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Interesting turn of events in 99s WLM feature
Manteca native Scott Speed returns to Northern California this weekend for the 21nd Annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. - photo by Photo by Dale Bosowski
There was some unexpected intrigue for last Saturday’s Western Late Model feature at the New Stockton 99 Speedway.

When the 13-car field took the green flag to start the 50-lap feature Stockton’s Vito Ranuio was nowhere to be seen. Despite leading in the season standings by a 629 to 611 margin before the race over Justin Philpott, age 19 of Tracy, Ranuio opted to head north to race at Roseville’s All-American Speedway in protest to what he termed “inconsistent officiating” at the 99.

“I haven’t been happy with how they make the calls and run the track both on and off,” explained Ranuio. “I am not the only one who feels that way. You can see it in the dwindling car count.”

Although Ranuio has been displeased with the officials for much of the year, things came to a head in last Saturday’s twin 50-lap features.

After being admonished for getting into the back of Philpott and causing him to spin with one lap to go, Ranuio hit the wall himself in the second race after colliding with 22 year-old NASCAR Drive for Diversity driver Katie Hagar, of Sacramento. Ranuio was able to return, but got into the rear bumper of Lodi’s Michael Wendt a few laps later.

Following an exchange with track officials over his radio Ranuio headed for the pits and parked his car for the night.

“It was reported they pulled me off, but actually I decided to pull off,” corrected Ranuio. “The said I created the incidents and if I continued they would park me and I said ‘you don’t have to’ and I parked the car, packed up and went home.”

Starting on pole last Saturday, Philpott immediately jumped into the lead and never looked back through three caution periods and a red to capture his second win of the year and of his young career.

“I feel we deserve to be at the top of the points chart because I have the best crew money can buy, but actually I don’t pay for it,” said a jubilant Philpott in reference to his father, a former two time 99 track champion David Philpott, who finished third in the race.

Meanwhile, Ranuio experienced mixed results in his Roseville debut. After qualifying a an impressive second in the 19-car field, Ranuio suffered problems in the race and finished 10th.

He had no regrets about his decision to vacate the points lead in Stockton to race up north.

“At Roseville you get bigger car counts and that helps us in the NASCAR standings,” said Ranuio, who sits third in California and 22nd nationally in the latest NASCAR rankings. “We don’t make any money at this so you have to have fun and if you don’t, move on.”

Will Ranuio return to race in his hometown? Probably, but not as a regular.

“We will probably be in Stockton for the bigger races, especially if the car count goes up,” said Ranuio. “Hopefully, we will be back.”

Although the NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series has the week off due to the 21nd Annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, the track will not go dark as Stockton 99 Speedway will host its first 99 Drift Competition and Car Show on Saturday.

One driver that is especially looking forward to this weekend’s race is Manteca’s Scott Speed. In a career that has taken him from Monaco to Martinsville, Speed can look back at Infineon Raceway as quite possibly the starting point of it all.

In 2001, Speed, then 19, made his single-seat debut in the Sonoma-based Jim Russell Racing Championship and won the series title at what was then called Sears Point Raceway. He had won countless karting championships the previous seven years, but this was his first crown in car racing and it paved the way for Speed to enter the Barber Dodge and Formula Mazda series. After that came the Red Bull Driver Search, Europe and eventually Formula One.

Despite being a rookie in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, Speed, now 26, has an extensive history at the 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course tucked in the hills near Sonoma.

“The most excited I’ve been for a race in a long time,” Speed admitted. “My whole family is out there. I get to see a lot of people I haven’t seen for almost a year. And Sonoma is going to be a place where we’re going to be really good. That’s what my background is.”

Although Speed has some road-course start in a stock car, muscling a 3,450-pound car right and left is a vastly different than the lightning fast Formula One car Speed was driving in 2007.

“All of the testing that we’ve done so far, we’ve been very quick,” Speed said. “Sonoma is one of those places where it’s going to take me some time to learn the layout, but once I get the feel of the track we’re going to be good.”

“Being a new team, getting the road-course stuff right took some time. I think before I got here they got it really close, and we’re just honing in on some stuff to get our road-course package really right. We’re attacking it. We want to do really well there.”

Coming off a 37th-place finish last Sunday at Michigan, Speed must time his way into the Toyota/Save Mart 350. His No. 82 ranks 36th in the car owner standings, 53 points from the top 35.
Joining the Sprint Cup Series will be the NASCAR Camping World West Series for a full weekend of stock car racing at Infineon. The Bennett Lane Winery 200, presented by Supercuts, will take place on Saturday, June 20, with the main event, the Toyota/Save Mart 350, set for Sunday, June 21.

To contact Dale Bosowski, e-mail