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Pit Board for 6-18-05 by Dale J. Bosowski


When Dodge made its decision to get into NASCAR Cup racing a few years back, it also made a concerted effort to step up its support of local racing.

Nationally the automaker became the primary sponsor of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series and here in the central valley local Dodge dealerships have combined to sponsor the NASCAR West Series event and supply the pace vehicles at Stockton’s 99 Speedway.

Despite this increased presence at the 99, Stockton Dodge owner and race enthusiast Bob Byington realized there was still something sorely lacking.

“The whole series is sponsored by Dodge and the Dodge name is up there everywhere, but there wasn’t no Dodge running on the track and so we decided it would be a good thing to change that,” tells Byington.

To rectify this situation, Byington turned to a former employee Chris Monez, age 34 of Turlock, who was in the hunt for a primary sponsor after finishing fifth last season in the Western Late Model division points.

“Bob Byington is the biggest racing fan that I know. He is out here more than I am,” said Monez. “He was looking for a driver and I was looking to get into a Dodge. It was a perfect fit.”

Monez has been racing cars of one sort or another for over 20 years. He began honing his driving skills in quarter midgets at the age of 11 at Capital Speedway in Rio Linda, sometimes competing there against another kid named Jeff Gordon.  Except for a four-year break while he was serving in the military Monez has been racing ever since.

“I have always had great support from my family. We were committed to going to a different track almost every week when I started,” explains Monez. “My wife Rebecca has been very supportive also. Without her it would be impossible to do this.”

Monez has enjoyed racing at the 99 Speedway since coming to the tight ¼ mile oval in 2000. He has been racing in the premier Western Late Model class since its inception in 2002.

“I love this track. From a fan standpoint I don’t think you can get any better action. From a driver’s standpoint, it is a little unnerving because you are always running so close together at pretty good speeds,” said Monez. “You have to rely on who you are racing with and hope neither of you make a mistake so that you can get through the night with little or no damage. Anything can happen here and it usually does.”

During his six years of racing at the 99, Monez has earned the respect of his peers.

“He is a real genuine person and great competitor who always gives 110% every night,” said track rival and friend John Moore. “Chris also has a real spark which makes him fun to be around.”

Monez has found that the switch from Chevy to Dodge has sparked its own difficulties. Since Monez has the only Dodge at the track he cannot readily get parts from other competitors any longer and the exchange of technical information with other teams has been diminished.

“Most of the time at small track when you have a problem you can knock on your neighbors trailer and get help, but because we have a different make of car support is limited now,” said Monez. “Stockton Dodge has been great though. Bob has lent us technicians from the Stockton Dodge dealership and the whole staff there has given us huge support in researching, locating and obtaining the parts that we need.”

While securing major financial backing has eased many of the burdens of racing a full time schedule, it has also created additional expectations.

“Last year there was pressure trying to get a sponsorship deal and now there is pressure trying to do well for the sponsor. It still there, it has just changed a little bit,” said Monez. “Because we are running for the championship, the pressure to do well is something we put on ourselves.

That pressure seemed to get to Monez during the Stockton season opener on April 3 when he put his brand new car into the wall…on a warm-up lap. Although he was able to limp back onto the track that day, he finished at the tail end of the 22-car field. 

“After that first race, we were dead last in the standings and our team motto became from last to first,” laughs Monez. “We finally have the car figured out now and we should be a contender for the rest of the season.”

Since the opening week disaster, Monez has been working hard at fulfilling the new team motto. Although he has failed to win a race so far in 2005, a steady stream of top 5 finishes has elevated him back up to fourth overall in the Western Late Model standings, and at only 39 points back, he is well within striking distance of co leaders Pete Anderson of Stockton and Allison Duncan of San Rafael.

“I have an awesome car, a terrific crew and great sponsor in Stockton Dodge,” states Monez who is optimistic that his bright red Dodge will be in the winner’s circle soon. “We have been good enough to win on several occasions, but something always happens and we keep having to come from the back of the pack. We just need to catch a break.”

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