by Jon Brown, MERIDIAN, Idaho — There was no cooling off the Treasure Valley’s top drivers on ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway’s opening night Saturday.
Alas, a couple of competitors tried by smacking the water barrels in Turn 3, signaling the start of another action-packed season at the historic paved quarter-mile oval.
Reigning Street Stocks champion Melissa Weaver of Nampa, Idaho, maintained her momentum and won a 25-lap main event that saw her 2011 chief rival, Chad Bess of Nampa, drive his Chevrolet Camaro onto the backstretch wall and into the barrels nine laps in.
Another Nampa driver, Dennis Brodigan, took advantage of Ontario, Ore.’s Josh Jackson’s late-race encounter with the same set of barrels to win the main event in the return of Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks after a few years’ hiatus.
The barrels didn’t play a role in the nightcap, a 50-lap ASA Modifieds main event, but reigning track champion, Shelby Stroebel left the field all wet. The Meridian, Idaho, driver led by as many as six seconds after seizing control of the race with a strong high-side pass of Boise, Idaho’s Tim Elam 10 laps into the feature.
Ray Bollinger joined Weaver and Stroebel as 2011 champs to start 2012 on the right foot. The Meridian racer held off Larry Hull III of Boise to win the 35-lap Pit Stop Mini Stocks main event.
Adding to the night of champions, veteran Kuna, Idaho racer Bob Bachman – a three-time open-wheel series champion – held his breath through lapped traffic and a close challenge from Boise’s Jaysen Skyberg to win the 30-lap SPI Transportation Super Sixes main in a car painted and “put together” by his 15-year-old son Dean. Skyberg is the defending Super Sixes season champ.
Meridian Speedway fans may see a lot of the Stroebel family this season in two different Modified divisions.
Shelby already has served notice he’ll be the man to beat in the ASA Modifieds and could make another strong run at the Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil ASA Member Track National Championship. He won by six seconds Saturday night when his daughter, Caitlin, made her debut in the division.
He also served notice that he will be competing in Meridian’s new B Modified series, which has its first race next month.
On Saturday, his competitors didn’t see much of him at all. He had nearly a half-lap lead when Star, Idaho’s Wes Pogue spun on the frontstretch to bring out the race’s only yellow with 22 laps to go. After blasting past Nampa’s Jentry Pisca coming out of Turn 2 on the double-file restart, Stroebel pushed his lead back to six seconds by the end of the race.
In the Super Stocks feature, Brodigan cashed in on his competitors’ bad luck with nine laps remaining. Meridian’s Chris Fenton, who endured a star-crossed 2011 to win the NAPA Late Model Sportsman championship, lost his lead in the Super Stocks opener when race officials ruled he was involved in an altercation that sent Jackson into the Turn 3 barrels during a battle for the lead.
By rule, all drivers found responsible for a stop in the action are sent to the back of the field. Brodigan, who was running third before the red flag came out, drove past Meridian’s Rob Powers to capture the lead on the restart and went on to the checkered flag.
An early-race leader met with misfortune in the Mini Stocks main event, too. Five laps in, Jeff Waldemar of Kuna, Idaho, abruptly lost his grip on top spot when something on his race car broke and he crashed into the Turn 2 barrier.
It was the race’s second yellow flag, and sent a weary warning of a long night for the Mini Stocks racers.
Five yellow flags would be issued in the first 30 laps. The end of the race was marred by a three-car crack-up at the start-finish line when Jayson Wardle went sideways and Brendan Fries and Steve Keuter collided trying to avoid a larger crash after Bollinger had accepted the checkered flag.
Bollinger held off Larry Hull III as the drivers put a quarter-lap between themselves and the rest of the field.
Bachman, a three-time Super Sixes season champion, had stepped out of his six-cylinder race car to give his teenage son, Dean, a shot at feeling the thrill in 2011.
But the Hurricane was back in the driver’s seat Saturday night and made the most of it.
That doesn’t mean his son, now 15, didn’t play a hand in the victory – even if he missed the excitement while attending his prom.
“He put this car together and did all the paint,” Bachman said. “I’m really proud of him doing all the work on it.
“And he did a good job, obviously. We just won the main event.”
Bachman passed Bruce Giglogily half a lap into a restart after chasing the Nampa driver for the first 12 laps of the 30-lap main event. Andy Graybeal spun into the grass along the frontstretch to bring out the caution flag that set up the side-by-side restart.
But, even though, Bachman looked like was going to walk away from the field, Skyberg had other ideas.
He closed the gap and nearly caught Bachman when the two front-runners approached lapped traffic.
“I think I heard him back there last couple laps got caught up in lapped traffic,” Bachman said.
Reigning Street Stocks champion Weaver heard no such footsteps in her first main event victory.
She passed every race car on the track except second-place Marv Weaver (her father) and third-place driver Roy Kirkland of Boise.
Weaver, whose participation was in doubt earlier in the week as she coped with blood clots, walked away from the field Bess pummeled the water barrels to bring out a lengthy red flag stoppage.
Bess was running third behind early race leader Micky Lawson of Caldwell, Idaho, with 16 laps to go when he met his fate.
