STOCKTON — Defending track champion Gary Shafer Jr., of Stockton, continued his reign over the Stockton Late Model division at the 99 Speedway on Saturday as he cruised to his second win of the season in as many starts.
Taking full advantage of his starting position in the front row of the 13-car field for the 50-lap main, Shafer immediately vaulted to the lead where he proceeded to fend off the repeated challenges of Stockton’s Ty Carlson over the next 40 laps.
A yellow-caution with 10 laps remaining in the race gave Shafer a reprieve from Carlson’s constant pressure and he took full advantage of it on the restart by getting the jump on Carlson and leaving him in his wake. Shafer then pulled away from the rest of the field when Carlson and Stockton’s Larry Tankersley became embroiled in a prolonged side by side battle for second.
“I knew Ty was fast tonight and I didn’t want to race him too much so I worked him on those restarts a bit,” Shafer admitted with a grin. “I was having some radio problems tonight. I could not hear my spotter so I wasn’t sure by how much I was leading by and I just went for it.”
Tankersley would eventually prevail over Carlson to take second place while Stockton’s Joey Stearns and 2019 track champion Sam Solari, of Escalon, rounded out the top five.
Josh Cross, of Manteca, started well back in the sixth row of the 16-car field of the B-4 main, but it took only five laps for the defending division champion to charge through the pack and into the lead. He would spend the rest of the race jitterbugging around numerous back markers to finish well ahead of Stockton’s Barrett Sugden and Andrew Ethan Rumsey for his first win of the year.
“It was exciting tonight trying to get through a lot of lapped traffic,” Cross explained afterward. “I really was not planning on even racing this year, but I got a wild hair and decided to come out and now I am parked in victory lane.”
Once a mainstay at the 99 Speedway, the modifieds made a welcome return as the North State Modified touring series entertained the crowd with a 60-lap feature on Saturday.
The race got off to a shaky start when Sacramento’s Foryst Souza and Escalon’s Calvin Hegje collided as they fought for the lead just four laps into the race, causing Souza to hit hard into the outside wall. The wreck brought out a red flag and although neither driver was hurt both of their cars were too damaged to continue.
After a lengthy cleanup the race finally resumed with Anderson’s Jeff Bloom taking the lead and several others, including Kelseyville’s Darrin Sullivan, Tracy’s Scott Winters and Cloverdale’s Dustin DeRosier, all in close pursuit.
At midrace Winters dove under Sullivan in an attempt to take over second place, but ended up tagging Bloom in the rear causing him to spin out. When the race resumed Sullivan inherited the lead and coasted to the checkered flag over DeRosier and Bloom.
“I led a lot of laps which can actually be tough because it is easy to do some stupid things when you are out there by yourself for that long,” Sullivan said. “I kept waiting for Winters or somebody to pressure me at the end, but it ended up being a cruise.”
Donnie Darter, the 2007 Stockton 99 Street Stock champion out of Valley Springs, steamrolled the rest of the field to take a dominant win over Lodi’s Brandon Diede in the 15-lap Baker Roofing Bomber feature, It was Darter’s third consecutive win of the 2022 season.
Stockton’s Natalie Harper grabbed the early race lead in the 15-lap feature for the B-4 Juniors and then spent the remainder of the race fighting off numerous attempts by Manteca’s Jayden Cross to get around her to earn the first main event win of her young career.
Racing will resume at the 99 Speedway on Saturday May 21, with the Stockton Late Models, Bombers, B-4s, B-4 Juniors and Pro 4 Mods.