by Jon Brown, MERIDIAN, Idaho — A full moon settled over ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway on Saturday night and brought with it a wild night filled with devastating crashes that kept the dirt crew busy for hours.
In between wrecks that brought out red-flag conditions and sent water all over the racetrack, young drivers picked up big victories.
Hometown driver Phil Dugan was perhaps the biggest winner of them all.
He won the 23-lap final segment of the Challenge races and finished second in the first 33 laps and second in the middle 33-lap leg to succeed Nampa, Idaho’s Joe Barton as the All-Star Challenge champion.
Dugan’s teammate, Jordan Fitch, also of Meridian, won the first leg, while Middleton, Idaho’s Jim Bailey captured the second segment.
Other main event winners Saturday included Nampa’s Dylan Caldwell in the NAPA Late Models; Josh Allen of Meridian in the Pepsi Sprintcars season opener; Larry Hull III of Boise, Idaho in the Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks; Payette, Idaho’s Josh Jackson in the inaugural B Modifieds event; and 11-year-old Riley Rogers of Meridian in the first Jr. Stingers race of 2012.
Dugan, Fitch and Bailey traded the top three spots throughout the Pro-4 action. No other driver in the field finished in the top three on a night of attrition that saw the past two champions – 2011’s Joe Barton and 2010’s Kenny Chandler – in the pits early and out of contention.
In NAPA Late Models feature, Caldwell moved quickly to the front of the pack. He was in fourth place one lap into the race and sped to the lead by the sixth lap. He shot past Dan Lowther and then overtook TJ Monroe in the span of two laps.
Caldwell had a two-second led on the field with 11 laps to go when Travis Anderson drove head-on into the Turn 3 water barrels. Sparks flew as something on Anderson’s car broke as he came off the backstretch.
Anderson’s wreck covered the track with water from barrels designed for driver’s safety, and race officials dropped the curtain on the night’s action.
“You hate to see that happen to those guys because they work so hard,” Caldwell said after accepting the main event trophy.
“It was a great night, and it was good to win.
The Late Models feature was scheduled for 25 laps, but was made official after 14.
The Pepsi Sprintcars season opener was called after just 11 laps. Josh Allen of Meridian was declared the winner after Kuna, Idaho’s Casey Tillman plowed into the Turn 1 barrels a nearly full speed while trying to pass race leader Ryan Wiederich of Nampa.
Tillman turned in the fast time of the night, and appeared to have the quickest car on the track for the feature. He swung back and forth trying to find the right groove behind Allen for a couple laps. The tires on Tillman’s racecar broke loose out of Turn 4 moments before the Kuna racer’s front tire hopped off Allen’s rear tire, sending Tillman’s car straight into the wall.
There was too much water on the track, and crews couldn’t get the pavement dry quick enough to continue the open-wheel race.
None of the main events were immune from the crash bug.
The 26-car Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stock main event was down to 18 after five caution flags.
The fifth yellow was triggered on the restart after the fourth stoppage when Robbie Hyde of Twin Falls, Idaho, was driven into the Turn 1 wall when he got sideways and was hit by three other race cars.
Donovan Parker of Garden City, Idaho, snagged the lead on the restart, but there was still plenty of excitement left as top qualifier Larry Hull III of Boise made his move.
Hull sat in fourth on the restart with eight laps to go. He was in second four laps later, and side-by-side with Parker shortly thereafter.
Hull went to the high side of the track to get past Parker with three laps to go and sped to the victory.
In the B Modifieds main event, Jackson also used the high groove to pass Boise’s Pete Trammell on the backstretch on the first circuit of the 25-lap. Despite driving on 2½-year-old tires he pulled off his Late Model, Jackson rolled out to a six-second lead and coasted to the win.
“It was a good first night,” Jackson said before jumping back in his machine and driving off with his helmet flying off the roof and tumbling down the frontstretch.
In the Jr. Stingers, the youngest possible driver on the track, 11-year-old Riley Rogers, kept his cool as everyone else was spinning around him. There were five yellow flags in the 20-lap feature, including Ali Norton of Kuna, Idaho, spinning out while leading with 11 laps to go.
Norton recovered and made a mad dash to third place with daring passes in the final lap. The top three drivers in the Jr. Stingers feature – Rogers, Norton and runner-up Peter Woog of Meridian – all received trophies.
Looking ahead, the inaugural Southern Idaho Teacher Feature and big races for the ASA Modifieds and Tates Hornets highlight Saturday’s schedule at the speedway.
The Teacher Feature takes teachers out of their classrooms and deposits them into the driver’s seats of borrowed Tates Hornets for a little racing driver’s education.
In addition to the Teacher Feature, Nampa, Idaho’s Shelby Stroebel seeks to extend his dominant streak at the track in a pair of 40-lap main events for the ASA Modifieds.
If the borrowed Hornets survive the Teacher Feature, their regular drivers will be back in action later in the night for the Tates Hornet 100, which may turn out to be an early-season version of the ultra-popular year-end Enduro.
Also on the card are the Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks, the Street Stocks and the Domino’s Pizza Legends divisions, each of which will be seeing their second night of action in 2012.
