After four aborted attempts due to rain, the Stockton 99 Speedway successfully launched its 2018 season under clear blue skies on Sunday afternoon, April 8.
“Finally! It seems like we have been waiting forever for the new season to start,” exclaimed Arron Shankel, the 2017 defending late model track champion out of Lodi following his qualifying run. “We didn’t expect to win this last year and everything just worked out for us so we are hoping for the best again this year.”
Larry Tankersley, of Gridley, and former two-time track champion Justin Philpott, of Tracy, led the 16-car late model starting field to the green flag for their 40-lap feature.
Philpott grabbed the early lead, but was soon challenged by second generation driver Kyle Gottula, of Modesto. Gottula would slide by Philpott on the front straight of lap 9 and never looked back, deftly maneuvering through lapped traffic in the latter stages of the race to take the victory over Escalon’s Sam Solari, who pressured Gottula to the checkered flag, while Philpott, Tankersley and Shankel rounded out the top five.
However, Gottula failed a post-race inspection and was disqualified in Sunday’s Stockton Late Model feature, giving Solari the victory.
Manteca’s Robert Dueck shot to the front of the 12-car field from his third row starting position and never looked back as he registered a wire-to-wire victory over Galt’s John Medina in the 25-lap Bomber feature. It was the first career win for Dueck, who was racing in the same car that Stockton’s Ben Lewis II drove to the Bomber championship last season. Dueck, along with his partner Rick Roberts of Stockton, were able to purchase the car in the off season when Lewis decided to step up to the late model class.
“I have been coming out here to race for the last seven or eight years and I have had some pretty good cars, but never really a great car,” said Dueck. “That thing is a rocket right there. It really gets it on. It is superfast.”
The pair plan on sharing driving duties this season.
Luis Tyrell started dead last in the 19-car field for the Legends of Pacific main after missing his heat race, but the 21-year-old driver out of Brisbane would not be denied as he snaked through the pack to take the race lead on a lap 26 restart.
Tyrell then held off Sebastopol’s Cody Winchel and Cameron Austin of Santa Rosa for the remainder of the 35-lap event to take the win in a race that was interrupted by seven yellow-cautions and two red flag stoppages.
Barrett Sugden of Stockton easily outdistanced Andrew Rumsey, also of Stockton, in winning the 20-lap B-4 main.
The Stockton 99 will next see action on Saturday, April 28 with a four division program that includes the Stockton Late Models, Bombers, B-4 Cylinders, and California Hard Tops.
The Stockton Dirt Track, on the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, will be hosting the Jimmy Sills Classic featuring Elk Grove Ford 360 Sprint Car Challenge Tour presented by Abreu Vineyards and B-Modifieds on Saturday, April 14.