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Stepps, Graham, Guzman Tackle 99 Speedway Races
7-13 Oak Racers2
Mike Graham (top) works against the field in his Super Stock category at the Stockton 99 Speedway. - photo by Photo By Mike Burghardt
The racing was close and highly competitive, culminating in a fireworks show at the annual Firecracker 150 at the Stockton 99 Speedway on July 3.
In the Grand American Modified series event, Ryan Stepps of Oakdale qualified his #98 modified in the eighth position. With his team still sorting out the handling of a new car, Stepps approached the event with a conservative driving strategy.
This approach kept him out of a 6-car pileup on the very first lap on the very first turn. He did an excellent job of maneuvering through the 6-car incident, slipping into the third position. The car just didn’t handle as well enough to hold the spot and he slowly slid back to the middle of the pack. After a couple more on track incidents, he found himself towards the top half of the pack. Using the conservative driving strategy, Stepps was able to finish eighth, even though he had to struggle with the cars handling throughout the event. His car suffered no damage.
Tyler Guzman of Oakdale qualified on the pole in the Bomber category, but found himself pushed back to third shortly after the green flag dropped, as he took an easy approach so as not to cause excessive tire wear early in the race. By the midway point of the race, the strategy seemed to be working. The leaders started suffering from the over loose handling effects, as their tires started to go away. As Guzman attempted to make his way back up to the front, the going was still rough, as the hot track had only one true good racing groove. Guzman attempted to out-brake his opponents in the turns in order to gain access to the preferred inside groove. While trying to advance on the car of Mike Masson of Stockton, the two cars bumped several times, causing Masson’s car to spin. Guzman was then sent to the back of the field, along with Masson for rough driving. Though he made a valiant effort, Guzman was not able to make up the ground lost, finishing 10th.
Oakdale’s Mike Graham brought out his newly painted No. 93 car with no dents, no marks and gave the car the looks that stood out in the Super Stock division. Graham also had the car performing very well, qualifying second. In the 10-lap trophy dash event, the fans were treated to some early fireworks. As Graham was battling Robert Daniel of Stockton for the lead, Daniel changed his line coming out of turn four, in attempt to block Graham’s pass attempt. In doing so he collided with Graham’s No. 93, pushing him into the outside wall. Graham’s car hit the wall hard, damaging the outside front wheel and axle, taking him out of the trophy dash. Though part of racing, Mike was not exactly happy that his pristine racecar was no longer so pristine.
Graham and his crew were able to get the car repaired for the Super Stock Main event. This would be a 30-lap dash. With the track temperatures being very hot (100 degree plus air temperatures at the track), tire wear was going to be of major concern. As the tires became worn, the cars would slide more, which could lead to slower lap times, as well as spin outs. In order to compensate for this, Graham chose to drive his car more conservatively in an effort to conserve his tires. This would give him more consistent lap times throughout the event, with the goal being to have the better tires at the end. This would allow him to run quicker than the field, increasing his chances of capturing another checkered flag. The strategy was working early on, as the leaders raced each other very hard, thus wearing down their tires, decreasing the tire grip on the racing surface. On lap 12, the car of Robbie Knittel spun in a turn, going up to the outside wall and dropping back down to the inside. This collected several cars, blocking most of turns three and four. This brought out a yellow caution flag and then a red flag to clean up the carnage of racecars. This happened very quickly, right in front of the hard charging Graham, who made every effort to avoid the wreck and was nearly successful. Unfortunately, the back of his car came around sending him backwards into the wall at the junction of turns three and four. He was able to keep the car running and returned to racing. By lap 16 Graham pulled out of the race, as the car continued to handle worse, making it unsafe to continue. He finished 10th, 14 laps down. He still left the event third in the Super Stock season points race.
After the completion of the racing activities, the fans were treated to a firework spectacular that last nearly an hour, bringing the event to a booming close.