STOCKTON — After playing host to last weekend’s Hell’s Angels memorial for group founder Sonny Barger, the Stockton 99 Speedway reverted to its more traditional function as Dylan Zampa, of Napa, raced to a come from behind victory in the Spears SRL Pro Late Model Series “Masellis Drilling Fall Brawl 125” on Saturday night.
Blaine Rocha, of Oakdale, snatched the lead in the opening 75-lap leg of the SRL Pro Late Model race and looked to clearly be the car to beat as he remained out in front over the first 50 laps. His fortunes took a sudden turn for the worst when Zampa tapped him coming out of the corner, causing a spin which left them both at the rear of the 14-car field when the race resumed.
Following the restart, Zampa methodically began to work his way back towards the front, taking over fourth place before the mandatory caution on lap 75. His team made the right changes during the 10-minute break as Zampa quickly motored to the front of the pack before passing Tyler Reif, of Henderson Nev., for the lead about 15 laps into the second leg.
Zampa was never challenged in the final laps, as Reif spent the rest of the race desperately trying to hold off Escalon’s Sam Solari for second. Despite pulling alongside of Reif on multiple occasions, Solari’s worn out tires betrayed him as he was never able to find enough grip to complete the pass and was forced to settle for a hard-fought third place finish.
“I want to apologize to Blaine. It was a mistake on my part and I didn’t mean to get into him,” said Zampa, who picked up his first win of the season and the big $15,000 purse that went with it. “My team worked their butts off in the break. The made several adjustments and the car was much better in the second stage.”
Unfortunately, it was a rough night for Manteca’s Ross Strmiska. Making his first 99 start of the season, Strmiska started the race in the eighth spot and moved up to sixth before retiring with a brake problem midway through the first leg.
Michael Hill, of Woodbridge, grabbed the lead on the opening lap of the 20-lap race for the B-4 division, but his stay at the top was a brief one as he bobbled heading into the second lap and quickly dropped to the rear of the 14-car field.
Hill’s miscue opened the door for second-row starter Joe Flowers, of Manteca, who gladly jumped into the lead. Flowers stayed out in front for the remainder of the race despite the repeated challenges of his son-in-law Josh Cross, also of Manteca, who crawled inside of Flowers going into the corner on several occasions only to drop back again after failing to make the move stick as they accelerated onto the straight.
“It’s all about your rhythm, staying consistent and holding your line,” said Flowers, the 2020 B-4 champion. “It also helps to have somebody like Josh chasing you because I know I can trust him.”
The outcome put a severe dent in the title hopes of Stockton’s Andrew Rumsey, who entered the night with a 13-point lead over Flowers.
After starting the race from the seventh position, Rumsey steadily moved his way up to third before a blown gasket and the resultant oil leak caused officials to black flag him six laps short of the finish. Rumsey was credited with 12th place in the final running order and now trails Flowers by 12 points with two races remaining.
Natalie Harper, age 14 of Stockton, continued on her late season roll by cruising to a wire-to-wire victory over Stockton’s Scottie Crawford in the 12-lap, B-4 Juniors main. It was her fourth win of the season and it extended her points lead to a whopping 116 over Crawford.
“I prefer to start out front and stay there because there is less of a chance to lose the race or get wrecked,” Harper wisely explained.
The 2022 Stockton 99 Speedway racing season turns into the homestretch with this Saturday’s program featuring the Stockton Late Models, Bombers, B-4s, B-4 Juniors, Legends, Nor Cal Dwarf Cars and California Hard Tops before concluding with the “double points” Championship Night season finale on Saturday, Oct. 22.