STOCKTON — Ty Carlson overpowered a strong 18-car field to take the regular-season opening race for the featured Stockton Late Models at the Stockton 99 Speedway on Saturday night.
“It is so nice to come out and get a win in the first race of the year,” Carlson told the crowd of approximately 1,500 that ventured out to watch the action. “I want to thank my crew, sponsors and especially all the fans that came out tonight. This is awesome.”
Veteran drivers Larry Tankersley, of Gridley, and Gary Shafer Jr, of Stockton, led the field to the green flag. The pair jostled for the lead in the early laps until a spinout on to the front straight ended Shafer’s night prematurely.
Carlson immediately challenged Tankersley on the restart, pulling to the inside of him on lap 13. After battling side-by-side for three laps Carlson was finally able to snag the lead.
With Carlson now firmly holding down the top spot, several drivers jockeyed for position behind him including Tankersley, Stockton’s Joey Stearns, Manteca’s Guy Guibor and defending track champion Eric Nascimento Jr., also of Manteca.
In the closing laps, Guibor was able to inch underneath of Nascimento, causing them to touch and lose control, resulting in Guibor’s car catapulting onto the driver’s side of Nascimento’s car. The resulting collision sent both of them careening hard into the turn No. 1 wall in a dazzling shower of sparks.
Fortunately, both were unhurt, although Nascimento was dazed for a time from the impact.
Afterward, neither driver blamed the other, both simply attributing the wreck to close hard racing.
“That is probably one of the hardest hits I have ever had. His right front tire was about two inches from my head as we slid up into the wall,” said Nascimento. “We will get it fixed up and be back next time.”
After a lengthy stoppage to clean up the carnage, the race concluded with Carlson holding off Stearns for the victory while Colby Potts, of Huntington Beach, Tankersley and Escalon’s Sam Solari rounded out the top five.
“I hated to have that late restart because I knew if I made one mistake Stearns would get the win, but I also knew he would race me clean,” said Carlson. “We did a lot of work on this car in the off season and it paid off tonight. We had a rocket ship.”
The 25-lap feature for the B-4 division saw Manteca’s Joe Flowers pick up right where he left off last season when he dominated the class with 10 wins in 11 starts.
Starting in the second row, Flowers quickly jumped into the lead on the first lap, losing his rear bumper in the process. He then spent the remainder of the race holding off hard-charging Dave Keller and Andrew Rumsey — both of Stockton — for the win.
“I waited for the guys to get out of my way and I got hit in the rear bumper, but I just kept going,” explained Flowers. “Last year I ran away with things, but those guys were right there tonight, which is good because it showed that they have really stepped it up this year.”
Rodney Tripp, of Stockton, grabbed the early lead in the 25-lap Bomber main only to see Brandon Jones, of Lodi, slingshot by him on the fourth lap. Although, Tripp clawed at his bumper throughout the remainder of the race, Jones was able to fend him off to earn the victory.
“Coming into tonight, I didn’t think I had that much, but when the race started the car just went,” Jones said. “I wasn’t even planning on coming out today, but we decided to at the last minute. It turned out pretty good.”
The inaugural race for the new B-4s Junior series got off to a precarious start when the front row cars of Manteca’s Jayden Cross and Stockton’s Jordan Lovelace collided on the pace lap for the opening green flag. Both were able to return and miraculously the 15-lap race was completed without any further disruptions as Lovelace held off Cross to capture the checkered flag.
The local racing action shifts to the Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds, for a program that includes the Dirt Mods, Sports Mods Super Late Models and Bombers, on Saturday, April 24.
The next program at the 99 Speedway will take place on Saturday, May 1, when the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series headlines a program that also includes the Spears Pro Late Models, B-4s and Legends of the Pacific.