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Ranuio holds off rookie hotshot for fourth win
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The start of last Saturday’s Western Late Model 50-lap feature at Stockton’s 99 Speedway was not pretty.
On the opening lap Tracy’s Justin Philpott tagged the rear bumper of points leader Vito Ranuio, of Stockton, sending Ranuio spinning down the front stretch and just an instant later Oakdale’s Todd Corral got into the back of Justin’s pop, David Philpott, causing the previous Saturday’s winner to hit hard into the turn three tires.
Ranuio was able to continue while the elder Philpott was done for the night without completing a single lap. When the green flag flew to restart the race Ranuio jumped into the lead and held on to the top spot the entire distance for his fourth win of the season despite being repeatedly challenged over the final half of the event by 16-year-old rookie Jacob Gomes of Manteca.
“I was blocking like a son-of-a-gun,” said Ranuio of Gomes, “I knew he was there and our car wasn’t that great, but I was able to hold him off.”
Despite the fact he holds the lead in the Western Late Model standings at Madera Speedway Modesto’s Kyle Gottula and finished third in the 13-car field. Gottula decided to try his luck at Stockton last Saturday in the hope that he could pick up additional points in the NASCAR national and state points due to the 99’s larger car counts of late.
Escalon’s Brock Monroe captured the Street Stock main and Manteca’s Donny Darter grabbed his first win of the season in a caution filled Legends of the Pacific feature.
Stockton’s Ross Strmiska slipped past pole sitter Matt Erickson, of Lake Don Pedro, on lap three and Merced’s Carlos Vieira on lap 15 to earn his second consecutive Western Late Model victory against a nine car field at Madera Speedway last Saturday.
“This feels great after all the trouble we had a couple of weeks ago,” said Strmiska referring to his disastrous evening on April 25th when he blew a pair of engines. “I had to use a little short track bump and run move to get the lead (on Vieira) and it was smooth sailing from there.”
The win moved Strmiska to just a 16 point, 173 to 157, deficit behind the absent Gottula in the Madera season standings.
A full slate of local racing action is on tap this weekend as the Western Late Models will once again headline at both the Stockton 99 and Madera Speedways while the IMCA Modifieds lead the way at the Merced Speedway and the Spec Sprint Car/NCMA Challenge, along with a destruction derby, top the bill at the Chowchilla Speedway tonight.
NASCAR has just released its first Whelen All American Series points standings of the 2009 season and as expected several local drivers dot the California top 20 including Ranuio who sits second overall behind leader Nick Joanides of Irwindale Raceway. Justin Philpott sits in fourth, Vieira eighth, Gottula ninth, Gomes 15th, Corral 16th and Strmiska checks in at 20th.
The NASCAR Camping World Series West returns to life today at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Ore. for the Toyota/Bi-Mart 150, presented by NAPA Auto Parts, the sixth event of a 13-race schedule this season.            
Escalon’s Eric Holmes, the defending series champion who holds a slim 835 to 819 lead over Ontario’s Jason Bowles in the 2009 standings, has reason to be optimistic about his chances this weekend. In five of the previous seven visits to the .375 mile oval Bill McAnally Racing has visited Victory Lane including  last season when Holmes rebounded from a flat tire to battle past Bowles with just seven laps to go for the victory.
Holmes attributes the team’s success to an extra effort they put in at races such as this in which car owner Bill McAnally also serves as the promoter of the event.
“Any time you’re driving for Bill and you’re going to a track that he’s promoting or one of his sponsors is sponsoring, I think the team and the driver don’t want to lose,” he said. “They don’t want to come up short. So, everybody puts a little extra effort in and digs down deep.”
Holmes uses the added pressure for extra motivation.
“It makes it interesting. It gives everybody that extra kick in the butt to get up there and do a good job,” he said. “I know my team puts extra effort into it because we don’t want to let down all the NAPA customers and employees and the Toyota people that come and support us. I definitely go there to win and enjoy that little added pressure.”
Holmes also explained what it takes to win at Douglas County Speedway.
“It’s flat and slick and you just can’t over-drive the track,” he said. “You’ve got to have a car that will stay on the bottom and turn good. And you’ve got to qualify well. It’s very hard to pass on.”
The race will be televised on a delayed basis on SPEED, June 18 beginning at high noon.
Manteca’s Scott Speed, who will be a Pocono Raceway for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event, also has reason for optimism. Last season in two ARCA RE/MAX Series races, Speed won both poles and finished second both times.
The race will be shown live beginning at 9:30 a.m. on TNT which, thankfully, takes over the season coverage from FOX. No longer will fans be forced to put up with that insidious Digger the Mole which irritatingly pops up throughout FOX’s broadcasts.