Race fans had their IDADIV Credit Union fans handy Saturday as Meridian Speedway welcomed both summer-like conditions and military members and their families to Military Appreciation Night. Six classes took the quarter-mile oval in front of a packed house, including the Team Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks, Coors Super Stocks, Domino’s Pizza Legends, Project Filter Pro-4s, Thunder Dogs, and rookies only Tates Rents Hornets.
Honors for past and present military members began with an Idaho Veteran’s Network sponsored procession of military vehicles and the presentation of colors by the Idaho National Guard. Chaplain Sean Crow, also of the Idaho National Guard, provided the invocation before Angie Sperry, wife of a desert storm veteran, lent her voice to the National Anthem.
Also joining the festivities Idaho Governor C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter made a special appearance to lead the Meridian Speedway crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and witness the pre-race flyover. Then it was the racers’ turn to take the track.
After running three competitive and clean heat races, nineteen Tates Rents Hornets rookies swarmed the speedway for their 25 lap main event. On the green Jim Longden mounted a furious charge to the lead. Longden would lose the handle on his Hornet and yield the lead to a furious three-way fight between Sean Young, Rick Howe, and Mike Vester. Young used a brash, three-wide pass to take the lead with seven laps to go en route to the victory. Howe and Vester would take second and third while Longden would fall to ninth in the final order. Young used his post-race interview to thank all troops for their service.
The Team Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks ran a hard-fought forty lap main event. On the start Ray Bolinger didn’t get up to speed. While the ensuing jam up didn’t result in any serious damage, it did mix up the running order. Just four laps later the tussle for fifth went wrong as Drew Crenshaw and Pat McGuire got together going into the south turn. In the chaos last year’s championship runner up Jonathan Hull climbed a tire and soared head on into the turn one water barrels. The resulting red flag allowed Hull’s team just enough time to effect repairs and Hull would rejoin the race. On the restart Jason Sanders sprinted to the lead while Hull set to work knifing his way back onto the Pepsi Cola scoreboard. In seven laps Hull had worked his way into the top ten, and would use the remaining 28 laps to climb to fifth at the checkered flag.
The Coors Super Stocks ran a fast twenty lap main event with Rob Powers claiming victory over Jess Ryska and Lynn Sharp.
The debut of the Domino’s Pizza Legends was action packed as sixteen cars sprinted toward the checkered flag. Casey Tillman wasted little time in riding the high groove to fifth on the first lap, then diving low to pass early leader Chase Gilbertson on the sixth. Tillman controlled the race lead until lap 24, when his legend suddenly snapped around backward out of turn two. With early race dominator Tillman out Randy Schaap jumped to the restart lead. In the closing laps Schaap would pull to comfortable advantage, while Zach Blume and Aubree Wartman battled further back in the pack. Despite Wartman’s hard charge to the finish line, Blume would hold onto fifth. Schaap celebrated his win with a series of donuts in the Artic Circle Victory Lane.
Running their third race in four weeks the Project Filter Pro-4s closed the night’s racing action with a thirty lap sprint. Ryan Bailey rocketed to the early lead while contenders Joe Barton, Kenny Chandler Jr. and Larry Hull III worked their way through the field. At the halfway point Barton grabbed the lead from Bailey, and Chandler Jr. slid around the Hull III for a top-three spot. With ten laps to go Chandler Jr. was in second, and six laps later he was on Barton’s rear bumper. In the final turn Chandler Jr. squeezed into the low line as Barton slid wide around a lapped car. As Chandler Jr. shot out of the corner Barton’s car lost grip and spun across the line second.
Next week Meridian Speedway offers a double bill of racing action for the Memorial Day weekend. Saturday’s Aarons Sales and Lease Night action will include the Miller Modified 50, LeeRoy Nelson Pepsi and Super 6 Sprintcar 40, Domino’s Pizza Legends, Tates Rents Hornets, and the CWI Transportation Programs High School Tuners. Monday will feature the Bill Crow and Naylor Memorials. Races will include the second installment of the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels, Mountain Dew Winged Sprintcars, Budweiser Modifieds, CWI Professional Truck Driving Street Stocks, Team Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks and the Junior Stingers. Each night’s general admission is only $10.25. Visit meridianspeedway.com for more information or text meridianspeed to 84483 for special information.