Meridian Racer Scores Second Straight NASCAR Modified Title
Meridian Speedway honored past champion Jeff Russell Saturday as the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodel Series contested the Jeff Russell Road to Recovery 85. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds crowned their 2017 champion, while the Project Filter Pro-4s, Teleperformance Claimer Stocks, TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks, and Domino’s Legends competed for valuable late-season points and momentum to round out a full Saturday night slate.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds brought fourteen machines to their thirty lap main event. The green flag waved and outside pole sitter Hunter Gates rumbled into the lead in his YMC, Blue Line Graphics racer. Meridian, Idaho’s CJ Stirm followed in Gates’ tire tracks to put her YMC, Meridian Drug Coalition modified in second on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard before she dove below Gates for the top spot on lap three. Rookie of the Year contender Daytona Wurtz followed Stirm around Gates to put her All Makes Auto Salvage, VooDoo Racing entry second before an early caution bunched the field for a restart.
The green flag waved and Stirm stormed back to the top spot while Wurtz wheeled her modified hard to stay ahead of championship leader Colton Nelson. Meridian, Idaho’s Nelson sliced his way below Wurtz on lap five, then dispatched Stirm three laps later to take his Integrity Pools, Julie Hart Home Loans by Premier Mortgage mount to the top spot. Another caution allowed hard charging Casey Tillman to line up inside Nelson on lap ten.
On the break Tillman and Nelson fought hard for the top spot. Nelson used the high line to take the lead outright after two paint-trading laps. Nelson’s lead would only grow as the race crossed the halfway point. A late caution brought Tillman back within striking distance of the leader, but Nelson’s mount was too strong and he roared to the main event victory.
The Teleperformance Claimer Stocks continued main event action with a thirty lap dash. On the break pole sitter Scott Lawson took the lead over Caldwell, Idaho’s Rich Lawson and Boise, Idaho’s Jamie Hyde. Hard racing lead to contact among the top three, which brought out the race’s first caution flag on lap two. This gave the top spot to Boise, Idaho’s Josh Fanopoulos and his Certified Services machine, with fellow Boiseans Brian Hyde, Dan Lowther, and Darvin Ackerland in pursuit.
Brian Hyde was first to launch an assault on the lead, and on lap five Hyde drove his Affordable Rain Gutters, All Makes Auto Salvage racer to the top spot. By Hyde was anything but safe as Ackerland roared around the high side and took the lead three laps later. Lowther followed Ackerland around Hyde and launched an attack of his own on the lead.
Lowtehr wheeled his Allan Marsh Travel Center, Kline’s Alternators and Starters of Marsing racer in the outside line, but Ackerland kept him at bay. Lap after lap Lowther tested Ackerland on the outside, and each time Ackerland had an answer, and the veteran campaigner sped across the Caleb’s Chop Shop Victory Stripe first.
“I forgot how much work this was,” Ackerland said. “I think I lost three pounds.”
The TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks had thirty laps to find a main event victor as darkness fell over quarter-mile oval. On the green Boise, Idaho’s Will Ostrum raced to the lead with Melba, Idaho driver Billy Shipp and Ian Michael Pedersen in tow. Shipp was first to make a move, and he piloted his Riparetti’s Cylinder Head racer inside of Ostrum’s Diversified Carpet Cleaning, Volt Vapes entry and took the top spot on lap five.
Pedersen was next to make a move for the lead, and on lap seven the Boise, Idaho racer found himself atop the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard. But on the move was Kuna, Idaho’s Ray Bolinger, who got on the gas in his Mulder’s Auto Machine, 208 Picker entry and took the runner up spot with nineteen laps remaining. It took only three circuits for Bolinger to catch the front runner and set to work on Pedersen. Two laps wound off the board before Bolinger held the lead outright, but a caution at the race’s halfway point would reset the field and bring Pedersen’s SSLP, Iron Built Sports Nutrition machine to Bolinger’s outside.
Bolinger got to the gas pedal first, which left Pedersen in the clutches of Donovan Parker, who piloted Pedersen’s backup car on the inside line in a battle for the runner up spot. Parker pushed Pedersen hard over the race’s second half, but Pedersen had just enough to hold on for second. But this battle happened in Bolinger’s rear view mirror as he cruised to the main event win.
A full field of Project Filter Pro-4s rolled to the green for their thirty lap feature. On the break Boise, Idaho’s Alex Duda overpowered Sean Young’s Kim’s Kars, Challenger Auto Transport and Sales racer for the top spot. Behind Duda’s Boise Boys Transportation, Carbon Designs Custom Vinyl machine, the pack stacked up and Boise, Idaho’s Jonathan Hull went three wide on two different occasions on lap two as he worked his way up to third. A tangle with second place runner Jordan Harris’ Fairly Reliable Bob’s, Clothes Line Cleaners racer would bring out a caution and move both Hull and Harris to the back of the pack for a lap three restart.
This left Duda to fend off Joe Barton when the green flag waved. Nampa, Idaho’s Barton blasted past Duda to put his Tyco Structural Enterprises entry in the top spot, and brought Brendon Fries and Kenny Chandler with him. Third place Chandler wasted no time as he went straight to work on Fries. Fries made his Chick-Fil-A of Meridian, Jackson Group Peterbuilt machine wide in defense of the runner up spot as Kuna, Idaho’s Chandler jabbed high and low to take the spot. With a bonsai outside move Chandler drew even with Fries, but Fries crowded Chandler, who bounced his Project Filter, Les Schwab Tire Downtown mount off the backstretch wall.
