STOCKTON — The Stockton 99 Speedway closed out its 2017 regular season by crowning four track champions on Saturday night
Salida’s Seth Holman won the battle by taking his first career victory in the 50-lap Late Model feature while Lodi’s Arron Shankel won the war by clinching the 2017 Late Model championship with a strong fourth place finish.
“Holy cow! We are the champion,” exclaimed Shankel. “I always dreamed of just having a car and a chance to drive out here, but to be a champion….it hasn’t sunk in yet. I am at a loss for the words to describe it.”
With 12 cautions and a couple of red flag stoppages it was a wild and crazy race even by 99 standards.
Holman and Chris Lyon, of Greely Hill, led a huge 21 car field to the green flag to open the race. Holman grabbed the early lead, but Lyon, driving like he was on rails, took over the top spot on lap 4.
Shankel, who entered the night with a comfortable but not insurmountable points lead over four other drivers, settled into sixth place as the pack sorted itself out.
A wreck occurred on lap 23 that set off a chain reaction of five successive yellow-cautions for accidents, taking over 25 minutes, before another lap was finally completed under green.
The lap 23 casualties included Lyon, Sam Solari of Salida, and former two-time track champion Justin Philpott of Tracy, who were running 1-2-3 up to that point.
With the lap 23 carnage over, Holman found himself back in the lead followed by Shankel.
Near the end of the race, with the championship in mind, Shankel would concede second and third to Philpott who had charged up from the back of the field and Guy Guibor, of Manteca, rather than taking the chance of mixing it up with them.
As Holman drove away to the checkered flag, Shankel coasted home with the championship in fourth.
“We had a strategy to relax and chill a bit at the start to let things sort out,” explained Shankel. “The car was fast so you can’t let up too much or you will get yourself in trouble. Towards the end I was just thinking to bring it home in one piece and clinch the championship.”
After the race both Holman and Shankel celebrated with several crowd pleasing doughnuts.
“We have not had a very good year with a lot of wrecks and DNFs so this was a great way to finish,” said Holman, age 16. “It was so nerve-racking with all those cautions, but somehow we were able to hang on to take it.”
There was far less drama in the Bomber class where Stockton’s Ben Lewis II has held court all season long. Only Mikala Stearns, of Linden, who trailed Lewis by 18 points in the standings at the start of the night had an outside chance to catch him.
Lewis started from the front row of the 19-car field, erased what little suspense was left by grabbing the lead on the first lap of the 30-lap main and cruising to the victory over Justin Scantlen of Valley Springs.
It was old hat for the veteran Lewis, who now has five championships.
“It was just like any other night. Cruising around, playing around and having a lot of fun,” Lewis said. ”They (championships) are all difficult to win. It takes a lot of money and time so this feels good.”
Dave Kong, of Stockton, chased down Josh Cross, of Manteca, with five laps to go to win the 30-lap B-4 feature while Andrew Rumsey, of Stockton, finished third to lock up the B-4 championship.
Joey Stearns, of Linden, locked up the Mini Cup championship in style by easily winning the 15-lap Mini Cup main over Napa’s Aaron Thomas.
Although the regular season has concluded the 99 Speedway will be back in action for one final time this season when the Kings of the Wings Sprint Cars head a four division open-wheel program on Saturday, Oct. 14.