The Stockton 99 Speedway closed the books on the 2018 regular season schedule Saturday night, Oct. 21 by crowning the season champions in four racing divisions.
The Stockton Late Model feature was a mere formality to Escalon’s ‘Slammin’ Sam Solari who entered the evening with enough points to lock up the season championship by simply making it onto the starting grid for the 100-lap race.
Former two-time track champion Justin Philpott of Tracy led the 19 car field to the green flag and dominated the first half of the race as Salida’s Chad Holman, Manteca’s Ross Strmiska and Solari tried to desperately to stay with him. Strmiska would become the first of many casualties in the race when he touched the turn #3 wall while jousting with Holman and sustained severe front end damage.
Meanwhile, all eyes were on the back of the grid where Manteca’s Guy Guibor sat in the final position on the tenth row after showing up late and missing qualifying due to work obligations. Guibor calmly carved his way up the order like a ginsu knife cutting through butter to take over the third spot behind Holman on lap 40.
When a yellow-caution came out on lap 41, Holman darted into the pits to make some adjustments and Guibor found himself on the inside of Philpott at the front of the field for the restart. The pair touched going into turn #3 which caused Philpott to brush the wall and tear up his front end. He would return to the track, minus most of his bodywork, only to retire a few laps later with handling issues.
Guibor would never be threatened for the remainder of the race as he picked up his third victory of the year.
“That was fun to come from the back,” said Guibor. “I want to congratulate Sammy on the championship. I know how hard it is to win here.”
Defending 2017 track champion Arron Shankel of Lodi held down second place until his rear suspension failed with just seven laps to go in the race handing Solari second place.
“This is cool, but it has been a long year,” said Solari, who also won the 99 Speedway track championship in the Street Stocks in 2009. “If they bring back the Modifieds next year I may go back to those. I actually like driving those better than a Late Model.”
Stockton’s Gary Shafer Jr, veteran Greg Potts, also of Stockton, and Robbie Knittel of Lodi completed the top five.
Kyle Singleton of Clovis held the lead in the Bomber main for every lap of their 25-lap main except for the one that counts the most, the final lap, after Stockton’s Joey Sarafin muscled past him in turn #2 to pick up his second win of the season.
“We are all out here to win and I’m not racing for second. If somebody gives me an inch I am going to take it,” exclaimed Sarafin. “He gave me just a little bit of room and then tried to come back down, but it was already too late; I had my nose in there.”
Second generation driver Justin Scantlen, 17, of Valley Springs stayed out of trouble to finish in third and clinch the 2018 Bomber season title.
“This means a lot. It feels great. I really don’t know how to describe it,” said Scantlen. “I was just thinking be smart and don’t wreck the car.”
Andy Rumsey, of Stockton, drove to a dominating win over Josh Cross of Manteca in the 11-car B-4 feature, but Barrett Sugden’s fifth place effort scored just enough points to give the Stockton driver the season championship over Rumsey.
“We worked hard on the car to get it fast and nobody had anything for us tonight. I just wish we had one more race,” lamented Rumsey.
Aaron Thomas of Napa was declared the winner of the caution marred Mini Cup feature when track officials called the race over after three cars piled into the wall on a lap 15 restart. Fortunately, none of the drivers were hurt in the scary wreck.
The 99 Speedway will finish the 2018 season by hosting the Gun Slingers Sprint Car Series, BCRA Midgets and BCRA Vintage Midgets on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 27 and 28, with two complete programs of qualifying and racing.
The Stockton Dirt Track, located on the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, will conclude the local racing season with a two night doubleheader featuring the Hunt Magnetos Wingless Tour, NorCal Dwarfs, and Winged 360 Sprint Cars on Friday, Nov. 2 and the 35th Annual Tribute to Gary Patterson with the Elk Grove Ford 360 Sprint Car Challenge Tour, presented by Abreu Vineyards and the King of the West-NARC 410 Sprint Car Series on Saturday, Nov. 3.