ANTIOCH -- Stock car driver Robert Gallaher of San Jose was so excited to win the Contra Costa County Fair main event May 31, he did a NASCAR-style "smoke show" at the finish line of Antioch Speedway -- a rare sight on a dirt track.
Gallaher fought hard for the lead, racing side-by-side with Fred Ryland of Brentwood for most of the 20-lap main event in the International Motor Contest Association SportMod division. Ryland held off Gallaher's challenges for five laps, when a spinning car brought out the caution flag with two to go.
At the waving of the green flag, Gallaher made his move, and was able to get ahead of Ryland coming out of the second turn. It was Gallaher's second IMCA win of the season.
Gallaher had a special reason to celebrate in such style. His wife, Elise, was in the grandstands for the first time to witness his win. The second-year SportMod driver in on a quest to win the IMCA's national title.
"I had to earn this win -- I started from the back of the field," Gallaher said. "It was an unbelievable race. To have another driver race so closely and have two cars be so competitive makes the win even bigger. He (Ryland) passed me and I got the lead back -- fair and square."
Ryland was disappointed.
"I missed the set-up," a he explained after the race. "We tried something different setting the car up for the track, but it wasn't the right choice. Being a little off made the difference between winning or not winning."
Lloyd Cline of Martinez brought home third place. Megan Ponciano of Oakley, who won the previous week's event, finished fourth.
The Hobby Stock feature event went to Dan Jones of Castro Valley. He left the feature early to repair a flat tire, reentering the oval as the pack of cars was rounding the third turn to take the green flag.
Jones, who won the Friday night "Boat Race" at the fair with the same car, worked his way all the way back to the front of the pack.
"Caution flags are the great equalizer in stock car racing," he said in victory lane when asked if he thought he could win after being so far behind.
The four-wide action of the Hobby Stock feature, along with some banging and bumping, caused Michael Cooper to lose the front bumper of his car. The Bay Point driver lost his second place finish when his car did not make weight requirements after the race.
Dan Smith of Vacaville and Brentwood's Patti Ryland took second and third. Point leader Kimo Oreta discovered engine problems and was unable to fix them by race time.
Oreta's not starting the event was costly, as he is now in second place, 22 points behind Ryland.
It was one year earlier that young Brent Curran of Antioch scored his first feature event win in the four-cylinder "Four-Banger" division at the speedway.
Curran won the Contra Costa County Fair race again, topping Michael Christopher and Jordan Swank, who chased him across the finish line.
Antioch driver Robby Senn was injured when his car hit the front stretch wall in the "Four-Banger" feature. Because he had possible neck and back injuries, the fire department was called to use the "jaws of life" to cut through the car's roll cage and safely remove Senn from the car.
Senn gave a "thumbs up" to the cheering crowd as he was wheeled to the ambulance.
Wingless Sprint Cars, IMCA Modifieds Return Saturday
The Northern All Star Wingless Sprint Cars and IMCA modifieds will headline the five divisions of cars racing on June 7.
The Limited Late Model Stock Cars, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars will be included in the program, which features qualification races and a main event for each division.