The feel of fall was in the air as the local racing season headed into its stretch run at the Stockton Speedway on Saturday evening, Sept. 7.
Third generation driver Justin Philpott, of Tracy, and young Eric Nascimento Jr. of Manteca sat on the front row of the 18-car field for the start of the 50-lap Stockton Late Model feature.
That pair would pretty much turn the main into a match race as Philpott jumped out to the initial lead while Nascimento stayed glued to his rear bumper.
After probing for a way to get around Philpott on the low side for several laps, Nascimento suddenly darted up to the high line on lap 11 and cruised into the lead. Philpott, who started the race on used tires, was never able to make a serious challenge for the lead over the remainder of the race, but held on to second place as Nascimento captured his first career win.
Former track champion Arron Shankel of Lodi sat in third for much of the race, but spun out with three laps to go after tangling with Stockton’s Greg Potts, giving third place to Gridley’s Larry Tankersley, who had percolated back up through the pack after his own spinout earlier in the race.
“What a thrill to come out to my hometown track and get my first win here in front of my whole family and friends. You can’t have more fun than that,” said the 18-year-old, who then donated his prize money to the Boys & Girls Club.
Besides thanking his crew, Nascimento also gave credit to SRL Southwest Tour driver Jacob Gomes of Manteca, who has helped mentor him and was his spotter for the race.
“Philpott was beating on my bumper and lifting my car up almost the whole race and having Jacob talking in my ear, telling me when and where to go, helped a lot, especially on the restarts,” explained Nascimento.
Despite ending up the bridesmaid it was a positive night for Philpott, who saw his closest rival in the points battle for this year’s track championship, Gary Shafer Jr. of Stockton, finish the night in the pits after being involved in a mid-race accident.
“It was a long night. I wish we had gone with new tires now because we might have had something for him,” lamented Philpott. “But we got through the race without any problems and it feels good to gain points in the standings.”
Stockton’s Rodney Tripp started from the pole in the 17-car Bomber feature and never looked back, going wire-to-wire as he cruised to his second victory of the season over Linden’s Joey Stearns and Stockton’s Joey Serafin. Tripp’s biggest obstacle was surviving several yellow-caution restarts in the crash marred race that was scheduled for 25 laps, but finished under a checkered yellow on lap 23.
“Right off the trailer we had such a fast car tonight,” exclaimed Tripp. “I can’t thank my crew enough. They work so hard on the car all week and I am just the lucky guy who gets to drive it.”
In a near carbon copy of the late model race, the 14 car B-4 main turned into a two driver battle between Manteca teammates Joe Flowers and Josh Cross.
Flowers started on the pole and grabbed the initial lead in the 20-lap race, but Cross swooped under Flowers on lap 9 and held him off the rest of the way to earn his sixth win of the season.
“Great win tonight, rolling it back on the hauler in one piece, can’t complain,” said Cross. “My car was super-fast tonight. I just pointed it in the right direction and it went. It was really hooked up.”
Next weekend the racing action shifts to the Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds, where the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars returns on Friday night, Sept. 13. Tickets for the event are available by calling 844-347-8849 or online at WorldOfOutlaws.com.
The Stockton 99 Speedway’s next event will feature the Stockton Late Models along with the Bombers, B-4s, Grand American Modifieds and Legends of the Pacific on Saturday, Sept. 21.