By: Gary Jacob|
Where: Merced, CA
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Merced, CA -- Leading wire to wire from his third starting spot, Troy Stone captured his third IMCA Modified main event of 2004 and closed to within 11 points of second ranked Johnnie Baptista in the process Saturday night at Merced Speedway. The absence of incoming second ranked racer Aaron Barnell has thrown the second place point battle into a 7 way fight as Bob Williamson Sr hjolds a 51 point lead following his 4th place run. Jack Stanford ran second ahead of impressive rookie Monty Tomlinson in the feature action. A long time crewman for the Steitz operation, Los Banos racer Shawn Bryant is getting his first chance to race a full season and he won his second straight hobby stock main event with a late race outside pass on rookie Marc Key. Bryant has actually seen the checkered flag first in three straight races, but was disqualified from a Memorial Day win for having an illegal wheel. The street stocks were absent due to the California State Street Stock Championship Series race in Antioch, but the Lady Stocks ran their fourth race with Megan Neilson building a large lead in her feature win over Cathy Carvajal and Denise Clay.
The IMCA Modifieds had a 16 car turnout. Alex Stanford, the young son of Chowchilla veteran Jack Stanford, has shown a lot of promise in his rookie starts at Chowchilla, but is limiting his IMCA action in order to race for regional rookie of the year in 2005. He made his first Merced appearance and wheeled his D&M Performance car to a win in the dash. His father J Stanford won the first heat over Garrett Steitz and Williamson Sr. Having raced Friday night in Hawthorne NV because Watsonville was dark, Bill Saltzman won the second heat in front of T Stone and previous race winner Ramie Stone. The field also included the first 2004 season start for Bob Williamson Jr. T Stone grabbed a quick lead from his third starting spot in the main event. He was never headed and sixth starting J Stanford ran second. Tomlinson came from fifth to place third and point leader Williamson Sr had to battle from 10th for his fourth place run. A Stanford again impressed as he came from the back to place fifth over R Stone, Steitz, Baptista and Saltzman. Second ranked Baptista ended the night just 8 points ahead of Steitz, 11 in front of T Stone, 17 ahead of rookie Andrew Krumm and 22 in front of both Saltzman and Ray Mayer. Even the absent Barnell has a shot at finishing second as he trails Baptista by just 28 points.
The hobby stocks split 14 cars into a pair of heat races. Russ Wells from Madera won heat 1 over point runnerup Andy Welch and impressive Key. Bryant outraced Alex Odishoo and James Hall in heat 2. The Bryant team had just installed a new engine in his car around noon on Saturday. Rookie Odishoo had the pole for the main event and paced the first half of the race ahead of Key. Key got around Odishoo and Bryant moved into contention. Bryant used a high line on the backstretch to make his winning pass on Key. Key ran second and Welch cut Raul Rodriquez's point lead down to 16 points with his third place effort ahead of Odishoo, James Hall and Ryan Porter. Rodriquez was 7th ahead of Mike Medrano. Bryant is fourth in points behind rookie Porter.
Summary Lady Stock Feature-Megan Neilson, Cathy Carvajal, Denise Clay. Hobby Stock Heat 1-Russ Wells, Andy Welch, Marc Key, Rich Altamirano, James Smith. Heat 2-Shawn Bryant, Alex Odishoo, James Hall, Ryan Porter, Raul Rodriquez. Main-Bryant, Key, Welch, Odishoo, Hall, Porter, Rodriquez, Mike Medrano, Dave Parker, Smith, Wells, Deak Sherrell, Mark Jump, Altamirano. IMCA Modified Dash-Alex Stanford. Heat 1-Jack Stanford, Garrett Steitz, Bob Williamson Sr, Andrew Krumm, Ray Mayer. Heat 2-Bill Saltzman, Troy Stone, Ramie Stone, Monty Tomlinson, Johnnie Baptista. Main-T Stone, J Stanford, Tomlinson, Williamson Sr, A Stanford, R Stone, Steitz, Baptista, Saltzman, Krumm, Mayer, Hank Silva, Ray Lasswell, George Nevatt, Bob Williamson Jr, John Rodgers.