The high-banked, ¼ mile Stockton 99 Speedway raised the curtain on its 68th season of racing with a four division show in front of a crowd estimated at just over 1,000 on Saturday night.
Stockton pilot Dennis Byers led the eight car Late Model field to the green flag for the start of their 35-lap feature, but was quickly overtaken by Lodi’s Aaron Shankel on the opening lap.
Chad Holman, of Manteca, settled in right behind Shankel and immediately began probing for a path to get past him for the lead.
Holman saw his chance on a lap 15 restart following the second of four yellow cautions during the race. He inched past Shankel on the outside, but the pair touched coming out of turn two sending them both into a spin and a trip to the back of the pack when the race resumed.
Over the next 10 laps Holman worked his way up through the field into the second spot behind Byers who had inherited the lead following the lap 15 incident.
Holman got his opportunity on a lap 25 restart after Shankel brought out the final caution of the race when he once again spun out. He got the jump on the restart to take the lead from the outside and cruised to the checkered flag well ahead of Byers and Gridley’s Larry Tankersley.
“When I spun I knew I had plenty of laps to come back so I stayed patient and was able to pick my way back to the front,” said Holman. “We had the car dialed in perfect tonight.”
Ironically, this may be Holman’s only race this season. He was borrowing his son’s car (Seth) that he races at Madera.
“It is a lot of work changing it around for different drivers. I don’t know if Seth will let me use it again,” said Holman with a smile.
Only four cars were on hand in the Grand American division where Sam Solari, of Escalon, grabbed the lead on the opening lap and cruised to a victory in the 20-lap feature over Rio Linda’s Eric Price Jr. and Kris Price.
“It is good to be back. This is a new car so I’m pretty happy to do so well,” said Solari. “I hope we get more cars coming out. We plan to do the full season to help support this track.”
2015 B-4s champion Brad Mast, of Manteca, held the early lead in the six car Bomber main, but he was soon pressed by a hard charging John Medina of Galt.
Medina’s pressure paid off when Mast spun around in turn 2 of lap 7. Medina would stay out in front for the rest of the 20-lap race to take the win over Stockton’s Darin Adler and Mast.
“I was a little impatient tonight, but the car was good,” said Medina, the 2005 champion. “We only ran a couple of races last year, but luckily I still remember a few things about setting up a car.”
Hollister’s Adam Lemke, starting on the outside of Linden’s Joey Sterns in the 20-lap Mini Cup feature, snared the lead on the second lap and cruised to the victory. Earlier in the evening, Lemke captured the dash, his heat and posted fast time in qualifying to chalk up a perfect night.
Next Saturday, the local racing shifts to the Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds for a Salute to Leroy Van Connett with the King of the West 410 Sprint Cars and Joe Hunt Magnetos Wingless Sprints
On May 28, the 99 Speedway will host the first leg of the 2016 Tri-Holiday Classic with the Pacific Challenge Late Model Series, Legends of the Pacific, Stockton Late Models and Bombers.