by Jon Brown, MERIDIAN, Idaho – There were numerous restarts because of anxious front-row drivers and several yellow flags because of a slippery course Saturday night at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway.
But at the end of it all, one racer was able to cash in on his experience earlier in the day as Chris Fenton put himself in the record books.
The NAPA Late Models driver became the 12th man to win the Bill Crow Memorial 50 at least twice. The Meridian, Idaho racer took advantage of Lee Hackney’s bobble out of Turn 4 with four laps remaining and then held off former Crow champion Dennis Wurtz of Boise for the checkered flag.
“I don’t know what to say, man, I wanted this one really bad,” the 2011 Crow winner said. “Dylan Caldwell got it last year and I got second last year.”
In other main events:
Western Idaho Racing Association Hall-of-Famer Kenny Chandler kept rookie Ryan Bailey of Meridian at bay to win the Project Filter Pro-4 feature.
Reigning division champion Riley Rogers set the track record then won the Jr. Stingers main event with an impressive run. He went from third to first over the final 10 laps.
Phyl Zubizareta of Garden City, Idaho, padded his narrow series lead in the Domino’s Pizza Legends by passing Zach Blume of Eagle, Idaho 15 laps into the main event then pulling away.
ASA Member Track national champion Shelby Stroebel picked up two main event victories and has now won 21 of his past 22 ASA Modifieds starts at the Meridian bullring.
With Caldwell having problems with his racecar throughout the 38th annual race honoring Crow — one of the track’s former promoters — the rest of the Late Model racers jockeyed for the hardware.
Fenton, Wurtz and Hackney were lucky to be in the mix after Fast Dash crashes that seemingly devastated their racecars.
“I got a little impatient in the heat race, and I learned my lesson,” Fenton said. “Fifty laps is a long time around this little bullring.”
But Fenton’s pit crew went to work after he drove his car up and over the Turn 4 wall on the first lap of the heat race reserved for the day’s fastest qualifiers.
“They put this thing back together and made it amazing,” Fenton said.
After one of three restarts before one lap could be completed in the Fast Dash, Wurtz lost control low out of Turn 4 and drove over Hackney’s left front fender as the latter man was leading out of Turn 4.
Hackney was able to get his car back in racing trim for the 50-lap main event, though, as was Wurtz.
In fact, Hackney’s car was good enough for frontrunner status for most of the main event. He and Mike Marston drove side-by-side for the lead for six consecutive laps after Kim Bradford of Eagle, Idaho triggered a red flag by smacking the front-stretch wall and then plowing into the water barrels in Turn 1 three laps in.
After Dave Thomasson spun to bring out the third yellow in the race’s first three laps, Hackney roared to the lead with a big jump over Travis Anderson on the restart.
Hackney pulled away while Marston and Caldwell battled for position behind him. With 27 laps left, the Caldwell-Marston duel finally boiled over as both drivers went sliding around entering the front stretch. Caldwell’s car would never be the same.
Hackney and Anderson battled for the lead again on the restart with Hackney getting loose out of Turn 2 several times but somehow maintaining his momentum.
Meanwhile, Fenton began the first of two high-side charges that would eventually land him in victory lane.
Fenton moved from third to second in the matter of a seven laps. He and Wurtz – the Crow winner in 2004 and 2006 – shot to the front when Hackney lost control of his racecar out of Turn 4 on Lap 46.
Stroebel was up to his usual tricks in the ASA Modifieds, but Nampa’s Jentry Pisca proved he was equal to the task in both 35-lap main events.
“I like to be challenged,” Stroebel said afterward. “Jentry challenged me. I couldn’t get the outside groove.
“He raced me clean and put in a heck of an effort, and that’s what you all come out to see.”
The race of the night came when the second main event was restarted after five laps when Caldwell’s Rosalee Weller spun in Turn 1.
Stroebel and Pisca lined up side-by-side on the cone restart and proceeded to race wheel-to-wheel for the next five laps.
With 26 laps to go, Stroebel pushed the accelerator hard to the floor, transferring enough horsepower to the rear tires to break traction as he sped through a fishtail to blast past Pisca to the lead coming out of Turn 4.
Stroebel pulled away for a five-car-length victory, but he and Pisca lapped every racer except Twin Falls, Idaho’s Rick Fowble – just as they had in the night’s first feature.
