The Western Late Models were back in action following a week off, but even with that respite, the feature at Stockton 99 Speedway last Saturday produced a small field of just seven cars.
The Tracy father and son dual of David and Justin Philpott battled each other in the early going of the 50-lap main before Justin was able to squeeze under his dad on lap 12 for the lead. The 19-year-old never looked back as he cruised to his third win of the season well ahead of his dad and Merced’s Carlos Vieira.
“I don’t want to say it was easy, but I wish there was a little more competition,” said Philpott apologetically. “I want to thank everybody for coming out. Sorry about the low car-count. Come back next week and we will see what happens.”
One of the no shows at Stockton last Saturday was hometown driver Vito Ranuio. As a result, Philpott enters this week’s competition with a whopping 140 point lead and the 2009 championship virtually clinched.
The weak economy shoulders the biggest blame for the small fields as teams pick and choose when and where they will compete judiciously. The 99 is not the only victim as the Western fields at Madera Speedway have been below last season’s counts.
Track officials are confident that there will be an improved car count for this Saturday’s Stockton program which will feature Western Late Models, Street Stocks, Bombers and the Mini-Stocks/Mini-Trucks. Fans will also be able to dine on 99 cent hot dogs for the entire night.
Madera Speedway will be hoisting a huge seven division show that will include the Western Late Models, American Limited Stock Cars, Modified Super Toyotas, Toyota Sedans and Hornets plus the WSRA Mini-Cup & Baby Grands.
Chowchilla Speedway will also be running this Saturday with a five division car featuring the Western Modifieds while Merced Speedway will be dark due to the county fair.
The return of the NASCAR Camping World Series West to Portland International Raceway featured a thrilling dash to the finish on the final lap, with Fairfield’s Jim Inglebright taking the victory in the BI-MART Salute to the Troops 125 on Sunday for his second career series victory.
Inglebright was third as the field thundered down the front stretch of the road course for a restart with two laps to go in a green-white-checkered finish, but he charged to the outside of Brian Wong heading into the first turn and then slipped inside of Greg Pursley heading to the checkered flag for a dramatic win.
Ontario’s Jason Bowles and Escalon’s Eric Holmes - who were one-two in the championship standings coming into the event - were running one-two closing in on the finish, but ended up losing positions after coming in contact with each other just after a restart. Bowles recovered for a fifth-place finish, which was enough for him to retain the points lead by a 1521 to 1491 count over Holmes, who finished seventh.
The event also marked the return of the series to the 1.98-mile road course, which it last visited in 1986. Hershel McGriff, who won that race 23 years ago, was back at the age of 81 to defend his race title and finished 13th. In doing so he became the oldest driver to race in a NASCAR sanctioned touring series event.
The NHRA will return to Infineon Raceway near Sonoma this weekend for the FRAM Autolite Nationals.
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown leads the points order with four victories at the wheel of his Matco Tools dragster. With wins the last two weekends at Denver and Seattle, Brown will attempt to become only the seventh pro driver in NHRA history to sweep the Western Swing.
“What an awesome wave we’ve been riding all season long,” Brown said. “We just want to keep things going this weekend at Sonoma. It would be awesome to sweep the swing, but we’re just going to take it one round at a time and not look ahead.”
Past Infineon Top Fuel winners Larry Dixon and Schumacher have also claimed multiple victories this year and are among the favorites, while Infineon dominator Doug Kalitta – a five-time winner at the track since 1998 – will try to claim yet another trophy in Wine Country.
Ashley Force Hood and Ron Capps have both held the series points lead for most of the season in Funny Car. However, Tony Pedregon is also right there at the top in his Q-Horsepower Chevy Impala. With seven wins at Infineon, the legendary John Force has been the most successful NHRA racer to compete at the track. The 14-time world champ last won here in 2005.
In Pro Stock, 2003 Infineon winner Jeg Coughlin has raced to five victories and holds the series lead in his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt. Mike Edwards has been ultra-quick in his ART/Young Life Pontiac GXP, collecting seven No. 1 qualifying positions and three victories, including Sunday at Seattle.
Pro qualifying sessions for the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 24 and 11:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 25. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 26.
Tickets are available for by calling Infineon Raceway at (800) 870-7223 or via the Internet at www.ticketmaster.com.
ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 3 p.m. on Saturday July 25 and on Sunday, July 26, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will present three hours of eliminations coverage at 6 p.m.