Stockton 99 Speedway 1946
Vukovich at Stockton 99 Speedway in 1947.
Stockton 99 Speedway, Early Race. Note the goal posts in the infield,
St. Mary's High School played football there!!
Memories at Stockton
99 will never run out of gas
Record Staff Writer
Published Thursday, Sep 14, 2006
Speedway has always been the place to go for a good race and an honest
I learned this a dozen years ago when I was leaving the track after
another marathon night of racing and crashing. A man approached and
asked if I was the reporter from The Record.
Assured of my identity, he said, "Hey, I read you every week." Before he
could be thanked, he quickly added, "You stink!"
Yep, it's a tough crowd. But that's fitting, because Stockton 99 has
long had a reputation as one of the most challenging and exciting little
tracks on the West Coast.
On Saturday, the checkered flag will wave for a final time and 60 years
of racing on Wilson Way will end.
It's going to be tough to say goodbye, but you do get to keep your
memories. And after 18 years and more than 280 trips to Stockton 99
Speedway, there are plenty to choose from.
The most enduring memories have little to do with simple wins and
losses. Stockton 99 has always been fueled by personalities and passion.
The paydays aren't always great at Stockton 99, and there are dangerous
risks. But for some, racing is everything.
Picking the best driver of the past two decades is difficult, but Ken
Boyd dominated Stockton like no other driver over that time. A quiet,
unruffled perfectionist, Boyd won four track titles from 1988-91 and set
a national short-track record with 39 consecutive fast qualifying times.
That mark will outlive Stockton 99 by many years.
Some of the best moments were watching drivers finally achieve goals
that had eluded them for so long.
It's hard to forget the look on Pete Anderson Jr.'s face last year when
he became the first Stockton resident in more than three decades to win
a title in the track's premier division. He beamed with hometown pride.
And no one waited for their glory longer than Harry Belletto of Modesto,
who started racing at Stockton 99 in 1969. "Hard-luck Harry" had a
frustrating run of near misses before he finally became a champion in
1995 and received one of the loudest ovations in track history.
People appreciate a guy who just won't give up.
Another driver who would never give up his racing dream carried the best
name in track history. Cecil "Rip" Van Winkle was a World War II hero
who was awarded five Purple Hearts and participated in the invasion of
Normandy. He did not begin racing at Stockton 99 until he was 63, but he
brought his determination and many cigars with him.
At 67, he won the 1988 Charger division crown to become the oldest
driver in NASCAR history to win a title and won it again the next year.
He celebrated both by sitting in a lawn chair near his car and holding
hands with his wife. He retired in 1995 and passed away four years
The desire to compete and win can lead to trouble. Stockton 99 has long
had a reputation as a track where disputes are sometimes decided with
One of the biggest brawls involved Kevin Gottula and Ron Strmiska Sr.
The trouble started with the two drivers playing bumper cars on the
track and turned into a battle royal between the pit crews.
In the pits, one of Strmiska's crew members jumped up and down on the
hood of Gottula's car. After he was suspended, Strmiska simply said, "I
guess I'll take my grandson fishing."
Strmiska usually had a pretty good perspective on things. So did Dave
Philpott, a two-time champion from Tracy. Whenever a ruling would go
against him, he would grit his teeth and say, "You can't fight city
But many drivers tried to fight city hall. Cheating was never accepted,
but that didn't stop people from trying. A driver who long ago requested
anonymity once said that whenever he was accused of cheating, he always
admitted it and accepted the punishment.
His reasoning was that by pleading guilty the officials wouldn't check
his engine and see all the other illegal parts he was using.
Stockton 99 has had many controversies and long nights. The longest was
in 1998, when Mike David was not declared the winner of the late model
race until 4 a.m. Les Scott, a longtime sponsor and the founder of the
Hotwood 1,000, remarked, "Who would have thought when we came here on
Saturday, that we might miss church on Sunday?"
As the final race approaches, you think of the good times, but also the
somber moments when we were unfortunately reminded that auto racing is a
A driver was never killed during a race at Stockton 99, but there were
two deaths at the track.
Rene Bourgois, a popular car owner from Modesto, became the first person
killed at the track when a car ran through a fence in the pit area in
1993. J.D. Moore died at age 16 while testing a car during a practice
session in 2004.
Stockton 99 could be a dangerous, wonderful place and at times a little
bizarre. But mostly it was an important part of San Joaquin County's
racing community and a place where local folks could live their dreams.
It's sad when you lose such a place. But it's been a heck of a ride.
Contact reporter Scott Linesburgh at (209) 546-8281 or
6:10 p.m. Saturday
Program: 100-lap races for NASCAR
Western Late Model and StockCar Racing League; American Limited
Stock Car, Powder Puff, school bus demolition derby and
Ticket prices: $35 for adults; $25
for seniors (65-over); $20 for juniors (13-17) $5 for children
6-12 and under 6 are free. A family pack (two adults, four
children) is $69.99.
Info: (209) 466-9999;