Steve, once a regular on NASCAR’s former southwestern Late Model series. Les Scott and California HotWood also support the team. In addition to his dad, team members include Scott Stortroen, Mike Siemering, his uncle Rick and Jeff Davis. Nic is a computer numerical control machinist. Wedding plans are in the works for Nic and Stortroen’s daughter, Kalyn.
Jeff operates Belletto’s Auto Glass. His crew chief is Perry Snelson. Team members include brother Rick, Dave Souza, Mark Maddox, Regan Hodges and Carl Pierce.
The entire family looks up to the most important part of their racing, Harry Belletto.
“Dad was so dominant here,” Jeff said. “We’re proud of him and lucky he made Stockton 99 our home track. He’s still part of everything we do.”