2006 99 Schedule
Area racing won't die with Stockton 99
Though it may seem unfathomable, "grassroots" racing existed in the Central Valley before Stockton 99 Speedway.
It will keep on motorin' even after turn 1 becomes a comfortable living room.
While housing developments and age will claim Stockton 99's quarter-mile oval after this season, plans have been implemented to give local race fans and drivers alternatives.
Altamont Motorsports Park near Tracy is prepared to welcome aficionados of the same race divisions to its half-mile track.
Working in conjunction with Stockton 99, Altamont officials have designed a similar NASCAR program to meet stock car demands.
President and general manager Kenny Shepherd of Merced said short tracks need to work together to protect themselves from extinction.
"We need to have health in short-track racing," Shepherd said. "We need to have synchronized rules. We need to have standing safety procedures so it's very driver-friendly. Those are things we're working on so we can have better shows."
Shepherd is on the board of Riverside Motorsports Park, which is managing Altamont for the next two years. Riverside is dedicated to building an eight-track racing facility in Atwater. City approval is still being sought from Merced County for development plans to proceed.
Red tape held up three-time Stockton 99 Hardtop champion Jack McCoy of Modesto for years until he gave up on the idea of building a track in Modesto. He said it's a shame tracks like Stockton are becoming extinct.
Mesa Marina Raceway in Bakersfield and Silver State Speedway in Carson City, Nev., ran their final seasons last year.
"Most short tracks won't come back unless they're built on fairgrounds," McCoy said. "On state-owned property, you don't have to deal with environmental restrictions."
McCoy said people are less inclined to go to a track because the quality of television coverage is so good that people stay inside to watch NASCAR races on Saturdays.
Times have changed, he said. People are involved in so many other things that demand is not great enough to justify the building of another track.
For drivers, though, nothing can replace the rumble of a live motor. To the south, the closest tracks are Merced Speedway and Madera Speedway.
Madera offers the closest resemblance to the stock car style area racers are used to. Madera races on Saturdays but is active two weeks longer than Stockton, as well as during two open Stockton dates.
Many local drivers have experience at Madera, where the Grand American Modified division and touring series like the SRL Wild West Shootout have raced.
Merced Speedway isn't sanctioned by NASCAR. It runs dirt and asphalt divisions, including Street Stock.
In Stockton, Delta Speedway's dirt oval and the Stockton Motorplex go-kart track are a few minutes south of Stockton 99.
The new West Car Series has races scheduled at Shasta Raceway Park in Anderson and Lakeport Speedway. It's quite a commute to race at those places regularly — Anderson's 3/8-mile track is about 230 miles from Modesto; Lakeport's quarter-mile is 200 miles away.
Stockton 99 co-owner Ken Clapp said he hasn't heard of any new tracks being developed in the near future. He said he believes Shepherd can push racing in the area with the existing facility at Altamont.
"There are some dreamers out there," he said of new track potential. "Altamont is a big part of this. Altamont is the golden hope."
Clapp had a hand in Altamont getting back on board with NASCAR. If locals can get used to a bigger track, Altamont is poised to accommodate them.
Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.