Henderson Fights for Final Claimer Victory
After hosting over one thousand costumed children at its annual trunk or treat event, Meridian Speedway closed its summer season Saturday, October 27, as the quarter-mile oval hosted the Halloween Championship. The Teleperformance Claimer Stocks, Project Filter Pro-4s, TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks, Big Daddy’s Barbecue Hornets, High School Tuners and Junior Stingers provided a full evening of short track racing thrills.
The Big Daddy’s Barbecue Hornets began their 20 lap feature by plowing through a minefield of pumpkins on their way to green. When the green flag waved pandemonium broke out. After clinching Rookie of the Year honors in the TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks, James Pahl piloted his Ray’s Auto Care machine around the infield to make his way forward on lap one, while three and four wide racing took place throughout the rowdy pack. Despite being moved to the rear of the field due to a novelty rule, being made to pirouette down the back stretch, and running a dozen laps on a water-soaked raceway, Caldwell, Idaho’s Pahl fought his way forward and claimed the division’s final 2018 feature.
After making the most of every bonus point opportunity throughout the season Pahl added a Big Daddy’s Barbecue Hornets championship to his growing list of accolades.
Scott Cooper and Ed Griffith led the Teleperformance Claimer Stocks to green for the season-ending YMC Mechanical 75. Kuna, Idaho’s Cooper was quick out of the blocks and took his machine to the top of the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard early. As the pack jockeyed for position a blown engine on the back stretch led to Jamie Hyde and championship leader Josh Fanopoulos sliding into the turn three concrete. Hyde’s car was forced to the pit area with suspension damage while Fanopoulos avoided serious contact and carried on.
Cooper again sprang to the lead on the start, this time with Brian Hyde’s Hyde Bros Racing, Guppies Hot Rod Grille machine in his mirrors. Hyde made his move on lap fifteen to the lead and quickly pulled away from the field. Hyde enjoyed his lead for ten laps before Griffith spun in turn two and retook the track in front of the leader. This allowed Nampa, Idaho’s Preston Henderson to close on the leader, and on lap 25 it was Henderson out front in his Certified Services, Lissa’s Learning Ladder racer.
Henderson led the way through the race’s middle third while championship contenders Taylor Occhipinti and Josh Fanopoulos worked their way forward. Occhipinti was first to challenge Henderson, but didn’t have enough in his Marv’s Tire Service, Dillon Performance Engines car to take the point. As Occhipinti settled into line Orangeville, California’s Erick Ray began his march to the front.
With twenty laps left Ray arrived on Henderson’s rear bumper. Ray methodically searched high to low for a way around Henderson, but the Nampa, Idaho racer drove hard to keep the top spot. With a dozen circuits left Ray lost patience and began to dive inside Henderson at every turn. But Henderson somehow fought off the attacks to maintain the lead until a lap seventy caution slowed the field and brought Ray to his bumper for the restart.
The wear on Henderson’s car showed as the green flag waved and Ray cruised to the lead. A resurgent Fanopoulos would follow Ray’s lead and work his way past Henderson before the checkered flag, but couldn’t do anything to track down Ray, who claimed his second straight season-ending YMC Mechanical 75 victory.
Fanopoulos’ second place run was good enough to keep him ahead of Occhipinti, and he collected the Teleperformance Claimer Stock championship.
With another thrilling race season in the history books, Meridian Speedway turns its attention to the newly announced Winter Heat series. Stay tuned to meridianspeedway.com for event dates and race times, and keep up to speed with the fastest crowd in town by texting ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483. From all of us at Meridian Speedway, thank you for making the 2018 season a resounding success, and we look forward to seeing you back under the big yellow water tower soon. As always, we’ll have a seat waiting for you at your NASCAR Home Track, Meridian Speedway.