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Roche Nails Down First Career Win At Speedway
Despite some major damage to his car, 18-year-old Christian Roche earned his first career win at 99 Speedway in the Late Models division on Saturday, June 2. Photo by Jessica McAnelly/Jessie’s Fast Photos

The Stockton 99 Speedway roared back to action on Saturday, June 2 with a special “Kids Night” program that featured the Stockton Late Models in a 40-lap main.

Manteca’s Ross Strmiska, the winner of the previous race two weekends ago, once again led the 15-car field to the green flag for the start of the race. The third generation driver methodically began pulling away from the rest of the pack, looking almost invincible, until a back marker spun out on lap 15 causing a yellow-caution.

Strmiska grabbed the lead on the restart, but Escalon’s Sam Solari made an aggressive charge up the inside causing Strmiska to spin in front of the pack. The ensuing melee resulted in major damage to five other cars that were unable to avoid the wreck and necessitated a long red flag stoppage to clean up the track.

When the race finally resumed Coulterville’s Chris Lyon and Strmiska’s teammate Christian Roche, of Escalon, found themselves on the front row while Strmiska and Solari, at the invite of track officials for causing the mess, started in the rear.

Roche was able to take the lead despite having most of the right side of his car torn off, while Strmiska gamely worked his way back through the field. Strmiska moved into second on lap 22 and spent the remainder of the race probing for a way to get by his stablemate. Despite pulling even with Roche on multiple occasions, Strmiska was never able to sustain enough momentum to complete a pass as Roche chalked up his first career victory.

“This has been an amazing journey with a lot of ups and downs and this feels so good to finally sit on top of the box especially having my teammate beside me,” exclaimed the 18-year-old winning driver Roche. “My head was going all over the place during those final laps, but my spotter helped me think clear and brought me home.”

Modesto’s Adam Coonfield turned in an outstanding race to finish in third, Solari was able to maintain his lead in the season points standings by recovering for fourth and Lyon held on to round out the top five.

The 25-lap Bomber feature got off to a rough start when Roy Worthy, of Valley Springs, and Jeanna Ramos, of Lodi, tangled on the back straight of the opening lap causing both to crash hard into the infield pit entrance and bring the race to an immediate red flag halt. After cleaning up the carnage and resetting the displaced tire barriers, the race was restarted with Ben Lewis and Joey Sarafin, both of Stockton, leading the pack.

Lewis, making his 2018 season debut, showed no rust as he was able to jump into the lead and stay there for the remainder of the 25-lap event. Rick Roberts of Stockton made a late race surge to slip past Sarafin with just two laps remaining for second.

Barrett Sugden of Stockton started on the pole and never looked back as he cruised to an easy wire-to-wire win over runner-up Andy Rumsey, of Stockton, in the B-4s.

Napa’s Arron Thomas, Placerville’s Jayce McArthy and Atwater’s Alden Philips sliced and diced with each other for the entire 15-lap distance of the Mini cup feature. Thomas was finally able to gain the upper hand to take the win while Phillips put a last lap pass on McArthy to snare second place.

The Stockton 99 Speedway will be dark next weekend before returning on Saturday, June 16 with the Tom Manning Memorial, featuring the Gun Slingers Wing Sprint Car Series, BCRA Midgets, BCRA Vintage Midgets, California Hard Top Association, Legends of Kearney Bowl,

The Stockton Dirt Track, located on the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, will be hosting the West Coast Summer Nationals Tractor Pulls on Friday, June 15 and the Lodi Motorcycle Club AMA Sanctioned Motorcycle Races on Saturday, June 16.