First Leg of Double Header Marked by Calamity, Intensity
MERIDIAN, Idaho—The action came early and often Saturday as Meridian Speedway hosted Aaron’s Sales and Lease Night, the first leg of its Memorial Day Weekend double-header. Under clear but breezy skies six classes fired engines and battled for a bevy of traveling trophies. Even before racing commenced the trouble began.
Practice saw turn one become calamity corner as Skeeter Stewart dove his wife’s Tates Rents Hornet hard into the concrete. The impact sent Stewart’s racer rolling before it slid to a stop in turn two.
“I’m all right,” Stewart said, “but my wife’s going to kill me.”
Qualifying also saw trouble for both Intermountain Outlaw Modified competitor Kyle Latham and Super 6 sprintcar contender Steve Howell. Latham went for a long, sideways slide down the front stretch and through the turn one grass. Howell fared worse, as his sprinter shot into the turn four wall. Even pace laps proved treacherous as prior to the sprintcar A Heat race Casey Tillman’s car stalled and collected second quick qualifier Ben Hinkle.
After the calamitous start to the night main event action began with the College of Western Idaho Transportation Programs High School Tuners.
Somehow the young competitors had already logged two quick, clean heat races before they went ’round and ’round for thirty laps. After five laps fast heat winner CJ Stirm, in a car borrowed from Rob Powers, had worked her way to the lead. Her lead was short lived as Jordan Harris snuck around the high side to take the top spot. At the halfway point Kendra Occhipinti decided it was time to go and shot beneath Peter Woog for third. The move would come up short when lapped traffic interfered, but a restart with nine laps to go would give Occhipinti another chance to make up ground. When the green flag waved Stirm jumped ahead of Harris and withstood a no holds barred onslaught from Woog to win the Master Rooter Plumbing main event trophy.
“I just want to thank Rob Powers for giving me a rocket,” said Stirm in Artic Circle Victory Lane.
The Domino’s Pizza Legends honored Eldon Cahill and Austin Christopherson with a fifty lap main event. Out of the blocks Darin Turpen and Mark Cirelli Jr. sprang to an early breakaway. Chase Gilbertson would ride the lightning-quick high groove to the lead after five laps as favorites Phyllip Zubizareta and Peyton Saxton battled their way onto the Pepsi Cola scoreboard. With thirty laps to go it was a three-way fight for the lead between Zubizareta, Saxton and Gilbertson. Zubizareta would prevail, and the race’s halfway point saw Saxton bash on Zubizareta’s rear bumper for the lead. Unable to root Zubizareta out of the lead Saxton tried the high line through lapped traffic. With nineteen to go Saxton sprang low out of turn four and snatched the lead. The Nevada driver continued to charge hard, smoking tires and sliding wide as he built a massive lead. Then a debris caution with ten to go changed everything. Saxton’s car stalled, refused to restart, and had to be pushed to the pit area, leaving Zubizareta in control of the lead with Gilbertson second and Aubree Wartman third. When the green came back out Zubizareta shoved Gilbertson to the backstretch wall to cement his advantage. The black flag was pulled but not used and Zubizareta powered to the victory.
“I really wanted my name on that trophy a second time,” said Zubizareta as he accepted the traveling Cahill and Christopherson trophy.
The Pepsi Sprintcars and Super 6 sprintcars came together for the Lee Roy Nelson Memorial 40 lap race. Front row starter Tyler Barrow held the early lead while Pat Young and Mike Anderson fought hard for second. After ten laps Casey Tillman, car repaired after the heat race collision, had stormed to the lead and a two second gap over Colton Nelson. With fifteen laps to go Tillman’s advantage had shrunk to a fraction of a second as Nelson closed. But Nelson’s challenge was not enough and Tillman held on for the win and the Lee Roy Nelson Memorial trophy.
“It got kind of sketchy sometimes in traffic, but I wouldn’t trade it for a thing,” said Tillman. “I know Colton wanted to be up here, but there’s always next year. He can put his name right next to mine.”
The Intermountain Outlaw Modifieds battled for the Sean Miller Memorial trophy. Brent Collins paced the first five laps before Kyle Latham took the top spot. After ten laps the usual suspects filtered to the top as Rick Fowble, Tony Ackerland, Shelby Stroebel, and Rus Ward chased Latham for the lead. Soon the lead fight would end as Shelby Stroebel rocketed to the top spot, laying down qualifying-speed lap after qualifying-speed lap. The battle was for second as Ward worked Latham over at the halfway point. Latham would continue to fade, finding himself fifth at the restart with six laps to go. On the restart Ackerland packed his modified into turn one, but didn’t have enough to catch Stroebel, who streaked to yet another Meridian Speedway win.
“It’s definitely an honor to get the Sean Miller Memorial trophy again,” said Stroebel.
The Tates Rents Hornets had a twenty lap sprint for their Memorial Day hardware. While points leader Rick Howe, Thomas Harrod, and the rest of the pack busied itself with three-wide battles Michael Capps slipped away early. Capps’ lead would vanish in lapped traffic as Charlie Atkinson took the lead at the halfway point and never looked back on his way to victory. Then Meridian Speedway rinsed and repeated. With water now coating turns one and three the Tates Rents Hornets battled again. This time Fred Negele navigated his way to the lead out of the gate. His lead would last ten laps, until Rick Howe worked his way to the point and set sail. The pack needed a caution to catch Howe, but wouldn’t get one and Howe would claim the Master Rooter sponsored main event trophy.
The weekend’s action is only half over. Monday night will feature the Mountain Dew Winged Sprintcars battle for the Bob and Tom Naylor Memorial. Also the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels will make their second appearance at the quarter-mile oval for the Bill Crow 50. Also competing are the Budweiser Modifieds, CWI Professional Truck Driving School Street Stocks, Team Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks, and Junior Stingers. Racing begins at 5:30 on Monday. General admission is just $10.25.