For the children who want to get a taste of the race, the track will present the Mr. Green’s Scooter Race for Kids.
Regular admission prices apply: $10 for adults, $7.50 for senior citizens, $6 for children ages 7-11 and free for children 6 and younger.
A family pass is available for $30, allowing admittance of two adults and up to four children ages 7-11.
The gates open at 4 p.m. with time trials start at 5 p.m. with racing at 6:30 p.m.
For more information on season tickets, driver profiles and racing action, visit www.meridianspeedway.com. You can reach the race track by phone at (208) 888-2813 .
Project Filter All-Star Challenge
Saturday’s unofficial results
Project Filter All-Star Challenge (for Pro-4s) winner – Phil Dugan, Meridian, Idaho
Project Filter All-Star Challenge Segment 1 (33 laps) – 1. Jordan Fitch, Meridian; 2. Dugan; 3. Jim Bailey, Middleton, Idaho; 4. Joe Barton, Nampa, Idaho; 5. Terry Sherman, Boise, Idaho
Project Filter All-Star Challenge Segment 2 (33 laps) – 1. Bailey; 2. Fitch; 3. Dugan; 4. DJ Lyons, Nampa; 5. Sherman
Project Filter All-Star Challenge Segment 3 (23 laps) – 1. Dugan; 2. Bailey; 3. Fitch; 4. Lyons; 5. Sherman
NAPA Late Models (25 laps scheduled; called after 14) – 1. Dylan Caldwell, Nampa, Idaho; 2. Dan Lowther, Boise, Idaho; 3. Chris Fenton, Meridian; 4. TJ Monroe, Meridian; 5. Dave Thomasson, Meridian
Pepsi Sprintcars (30 laps scheduled; called after 11) – 1. Josh Allen, Meridian; 2. Jamie Ransom, Meridian; 3. Michael Anderson, Nampa
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks (20 laps) – 1. Larry Hull III, Boise; 2. Donovan Parker, Garden City, Idaho; 3. Jason Lampman, Middleton, Idaho; 4. Colton Nelson, Meridian; 5. Duane Gerber, Boise
B Modifieds (25 laps) – 1. Josh Jackson, Payette, Idaho; 2. Jay Cook, Nampa; 3. Pete Trammell, Boise; 4. Skip Taylor, Kuna, Idaho
Jr. Stingers (20 laps) – 1. Riley Rogers, Meridian; 2. Peter Woog, Meridian; 3. Ali Norton, Kuna; 4. Hunter Gates, Nampa; 5. Kendra Occhipinti, Nampa
Ultra Touch Car Wash
Best-looking Car Contest
Project Filter Pro-4s – Bailey, No. 68
Pepsi Sprintcars – Casey Tillman, No. 92
B Modifieds – Cook, No. 71
Jr. Stingers – Occhipinti, No. 99
Eight laps each
NAPA Late Models
Fast Dash – 1. Lowther; 2. Dennis Wurtz II, Kuna, Idaho; 3. Fenton; 4. Thomasson; 5. Caldwell
B Heat – 1. Monroe; 2. Travis Anderson, Boise; 3. Jeff Wilson, Mountain Home, Idaho; 4. Rob Powers, Meridian
Fast Dash – 1. Allen; 2. Anderson; 3. Tristen Spiers, Adrian, Ore.; 4. Casey Tillman, Kuna; 5. Jamie Ransom
Pit Stop Mini Stocks
Fast Dash – 1. Larry Hull III; 2. Jeff Waldemar, Kuna, Idaho; 3. Sarah Shaw, Boise; 4. Richard Brees, Meridian; 5. Nelson
B Heat – 1. Travis Pavlacky, Fruitland, Idaho; 2. Lampman; 3. Brandon Shira, Boise; 4. Chad Barker, Kuna; 5. Amber Rogers, Meridian
C Heat – 1. Mary Johnson, Meridian; 2. Robbie Hyde, Twin Falls, Idaho; 3. Parker; 4. John Ellsworth, Kuna; 5. Duane Gerber, Boise
D Heat – 1. Brendan Fries, Meridian; 2. Nathan Dearing, Boise; 3. David Edwards Jr., Nampa; 4. Jayson Wardle, Boise; 5. George Gorton, Kuna
Fast Dash – 1. Stroebel; 2. Jackson; 3. Frank Wallace, Kuna; 4. Trammell; 5. Cook
Six laps each
Heat No. 1 – 1. Ali Norton, Kuna; 2. Andrew Hale, Eagle, Idaho; 3. Eriq Arnold, Star, Idaho; 4. Kaylie Wells; 5. Erin Huddleston, Meridian
Heat No. 2 – 1. Riley Rogers, Meridian; 2. Hunter Gates, Nampa; 3. Jordan Harris; 4. Kendra Occhipinti, Nampa
Project Filter Pro-4s – Bailey, 13.983 seconds
NAPA Late Models – Fenton, 14.063
Pepsi Sprintcars – Tillman, 13.928
Pit Stop Mini Stocks – Ray Bollinger, Meridian, 15.312
B Modifieds –Stroebel, 14.726 (track record)