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Hughes wins wild ALSC main at 99
By KELLY JONES
BEE STAFF WRITER

Last Updated: August 13, 2006, 06:04:11 AM PDT

STOCKTON Escalon's Darrell Hughes thought qualifying fastest would give him an advantage in Saturday's American Limited Stock Car race.

With a 12-car invert, he found his time meant nothing.

Hughes relied on his years as a motorcycle racer and advice from dear ol' dad to win his second ALSC main of the year at Stockton 99 Speedway.

"Dad always said 'You can lose a race, but don't ever lose a shut-off contest,'" Hughes said, referring to being the first driver to let off the gas and hit the brake going into a corner.

Hughes held off Stockton's Pete Anderson Sr., something that he said made his latest victory even more special than his first. It's Hughes' second year racing cars.

"Pete made me earn it," Hughes said. "He raced me hard, but he raced me clean. I respect him for that. He's a veteran. To beat him means a lot."

It was a hairy race, marred by seven yellow flags, three lost tires and a near fistfight.

The 50-lap Western Late Model main was not finished at press time. Kids' Night activities and five divisions stretched out the evening. Manteca's Ron Strmiska Jr. posted the fast time and won the trophy dash in the Western Late Model division.

Hughes entered the night second in ALSC standings, trailing Stockton's Chad Holman by 79 points. Black tire marks covering the sides of Hughes' car were evidence of the battle he fought to close the points gap.

The worst of the accidents didn't look bad at first. Ceres' Matt Erickson was leading the ALSC race when he was sent into the pits in lap 16 because track officials ruled Erickson knocked Lodi's Jeff Ahl into the wall on the front stretch.

Erickson had led four laps. He got a jump on Ahl in a restart, but wasn't able to put much distance between his fender and Ahl's bumper. Ahl tapped him in turn 3 of lap 15, and while Erickson was able to stay ahead, he faltered.

While Erickson appeared to struggle to control his car as it crossed the start/finish line, Ahl could not keep his car in line. He hit the wall under the flag stand and went skidding up the front straight.

Erickson was ruled to be at fault and his night was done. Two members of Ahl's camp reached in to punch at Erickson as he drove into the pits.

Officials had to separate the drivers' crews and remove a few spectators before the race continued.

Hughes said he was afraid the race would be called due to time limit before he could get to the finish line. He didn't like seeing so many drivers leave the race, but he had his hands full anyway.

"Everywhere I looked I saw people sitting in the infield or cars in the wall," Hughes said. "I hate to win that way, but at this point, with all the bad luck we've had, we'll take a little good where we can get it."

For the first time in 12 races at Stockton 99, Manteca's Jacob Gomes did not win the Young Guns mini-cup main event. Stockton's Jarrett Kelly ended Gomes' 12-win streak on the quarter-mile.

Gomes, 13, finished second. He has won 24 of the last 26 youth touring division races. Brother Josh Gomes, 11, won the heat race. He finished fifth in the 20-lap main event.

Kids' Night featured the tykes' big wheel races on the front straightaway after division qualifying. More than 60 children rode their tricycles around the orange cone course.

Next Saturday is Hawaiian Shirt Night at Stockton, with the first 200 fans receiving leis. The evening also features a hot rod show and Round "8" of the Western Late Model Hot Wood 1000, a make-up 100-lapper from the one that was shortened before last week's Grand National West race.

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.


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