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Around the track with four sports
Published Sunday, Mar 26, 2006
The biggest event in Northern California stock car racing is the Nextel Cup race at Infineon Raceway on June 25, but there's also new challenges for local racers.
Altamont Raceway has rejoined the NASCAR family and will run a twilight race program on Sundays similar to the Saturday night show at Stockton 99 Speedway, which is scheduled to cease operations after the season. The Western Late Model cars will be the premier class at both tracks, and the drivers in the division have their best shot at a regional title in years.
A NASCAR regional title is decided by a driver's top 16 finishes. Racers at Stockton 99 get 18 to 20 starts a season, but with Altamont in play, they can stay in the area and get 40 races.
"I don't know anybody who isn't looking at that," driver Dave Byrd said. "Personally, I think we'll run everything that we can for two months, and see what happens."
While local drivers battle for regional and track points, Stockton 99 officials prepare for their big sendoff. The track will host the Hotwood 1,000 laps of racing, made up of 100-lap races.
"That's a great deal, and the fans should enjoy it," said Pete Anderson Jr. of Stockton, the defending WLM champion at Stockton 99.
The 10th and final race of the series and the track will be on Sept. 16.
Stockton 99 will also hold NASCAR Southwest Series (July 15) and Grand National West (April 29, Aug. 5) events. Altamont also has the Southwest Series and GNW series on Oct. 15.
Danica Patrick is scheduled to return to Sonoma, the Champ series speeds through the streets of San Jose, and both Altamont and Stockton 99 will hold United States Auto Club events throughout the season.
"I think it's going to be a very good year for open wheel racing around here," Altamont president Kenny Shepherd said. "There's some very good events."
Delta Speedway on the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds is scheduled to open the season April 8 with its program of sprint and midget cars featuring the 600cc Multi and 250cc divisions.
"Everyone seems excited about the new season, I think we're going to have a great car count," Delta track manager Abe Souza said.
One of the highlights of the season will be the annual Gerhardt 100 for USAC midget, modified and sprint cars on April 22 at Stockton 99.
The national series will come to Northern California in late summer. The CHAMP series will run its second race in San Jose on July 30, and Danica and the Indy Racing League will be back in Sonoma on Aug. 27.
The drag racers are the vagabonds of the area. Officially, Sacramento Raceway is the home track for most San Joaquin County racers, but those competing on a regular basis spend their time traveling around California and other western states.
"If you want to run for regional or national titles in this sport, you have to travel," said Matt Constant, the reigning Northern California Super Comp champion.
Drivers such as Constant and Tim Greenmyer and Greg Boutte of Stockton are among those who are expected to be at the NHRA Autolite Nationals at Infineon on July 30, and local drivers have fared well in Sonoma for years.
Among the pro racers expected to compete in Sonoma is Bobby Panella of
Stockton, a three-time pro truck champ who ran a limited Pro Stock schedule last
Sacramento Raceway will run its regular program of Wednesday Night Street Legal Fun Drags through November and the ET Racing Series until August.