Despite a small field of only four cars, the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Western Late Models provided plenty of excitement at Stockton 99 Speedway last night as 14-year-old Bryce Napier, of Scotts Valley, posted his career first victory.
Napier started on the pole, but quickly became the caboose in a tight four car pack on the opening lap as Stanislov Osterlund, of Los Gatos, grabbed the early lead in the 30-lap race.
“When I found out I was starting on the pole I thought ‘oh man’ and my nerves really started pumping ” said Napier, who is being mentored by three-time NASCAR K&N West Series champion Eric Holmes of Escalon.
Osterlund held the top spot until the complexion of the race suddenly changed on lap 16 when Osterlund spun in turn #2 after he was touched by Manteca’s Jacob Gomes, who had entered the race to help prepare for next Saturday’s SRL Southwest Tour event.
During the ensuing yellow caution, third generation driver Justin Philpott, of Tracy, pulled off with an engine problem creating a three car shootout over the final 15 laps.
This time Napier was up to the task on the restart, as he grabbed the lead and held off a very determined Osterlund through the closing laps to take the checkered flag.
“That was awesome,” said Napier in victory lane. “I was running in the back and I didn’t think I had anything for them, but when Stanislov spun I got on it and went. The car was dialed in and everything clicked.”
The 15-car Pro Mod race got off on a bizarre note when pole sitter Cody Barba, of Cobb, hit another car in the pre race warm up and was forced to retire before the race started.
Jim Badeker, of Citrus Heights, Jimmy Sorres, of Ukiah, traded the lead back and forth on multiple occasions throughout the caution filled 30-lap race before Badeker got by him with two laps to go for the win.
“Sorres kept getting me on the restart and was always able to come back on him,” said Badeker. “My car was set up to run the outside lane, but somehow I was able to get him by going to the inside that last time.”
While the Pro Mod race got off to a strange start, the five car, 25-lap Super Stock main was crazy from start to finish.
Stockton pilots Bobby Simpson and Ben Lewis Sr. were running one-two over first seven laps when Lewis suddenly died on the back straight bringing out the yellow flag. Lewis was done for the night with an engine failure while ducked into the pits during the caution with an oil leak.
Simpson was able to return for the restart and he promptly recaptured the lead only to be black flagged two laps later as his car continued to discharge oil and smoke leaving just three cars to fight it out for the win.
On lap 20, Manteca rookie John Vigalion dropped out setting up a five lap match race between Dominic Lopez, of San Leandro and Livermore’s Tyson Tiago, who was making his Super Stock debut.
On the final lap, the pair were neck and neck heading to the checkered flag when they both spun coming out of turn #4. Tiago recovered first, but Lopez was able to move his car up against the wall just enough to pin Tiago behind him and limp home for his first career victory.
“Oh my goodness. Neither one of us had ever won before so we both went for it and drove in there as hard as we could,” explained an elated Lopez. “I had no idea where he even was. I just got the car going again, saw the checkered flag and floored it.”
The Pure Stock feature was a tight battle for its entire 30-lap distance.
Stockton’s Jeremy Tucker was able to scratch his way to the early lead after going side by side with Tracy’s Mark Borges for several laps to open the race flag. He then hung on for dear life over the remainder of the race to take a hard earned win over Borges and Stockton’s Dennis Byers.
Andrew Payne, of Fair Oaks, moved into the lead in the Mini Cup race on the second lap and never looked back as he romped to an easy victory over Linden’s Lawrence Massone and Roseville’s Cameron Legue.
The ¼ mile 99 Speedway will be back in action next Saturday, July 26, when the Spears Manufacturing Southwest Tour makes its only Stockton appearance of the season. Also racing on the program will be the NCMA Sprints, Basic 4-Cylinders and Pure Stocks