Dylan Zampa, of Napa, managed to survive a crash filled race to pick up the second Spears Southwest Tour victory of his career in Saturday night’s “JM Environmental WildWest Shootout Dog Eat Dog 127” at the Stockton 99 Speedway.
“We have been really struggling all season with our car, and we finally got this chassis hooked up this weekend,” Zampa said, who pocketed $10,000 for the win. “I have to thank my crew who worked so hard on this, and I am happy we could bring it home in victory lane.”
Leading the stellar 14-car field to the opening green flag, pole sitter Blaine Rocha, of Oakdale, immediately jumped into the race lead, while Manteca’s Jacob Gomes, Granite Bay’s John Moore and Upper Lake’s Jeremy Doss all gave chase. Rocha would hold the lead until lap 60 when Moore was able to slide by him on a caution restart.
Things quickly went south when the race resumed following the mandatory 10-minute completion caution on lap 77, as Moore and Rocha immediately tangled going into the first corner. While Moore was able to regain control of his car and only lose a few spots, Rocha spun out sending him to the rear of the pack for the restart.
Doss grabbed the lead over Gomes on the restart, but things quickly ground to a halt on lap 85 when Manteca’s Eric Nascimento got into Moore on the front straight, putting Moore hard into the wall and out of the race. Rocha, who had already moved back to fifth place, spun while trying to avoid the mess and was once again forced to restart from the back of the field.
Rocha’s struggles would continue, as he once again attempted to move through the pack towards the front when he got into the back of Nascimento on lap 99, causing Nascimento’s rear suspension to fail and putting him out of the race.
The restart that followed would inflict even more havoc on the field.
As soon as the green flag was displayed, Gomes touched the outer wall on the front straight, which caused him to rebound into Doss. As the two fought to retain control of their fishtailing cars, Zampa saw an opportunity to dive under both of them for the lead.
Unfortunately, Zampa drifted up high exiting the corner and pushed Doss hard into the wall on the back straight, which ignited a chain reaction. As Doss screeched to a halt, Gomes plowed into his rear and Michael Sandoval, who was shadowing right behind them, launched into the air and climbed on top of hood of Gomes before finally coming to a stop.
Luckily, no one was hurt, but only Zampa was somehow able to carry on.
“I tried to hold it down coming off of Turn 2 and the next thing I know was that we were making contact. That is just short track racing, but I do apologize to everyone who was involved in that,” Zampa said after the race.
Needless to say, Gomes was not happy with how things played out, and he had a short but animated discussion with Zampa as his car was being towed off the track.
“It was just crazy. I thought we had a good shot at it, but we ended up getting used up and crashed,” said Gomes in disgust, who despite the short night is still in the lead in the point standings in his bid for a third SRL championship. “It was a bad night.”
After a lengthy red flag stoppage to clean up the carnage, the race resumed with Manteca’s Ross Strmiska suddenly finding himself in the lead despite having spent most of the race running mid pack up to that point. Strmiska put up a determined effort to stay in the lead, however, Zampa was able to run him down with just four laps to go for the win.
“We just tried to stay clean and be up there at the end. I tried my best to hold him off, I just wish the race was five laps left, because I wanted this one bad and we were so close tonight,” said a disappointed Strmiska who has driven a very limited schedule over the last couple of seasons. “Maybe this one will help me get back in the car more.”
For Rocha, it was a bittersweet night. Despite all of his misadventures, he somehow managed to finish in third.
“It was pretty disappointing. I thought we had the best car tonight and that we could have kept the lead, but that is racing,” Rocha said. “We have had good cars all year, but we just can’t shake the bad luck off and get us one.”
Veteran Linny White, of Fontana, drove to a convincing victory in the Spears Pro Late Model Series “Labor Day 100 presented by Marsellis Drilling” for his sixth win in as many starts in the 2023 season.
An invert draw of six put White in the third row next to fast qualifier Jason Romero, of Cameron Park, while Napa’s Logan Zampa held the pole to start the race. Several 99 Speedway regulars including Escalon’s Sam Solari, Stockton’s Jo Stearns, Tracy’s Justin Philpott and Stockton’s Gary Shafer Jr., all former track champions, helped fill out the strong 18-car field.
While Zampa jumped into the lead, most of the other front runners — including Solari, Manteca’s Ethan Nascimento, Ross Strmiska (who was doing double duty) and Romero — all took themselves out in a series of early race accidents, which allowed White to move up to second.
White bolted past Zampa for the lead on a lap 35 restart and cruised to the win by skillfully navigating his way through a host of back markers over the final 25 laps. Zampa hung on for second while Strmiska was able to shake off his early race setbacks to work his way back up through the field and salvage third.
“This has just been one of those golden cars. It has just been really good,” White said. “It takes a village to get here and I have to thank everyone who busts their tail on this thing to get it going, keep it fast and get it to victory lane.”
Jeremy Doss had much better luck in the 35-lap feature for the Legends. He grabbed the lead from his father Mike Doss on the fourth lap and never looked back as he took the checkered flag over Henry Barton.
The Stockton 99 Speedway will return to action on Saturday, September 16 with a Kid’s Night program featuring the Stockton Late Models, B-4s, Street Stocks and B-4 Juniors.
The NTT IndyCar Series concludes its 2023 season next weekend, September 8-10, at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca with the Firestone GP of Monterey.
The IndyCar 2023 championship was wrapped up on Sunday when Alex Palou captured the BITNILE.COM Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway for his fifth win of the season. The win gave Palou, from Barcelona, Spain, his second series title in the No. 10 American Legion Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing after claiming his first championship in 2021 with the team.
Other divisions racing on the weekend’s program include Indy NXT, Porsche Sprint Challenge USA and Blue Marble Radical Cup of North America.
Please call the Laguna Seca ticketing office for details at 831.242.8200.