STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA -- Saturday's Firecracker 100 for the Ron Strmiska Sr. Memorial at Stockton 99 Speedway ended with on-track fireworks and Modesto's Mike Beeler came away with the victory. The green-white-checkered finish saw Beeler get past Jacob Gomes to lead the final two laps for the $4000 win. Beeler, the 2014 series champion, is he sixth different winner through the first seven rounds of the Pacific Challenge Series.
Beeler's victory came from seventh on the grid in front of a crowd estimated north of 3000 for one of the biggest races of the season for the PenneyLaywers.com sponsored series.
Seven cars broke the track record in Sunoco Race Fuels qualifying including 2015 Firecracker 100 winner John Moore with a 13.104 second lap. Points leader Jeremy Doss of Upperlake, CA won the Strmiska Memorial Dash for $500 to win to earn the pole for the feature race. The race started after the annual fireworks show concluded and saw outside pole sitter Jacob Gomes take the lead at the conclusion of the first lap.
The first caution for a spin also relegated Travis Milburn to the pits for a stop for repairs. By the fifth lap of the race Tracy Bolin had navigated his way to fifth after starting ninth, while Kyle Gottula was up to eighth from 12th. Ron Strmiska's grandson Ross had a busy race throughout the night battling back-and-forth with Cole Moore while Bolin challenged Beeler for fourth. Milburn navigated back up to tenth at quarter distance at lap 25.
Lapped traffic became a factor for Gomes as he tried to hang on to his nearly two second advantage over Doss and John Moore. Things heated up midpack with Cole Moore and Gottula both getting past Strmiska in subsequent laps on lap 34 and 35.
Strmiska got Moore back a few laps later before Moore slowed dramatically to draw a caution lap 42 and retire from the race. The first attempt at a restart saw Bolin and Milburn mix it up, sending Milburn for a spin where he collected Stockton's Greg Potts. Both were eliminated from the competition.
Beeler used the restart to turn up the wick on Doss for second position, which he took over on lap 48. Doss appeared to be in trouble with heavy pressure from Bolin and Gottula among others in a tight pack. Things boiled over in turn two on lap 52 when Bolin was bounced from the pack and had slight contact with Danny Malfatti as he spun. Bolin's front end damage was significant and the contact with Doss was enough for Doss to take a pit stop as well. Bolin was out of the race after a strong month of June with a win at Shasta and a fourth at Roseville.
Gottula ran as high as second with 20 laps to go as the race stayed green near the finish. John Moore suffered a pair of flat tires that sent sparks flying from the #27 car to set up the green-white-checkered finish. Beeler and Gomes made hard contact on the first attempt at a restart, with Gomes showing smoke when the caution flew.
On the second attempt, Beeler and Gomes ran in a dead heat on lap 98. The Stockton crowd rose to their feet as Beeler took over the lead on lap 99 and Gomes spun diving into turn one. Strmiska and Gottula made hard contact avoiding Gomes and slid into the backstretch exit ramp, and Matthew Wendt spun a few hundred feet past them in turn three. Beeler dashed away with the win ahead of Doss, Elk Grove's Mike Hite, John Moore, and JR Courage. Moore was eventually moved up to third in the final rundown as Hite was dropped to fifth for a post-race infraction. Gomes reveled later that the smoke was a broken power steering line that left fluid on the race track before the subsequent series of melees.
The 2016 Pacific Challenge Series presented by PenneyLawyers.com rolls on to Ukiah Speedway on July 16th for the second of three appearances at the quarter-mile. For more information on the Pacific Challenge Series, visit them online at www.PacificChallengeSeries.com or on Facebook and YouTube.
The Pacific Challenge Series is presented by: Penney Racing Supply, Penney & Associates, American Racer Tires, Maita Chevrolet, Compact-It, Northwest Compactors, Naake Suspension, Sunoco Fuels, Five Star Bodies, BrakeOMeter, Lefthander Chassis, ARP Bodies, Joes Racing Products, Bassett Wheels, Frank's Radio, WrapStar Pro, and Blakesley Sports Media. All PCS Super Late Models race ABC Bodies or Muscle Car bodies on American Racer Tires with Sunoco Racing Fuel.
-Pacific Challenge Series Press Release & Photo