by Jon Brown, MERIDIAN, Idaho – He may have had an off-night driving, but veteran racer Tony Ackerland came out on top all the same.
The Star, Idaho driver was one of four men to wrap up season championships Saturday night at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway.
But Ackerland’s championship-clinching night didn’t go the way he would have liked.
With 13 laps left in the race, Ackerland spun into the inside wall on the front stretch during a sequence that also saw fellow Pepsi Sprintcar drivers slam into the same wall.
Ryan Wiederich of Nampa, Idaho collided with a wingless sprintcar piloted by Cody Huddleston and pinned it against the wall.
All the drivers walked away from the melee, but Ackerland was somewhat embarrassed.
“This is a pretty good deal,” Ackerland said. “I haven’t spun a car out in eight years, and I managed to do it just now.
“This thing was on the rail. This is the best this car has felt all year, but I made an error and there’s nothing I can say.”
Ackerland dominated the season in the Pepsi Sprintcars and was awarded the championship one race before the end of the schedule. The Pepsi Sprintcars are on the schedule for the Oct. 5 makeup date at the quarter-mile paved oval, but Ackerland won’t compete. He points lead is so great that no one can catch him anyway.
Two other championships were decided Saturday night, and neither champion won the final feature of their division’s season.
Phyl Zubizareta of Garden City, Idaho won his second consecutive Domino’s Pizza Legends championship.
Travis Anderson of Boise, Idaho completed a strong stretch run to capture the NAPA Late Models title.
Bulldacious (driven by James DeMello of Boise, Idaho) was declared the Thunder Dogs season champion.
Main event winners Saturday night included:
Caldwell, Idaho’s Ryan Newman made up four spots in five laps to collect the checkered flag in the Washington Econo Sprint Car Organization-Pepsi Sprintcars 30-lapper.
Newman was running the WESCO setup, so Ackerland earned a feature victory in the Pepsi Sprintcars division.
Las Vegas, Nev.’s Peyton Saxton flew in days after a sixth-place finish at the INEX Legends Nationals in Pennsylvania and capped his week away from home by winning the Domino’s Pizza Legends 35-lap feature.
Nampa, Idaho’s Dylan Caldwell grabbed the Late Models checkered flag, but couldn’t defend his 2012 season crown.
Rob Powers of Meridian collected his first Tates Hornets victory of the season.
“This is real fun,” Powers said. “It’s tough in the Hornets class because they don’t care if you’re in front of them. They’ll just push you out of the way.”
Speaking of pushing out of the way the Money Pit (driven by Kennon Irons of Boise) won the Boat Race of Destruction that capped the weekend. Thunder Dogs and Hornets both pulled boats around the track in a quest for carnage.
Boise driver Mark Floyd seemed to have found his niche when he took the wing off his sprintcar to race with the WESCO out-of-towners from Washington state, Oregon and British Columbia.
Floyd held the lead for more than half the race before Jaysen Skyberg of Boise, who was driving the only six-cylinder sprinter in the field, rolled to the front with a daring move that also brought Spokane, Wash.’s Rafael Kurek from third to second.
When Ackerland spun out with 10 laps to go, Newman was in fourth place. Five laps later, he was in the lead for good. Skyberg rallied past Kurek to finish second. With Floyd finishing fifth, local drivers collected three of the top five positions.
In the Legends, Saxton rebounded from a big Friday night crash to win the Legends finale in his backup car.
“I should have picked this car first,” Saxton said one night after crashing his record-breaking Legends racer into the Turn 3 interior wall just 10 laps into the main event.
Saxton picked off 17 cars to get the checkered flag. As he patiently waited for a post-race interview, Saxton watched Zubizareta drive doughnuts into the front-stretch pavement as he celebrated a second straight title.
“This was a long championship,” Zubizareta said. “We don’t have a lot of money to put in these cars like some people. We make up for it with hard work and dedication.”
The hard work and dedication will continue in 2014; Zubizareta told track announcer Brent Arte that he will be back to shoot for the three-peat.
Zubizareta took a peek at the lead during the race, but fell back when his attack on the high side of the track cost him several positions.
Saxton made it into the top five within nine laps, but the race was halted when the car driven by Caity Miller of Boise hit the Turn 1 wall and slid across the pavement on its side. One night earlier, Miller had clocked the first Legends sub-15-second qualifying lap in speedway history before Saxton ran a faster lap to set the track record.
Cody Hollis of Payette, Idaho maintained his lead after the yellow flag, but fell out of contention when he spun with 26 laps to go.
Saxton was back in the top five with 23 laps to go. He passed Aubree Wartman of Boise with 10 laps to go and never looked back.
Anderson had his work was cut out as his record-breaking ways pushed him to the back of the pack for the Late Models feature and his closest challenger – Caldwell – found himself on the front row after a rough start to the 30-lap Late Models main event.
But, just as his late-season charge had put him in position to unseat 2012 champion Caldwell, Anderson put up a strong showing to lock up the 2013 crown.
Caldwell won Saturday’s main event, holding off Anderson’s hard charge with fish-tailing determination over the final few laps.
Alas, Anderson edged Caldwell by 28 points. Caldwell and Dennis Wurtz II of Boise finished tied for second in the points chase with 542 points apiece. Wurtz was third in Saturday’s main event.
Anderson started at the back of the field after breaking his own track record with a 13.802-second qualifying lap.
Caldwell, meanwhile, found himself on the front row when race officials penalized Jake Petero of Ontario, Ore., and Kim Bradford of Eagle, Idaho, when they couldn’t put together a clean start to the race.
The onus was on Anderson when the green flag dropped and Caldwell raced out to a convincing lead.
