STOCKTON — Third generation driver Justin Philpott of Tracy turned in a dominating performance to earn the victory in Saturday’s Firecracker 100 for the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Western Late Models at Stockton 99 Speedway.
A quality 13-car field took the opening green flag with defending track champion Matt Scott, of Pine Grove, and Lodi’s Mike Wendt leading the way. Wendt grabbed the early lead while Philpott, starting from the third row, patiently worked his way up to the second spot before the race was slowed for a yellow caution on lap 15.
Sitting outside of Wendt for the restart, Philpott looked like he was shot out of a cannon when the green flag came out to resume the race. He began to pull away from the pack until a red flag brought the race to a sudden halt when the car of Modesto’s Kyle Gottula erupted in flames on lap 26.
The race resumed without further incident as Philpott sailed to an easy victory, lapping all but three cars before taking the checkered flag.
“We had problems all afternoon with some bad parts, but we hit the setup just perfect for the race and knocked it out of the park tonight,” said Philpott, the 2009 track champion. “I was hearing noises at the end because I kept expecting something bad to happen, but we just kept rolling.”
Wendt held on for second place while Scott, Stanislov Osterland, of Los Gatos, and Danny Allen of Lincoln, rounded out the top five.
“It was frustrating because we had a good car and I had nothing for him” said Wendt. “I was just hoping for a yellow at the end, but we never got one.”
Taking advantage of a short field of only five cars in the 25-lap Modified main, Manteca’s Colby Potts jumped to an early lead and cruised to the win. It was his second victory in his only two career starts in the Modifieds with the first coming in leg one of the Tri-Holiday series on the Memorial Day event.
“We just had an unbelievable car tonight,” said Potts, age 20. “It might be the best car I’ve ever driven. It was almost effortless to go wherever I wanted to go and it stayed that way the whole race.”
Following Potts across the line in the caution free race were Ripon’s Mike Regelman and Rick Avila of Pleasanton.
Joseph Reichmuth of Manteca started from the pole in the 10-car Pure Stock feature and stayed there the entire 30-lap distance to capture his first career win in two years of competing in the Pure Stock class.
“I wasn’t sure I had it in me, but the car had what it took,” said Reichmuth. “The crew worked their tails off to make it go fast and I just had to drive it. This is amazing.”
The win didn’t come easy. Lodi’s Brandon Jones sat right on his bumper over the final laps, but a determined Reichmuth was able to successfully fend off the challenge.
“I started to loose the right rear tire and I thought Jones was going to get me at any minute,” explained Reichmuth. “I regained my composure and I began to feather the throttle coming out of the corners which helped. Sometimes slower can be faster.”
Lodi’s Matt Wendt captured his fourth consecutive Pure Stock victory of the season in a race that could have ramifications all the way to the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Wendt, the younger brother of Late Model runner up Mike Wendt, took the lead in the race when he got under pole sitter Bobby Simpson, of Stockton, heading into turn #1 of lap 6. Simpson, who is Wendt’s father in law, spun out as the two touched while fighting for the same turf.
Simpson was able to fight his way back to salvage second, but was none too pleased afterward.
“He dove into the turn and I locked up the brakes trying to avoid him, but we touched and he got turned around,” said Wendt, age 26. “He is not happy, but I think he will be ok when he sees the video. I am more worried about my wife.”
Stockton’s Dave Kong and Manteca’s Brad Mast squeezed past early leader Marc Jacke, of Stockton, on lap 14 to finish one-two, respectively, in an entertaining B-4 race
Local racing now switches to the Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds Saturday, July 12, for the West Coast Late Model Shootout & IMCA Modifieds. The 99 Speedway will return to action on Saturday, July 19 with a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program featuring the Western Late Models, Pro-4 Modifieds, Super Stocks, Pure Stocks and Mini Cups.