by Tyler Schild, MERIDIAN, Idaho—Under threatening skies Meridian Speedway thundered to life with an action packed season opening slate of races. Seventeen of the headlining NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels crowded the quarter-mile confines as the green flag dropped on racing action Saturday night. Entrants included Meridian Speedway regulars like Dennis Wurtz II and Lee Hackney, along with K&N Pro Series veteran and Eagle, Idaho native John Wood.
“This is an awesome track to race on,” said Latemodel competitor Charlie Wahl, a Las Vegas driver whose day job is tuning K&N Pro Series race cars.
Ten Pepsi Sprintcars roared to life for an exciting main event. On a cold, slick race track Colton Nelson scooted low beneath Mike Anderson to a lead he wouldn’t relinquish in route to collecting the Boise Boys Transportation trophy. Ryan Newman’s late charge was only enough for second. Anderson would fall to third where he held off a furious charge by Justin Segura in the closing laps.
Project Filter Pro-4 action saw reigning class champion Joe Barton outlast Kenny Chandler to win an orderly main event. The winning pass came when Chandler dropped out with mechanical issues. Barton took the opportunity and steamed to a full lap win over second place Chet Thorson.
Junior Stinger action took off with an abbreviated field after practice and qualifying crashes trimmed the class to three entrants. Both Katie Lober and Shane Harris were okay. Best looking car winner Noah Capps withdrew with engine trouble. The remaining duo of Daytona Wurtz and Taylor Occhipinti made the most of their opportunity to race, going door-to-door for seven laps in the heat race before Wurtz won out. Wurtz continued her winning ways in the main event after jumping to an early lead.
The College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Street Stocks took full advantage of their seven car field with 25 laps of hard racing. Roy Kirkland and Melissa Weaver knifed their way through the field and held the top two spots after 5 laps. It would take Weaver five quick laps to pass Kirkland, who battled with Melissa’s father Marv Weaver for second until a caution with 4 to go bunched the field one last time. On the restart Kirkland couldn’t tame his loose racecar and finished second to Melissa Weaver.
“It was getting kind of interesting there,” said Kirkland. “I was watching her push and wish I had about another ten laps.”
With four great races already in the books the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels took the green.
A rash of early caution flags slowed the first thirty of the scheduled 75 laps. The most impactful of these cautions came when race leader Jake Petero spun going into turn three, collecting Dennis Wurtz II, Trevor Christiani and others. Both Wurtz II and Christiani figured to be in contention for the series’ inaugural victory, but were sidelined due to the incident.
With forty laps to go the cream of the Latemodel field began to rise as veteran campaigner Brett Thompson lead the way over a charging Lee Hackney and Charlie Wahl. Fifteen laps later a caution period would spell disaster for Thompson, who left the track with overheating problems. This handed the lead to Wahl, who roared to victory over second place John Wood and third place Hackney.
“There was some great racing out there,” said Wahl. “Hopefully we can come back and win some more.”
With the first of 29 races in the books Meridian Speedway sets its sights on next week’s Mountain Dew Winged Sprintcar Opener. Other classes will include the Coors Super Stocks, Super Sixes, Team Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks, Tates Rents Hornets, and the hotly anticipated Budweiser Modifieds. Gates open at 4 with racing to follow at 6:30.