For most of the top contenders, Saturday’s Stockton Late Model feature was an act in frustration and futility, but for Manteca’s Guy Guibor it was Christmas comes early as the veteran driver was handed a much unexpected win on the final lap.
With only three races remaining in the 2018 season and double points on the line, Saturday’s 50-lap race was crucial to the drivers still in the hunt for the 2018 99 Speedway track championship.
Entering the night, ‘Slammin’ Sam Solari, of Escalon, held a comfortable though hardly insurmountable lead in the season standings of between 42 to 78 points over the four drivers still in serious contention for the title – Gary Shafer Jr., of Stockton, Seth Holman of Salida, Justin Philpott of Tracy and Greeley Hills’ Chris Lyons.
Philpott and Solari sat on the front row as the 16-car field took the green flag to start the 50-lap main.
After outdueling Solari in a side by side battle on the opening laps Philpott looked virtually untouchable for the first third of the race until he suddenly slowed to a stop in turn #2 of lap 20 when his power steering inexplicably went out.
With Philpott parked in the infield, Solari gladly inherited the lead until a back marker spun out on lap 29 collecting Holman, who had charged up to fifth place, as the unfortunate third generation driver had nowhere to go.
When the race resumed, Solari again powered to the lead while Guibor used every trick in his arsenal to catch him, but Solari was up to the task holding him at bay as the race wound down to its conclusion.
After taking the white flag, Solari seemed in total control when he suddenly began to slide around as if he hit a patch of black ice coming out of turn #2. He was able to catch it and regain traction but not before a surprised Guibor was able to slip past him and snatch the checkered flag for the victory.
“I was keeping the pressure on him and I just got lucky tonight. I gave it all I had and I couldn’t touch him,” said Guibor. “I couldn’t get off the corners like I wanted. I could get up to him, but that was it. I needed him to make a mistake and luckily for me he did.”
Following Guibor and Solari across the finish line were Guibor’s teammate Christian Roche, of Escalon, Aron Shankel, the defending 2017 track champion out of Lodi and Lyons.
Despite the disappointing finish it was a good night for Solari. With Philpott and Holman both getting DNFs and Shafer coming home well back in the pack, Solari now has a vise grip on the championship with just two events left on the schedule.
“There was oil all over the place and I hit it. It was horrible,” explained a very disgusted Solari. “The points are fine, but I would rather win though.”
Philpott was a bit more philosophical as he looked over his car after the race.
“It was a lot of fun tonight. I thought maybe I had a tire going down and suddenly I couldn’t steer it at all,” said the former two-time track champion. “We have a couple more races, but we are not running for points now. We are out of it, but there is always next year I guess.”
Stockton’s Ben Lewis cruised to an easy win in the 25-lap Bomber main to pick up his second victory of the season.
Lewis took the lead for good on a lap 6 restart and stayed comfortably ahead of the 16-car field for the remainder of the event while Joey Sarafin, of Stockton and Manteca’s Robert Dueck sparred with each other for the second place spot over the last half of the race.
Sarafin was able to make a daring do or die pass on the inside of Dueck coming out of the final corner to snare runner up honors by a bumper over Dueck.
“Once I got out in front I just kind of cruised and clipped the laps off,” said Lewis, who also won his heat and the trophy dash. “I kept waiting for those guys to come up, but they never did.”
The 16-car Legends of the Pacific feature got off to ragged start with four yellow-cautions and two red flag stoppages in the opening four laps. Track officials finally restored some order to the chaos by mandating single file restarts for the remainder of the race.
Cody Winchel of Sebastopol would go on to take the win over Santa Rosa’s Cameron Austin and Manteca’s Chad Nascimento.
Stockton’s Barrett Sugden held off a determined late race charge by Andrew Rumsey of Stockton and Joe Flowers of Manteca for the win in the B-4s feature.
The 99 Speedway will be back in action on Saturday, Sept. 15, with a four division program headlined by the Stockton Late Models and Bombers.