A spate of caution flags with 10 laps to go gave Anderson the daylight he needed. First, Petero spun out in Turn 1. Then, even before the field had a chance to complete a green-flag lap, Eagle, Idaho’s Kim Bradford spun around and slammed broadside into the interior retaining wall put in place Friday night.
Anderson tucked in behind Caldwell for the next restart, but Caldwell won a side-by-side battle with Wurtz for the lead.
Over the final couple laps, Anderson was gaining against Caldwell on the inside. He put the nose of his stock car on Caldwell’s quarter panel coming out of Turn 2.
The final open-wheel show of the year comes Friday with the Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic. The Mtn. Dew Winged Sprintcars season ends with this memorial race.
Also on the schedule are the ASA Modifieds, Budweiser B Modifieds, Project Filter Pro-4s, TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks and Tates Hornets.
The gates open at 4 p.m. with racing at 6:30 p.m.
Admission is $10 for adults, $9.50 for military and senior citizens and $8 for children 7-11. Children 6 and younger get in free.
A family pass for two adults and up to four children ages 7-11 will cost $30.
Tickets are available online at www.meridianspeedway.com, giving fans the opportunity to buy and print tickets from home and skip what is sure to be a long line at the spectator gate.
For more information or to purchase tickets in advance and print them off at home, visit www.meridianspeedway.com. You can follow Meridian Speedway on Facebook, too.
Saturday’s unofficial results
NAPA Late Models championship (30 laps) — 1. Dylan Caldwell, Nampa, Idaho; 2. Travis Anderson, Boise, Idaho; 3. Dennis Wurtz II, Boise; 4. Dan Lowther, Boise; 5. Dave Thomasson, Meridian, Idaho
NAPA Late Models season champion – Anderson
Domino’s Pizza Legends championship (35 laps) — 1. Peyton Saxton, Las Vegas, Nev.; 2. Sara Henry, Nampa, Idaho; 3. Aubree Wartman, Boise; 4. Phyl Zubizareta, Garden City, Idaho; 5. Zach Blume, Eagle, Idaho
Domino’s Pizza Legends season champion — Zubizareta
Washington Econo Sprint Car Organization and Pepsi Sprintcars (30 laps) — 1. Ryan Newman, Caldwell, Idaho; 2. Jasen Skyberg, Boise; 3. Rafael Kurek, Spokane, Wash.; 4. Doug McLees, Olympia, Wash.; 5. Mark Floyd, Boise
Pepsi Sprintcars season champion — Ackerland
Tates Hornets (35 laps) — 1. Rob Powers, Meridian; 2. Thomas Harrod, Nampa; 3. Drew Crenshaw, Nampa; 4. Jess Ryska, Meridian; 5. Cody Garrett, Boise
Boat Race of Destruction winner — Money Pit (Kennon Irons, Boise)
Thunder Dogs season champion – Bulldacious (James DeMello, Boise)
(10 laps each)
WESCO and Pepsi Sprintcars
A Heat — 1. Cody Huddleston, Meridian; 2. Danny Matthews, Victoria, British Columbia; 3. Doug McLees, Olympia, Wash.; 4. Garrett McLees, Olympia, Wash.; 5. Chris Fenton, Meridian
B Heat — 1. Mark Floyd, Boise; 2. Mitch Holte, Eugene, Ore.; 3. Jasen Skyberg, Boise; 4. Michael Anderson, Nampa; 5. Rafael Kurek, Spokane, Wash.
(Eight laps each)
Domino’s Pizza Legends
Fast Dash — 1. Peyton Saxton, Las Vegas, Nev.; 2. Aubree Wartman, Boise; 3. Phyl Zubizareta, Garden City, Idaho; 4. Caity Miller, Boise; 5. Sara Henry, Nampa
B Heat — 1. Chance Davis, Emmett, Idaho; 2. Mark Cirelli Jr., Nampa; 3. Charlie Fiscus, Star, Idaho; 4. Steve Thimsen, Boise; 5. Jonathan Davis, Emmett
C Heat — 1. Cody Hollis, Payette, Idaho; 2. Darin Turpen, Nampa; 3. Ethan Jones, Meridian; 4. Daynna Skiver, Meridian; 5. Jamie Hyde, Boise
NAPA Late Models
Fast Dash — 1. Dave Thomasson, Boise; 2. Dennis Wurtz II, Boise; 3. Dylan Caldwell, Nampa; 4. Travis Anderson, Boise; 5. Kim Bradford, Eagle, Idaho
(Six laps each)
Fast Dash — 1. Lynn Sharp, Nampa; 2. Rob Powers, Meridian; 3. Thomas Harrod, Nampa; 4. Drew Crenshaw, Nampa; 5. Brandon Hild, Boise
B Heat — 1. Antonio Ryska, Caldwell, Idaho; 2. Kenny Driebergen, Boise; 3. Fred Nagele, Boise; 4. Monica Heath, Caldwell; 5. James Pahl, Caldwell
C Heat — 1. Jim Longden, Boise; 2. Michael Capps, Meridian; 3. Charlie Atkinson, Caldwell; 4. Bill Allen, Meridian; 5. Stacy Heath, Nampa
D Heat — 1. Cody Garrett, Boise; 2. DJ Everett, Garden City; 3. Joe Popper, Meridian; 4. Nick Durbin, Boise; 5. Gary Luck, Boise
Fast Dash winner — Sledgehammer (David Jolley, Nampa)
WESCO and Pepsi Sprintcars — Tony Ackerland, Star, Idaho, 13.391 seconds
NAPA Late Models — Anderson, 13.802 (track record; previous: 13.812, July 14, 2012)
Domino’s Pizza Legends — Peyton Saxton, Las Vegas, Nev., 14.915