Fireworks Start Early in Stinker Stores Firecracker 100
Summer was in full swing Wednesday, July 4 as Meridian Speedway hosted the Stinker Stores Firecracker 100 for the Teleperformance Claimer Stocks. The INEX Legends contested their annual regional qualifier at the quarter-mile asphalt oval, while the PitStopUSA.com NASCAR Modifieds, Winged Pepsi Crate Cars, and Big Daddy’s Barbecue Hornets set the stage for the City of Meridian’s Independence Day fireworks display.
A full field of Teleperformance Claimer Stocks rolled onto a scorching race track for the Stinker Stores Firecracker 100. The green flag fell and outside pole sitter Jamie Hyde sprang to the lead with Preston Henderson, Rich Lawson, and Pat Tully in tow. Tully was on the move, and the Caldwell, Idaho racer sped around the outside of Lawson to put his Dean Wilson Racing, Dillon Performance Engines entry in third.
Lap thirteen proved unlucky for Tully as a mechanical issue forced the second place runner into the pits. This left second to Lawson, who had his hands full with quick-qualifier Todd Seaver. Seaver piloted his Lucas Oil, Action Garage Door machine around the outside of Lawson for second on lap fourteen, then swung low and relieved Hyde of the lead three laps later.
While Seaver rocketed around the racetrack, Boise, Idaho’s Josh Fanopoulos worked his Certified Services, A-1 Towing racer through the pack and found himself lined up outside Seaver for a lap 25 restart. With the green flag back in the air Meridian, Idaho’s Seaver stormed away from the field while Fanopoulos and young Taylor Occhipinti fell into a battle for second on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard.
While her younger brother Taylor searched for a way around Fanopoulos, Kendra Occhipinti was locked in a battle of her own with Sam Newcomer. For ten laps Occhipinti worked her Marv’s Tire Service, Rhonda Kellerer Graphics machine beside Newcomer, then used a strong run out of turn two to take the fourth spot.
At the race’s halfway point Taylor Occhipinti decided it was time to go, and he tested Fanopoulos in the inside line. Lap after lap the younger Occhipinti looked low, but Fanopoulos outpaced the young racer each time. Occhipinti worked his car harder and harder as 25 hard-fought laps flew off the scoreboard. But this extra effort came at a price, and with 24 laps left Occhipinti’s racer popped and sputtered at the end of the front stretch.
With her brother in the pit area, Kendra Occhipinti turned up the wick in her racer, and steadily worked her way toward Fanopoulos, who had halved Seaver’s lead in under ten laps. The reason for Seaver’s slow down began first as a puff of smoke with fifteen laps left, then a dense cloud with thirteen circuits remaining.
Seaver did everything he could to limp his wounded racer home, but with a mere eleven laps to go Seaver’s car erupted in flames in turn one. The Neil Alan Fine Jewelry Safety Crew extinguished the blaze in short order, but Seaver’s night was over.
This left the lead to Fanopoulos with Kendra Occhipinti and Sam Newcomer in his mirror. The green flag waved and Fanopoulos took off from his competition. Despite her best efforts, Kendra Occhipinti could gain no ground and instead turned her attention to her defense of second place. This left Fanopoulos to cruise across the Caleb’s Chop Shop Victory Stripe for his second win of the season.
The INEX Legends rolled a dozen competitors to green for their fifty lap regional qualifier. On the break Denver, Colorado driver Krystal Faulkingham shot to the top spot while pole sitter Nick Knudsen fell into the clutches of local racers Brok Kidd and Donovan Barr.
Barr took to the high groove and sped around Kidd and Knudsen to put his Sound Hound Stereo, IBEW Local Union 291 machine in the runner up spot. But Barr had company, and on lap five Caity Miller dispatched Barr for second and brought Casey Tillman with her toward Faulkingham. As Miller and Tillman launched their assault on the outside, Faulkingham spun into the path of Seattle, Washington runner Duane Swanson.
Miller lead the field to the restart, but it was Tillman who sped around the high side for the lead. This dropped Miller into a battle with Yakima, Washington’s Kaiden Anderson. As Miller pushed harder and harder to keep the second spot she broke loose in turn two and stacked the field up behind her.
The beneficiary of Miller’s slide was Ukiah, California’s Trevor Cristiani. The quick-qualifier had paced himself through the race’s early going, but seized the opportunity to jump to second on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard. At lap fifteen Cristiani arrived at Tillman’s outside and the pair fought for first place.
Cristiani got the better of that battle and zipped to a comfortable lead while Anderson worked his legend hard to gain back lost ground. Lap twenty saw Anderson catch Tillman just as a caution flag waved. The restart put Cristiani and Tillman side-by-side up front with Anderson and Spokane, Washington racer Haeden Plybon in the second row.
The green flag waved and Cristiani roared to the lead while Tillman focused on his defense of the second spot. The Kuna, Idaho racer held station as long as he could, but Anderson and Plybon proved too strong and soon Tillman sat fourth.
As the laps wound down Cristiani gapped the field while Plybon tested Anderson for second. Plybon never found a weakness he could exploit and was forced to concede second to Anderson, who could only watch Cristiani pull further and further ahead to the checkered flag.
The hits just keep on coming as this Saturday, July 7, Meridian Speedway hosts the Mega Massive Bike Giveaway presented by DL Evans Bank. The Pro Truck Series, Coors Super Stocks, Project Filter Pro-4s, TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks, High School Tuners and Bombers will be on hand to race for the Allison Concrete by Design hardware as they back up the biggest bike giveaway in Meridian Speedway history. Gates open at 4:45 p.m. and the first green flag falls at 6:45 p.m. General admission is just $11.50 for adults, $6.50 for kids 7-11, and as always kids 6 and under get in free. Skip the line at the gate and order your tickets online at meridianspeedway.com, and text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 to receive exclusive updates from around the quarter-mile. We’ll see you this Saturday, July 7, for the Mega Massive Bike Giveaway presented by DL Evans Bank at your NASCAR Home Track under the big yellow water tower, Meridian Speedway.