Gary Shafer Jr. came out on top of a wild three-way shootout to earn his first victory of the season at the Stockton 99 Speedway on Saturday night.
Shafer, of Stockton, started on the pole in the 11-car field for the Aug. 25 competition, alongside of Justin Philpott, the former two-time track champion from Tracy, for the 30-lap Stockton Late Model feature.
Shafer grabbed the early lead while Philpott settled in right behind him and immediately began probing for a way to pass.
Starting from the third row Sam Solari, the season points leader from Escalon, soon joined the fray, pulling to the inside of Philpott in an attempt to take over the second spot.
The pair raced in a dead heat for a couple of laps until Philpott had a slight bobble coming out of turn #4 of lap 12 which allowed Solari to inch ahead of him and set his sights on Shafer.
Solari got his opportunity on a lap 17 yellow-caution restart when he was able to power his way around the outside of Shafer and into the lead despite brushing the wall in the process.
But just as the restarts can give, they can also take away as Solari discovered three laps later when Salida’s Seth Holman brought out a yellow after he spun around on lap 20. Shafer was able to take back the top spot when he and Philpott power trained their way by Solari on the outside during the restart.
Solari was not done, however, as he and Philpott battled for the second spot for the remainder of the race allowing a grateful Shafer to gradually pull away for the victory.
“We had a great car all night,” said Shafer, who also won his heat and the trophy dash. “I was thankful for that second caution. We raced hard until I was able to pull ahead and from there I never looked back.”
Solari was able to edge inside of Philpott on the closing laps and the pair went at it side by side until the checkered flag where Solari held the edge by about a foot to take a hard earned second.
“This was a good result considering we knocked the toe out when I ran out of room and touched the wall trying to get past Shafer,” explained Solari. “Next week we have double points and if we can get through that we should be on our way to the championship.”
Sometimes you can pay a heavy price for winning as Shafer would learn when Justin Philpott and his grandma Valerie, who is known for distributing her home baked goodies to the crews in the pits, came by to offer their congratulations to Shafer on his victory after the race.
As the gracious pair left to return to the Philpott team pit Valerie turned and added with a smile, “But don’t expect any cookies before next week’s race though.”
Stockton’s Kimberly Rouse used her pole position in the 11-car Bomber feature to full advantage by charging into the lead on the opening green flag to post a strong wire-to-wire win.
“My crew put in a lot of hours the past couple of days to get it to turn better and it paid off tonight. I am thankful to them,” said Rouse as she celebrated her second win of the season.
The race was marred by a lengthy red flag stoppage when Stockton’s Darin Adler and Kyle Singleton, of Clovis, tangled in a scary incident while fighting for second place on lap 20.
Looking like something out of the Joie Chitwood Stunt Show from the old Wide World of Sports program, Adler climbed onto Singleton’s car and was launched airborne into the tires that guard the outer wall turn #3 pit exit, sending several of the huge tractor tires flying in different directions.
The tires did their job as no one was hurt.
Stockton’s Andrew Rumsey held off a late race charge by Barrett Sugden, of Stockton, to post a wire-to-wire victory in the B-4 main.
A pass the hat donation drive in the grandstands and pits raised approximately $2,000 to help track worker Shaun Davis who remains in the hospital with multiple non-life threatening injuries after being struck by a car during a caution last Saturday.
The 99 Speedway will be back in action on Saturday, Sept. 1, with double points on the line for the Stockton Late Models, B-4s, Bombers and Legends of the Pacific.