In the first main event, Stroebel drove from the back of the pack to the lead three laps after the green flag dropped. He went to the front when Weller relinquished the lead and ducked off the track with her racecar leaking oil.
In a preview of the second race, Pisca stuck with Stroebel as the rivals raced nose-to-tail and stretched out a half-lap lead over the rest of the field.
Pisca, who snapped Stroebel’s 18-race win streak earlier this season, was unable to catch the 2012 track champion.
Fowble did some impressive driving in his own right, winning a lengthy battle with Caitlin Stroebel to take control of the third spot in the early feature.
Chandler won the Pro-4s race despite rising pressure from competitors behind him and the needle on his temperature gauge.
“The car got up to 260 (degrees) on us, but we went as slow as we could and stay out front,” Chandler said. “It was a good night for us, and we’ll go home and work on cars.”
Chandler brought a 17-year-old chassis to the racetrack – albeit a chassis that helped him win a track championship nearly 20 years ago. Reportedly, he was frustrated with the chassis he started the 2013 season with, despite sitting in second place in the points standings (82 points behind Nampa’s Joe Barton).
Chandler led for most of the main event, but would find a challenge from class rookie Larry Hull III of Boise midway through the race.
Hull, who had spun in pesky Turn 4 earlier in the contest, drove into second place two laps after Boise’s Donovan Parker brought out the second caution flag by smashing the rear end of his racecar into the Turn 3 wall.
The former Mini Stocks track champion was riding in Chandler’s shadow with five laps to go when he went around again in the middle of Turns 3 and 4.
Hull would spin again on the restart, but the door had already been flung open for another rookie as Bailey stepped up to challenge Chandler.
The veteran was up to the task over the final two laps, even with his car getting dangerously close to over-heating.
On a night when the track’s caution lights blinked on and off with the frequency of a country crossroads traffic light, Zubizareta marveled at how well-behaved his colleagues were during the Legends main event.
“This is the best class of people to race with. It’s so awesome and so clean,” he said. “Zach Blume is just so fun to race with. He’s so clean.”
Blume had a strong racecar Saturday night. He roared to the fast time in qualifying, laying down a 15.320-second lap that was less than three-tenths of a second off Zubizareta’s track record.
Blume went to the lead when the race restarted after the engine in Meridian racer Todd Seaver’s car blew, spewing oil on the track.
Zubizareta, meanwhile, used skill and luck to make sure his night would continue. He shot low out of Turn 4 to avoid a wreck when Boise drivers Caity Miller and Chase Gilbertson crashed to bring out the third yellow flag.
In the Jr. Stingers, Rogers maintained his series lead, but the reigning champion also restated his ability by breaking his own track record with a second-lap showing of 16.616 seconds. The time was nearly five-hundredths of a second faster than his record-setting tour on Sept. 7, 2012. Rogers set the record after running a half-second slower on his first lap of time trials.
In the main event, he sat in third place when the race was restarted with 10 laps to go.
Four laps later, he had rocketed to the front past Meridian’s Peter Woog and Nampa’s Jordan Harris.
Harris and Rogers drove side-by-side and weaved through lapped traffic with Rogers holding off his rival to get the victory.
The drama wasn’t reserved only for the main events Saturday night. In the first eight-lap heat for the Domino’s Pizza Legends, Jamie Hyde of Boise, Idaho went for the ride of the season. Strapped into a small-scale racecar powered by a motorcycle engine, Hyde got sideways on the backstretch, and his car barrel-rolled four times before coming to a rest near the apron.
Hyde walked away from one of scariest crashes of the season.
The College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Street Stocks 10×10 (10 segments of 10 laps each) highlights next Saturday’s racing card. Also on tap are the Pepsi Sprintcars, B Modifieds, Coors Super Stocks, TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks and Thunder Dogs.
The track comes to live again on Wednesday, June 19 for Cricket Dairy Days Races and Carnival. The Mtn. Dew Winged Sprints return to the paved quarter-mile oval for the first time since the Diamond Cup, while the Domino’s Pizza Legends and Mini Stocks tag along.
June 19 is also the first installment of the 2013 Hornet 100 Series, with drivers taking the four-cylinder entry class racecars through their paces for 100 laps around the bullring.
Tickets each night are $10 for adults, $7.50 for military personnel with ID and senior citizens, and $6 for children ages 7-11. Children 6 and younger get in free, as always. A family pass for two adults and up to four children 7-11 is $30.
