After staging an epic battle for the win two weeks ago in the season opening race at the Stockton 99 Speedway, Stockton’s Gary Shafer Jr. and Tracy’s Justin Philpott returned to the historic quarter-mile track on April 6 for an equally exciting encore performance.
Philpott was fortunate to even make it to the grid for the 35-lap Stockton Late Model feature after being involved in a wild accident in a heat race that saw his car go completely airborne before crashing down hard and destroying the front suspension. Philpott’s family and crew worked feverishly to get the car back running just in time to make it to the back of the 14-car starting field for the start of the main.
Lodi’s Arron Shankel and Stockton’s Ty Carlson led the field to the opening green flag. The pair along with Shafer, Stockton’s Dennis Byers and Philpott, who had quickly worked his way up through the pack, were soon involved in a monumental five-way dogfight for the lead. The battle came to a sudden halt on lap 13 when all of the challengers, except for Shankel, tangled up into the front straightaway wall. Carlson exited on the hook while the others were able to limp into the pits to make repairs and rejoin the race from the rear.
Although Shankel was fortunate to miss the wreck, when the race resumed he quickly fell from the lead and back through the pack with a cut tire probably caused by debris from the previous wreck. By lap 18 Shafer and Philpott had both worked their way back to the front. For the next 15 laps Philpott employed every trick in his arsenal to get past Shafer, but was unable to complete the pass for the lead.
As he did two weeks ago in his win, Shafer gave Philpott the inside position on two yellow-caution restarts and was able to use the high line to retain the lead, but his luck changed when a final caution flew on lap 32. Shafer once again chose the high side for the restart, but he spun his tires and then received a tap on the bumper from Philpott causing him to slow up as Philpott deftly shot around him for the lead and the victory.
“Losing that first race was pretty tough so this feels really good,” said Philpott, a former two-time 99 champion. “I touched him a bit just enough to get him loose, but not enough to wreck him.”
Shankel was able to recover from his misfortune to salvage third ahead of Byers and Salida’s Chad Holman rounded out the top five of the Late Model finishing order.
After having his car burst into flames while leading the Bomber feature two weeks ago, Stockton’s Ben Lewis II was not going to be denied on Saturday. The 2017 Bomber champion moved into the lead on lap 4 of the 25-lap Bomber main and held on to the top spot until the end despite being harassed by Stockton’s Rodney Tripp all the way to the checkered flag.
“It was fun and a lot better than catching fire,” joked Lewis. “Tripp gave me some pretty tough competition tonight, but I just held that high line and it worked.”
Veteran driver Dave Kong of Manteca grabbed the lead in the 11-car B-4 main on the opening green flag and held it for the next 20 laps all the while being stalked by Josh Cross of Manteca. Cross made his move on lap 20 by going high into turn #3 before diving low coming onto the main straight to swoop under Kong for the lead and the victory.
“That was exciting. Kong gave me a good challenge, but I just waited for the right opportunity and got him,” said Cross.
Ripon’s Mike Regelman, the 2014 Grand American champion at the 99, showed he has lost none of his skills as he outlasted defending late Model champion Sam Solari of Escalon in the 15-lap Grand Am main. It was the first appearance of the Grand Am division at Stockton since mid-2017. Although there were only four cars competing on Saturday, track director Tony Noceti hopes to have fields of 10 to 12 cars competing in the division by summer.
“I have not been to the winner’s circle in a while so this feels really good,” said Regelman. “I think this class will grow huge here.”
Wyatt Sansom of Linden outlasted Rebecca Dubie to take the win in a crash marred 12-lap Mini Cup feature.
Racing returns to the 99 Speedway on Saturday, April 27 with a program that includes the Gun Slingers Wing Sprint Car Series, North State Modified Series, Legends of Kearney Bowl, BCRA Midgets and Focus Midgets & Vintage Midgets.
In addition, the Sprint Cup Challenge Tour will be competing April 12 through 14, at Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in conjunction with the Asparagus Festival.
Austin Herzog, 16, of Clovis won his first career Nut Up Pro Late Model Series race on Saturday night at Madera Speedway, in a barnburner over series champion Matt Erickson of Lake Don Pedro. Former SRL Southwest Tour champion Jacob Gomes of Manteca drew the pole position and led the 21 Pro Late Models to green for the 80 lap contest. He would finally lose the lead on a lap 28 restart and finish in third.