STOCKTON — A controversial late race ruling by track officials propelled Tracy’s Jeff Bischofberger to an upset victory in Saturday’s opening round of the annual Tri-Holiday Classic for the Pacific Challenge Series (PCS) Late Models at the Stockton 99 Speedway.
Starting from the front row of the 16-car field Ross Strmiska, of Manteca, and Cole Moore, of Granite Bay, battled each other for the lead through the first quarter of the 100 lap feature.
Former PCS champion Jeremy Doss, of Granite Bay, entered the fray on lap 25 by getting under Strmiska for second. He would take the lead from Moore two laps later following a yellow-caution restart.
Doss sat comfortably in the lead for the next 32 laps until a caution bunched the field for a restart on lap 59.
When the race resumed Doss found himself in a metal grinding side by side fight for the lead with Cameron Park’s Jason Romero, who finally pulled ahead two laps later.
Doss not only lost the battle, he lost the war when he was forced to the pits with steering damage.
The sixth and final caution on lap 90 would play a huge role in determining the outcome of the race.
After two ragged attempts at a restart that were waved off, track officials ordered the front row of Romero and Moore to swap places with the second row of Strmiska and Bischofberger for the next try.
Strmiska was fighting for the lead on the restart only to cut his rear right tire in the process which forced him to the pits and gave Bischofberger the top spot.
“I am not sure what happened, but the car just went to crap early on and I was just trying to get to the end,” said Strmiska. “Then I thought maybe we could steal one here at the end, but it didn’t work out that way.”
Romero made a last lap dash to the inside of Bischofberger coming out of the last turn, but was unable to hold it as he bumped Bischofberger and spun out on the front straight. Bischofberger took the checkered flag for his first victory in the PCS ahead of Moore while Romero was able to salvage third as he slid across the finish line sideways.
“I tried to bide my time in the early going so I would have something for the end,” explained Bischofberger. ”We were both driving hard for the win at the end, we made contact and I got the better end of the deal tonight.”
With 25 cars cramming the pits, a 9-car B Main was needed to whittle down the starting field for the 20-car for the 50 lap Stockton Late Model feature.
Making his first appearance behind the wheel of a race car in several years Manteca’s Guy Guibor, driving the familiar pink #90 owned by the Strmiska family, showed no signs of rust as he led the way with fast time in qualifying and started from the second row based on his heat finish,
“I’ve been coming out here watching from the stands and I talked to Ron Strmiska Jr last winter about making a deal to run their car and we finally got it ready for this week,” explained Guibor, the 2006 Stockton Late Model champion.
It took Guibor only six laps to dive under Stockton’s Pete Anderson, the 2005 Stockton Late Model champion, for the lead in the race. He would never relinquish it easily cruising to a popular victory over Anderson and Lodi’s Robbie Knittel.
“We had a great car tonight. Wins are hard to come by out here and this in my first try is my first one in 11 years is amazing,” said Guibor before adding with a smile, “Hopefully Ron will let me run it again.”
Despite finishing 11th Lodi’s Arron Shankel increased his season points lead over Stockton’s Ty Carlson who crashed out in the early going of the race in the 18th position.
Stockton’s Ben Lewis made a daring pass underneath of his son Ben Lewis II coming out of the last turn of the last lap and made it stick to nip his son at the finish by a half a car length in the 40-lap Bomber feature.
Next Saturday, May 27, the racing action shifts to the Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds, when the Elk Grove Ford Sprint Car Challenge Tour presented by Abreu Vineyards and Hunt Magnetos Wingless Tour will tackle the blazing fast 4/10 mile clay oval.
Racing returns to the 99 Speedway on Saturday, June 3rd, with the Stockton Late Models, Bombers, B-4 Cylinders & Mini-Cups.
SCOTT SPEED UPDATE: Two-time defending champion Scott Speed, driving the No. 41 Oberto Circle K Volkswagen Beetle for Andretti Autosport, started from the pole, but finished in third behind Sebastian Eriksson and Steve Arpin in round 2 of the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship held in Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday.
The Manteca native remains out front in the GRC points heading into rounds 3 and 4 next weekend at Thompson Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut.
JACOB GOMES UPDATE: Jacob Gomes, of Manteca, finished sixth behind winner Derek Thorn, of Lakeport, in Saturday’s Spears Southwest Tour “Blackjack 121” race at the Bull Ring in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The next stop for the series will be at Madera Speedway on Saturday, July 15.