Rubber met the road at the Stockton 99 speedway last weekend as the season’s second race got underway.
The sweet smell of kettle corn hugged the hectic race track and thick clouds of smoke surrounded the speedy cars that spun out of control.
Usually when a car wrecks in an early race, it means they’re out for the rest of the night.
However, some wrecks and literal bumps in the road fueled racers such as Justin Philpot, to get back on the track for the last race of the night.
The event included various models of race cars including minis, B4 cylinders, Stockton Late Models and Stockton Grand American Modifieds.
First, each division held qualifying races, which consisted of four laps with a single car. These races are to determine who’s fastest and slowest so they can be positioned accordingly at the beginning of heat races, trophy dashes and the main event races.
During the heat races for the Stockton Late Models, Joey Stearns’ car malfunctioned and spun out in a cloud of smoke. An ambulance and tow truck rushed to the racer, who appeared to sustain minor injuries and Stearns was out of the race midway.
In the same race, race car no. 50, with racer Justin Philpot, turned too quickly and one side of his car went in the air and another car bumped him and sent his car into the air. The wreck also caused Philpot to drop out of the race early.
However, this didn’t discourage Philpot, a third generation racer.
In the last race of the night, the Stockton Late Models Main Event, Philpot made a miraculous comeback, finishing first despite having damaged his car in the heat race.
The last race had numerous spin outs and dangerous crashes and Philpot stayed in about fifth or sixth place for a majority of the race. He slipped into first during the last three laps of the 35-lap main event race while crew members tended to other cars that spun out and lost control. While the yellow flag was flown, which signal racers to slow down until damaged cars are off the track or back in the race, Philpot inched into second and then made an epic move into first when the racers were given the green flag again.
“I kind of just let that one go and moved onto the next one and it happened to be this one,” says Philpot. “We were the fastest car in qualifying and we got screwed up in a little accident during the 33-car heat race and it set us back. We actually had to go home and pull this whole car apart because the front suspension was all destroyed. I don’t know how we’re here but we’re here.”
Stockton 99 Speedway was first established in 1947, according to main announcer Wayne Pierce. When it opened, it had about 8,000 people in attendance.
“World War Two was over and race tracks were built all over the country in celebration,” said Pierce.
A Delta alumnus, Pierce also worked at Delta for 36 years in landscaping and transportation management.
He also used to race for 11 years in the Late Model category and raced at the very track he announces at now.
“They were faster back then,” said Pierce.
Pierce won a racing championship in 1991 and took his current announcing job in 1999.
Everyone in attendance felt like a big family as everyone greeted each other with hugs and a warm familiarity.
“It’s a racing family,” said Jessica McAnelly, Stockton 99 Speedway’s official track photographer and Pierce’s daughter. “Everyone takes care of each other.”
McAnelly has been the official track photographer since 2011.
The next race is at the Asparagus Festival on April 12 and 13 at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.