Weaver had passed Lawson for the lead just two laps earlier.
Next Saturday is the winged sprintcar season opener, and race fans will get their first glimpse of the local competitors poised to compete in the inaugural season of the Canadian-American Western Winged Sprintcar Series.
Reigning ASA Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association champion (and BOB 96.1 FM Diamond Cup co-champion) Sierra Jackson of Middleton, Idaho, leads a host to the region’s top open-wheel drivers as the Mtn. Dew Winged Sprint season kicks off. Also jumping into the mix are veterans such as 2011 Meridian Speedway champion Mike Murgoitio of Meridian, Wyatt King and Johnny Giesler, both of Meridian, and Cody Veenstra of Emmett, Idaho.
Other classes on tap include the NAPA Late Models, Domino’s Pizza Legends and a double dose of wild possibilities with the Tates Hornets and the Thunder Dogs.
Admission is $10 for adults, $7.50 for senior citizens and military personnel with ID, $6 for children ages 7-11. Kids 6 years old and younger, as always, are admitted free.
A family pass is available for $30, allowing admittance of two adults and up to four children ages 7-11.
Season tickets, priced at $199 each, are available through the end of April.
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 .
Saturday’s unofficial results
Street Stocks (25 laps) – 1. Melissa Weaver, Nampa, Idaho; 2. Marv Weaver, Nampa; 3. Roy Kirkland, Boise, Idaho; 4. Micky Lawson, Caldwell, Idaho; 5. Rick Baldwin, Middleton, Idaho
SPI Transportation Super Sixes (30 laps) – 1. Bob Bachman, Kuna, Idaho; 2. Jasen Skyberg, Boise; 3. Bruce Giglogily, Nampa; 4. Dean Waltman, Boise; 5. Kevin Detweiler, Nampa
Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks (25 laps) – 1. Dennis Brodigan, Nampa; 2. Rob Powers, Meridian, Idaho; 3. Chris Fenton, Meridian; 4. Gale Carter, Boise; 5. Phyl Zubizareta, Boise
Pit Stop Mini Stocks (35 laps) – 1. Ray Bollinger, Meridian; 2. Larry Hull III, Boise; 3. Sarah Shaw, Boise; 4. Robbie Hyde, Twin Falls, Idaho; 5. Amber Rogers, Meridian
ASA Modifieds (50 laps) – 1. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian; 2. Jentry Pisca, Nampa; 3. Tim Elam, Boise; 4. Rus Ward, Meridian; 5. Wes Pogue, Star, Idaho
Ultra Touch Car Wash Best-looking race car
Street Stocks – Melissa Weaver, No. 92
Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks – Dave Brodigan, No. 60
SPI Transportation Super Sixes – Dave Skyberg, No. 14
Pit Stop Mini Stocks (35 laps) – Amber Rogers, No. 91
ASA Modifieds (50 laps) – Shelby Stroebel, No. 24
Eight laps each
Fast Dash – 1. Lawson; 2. Kirkland; 3. Bobby Riggs, Fruitland, Idaho; 4. Marv Weaver; 5. Melissa Weaver
Pit Stop Super Stocks
Fast Dash – 1. Jeffrey Meads, Nampa; 2. Powers; 3. Carter; 4. Zubizareta; 5. David Harris, Meridian
B Heat – 1. Josh Jackson, Ontario, Ore.; 2. Fenton; 3. Brodigan; 4. Kim Bradford, Boise; 5. Dan Lowther, Boise
SPI Super Sixes
Fast Dash – 1. Dick Sola, Boise; 2. Randy Sellars, Boise; 3. Rex Reeve, Kuna, Idaho; 4. Andy Graybeal, Boise; 5. Steve Waswick, Nampa
B Heat – 1. Giglogily; 2. Waltman; 3. Bachman; 4. Jaysen Skyberg; 5. Detweiler
Pit Stop Mini Stocks
Fast Dash – 1. Travis Pavlacky, Fruitland; 2. John Ellsworth, Kuna; 3. Hyde; 4. Steve Keuter; 5. Jayson Wardle
B Heat – 1. Larry Hull III; 2. Bollinger; 3. Jonathan Hull, Boise; 4. Richard Brees, Meridian; 5. Chad Barker
C Heat – 1. Donovan Parker, Kuna; 2. Shaw; 3. Brendan Fries, Meridian; 4. Mike Davis, Boise; 5. Mary Johnson, Kuna
D Heat – 1. Jeff Waldemar, Kuna; 2. Brandon Shira, Boise; 3. Duane Gerber, Boise; 4. Colton Nelson, Meridian; 5. TJ Labronte, Meridian
Fast Dash – 1. Josh Jackson; 2. Rus Ward, Meridian; 3. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian; 4. Jentry Pisca, Nampa; 5. Wes Pogue, Star, Idaho
Street Stocks – Chad Bess, Nampa, 15.148 seconds
Pit Stop Super Stocks – Brodigan, 14.623 (track record)
SPI Transportation Super Sixes – Waltman, 13.818
Pit Stop Mini Stocks (35 laps) – Bollinger, 15.338
ASA Modifieds (50 laps) – Stroebel, 14.281