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Strmiska closes in on Gottula for Madera WLM lead

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POSTED September 2, 2009 9:59 p.m.
A season-high 21 Western Late Models jammed the pits for last Saturday’s Race for Autism Night at Madera Speedway, including special guest NHRA drag racing star Ron Capps, the driver of the Don Schumacher Racing NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Nitro Funny Car, in a car prepared by Carlos Vieira Racing.

Stockton’s Joey Stearns, 2007 track champion Mark Holeman of Los Altos and Madera “Young Gun” Trevor Schlundt of Clovis battled it out for the lead through the first portion of the race before Gottula was finally able to take charge by getting the jump on Holeman following a caution on lap 33.

By mid-race Gottula would be joined at the front of the pack by his friend and season-long adversary Ross Strmiska, the third generation driver out of Stockton.

Despite numerous yellow cautions and a couple of red flag stoppages, Gottula and Strmiska battled for the lead throughout the remainder of the race until mechanical failure put Gottula on the sidelines with only nine laps to go in the race.

Strmiska would not be denied one of the biggest wins of his career, as he held of all challengers through the final laps to earn his fifth Madera victory of the 2009 season. Salida’s Mike Beeler, Joey Stearns, San Jose’s Dave Byrd, Matt Erickson and Carlos Vieira, driving his familiar No. 51 Racing for Autism Chevrolet Monte Carlo, completed the top six.

“That was a hard fought one. I though the cautions and restarts were never going to stop,” Strmiska said. “What a great field tonight. We come down here to win races and to do it against a field like this is really something.”

Ron Capps finished a very respectable 10th, despite a couple of incidents that left his car battered and in need of some long shop time by the end of the event.

“That was a lot of fun. I think some of them thought my sponsor was Target instead of NAPA because a few of them punted me around pretty good out there. I told my spotter that if they have any talent they shouldn’t have any trouble just going around me,” Capps said. “Everybody treated me great here and I am really pleased that I was allowed to participate in this for such a great cause.”

As a result, the battle for the 2009 Madera track championship could not be any tighter.

With just two races to go in the “Chase for the Championship” Gottula now holds an ultra-slim one-point lead over both Strmiska and Matt Erickson while Carlos Vieira sits only three points out of the top spot.

The popular Spears SRL Southwest Tour, presented by Performance Electric, will return to Madera Speedway this Saturday for a 130-lap feature in the third and final round of the Holiday Classic. In addition the NASCAR Whelen All American Racing Series Western Late Models, American Limited Stock Cars, Modified Super Toyotas, Toyota Sedans and Hornets will all be racing.

In the May 23 race at Madera, 2003 NASCAR Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich, of Lakeside, made his first appearance in the series since 2006 a successful one by driving the Bob Strandwold owned No. 1 Chevrolet to an impressive victory over  veteran MK Kanke, age 46 of Frazier Park. Kanke returned the favor by passing Vidovich in the July 4 rematch.

Kanke, who won the first two races of the 2009 season held at All-American Speedway in Roseville on April 4 and the Bullring in Las Vegas on May 3rd is the only repeat winner on the SRL circuit for 2009 and he holds a 295 to 267 point lead over Greg Voight of Goleta in the current standings. Jim Pettit II, the 2008 series champion out of Prunedale, sits in third with 221 points while Bakersfield’s Kevin Callahan (218) and Fremont’s Troy Ermish (213) round out the top five.

Stockton 99

The Western Late Models will also be running in a 150-lap feature at the new Stockton 99 Speedway in the final round of the 2009 Tri-Holiday Classic, presented by California Welding Supply.

Tracy’s David Philpott holds a 96 to 88 lead following the first two rounds over rookie Jake Gomes of Manteca while David’s son Justin Philpott, the run away regular season points leader, sits in third with 84.

In addition, the Grand American Modifieds, Street Stock and Bombers will be running at Stockton and there will be a fireworks show before the main event.

In last Saturday’s WSRA Baby Grand feature at Stockton, Manteca’s Josh Gomes held off the furious challenges of both Michael Sandoval of Ripon and Dylan Hutchinson of Citrus Heights to pick his fourth win in 12 starts this season.

There will also be racing on the dirt with the Patient’s First Labor Day Weekend Top Dog Special, featuring the IMCA Modifieds, at Merced Speedway on Saturday while Chowchilla Speedway will host the Round 3 of the Freedom Series on Monday September 7.

To contact Dale Bosowski, e-mail

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