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Philpott comes back for stunning win at 99 Speedway
Stockton 99
Justin Philpott in his No. 50 car during the Spears SRL Pro Late Models feature at Stockton 99 Speedway this past Saturday. JESSICA McANELLY/Jessie's Fast Photos

STOCKTON — Justin Philpott, of Tracy, led Saturday’s Spears SRL Pro Late Models 75-lap feature at the Stockton 99 Speedway for only about 100 yards in total, but it was the most important 100 yards, as the former three-time track champion stole the victory in an improbable finish.

Starting from the front row of the 17-car field, Ethan Nascimento, of Manteca, and 12-year-old racing phenom Vito Cancilla, of Martinez, dominated the opening 20 laps of the race.

Nascimento would gradually get shuffled back behind older brother Eric “Bubba” Nascimento, the 2020 track champion also of Manteca, who used a series of mid-race caution restarts to gain several positions.

The elder Nascimento was gradually able to track down Cancilla, finally powering by him on the high-side during lap 50. However, Cancilla was far from done, as he remained locked on to Nascimento’s tail while probing for a way to retake the top spot throughout the closing laps of the race.

As the lead pair steadily pulled away from the rest of the field, Philpott spent most of the race methodically working his way up from his eighth-place starting position to take over third place ahead of Ethan Nascimento and Modesto’s Kyle Gottula.

On the final lap, Cancilla was able to slip the nose of car under Nascimento going into Turn 3 just as Nascimento was forced to brake slightly for a back marker. The two touched, sending both of them up the track in a spin, opening up a window just big enough for Philpott to dive low and power by both of them as the stunned crowd roared in amazement.

Stockton 99
Justin Philpott basks in his victory in the Spears SRL Pro Late Models circuit with friends and family at Stockton 99 Speedway on Saturday.

“The tires were worn and I just couldn’t get anything off the restarts, but that lapped car worked in our favor and sometimes the fastest car doesn’t win. To be honest, I was going to be happy with third, but things just fell right into our lap,” admitted Philpott as he celebrated with his family and crew on the front straight. “When I saw them tangle, I was thinking, ‘Don’t let off the gas,’ and I didn’t care what was in front of me. Either I was going to win or wreck.”

Gottula was also able to follow Philpott through the chaos to finish in second, while Turlock’s Chris Monez, making his first start in 18 years, came home in third, just ahead of Ethan Nascimento and Stockton’s JoJo Stearns.

“I chose the bottom and I am not sure what happened after that,” said a disappointed Nascimento, who was credited with sixth place, one spot ahead of Cancilla. “It was great to run up front, especially since we have not been here in two or three years. We will come back even stronger for the next one.”

The conclusion of the 25-lap Nor Cal Mini Stock main was equally anarchic, as defending class champion Jordan Mast, of Manteca, survived a final lap melee to earn his first win of the young season.

Stockton 99
Manteca resident Jordan Mast won the NorCal Mini Stock race Saturday at Stockton 99 Speedway.

Starting from the pole in the 13-car field, Mast jousted with Manteca’s Joe Flowers for most of the race, swapping the lead on a couple of occasions, before Flowers began to fade in the closing laps allowing Rocklin’s John Sproule to take over second place.

Sproule pressed Mast for the remainder of the race and made a late charge to the low side of Mast on the final lap. The pair stormed down the front straight trading paint in a side-by-side duel before Mast touched the wall which caused them both spin out as they crossed the finish line with Mast in the lead.

“Wow that was crazy! He (Sproule) rolled to the inside, and I made some stupid move and somehow, I made it work,” exclaimed Mast. “Both Joe and John are fast, so to keep up with them and beat the both of them means a lot.”

The Legends of 99 feature provided nonstop action from beginning to end, as Upper Lake’s Jeremy Doss, Tracy’s Branden Ruzbarsky and Ethan Nascimento battled continuously for the lead throughout the 35-lap race.

After Doss squeezed by Nascimento on a lap 15 restart, he spent the next 15 laps doing everything he could to get around Ruzbarsky, as the pair threaded their way through lapped traffic. A final caution restart on lap 30 gave Doss the opportunity to finally work his way under Ruzbarsky to take a hard-earned win.

“I really enjoy racing with Brandon. We always seem to have good, close races,” said Doss afterward. “I don’t know if I could have gotten him without that restart. I felt like we were a bit faster, but every time I set him up and got alongside of him, I just didn’t have enough to cover him and make it stick.”

Kane Betancourt, of Hickman, dominated the first half of the 15-lap Bandolero main until a fatal mechanical failure sent him to pits. Braxton Garcia, of Lodi, inherited the lead and cruised to the win over Kelseyville’s Zachary Carpenter.

The Stockton 99 Speedway will next be back in action on Saturday, May 18, with the Stockton Late Models, Nor Cal Mini Stocks, Nor Cal Legends and Kapt Khaos Stunts.