July 01, 2006
Big bang in
store for race
By KELLY JONES
BEE STAFF WRITER
Last Updated: June 30, 2006, 04:28:08 AM PDT
The last Firecracker 100 at Stockton 99 Speedway is scheduled for Saturday.
Let that sink in.
If no other date on the race track schedule hits home in the 60th and final season, the crème of the Tri-Holiday Series certainly should.
Turlock driver Chris Monez said he wanted to be a part of the excitement since he was a child. This will be his fifth appearance at Stockton 99's Fourth of July holiday spectacular.
"The drivers all sit along the front wall," Monez said. "The cars are on the grid and the fireworks go off right over them. There's nothing better."
Of course, not all the fireworks are in the air. Beyond the pyrotechnics, the racing is what makes the mid-season date memorable.
This year's event features two 100-lap races — the WestCar Series and Western Late Model main. It will be the WestCar Series' third visit to Stockton this season, and 30 drivers are expected to compete in the Eagle Fitness of Sparks 100.
Defending champion Byron Gonzales of Carmichael and Shannon Mansch of Roseville won the previous Stockton events. Mansch leads Gonzales in points 212-202.
Monez is 30 points behind Mansch. He said he'll make the required minor adjustments and run in the Western Late Model main if his car doesn't get too banged up in the WestCar race.
Stockton's Pete Anderson Jr. would like to add a Firecracker 100 trophy to his collection. The defending Western Late Model champ leads in season and Tri-Holiday points.
Anderson has finished in the top five all four years he has participated in the feature race. His best finish was second to Orangevale's Harold Rieker Jr. in 2002, his first time entered in the event.
True to form, that one was a doozy.
Anderson made contact with Mark Welch and nearly wrecked with eight laps left. Welch was black-flagged for rough driving, but Anderson still had to contend with Rieker.
Anderson protested the finish, sure that Rieker actually was a lap down. The decision stood, but Anderson hasn't let it get him down.
"Obviously, we're always geared up for this race," Anderson said. "This is a real tough race. Usually, there's a lot of wrecks. There's no telling who's going to win."
There have been seven different winners in nine Western Late Model main events this year. Anderson won on June 3. Mark Holeman of Los Gatos is the only repeat winner in a 100-lap Western Late Model race.
Anderson said he'd be happy with another top-five finish. But being the guy out front would be special, too.
"It would mean a lot, that's for sure," Anderson said. "That's our biggest race of the year. It's kind of like our Daytona."
Gates open at 3 p.m. The American Limited Stock Car and Legends of the Pacific divisions also are on the card.
Adult tickets are $30. A family pack, for two adults and up to four children, is $59.99. Call 466-9999 or visit www.stockton99speedway.com.
Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at 578-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firecracker 100 highlights
Last Updated: June 30, 2006, 04:28:08 AM PDT
Some of the most memorable races at Stockton 99 Speedway have come during the Fourth-of-July festivities. Some highlights from the last 15 years alone feature the track's biggest names:
2005 -- Granite Bay's John Moore dedicates his victory to his fallen son, J.D., who died during a test session at Stockton nine months before. Youngest son Colton joins him for pictures at the finish line.
2004 -- Elk Grove's Jason Fensler wins his second Firecracker 100, 10 years removed from his first.
1999 -- Modesto's Harry Belletto leads his sons in a 1-2-3 finish, trailed by Jeff and Steve. Papa Belletto also won in 1997 and 2001. Steve won the event in 1996.
1995 -- Tracy's David Philpott, a two-time track champ, escapes a pile-up and leads the final 62 laps.
1993 -- Modesto's Scott Masellis didn't get to celebrate a victory. He was named the winner five days later after it was ruled that Orangevale's Billy Clarkson actually was a lap down.
1992 -- Modesto's Kevin Gottula edges Philpott, who led for 97 laps before they tangled.
1991 -- Ron Strmiska Sr. ends Ken Boyd's four-race run by passing Masellis on lap 31 and holding on for the win.
1990 -- Turlock's Jim Reich, the 1981 track champion, wins his second Firecracker 100 in a row.
-- KELLY JONES
The Firecracker's last hurrah tonight
Record Staff Writer
Published Saturday, Jul 1, 2006
David Philpott believes The Firecracker at Stockton 99 Speedway is about more than trophies, fireworks and 100 laps of racing on a warm summer night.
The event is about tradition and history, and Philpott and his fellow drivers will have one more chance to win the holiday race today.
The sixth leg of the Hotwood 1,000 for the NASCAR Western Late Model division headlines the program, which begins at 6 p.m. The WestCar Late Model Series and American Limited Stock Car classes also will compete.
Today's program kicks off a big weekend of racing in the area, with the NASCAR Southwest Series featured at Altamont Motorsports Park 5 p.m. Sunday. Last year's Firecracker drew more than 4,300 fans at Stockton 99, and track promoter Ken Clapp expects the attendance to increase since the track is scheduled to close at the end of the season.
Philpott said this likely is the last chance to win the biggest race of the season, and it will make for a competitive evening.
"The Firecracker is our golden race, it's our big event," said Philpott, a Tracy resident who has won the race twice. "And while I won't give up hope of another season until I see the bulldozers, if this is it, you really want to win it. It should be wild."
Harry Belletto, 63, is trying for his record fifth Firecracker and the 90th main event of his career.
"It's nice to win the big ones, and this has always been the biggest one," Belletto said. "Someone will earn serious bragging rights."
Others are hoping to earn their first victory. Pete Anderson Jr. of Stockton, the Western Late Model and Hotwood 1,000 points leader, has never won on the Fourth of July weekend. Ron Strmiska Jr. of Stockton watched his father, Ron Sr., win the Firecracker three times and would like to add to the family's trophy collection.
"We were very proud when Dad won, and I'd sure like to add my name to the list," Strmiska Jr. said.
The first Firecracker was won by Ted Fritz in 1973, and the premise of the event was simple - 100 laps of stock car racing, followed by a fireworks show. There were few 100-lap races at the time, and the event was special because it also signified the halfway point of the season.
"After this one, you're heading toward the mountain toward the end," Philpott said. "That's more true this year than in the past."
Over the years it became one of the most anticipated holiday races in the state.
"It really is special," said Shannon Mansch of Roseville, who won the WestCar race in Stockton on June 10 and will compete today. "They put a lot of time and effort into it. It's better than other tracks, and I've been to a lot of tracks."
Winning the Fourth of July trophy is the main order of business, but Anderson and Mansch also will try to hold on to their respective points leads. Mansch has two WestCar wins but only a 10-point lead over Byron Gonzales and Gary Glenn.
Anderson leads Guy Guibor 449-430 in the Western Late Model series and has a 385-362 edge over Eric Humphries of Chowchilla in the Hotwood standings.
"Since this is supposed to be the last one, I better do it now," Anderson said. "I can't say how exciting it would be to win."
Contact reporter Scott Linesburgh at (209) 546-8281 or email@example.com
The Stockton 99 Speedway is located just off Highway 99 at 4105 North Wilson Way. If you are traveling south on Highway 99 take the Wilson Way exit. If you are heading north on Highway 99 take the Cherokee Road exit, loop over the freeway, turn right onto Newton Road and then turn left on Wilson Way.
Stockton 99 Speedway Info/Race Line (209) 466-9999.