Veteran driver Larry Tankersley, of Stockton, emerged the victor of an epic battle royal between three former track champions in the 50-lap Stockton Late Model race at the 99 Speedway on Saturday night.
“It has been a while since we had a win. We gave one away earlier this year so we really wanted to get in victory lane tonight,” Tankersley said on June 3 as he celebrated with his crew after the race on the front straight. “We made a few changes on the car from last week and it was really worked out well.”
The 2016 track champion started on the outside of the front row next to Stockton’s Rodney Tripp, but Tankersley immediately fell back to third when 2019 track champion Sam Solari, of Escalon, slipped by him on the opening lap. However, Tankersley was quick to regroup and swooped by both of them four laps later to take over the lead, but when Solari tried to follow him, Tripp clipped Solari’s rear bumper sending Solari into a spin and bringing out the first of three caution flags in the race.
With Tripp joining Solari at the back of the 11-car field for causing the accident, the door was open for Arron Shankel, the 2017 track champion from Lodi, to take over the pursuit of Tankersley. After the restart Shankel stayed glued to Tankersley’s bumper probing for a way to get around him until Solari crept back into the fray on lap 30 to make it a three-way battle for the lead.
With less than 10 laps remaining in the race, Solari was finally able to slip under Shankel for second, but as he tried to spatula under Tankersley for the lead he lost control and slid into the inside wall on the front straight. Tankersley then survived the final restart to nip Shankel and Lodi’s Steve Frazier at the finish line for his first victory in over three years.
“I lost a shim or something in the shock and the car started really dragging late in the race,” Tankersley explained. “I hated those yellows. We know those other guys are fast, but this time we were able to hold them off.”
After not arriving at the track until the late afternoon, Manteca’s Josh “The Weasel” Cross barely had enough time to prepare his car, but it didn’t matter as the former two-time division champion rolled to his first win of the new season in the 20-lap B-4 main.
After passing pole sitter Jordan Mast of Manteca on lap six, Cross had his hands full holding off the hard charging Joe Flowers, his father-in-law out of Manteca, over the next several laps. Unfortunately, their battle ended prematurely when Flowers’ engine suddenly cut out on lap 15, forcing him to retire.
With Flowers no longer posing a threat, Cross seemed to be in control of the race until his engine began to lose power. Cross struggled over the final laps, but he had just enough left to hold off Mast and Stockton’s Jordan DeVore to the checkered flag.
“That was a fun one tonight. I like racing with Jordan because he races hard but clean,” said Cross, who will once again only race a limited schedule that will focus on the bigger events. “We really have the car dialed in. It started overheating a bit at the end, but we were able to baby it to the finish.”
Brian Miller, of Railroad Flats, was on a quest for his second straight win in the Street Stock feature, but Lodi’s Brandon Jones had other ideas.
The pair battled it out in the first half of the 20-lap race, going side by side and trading paint on a couple of occasions, before Jones finally blew past Miller with five laps to go. Once he got out in front Jones never looked back as he cruised to the victory while Miller faded to third after Stockton’s Barrett Sugden surged by him in the final laps.
It was an especially satisfying win for Jones, who raced the same car on the dirt earlier this year at Merced Speedway. After having limited success, he decided to return to the 99 and spent his evenings over the last couple of weeks retooling the car to race on asphalt.
“It has been hard. We really struggled all week with the car and put a lot of hours in taking the motor apart and putting it back together. We basically took a dirt car and won with it on asphalt tonight,” said Jones. “Racing on dirt is really fun and I want to try the dirt again sometime, but probably with a different car.”
Rick Brophy, of Oakley, held off CJ Stubles of Grass Valley in the Legends of Kearney Bowl race and Stockton’s Natalie Harper went wire-to-wire in the 10-lap B-4 Junior main to post her third consecutive win of the 2023 season.
The 99 Speedway returns to action on Saturday, June 17 with a Father’s Day program featuring the Stockton Late Models, Street Stocks, B4’s, Jr. B4’s, NCMA Sprint Cars and AAA Energy Systems Pro-4 Modifieds.
The Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, will host the AG Fest West Coast Summer Nationals Tractor Pulls on Saturday, June 17.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Sonoma Raceway this coming weekend, June 9-11, with a three race program that includes the General Tire 200 ARCA Menards Series West race on Friday, June 9; the DoorDash 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday, June 10; and concludes with the 34th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday, June 11.
Kyle Larson, of Elk Grove, will once again be one of the favorites to win as he looks for a sixth consecutive pole at Sonoma. Larson has one victory on the twisting 1.99-mile Sonoma road course, coming in his 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion season. Larson is also scheduled to compete in Saturday’s Xfinity race.
Of special note, Bakersfield native Kevin Harvick, who will be retiring after the 2023 season, will be turning his final laps in his home state this weekend.
There will be several drivers with local ties in Friday’s ARCA race including Danville’s Tim Spurgeon, Orangevale’s Cole Moore. Elk Grove’s Dylan Lupton and Manteca’s Eric “Bubba” Nascimento, the 2020 Stockton 99 Speedway Late Model champion.
Saturday’s Xfinity race will be televised on FS1 beginning at 3:30 p.m. and Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race will be televised on FOX with prerace festivities starting at noon.
For tickets or more information on the Toyota/Save Mart 350, visit www.sonomaraceway.com/events/toyota-save-mart-350/tickets/ or call 800-870-RACE.