Schmidt and Holeman Score
Late Model Victories,
Mansch Captures West Car Series Championship
by Dale J Bosowski
Although Roseville’s #61 Shannon Mansch admitted to being nervous before the start of Saturday’s 100-lap West Car Late Model Series season finale at Stockton 99 Speedway, she was able to ignore the butterflies and drive a near flawless race to capture the series championship.
Mansch had good reason to worry. After the first nine West Car races she held only an eight point lead over Orangevale’s hard charging #50, Gary Glenn, who had taken victories in the previous two events held at Altamont and Lakeport.
At the start, Mansch smartly moved behind Glenn and patiently sat on his bumper through the early stages of the race. With Glenn fighting a loose car, Mansch was able to get around him with relative ease on lap 45 and take over third place behind Roseville’s Eric Schmidt and Sacramento’s #56, Bobby Ray Butler.
After disposing of Butler on lap 56, Mansch seemed content to follow Schmidt until the latter stages of the race. After a couple of failed attempts to take the lead in the closing laps, Mansch decided that discretion was the better part of valor as she elected to just hold her ground and follow Schmidt across the finish line in second place.
“I did it. I can’t believe that I finally did it. I survived,” exclaimed Mansch as she climbed out of her car to the cheers of the fans. “I wanted to win the race, but I didn’t want to make any stupid moves where I might accidentally hit him (Schmidt) and knock him out or take myself out.”
“We really didn’t have a great car tonight and I was worried about Shannon, but luckily we had a good enough car to stay in front at the end,” said #05, Schmidt. “I have a lot of respect for Shannon. She always races clean and I congratulate her for winning the championship.”
Former two-time track champion #50, David Philpott was not particularly fast in qualifying, but he took full advantage of an invert draw of 12 that put him on the pole for the HOTWOOD Series, by J. M. Environmental, Havoline Western Late Model 100-lap feature.
Philpott grabbed the lead on the opening lap and held it until #15, Mark Holeman, of Los Gatos, finally ran him down on lap 47. The rest of the field stayed in Holeman’s rear view mirror for the remaining 53 laps of the race as 21-year-old college student went on to capture his third win of the season in impressive fashion.
“The car was amazing. It would go anywhere I wanted it to go,” said Holeman, who will be heading back to resume his classes in engineering at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo in two weeks. “I never thought this could happen the first time back after having the car destroyed a few weeks ago.”
Although Philpott (or anybody else) was never able to touch Holeman in the second half of the race, he gamely went on to capture second, despite losing several spots on lap 78 following a close encounter with former three-time track champion Harry Belletto, of Modesto.
“We just didn’t have quite enough tonight,” said Philpott. “After we got together with Harry, the steering went away and it was a handful after that. I am going to get one yet, before it is over.”
The three drivers remaining in the hunt for the 2006 track championship – Manteca’s #61, Guy Guibor and Stockton drivers #90, Ron Strmiska Jr. and #5, Pete Anderson Jr. – swapped paint and positions with each other through out much of the race. Strmiska eventually pulled away from the other two and was on his way to a hard earned third place finish when his engine suddenly let go in a thick plume of smoke just five laps from the finish. As a result, Anderson inherited third place, Guibor finished fourth and Strmiska fell all the way to 11th.
“That was a real bummer, especially that close to the end,” said the dejected Strmiska. “We had a real good car and there was no warning at all. But as they say that’s racing.”
An invert draw of ten put the night’s fastest qualifiers near the middle of field for the start of the American Limited Stock Car division 30-lap main, but it took only a few laps for division points leader, Dash winner, left), Chad ‘the Iceman’ Holman and Pete Anderson Sr., right, both of Stockton, to work their way to the front of the 22-car field.
The two waged a thrilling head-to-head battle that had the crowd of better than 2,600 on the edge of their seats for the final 20 laps. Despite repeated challenges by Anderson, Holman was able to maintain the lead until a backmarker slowed him up just enough for Anderson to get along side of him coming out of turn four on the final lap. The crowd roared as Anderson won the drag race to the checkered flag by about a foot to capture his third victory of the season.
“That was a fun race to go back and forth with Chad like that,” said Anderson. “We got in lapped traffic and he got held up just a little bit and I was able to edge him by a nose. I don’t think I could have gotten him otherwise.”
The Pro-4 Truck main was a uncharacteristically messy affair that produced several yellow caution flags in the early portion of the 30-lap main, but the slowdowns were nothing more than a nuisance to season points leader Mark Henslee.
Henslee, #6, of Lathrop, set the fast qualifying time for the night and started the race from the pole thanks to a zero invert draw. That was bad news for the rest of the field as he simply powered away from the pack each time the green flag fell and easily finished ahead of Bryan Hitchcock, of Valley Springs and Oakdale’s Nathan McNeil for his eighth win of the season.
Henslee also captured the Pro-4 Truck dash to rack up his fourth straight sweep in a row and sixth overall for the season. More importantly, he now holds an insurmountable lead in the season point standings.
“The guys have this truck set up perfect. It’s just on a rail,” said Henslee, after putting on one of the season’s best doughnut exhibitions. “It is a relief to wrap things up. We are out here for fun now.”
Only two dates remain on the schedule at the Stockton 99 Speedway, which will close following the 2006 season.
Next Saturday, September 9th, the champions in both the Grand American Modified and Pro-4 Truck divisions will be crowned following their season finale “double points” features. In addition, the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series program will include the Havoline Western Late Models in a 50-lap main and the American Limited Stock Cars, by C.L. Bryant.
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.
For Stockton 99 Speedway information call the 99 Race Line at (209) 466-9999 or go to www.stockton99speedway.com on the web.