Eric “Bubba” Nascimento Jr., of Manteca, continued his march towards the 2020 Stockton 99 track championship by claiming his fourth consecutive Stockton Late Model victory on Saturday night.
Despite a four-week hiatus from the previous race, Nascimento showed no signs of rust as he topped a strong field of 16 cars in qualifying which resulted in a fourth row starting spot for the main following the invert draw of eight.
Arron Shankel, the 2017 track champion out of Lodi, held the early lead in the 50-lap feature as multiple drivers clawed at his bumper.
As the battle waged on at the front, Nascimento steadily worked his way forward, deftly using back markers on a couple of occasions to set up a pass. At the halfway point in the race he was able to dive under Shankel to slip into the lead.
Nascimento would never look back as he slowly pulled away from the pack. Despite a couple of late yellow-cautions that afforded the other contenders some late race restart opportunities, Nascimento was never seriously challenged as he captured his fifth victory of the season.
“It was a tough field tonight. The key was to take my time and not tear everything up trying to get to the front,” explained Nascimento. “Once I got to the halfway point I knew it was time to go.”
Jacob Gomes, of Manteca, was able to take advantage of the final restart to slip past Sam Solari, of Escalon, for second place as Solari, Shankel and Cody Potts, of Stockton, rounded out the top five.
“I am OK with second, Eric had such a good car tonight,” admitted Gomes. “I could stay even with him, but the only chance I really had to get around him tonight was to catch him on a restart.”
Nascimento, who now holds a 42-point lead over Solari in the season standings with just three races left on the schedule, was appreciative of all the work others have put into his winning effort.
“It is so great to come out here every week with a car that has a real chance to contend for a win. Hats off to all my sponsors, crew and especially my dad and Uncle Mike for all the hours they have put in to building this car.”
Joe Flowers, of Manteca, also continued his winning ways as he notched his seventh win of the season at Stockton in the 15 car, B-4 feature.
Flowers took over the lead on lap 9 and then held off a determined Andrew Rumsey, of Stockton, for the rest of the race that went caution free the entire 35-lap distance.
“This was a real satisfying win because Andy was really fast tonight and I could see him coming, but I had enough pull out of the corners to stay in front. I was nervous after only qualifying in fourth, but the car was really good in the race,” said Flowers, who also posted a victory at Madera Speedway the previous weekend.
The Legends of the Pacific always supply plenty of action, and Saturday’s 35-lap Legends main was no exception.
Veteran Keith Clement, of Stockton, grabbed the early lead on the 15 car field until Kevin Travels, age 21 or Turlock, stormed to the front following a lap 10 restart.
Travels and Tracy’s Brendan Rusbarskey traded the lead on multiple occasions throughout the remainder of the race as several yellow-cautions kept either driver from gaining an advantage. Travels was finally able to take control of the proceedings and post the first victory of his career when race when officials ordered a single file restart with just three laps to go.
“It was kind of a cat-and-mouse fight on those restarts,” explained Travels. “I was glad that last one was single file because it could have went either way.”
It was a perfect night for Travels who also set fast time and picked up the win in his heat race.
AJ Rider, of Linden, led the 25-lap Bomber main from start to finish while Stockton’s Rodney Tripp and season points leader Jeanna Ramos, of Lodi, filled out the top three.
Racing is back at the 99 Speedway this Saturday with the Stockton Late Models, Bombers, B-4 Cylinders, Grand American Modifieds and Mini Cups scheduled to compete.