A large crowd was on hand to enjoy a mild fall evening and witness champions being crowned in four racing divisions in the final event of the 2019 season at the Stockton 99 Speedway. Competition was hosted on Saturday, Oct. 19.
Third generation driver Justin Philpott of Tracy entered the night with a healthy 28 point lead over Lodi’s Arron Shankel in the Stockton Late Model class. With double points on the line, however, and a strong field of 18 cars in the 100-lap feature, whittled down from 22 cars by a B Main, the championship was far from guaranteed.
Philpott started the race from the fourth row and quickly settled into the sixth position as Shankel, the 2017 champion, Granite Bay’s John Moore and 2018 champion Sam Solari, of Escalon, fought it out for the lead.
After the dust settled and Solari emerged with the lead on lap 20, Philpott methodically began to work his way up through the field, passing Shankel on lap 59 to take over the third place.
Philpott seemed in perfect position until he began to slowly fade back through the field due to a slow leak in his left rear tire.
Philpott had dropped back to seventh when the eighth yellow-caution of the race came out on lap 84 which allowed him to pit under yellow to change the tire.
Although he returned at the back of the field, Philpott remained on the lead lap and quickly began to move forward through the pack when the race resumed.
“There are a lot of ups and down in a race like this, especially when you are points racing. We got a big break with that yellow,” explained Philpott after the race.
Surviving one last scare when Moore and Stockton’s Ty Carlson spun wildly just ahead of him with five laps to go, Philpott followed Solari, Madera’s Joey Iest and Shankel across the finish line to wrap up his third career Stockton Late Model championship.
“This is so special. I can’t thank my family enough for all their support,’ said Philpott, who also won championships in 2009 and 2014.
It was a dominating victory for Solari. Driving the Nascimento family car, he was virtually untouchable the entire race, including successfully fending off Iest on multiple restarts.
“We had a rocket ship tonight,” exclaimed Solari, who sold his 2018 championship car last winter. “After not having a ride this season it was great to come back tonight and show these guys I could have won this thing again.”
David Philpott, a former two-time track champion at Stockton and Justin’s crew chief, watched as his son thanked the crowd after the race.
“This isn’t going to sit well at the kitchen table. I may have to come back and get mine next year,” the older Philpott joked of trying to win a third title himself. “I am really proud of him.”
In the track’s closest points race Josh Cross, trailed his stepdad Joe Flowers, both of Manteca, by just four points heading into Saturday’s B-4s 25-lap feature.
Cross immediately jumped into the lead over the 14 car field and never looked back as he cruised to the checkered flag while Flowers fought off Brian Cobb to hold on to second place.
“I knew I had the car to beat and I just had to drive smooth and stay clean,” said Cross.
Cross and Flowers ended up tied in points with the season title going to Cross based on leading Flowers in wins, seven to three.
“It has been a long year. A lot of hard work and dedication went into this championship,” said Cross. “We work on these cars together in the shop and I can’t think of a better ending than for Joe and I to go one-two!”
Joey Stearns of Linden set fast time, won his heat and the trophy dash, then went wire-to-wire in the 20-lap main for his third win of the season and a clean sweep of the night’s Bomber events.
His sister Mikala Stearns, also of Linden, entered the night with a 14 point lead over Lodi’s Harrison Stone in the Bomber standings. She finished the race in fifth, holding off Stone who sat on her bumper for the entire race, to clinch her first career Bomber championship.
“This means everything to me,” said Mikala, who at age 22 has already been competing for six years. “I just tried to be smooth. I knew I was only racing the 44 car (Stone) tonight.”
Linden’s Wyatt Sansom also pulled off a sweep in the Mini Cup division, clinching the season championship in the process.
Although the 99 Speedway will go into hibernation until the start of next season in March, the local season will conclude at Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds, with the 36th Annual Tribute to Gary Patterson featuring the Hunt Magneto Wingless Sprint Car Championship, NorCal Dwarf Cars and Open 360 Winged Sprint Cars on Friday. Nov. 1 and the Elk Grove Ford 360 Sprint Car Challenge Tour and NARC 410 Sprint Car Series finale on Saturday, Nov. 2.