Chandler gathered his machine quickly and had thirteen laps left to catch Fries. Chandler laid down a bevy of fast laps as he worked back into the top five, but a spirited battle with Hull would slow his progress and force the veteran racer to settle for fourth while Barton took the checkers.
“I could see those guys coming in my mirror,” Barton said as he collected his Boise boys Transportation trophy.
The Domino’s Legends sped onto the quarter-mile next for a thirty lap dash. Young Evan Brown raced his Pro Power Clean, Harmon Smith Financial Group into the lead on lap one while the field jockeyed for position. On lap three the battle for a top five spot went sour as Boise, Idaho’s Brok Kidd and Meridian, Idaho’s Ethan Jones tangled in turn three. Tyler Driever was also collected in the smash up. Kidd’s Vicky’s Country Gardens, Fat Cat Enterprises machine would continue, but Driver’s Moto One, Maxima entry and Jones’ machine were retired from the event.
On the restart Meridian, Idaho’s Brown raced back to the lead, but the man on the move was Trevor Cristiani. Cristiani sliced through the field until he sat second in his Rocky Mountain Racecar Supply, Pro Build legend when a mid-race caution flag flew. On the restart Cristiani powered past Brown to take the lead with Meridian, Idaho’s Caity Miller in tow.
As the laps wound down Miller drove her Farm Bureau Insurance of Darrin Post, Kustom Fab entry hard to track down Cristiani. Try as Miller might, she couldn’t find enough speed to challenge the leader, and Cristiani scored the victory going away.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Modified Series capped their 2017 campaign with a 25 lap main event. Daytona Wurtz got to the gas pedal first and she sprinted to the lap one lead. Meridian, Idaho’s Rodney Houpt and Nampa, Idaho’s Hunter Gates fell into line behind Wurtz in the race’s opening stages, while quick-qualifier Colton Nelson was mired in mid-pack traffic.
Lap after lap the field drew tighter until three-wide contact sent Twin Falls, Idaho’s Morgan Rasmussen and Rookie of the Year contender Joe Thuss of Meridian, Idaho hard into the front stretch concrete. During the caution Wurtz and Houpt tangled in turn three, which left Nampa, Idaho’s Josh Jackson and Kuna, Idaho’s Jerry Green on the front row when the green flag waved.
Jackson got the better restart and moved his Jacksonbuiltracing.com, Motor Mayhem Chassis Dyno Tuning machine into the lead. But Jackson soon had his hands full with Colton Nelson, who worked the inside line to take the lead just past the race’s halfway point. Once out front Nelson walked away from the field en route to the main event victory and his second straight NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified title.
“This is the best handling car I’ve ever driven,” Nelson said of his championship winning machine. “I could do anything I wanted with this car tonight.”
Treasure Valley speedway standout Jeff Russell was honored as he recovers from a near fatal supermodified crash suffered in 2010. The race, now in its seventh year, is held to raise funds for his continuing treatment.
“Thank you very much, folks,” Jeff Russel said as he boarded the pace car and led the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels to the start of the Jeff Russell Road to Recovery 85.
The green flag flew and Twin Falls, Idaho’s Morgan Rasmussen muscled his way by Jusint Ellis to lead lap one in his Second Sun Solar, The Car Store entry. Kuna, Idaho’s Casey Tillman was the next racer to try Ellis, and on lap three Tillman pulled into second place with quick-qualifier Chris Fenton hooked to his rear bumper. Meridian, Idaho’s Fenton wasted no time as he dispatched Tillman and worked to erase Rasmussen’s full straightaway advantage.
An early caution brought Fenton to Rasmussen’s rear bumper, and with seventy laps to go Fenton piloted his Big O Tires of Nampa, Precision Framing racer into the top spot. Behind Fenton, the man on the move was Dylan Caldwell, who wheeled his Hotbox Farms machine forward and turned up the pressure on Fenton. As Fenton and Caldwell traded fast laps, the pair drew away from third place Rasmussen.
Fenton held Caldwell at bay through the race’s halfway point until a late caution brought Caldwell to his rear bumper for a green-white-checkered finish. On the green Fenton got a good jump and pulled to a two car length lead. Caldwell was able to close on the leader, but wasn’t close enough to make a move and he had to settle for second behind Fenton.
Meridian Speedway now turns its attention to this Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16 as Davey Hamilton’s King of the Wing Sprintcars, Orchex Sprintcars, and Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association Sprintcars crowd the quarter-mile. Friday night also features the College of Western Idaho Super Stocks and Junior Stingers. Saturday night’s Pink Lady Classic features the TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks, Thunderdogs, and Honda Performance Development Midgets. General admission to each night of the two day winged sprintcar extravaganza is just $18 for adults, $6.50 for kids 7-11. Be sure to get your advance tickets online at meridianspeedway.com as seats are filling up fast. Gates open at 4 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, with qualifying at 5:15 p.m. and the first green flag at 6:30 p.m. We’ll see you this Friday and Saturday night for Davey Hamilton’s King of the Wing Sprintcars under the big yellow water tower at your NASCAR Home Track, Meridian Speedway.