In a race that had more plot twists than a Ryan Lochte night on the town, season points leader Larry Tankersley, of Gridley, picked up his first victory of the season in Saturday’s late model feature at the Stockton 99 Speedway.
In stark contrast to last Saturday, when Tracy’s Justin Philpott went wire-to-wire in a caution free 40-lap main, this Saturday’s race resulted in nine yellow-cautions, one red flag stoppage and numerous irate drivers afterward.
Pole sitter Gary Shafer Jr, flanked by Dennis Byers, both of Stockton, led the 13-car field to the green flag to start the race. Shafer grabbed the early lead and quickly found himself under siege by Lodi’s Aaron Shankel after Byers spun in the opening laps.
Shankel was able to get underneath Shafer to take the lead following a restart, but as Shafer tried to battle back on the outside he got pinched up high and slammed hard into the turn #4 wall.
Philpott quickly mounted a charge at Shankel on the ensuing restart. The pair went side-by-side for a lap when Shankel forced Philpott high where he tagged the wall in almost the identical spot as Shafer.
When the cars were brought to a halt to clean up the mess, David Philpott, Justin’s father and crew chief, angrily walked towards Shankel’s car to “discuss” his driving style. Track officials quickly interceded and escorted the former two-time track champion back to the infield before he reached Shankel’s car, then informed Shankel that he was done for the night.
“There are a lot of drivers that like to beat and bang on each other and for some reason they decided to DQ the fastest car out here tonight. It was unjust,” remarked Shankel, who was looking for his first ever late model win. “I have the utmost respect for the Philpott family. I felt I gave him room, but we touched tires and he went up into the wall.”
When the race resumed, Byers, who had shuffled his way back through the pack, found himself in the lead with Seth Holman, of Salida, Ty Carlson, of Manteca, and Tankerslay all in red hot pursuit.
As Byers and Holman battled for the lead following a lap 31 restart, Tankersley used the opportunity to pull off a daring pass underneath both of them coming out of turn #4 to snare the top spot.
Tankersley would survive one more caution restart to hold off the hard charging Byers and take the checkered flag on lap 35, five laps short of the original scheduled distance.
“It was a rough run tonight. Another car knocked the tow out on the car and I thought we were done, but we just kept digging,’ said Tankersley. “When I drove a Grand Am out here I was able to pass a lot of cars on the bottom of turns three and four so I thought I would try it again and I guess I still know how to do it. I just put my foot down and stayed in it.”
Manteca’s Brad Mast was finally able to shake off the gremlins that have haunted him this season to take the victory over season points leader John Medina, of Galt, in the 20-lap Bomber main.
It was a satisfying win for Mast who has suffered a series of calamities which have forced him to the pits early in the last several races including a broken radiator, transmission and last week a blown engine.
“I wasn’t even sure we would make it out here tonight. We worked all night putting in a new motor and then we had to fix other problems all this afternoon. We skipped the heat and just ran in qualifying in order to save it for the main because I didn’t know what we had left in it, but it pulled through,” explained Mast.
Following a lap nine restart, Mast was able to power under Medina and following a hard fought, multi lap side-by-side shootout, finally take the lead two laps later.
“To run John down and pull out in front of him made all our hard work worthwhile,” said Mast. “I have a great car, but I have to quit breaking stuff.”
It was a repeat in the Grand American Modifieds where Rio Linda’s Kris Price drove to a caution free, wire-to-wire victory for the second consecutive week. Placerville’s Scott Alves finished second and Kris’ brother Eric rounded out the top three.
Linden’s Joey Stearns held off a determined Adam Lemke, of Hollister, to pull off the upset victory in the 20-lap Mini Cup feature.
The Stockton 99 will go dark next weekend before returning with the final leg of the Tri-Holiday Classic, featuring the Pacific Challenge Series Late Models, Stockton Late Models, Legends of the Pacific and Bombers on Saturday, Sept. 3.
The Pacific Challenge Series was down at Madera Speedway on Saturday where Jeremy Doss, of Upperlake, picked up his 18th career victory to extend his lead in the 2016 season points standings. Manteca’s Ross Strmiska finished 10th in the 18-car field.