Gates open each night at 4 p.m. with racing at 6:30 p.m.
Visit www.meridianspeedway.com or “like” Meridian Speedway on Facebook to get the latest information.
The racetrack can be reached by phone at (208) 888-2813.
EMS/Police/Fire and Corrections Officer
Saturday’s unofficial results
Bill Crow Memorial 50 for NAPA Late Models – 1. Chris Fenton, Meridian, Idaho; 2. Dennis Wurtz, Boise, Idaho; 3. Lee Hackney, Boise; 4. Travis Anderson, Boise; 5. Mike Marston, Boise
ASA Modifieds No. 1 (35 laps) – 1. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian; 2. Jentry Pisca, Nampa, Idaho; 3. Rick Fowble, Twin Falls, Idaho; 4. Caitlin Stroebel, Meridian; 5. Cade Hollon, Riggins, Idaho
ASA Modifieds No. 2 (35 laps) – 1. Shelby Stroebel; 2. Pisca; 3. Fowble; 4. Dell Scott, Meridian; 5. Kyle Latham, Boise
Project Filter Pro-4s (30 laps) – 1. Kenny Chandler, Kuna, Idaho; 2. Ryan Bailey, Meridian; 3. Larry Hull III, Boise; 4. Rob Bean, Kuna; 5. Ron Hayes, Boise
Domino’s Pizza Legends (35 laps) – 1. Phyl Zubizareta, Garden City, Idaho; 2. Zach Blume, Eagle, Idaho; 3. Casey Tillman, Kuna; 4. Camron Madsen, Boise; 5. Mike Cullum, Meridian
Jr. Stingers (20 laps) – 1. Riley Rogers, Meridian; 2. Jordan Harris, Nampa; 3. Peter Woog, Meridian; 4. Kendra Occhipinti, Nampa; 5. Cherokee Arnold, Star, Idaho
(Eight laps each)
NAPA Late Models
Fast Dash – 1. Anderson; 2. Dylan Caldwell, Nampa; 3. Dennis Wurtz; 4. Hackney; 5. Fenton
B Heat – 1. Mike Marston; 2. TJ “The Torch” Monroe, Meridian; 3. Dave Thomasson, Meridian; 4. Kim Bradford, Eagle; 5. Jake Petero, Ontario, Ore.
Project Filter Pro-4s
Fast Dash – 1. Bailey; 2. Chandler; 3. Larry Hull III; 4. Donovan Parker, Boise; 5. Joe Barton, Nampa
B Heat – 1. Hayes; 2. Terry Sherman, Boise; 3. Bean; 4. Jeffery Snethen, Boise
Domino’s Pizza Legends
Fast Dash – 1. Mike Cullum; 2. Madsen; 3. Caity Miller, Boise; 4. Blume; 5. Sara Henry, Nampa
C Heat – 1. Zubizareta; 2. Brent Collins, Boise; 3. Trevor Cristiani, Boise; 4. Tillman; 5. Aubree Wartman, Boise
B Heat – 1. Todd Seaver, Meridian; 2. Chase Gilbertson, Boise; 3. Chance Davis, Emmett, Idaho; 4. Steve Thimsen, Boise; 5. Daynna Skiver, Meridian
D Heat – 1. Rod Stiller, Meridian; 2. Ethan Jones, Meridian; 3. Jenna Cullum, Meridian; 4. Jamie Hyde, Boise; 5. Charlie Fiscus, Star, Idaho
(Six laps each)
Fast Dash – 1. Peter Woog, Meridian; 2. CJ Stirm, Nampa; 3. Daytona Wurtz, Kuna; 4. Riley Rogers, Meridian; 5. Kendra Occhipinti, Nampa
B Heat – 1. Taylor Occhipinti, Nampa; 2. Tyler Marston-Henderson, Boise, Idaho; 3. Cherokee Arnold, Star, Idaho; 4. Cora Munro, Eagle, Idaho; 5. Allison “Allie” Hild, Boise
NAPA Late Models – Caldwell, 13.942 seconds
ASA Modifieds – Shelby Stroebel, 14.042
Project Filter Pro-4s – Chandler, 14.112
Domino’s Pizza Legends – Blume, 15.320
Jr. Stingers – Rogers, 16.616 (track record; previous – Rogers, 16.663, Sept. 7, 2012)