Spe­cial Speed­way Vic­tory Earned By Ross Str­miska

Escalon Times - - SPORTS - By DALE BOSOWSKI Rac­ing Cor­re­spon­dent

The grand­stands were packed full at the Stock­ton 99 Speed­way for a rare mid­week race as the leg­endary quar­ter-mile oval played host to the an­nual Fire­cracker 125 fea­tur­ing the Ron Str­miska Me­mo­rial for the Stock­ton Late Mod­els and three other di­vi­sions on Wed­nes­day night.

Str­miska was al­ways a fan fa­vorite and in 2015 the an­nual Fourth of July race was chris­tened the Str­miska Me­mo­rial in his honor af­ter the lo­cal rac­ing leg­end, nick­named the “Man­teca Mis­sile,” passed away in late 2014.

Str­miska be­gan rac­ing at the 99 over 45 years ago, win­ning track cham­pi­onships in 1978 and 1979, and spawn­ing two more gen­er­a­tions of driv­ers with his son Ron Jr. and grand­son Ross.

Ross Str­miska qual­i­fied sec­ond fastest just be­hind his team­mate Chris­tian Roche, of Escalon, but prob­lems in his heat race rel­e­gated him to the sixth row in the 22-car start­ing field which was led by Sal­ida’s Seth Hol­man and Stock­ton vet­eran Den­nis By­ers.

Sev­eral early yel­low-cau­tions, in­clud­ing one on lap 10 for a huge pile up that ended the night for Roche and Chris Lyons of Granite Springs, caused race of­fi­cials to opt for sin­gle file restarts on lap 15.

Hol­man con­tin­ued to lead un­til Modesto’s Adam Coon­field and sea­son points leader Sammy So­lari, of Escalon, slid un­der him on lap 22.

Str­miska, mean­while, me­thod­i­cally worked his way up through the field be­fore squeez­ing his way past So­lari on lap 46 to take over sec­ond. He then set his sights on the leader and pa­tiently stalked Coon­field for sev­eral laps be­fore slid­ing by him on lap 64 af­ter the pair went side by side for sev­eral laps.

“We had a good game plan tonight. I wanted to race smart and get to the front as soon as we could. Once I got to third I knew I was faster than the lead­ers,” ex­plained Str­miska af­ter the race. “When I got to the front I was able to save the tires while the oth­ers had to chase me.”

The plan worked to per­fec­tion. Once in the lead Str­miska never looked back, sur­viv­ing a cou­ple more restarts and eas­ily hold­ing off all other con­tenders to take the checkered flag as the crowd stood and roared its ap­proval.

“This means every­thing to me and my fam­ily. I know how big this race is from when I was a kid and grandpa was run­ning it,” said Str­niska. “This is a dream come true. I think the only thing big­ger would be win­ning the Daytona 500 or some­thing like that.”

Coon­field held on for a hard earned sec­ond, fol­lowed by So­lari, former twotime track cham­pion Justin Philpott of Tracy and Stock­ton’s Greg Potts.

“I tried and tried and tried, but I had noth­ing for Ross and I sure wasn’t go­ing to wreck him,” Coon­field ad­mit­ted, laugh­ing. “I am happy. Get­ting a sec­ond in this race is awe­some.”

In other race ac­tion, Justin Scantlen of Val­ley Springs held the top spot through the first half of the 30-lap Bomber main un­til he tan­gled with Stock­ton’s Rick Roberts while bat­tling to hold the lead on lap 14.

The pair was sent to the back of the 17-car field for their trans­gres­sions, open­ing the door for Robert’s team­mate Rob Dueck, of Man­teca, to take over as the al­pha dog.

Dueck seemed to have the race well in hand un­til Roberts sud­denly reap­peared on his tail with four laps re­main­ing. Af­ter the two team­mates went door to door over the fi­nal two laps Dueck was able to grab the check­ers by half of a car length for a hard earned vic­tory.

“That race was amaz­ing. I drove hard, got some breaks, had a great car and some luck,” said Dueck as he cel­e­brated his sec­ond win of the year with Roberts in the pits.

“All of a sud­den I see him com­ing (Roberts) and I thought to my­self ‘Oh oh. I’ve got to go.’ It was so much fun.”

Josh Cross, of Man­teca, con­trolled the early por­tion of the 30-lap B-4 main, but he soon found the orange car of Bar­rett Sug­den of Stock­ton filling his rear view mir­ror.

Sug­den hung on to the rear bumper of Cross for a few laps be­fore div­ing un­der him in turn #2 of Lap 12 to take the lead.

Sug­den would never look back, cross­ing the finish line a whole straight­away ahead of Cross and Joe Flow­ers, of Man­teca, for the win and a clean sweep (race, dash, heat and qual­i­fy­ing) of the night’s B-4 pro­ceed­ings.

De­spite only six cars lin­ing up to start, the 10-lap Mini Cup fea­ture was marred by sev­eral yel­low-cau­tions be­fore Aaron Thomas, of Napa, was fi­nally able to claim the vic­tory over At­wa­ter’s Alden Phillips.

Rac­ing re­turns to the 99 Speed­way on Satur­day, July 14, with a pro­gram fea­tur­ing the Gun Slingers Wing Sprint Car Series, BCRA Mid­gets, BCRA Vin­tage Mid­gets and Cal­i­for­nia Hard Top As­so­ci­a­tion.

JESSICA MCANELLY/JESSIE’S FAST PHO­TOS

Shown, Retha Str­miska, wife of the late Ron Str­miska Sr., poses with grand­son Ross Str­miska af­ter he cap­tured the win in the July 4 Str­miska Me­mo­rial Fire­cracker 125.

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