STOCKTON — Stockton’s Larry Tankersley moved another step closer to the 2023 Stockton 99 track championship after driving to a convincing victory over Escalon’s Sam Solari in the 50-lap main for the Stockton Late Models at the ¼-mile oval on Saturday night.
“We made some changes to the car since the last race I was feeling really good about things coming into tonight. I knew we would have a good car,” Tankersley said.
Starting from the pole in the 13-car field, Tankersley immediately grabbed the race lead over Lodi’s Arron Shankel on the opening lap. He gradually began to pull away from the pack, as Shankel’s attention turned to fending off Solari and Tracy’s Justin Philpott, who were both attacking him for the second spot.
After moving by Shankel on lap 7, Solari slowly began to reel Tankersley back in, but after closing to within about five car lengths of the leader he seemed to stall out and could not close the gap any further.
Without any cautions to reset the pack, Solari was never able to make a serious challenge for the lead over the final half of the race and was forced to settle for second just ahead of Philpott who was able to get by Shankel around midrace for his best finish of the season.
“I wasn’t trying to kill the car, I just wanted to stay ahead of him (Solari) and my guys were on the radio letting me know where he was at all times,” Tankersley said. “We had a lot of lapped traffic and I was a little worried about getting caught up in that, but they were all respectful and gave us plenty of room.”
With his third win of the season, Tankersley was able to extend his advantage in the standings to a comfortable 43 points over Solari with just two races remaining on the schedule.
“We are looking to finish the season off on a good note and try to pick up a couple of more wins,” Tankersley said. “We are ready.”
What the Late Model feature lacked in drama, the 20-lap B-4 Main more than made up for, as reigning division track champion Joe Flowers outlasted his son-in-law Josh Cross — both of Manteca — for a nail-biting victory that had the fans on the edge of their seats.
Starting alongside of Rocklin’s John Sproule in the front row of the 18-car field, Flowers jumped into the lead as soon as the green flag came out and when Cross moved around Sproule five laps later the chase was on as Cross tried everything he had in his arsenal to get around Flowers over the final 15 laps.
On multiple occasions Cross tried to go high or low on Flowers, all while the pair danced and threaded their way through a conga line of back markers, but it was to no avail as Flowers was somehow able to hold him off to take a very hard-earned victory.
“Oh man, what a race! I gave it everything I had. That was really nerve-wracking,” exclaimed Flowers, as he shared an embrace with Cross during the trophy presentation on the front straightaway. “The traffic was crazy and I had Josh breathing on my tail the whole time, but it was one of the funnest races I have ever had.”
Manteca’s Jordan Mast finished the race just behind Sproule in fourth to extend his lead in the B-4 season standings to 76 points over Sonora’s Steve Ford, who came home in the ninth spot.
Brian Miller, of Railroad Flats, fought with Barrett Sugden, of Stockton, for the lead throughout the first half of the 20-lap Street Stock feature, but their battle came to a sudden end when Sugden suffered a right front flat tire during a caution restart on lap 12. As Sugden headed for the pits for a replacement, Miller was able to cruise to the checkered flag over Stockton’s Tony White for his fourth win of the season.
Troy Ermish, of Tracy, battled wheel to wheel with Morada’s Wade Eldredge and Lakeport’s Chris Straka over the entire distance of the 20-lap Pro 4 race to notch a thrilling victory and Natalie Harper, of Stockton, went wire-to-wire over Linden’s Leilani Sprenkel for the win in the B-4 Juniors feature.
Racing returns to the 99 Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 7 with the Harvest Classic featuring the Stockton Late Models, Street Stocks, B-4s, B-4 Juniors, NorCal Dwarf Cars and Legends of Kearney Bowl and the season concludes with a “double points” Championship Night program on Saturday, October 21.
Also, the Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, will play host to a pair of Monster Truck Madness shows on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6-7.
SRL Southwest Tour Series
Defending SRL Southwest Tour Series champion Jacob Gomes, of Manteca, rebounded from crashing out of last month’s SRL race at the 99 Speedway by capturing the Allie Bakes 100 at Irwindale Speedway for his fifth win of the season on Saturday.
Gomes needs only to start the season finale October Classic at Kern County Raceway on Sunday, Oct. 15 to lock down his third career SRL championship.