MERIDIAN, Idaho, July 15, 2011 – USAC Western States Sprintcar legend Tony Hunt rounded up his third feature victory of the season Friday night, but it was hometown hot shoe Johnny Giesler who set the fans on their ear at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway.
Fresh off his first-ever victory in the ASA Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association a week ago, Giesler shook off an early crash Friday, storming from the back of a 17-car field to finish a close second to Hunt in the first of two nights of USAC racing at the quarter-mile oval.
Giesler’s performance earned him $300 cash from USAC as the “Hard Charger” of the night. Three laps into the 50-lap race, Giesler was sent to the back of the pack when he crashed into West Jordan, Utah’s Jimmy Waters in Turn 3.
“We started out a little rough today, but we changed a lot of stuff on the car,”Giesler said. “That Waters deal was just racing.”
By the end of the race, he had gobbled up every driver except Hunt. Giesler moved four places in six laps to nestle in behind Hunt with five laps remaining. The last driver he took down was Cody Gerhardt, a Madera, Calif., product who had won the past two USAC features heading into the night.
“Johnny was fast on the outside, and we couldn’t hold him off,”Gerhardt said.
In other main events, 13-year-old Australian Brodie Kostecki sprinted to his third USAC Ford Focus Midgets victory of the season; DJ Lyons of Nampa, Idaho, benefitted from a race penalty and was awarded the victory in the Project Filter Pro-4s; Amber Rogers traded her racecar for $600 after winning the Tates Rents Hornets feature; and George Kovacs, youth pastor for The Pursuit, drove two different borrowed cars to checkered flags in the quest to find the “Fastor Pastor”. After the car’s owner wrecked the Hornet with which Kovacs won the practice heat, he came back to drive another car to victory in the 15-lap Preacher Feature.
While Gerhardt couldn’t hold off Giesler, Hunt had enough horsepower to win wire-to-wire on a familiar track. The victory was the third of the season for Hunt, who entered the night in a tight battle with Gerhardt for second place in the Western States standings.
“I think I’ve been up here 10 or 11 years. It’s great to be up here,” Hunt said of the historic Meridian layout. “We had some battery issues and things overheating. A lot of problems today, but we’re glad to be where we are and get some good points for us tonight.”
Starting on the front-row alongside fellow two-time 2011 winner Gerhardt, Hunt got the upperhand early.
“I messed up on the first start there and got loose and got behind Tony,” Gerhardt said.
The USAC drivers are back again Saturday night for the second feature of the weekend.
Also racing Saturday are the USAC Ford Focus Midgets, Edmark Mini Stocks, Thunder Dogs and vintage jalopy cars that used to run on the Meridian dirt in the 1950s.
Gates open at 4 p.m. with racing at 6:30 p.m.
Admission is $15 for adults, $12.50 for senior citizens and military personnel with ID, $6 for ages 7-11 and children 6-and-under free. A family pass good for two adults and up to four children ages 7-11 is available for $46
Fans can buy tickets online at www.meridianspeedway.com, print them off at home and avoid the long lines on race night.
For more information, visit www.meridianspeedway.com or call (208) 888-2813.
Kostecki, who is spending the summer racing out of Roseville, Calif., beat a field that featured 14-year-old Davey Hamilton Jr., the 14-year-old son of Nampa, Idaho, native a Indianapolis 500 veteran Davey Hamilton. Kostecki led by as much as four seconds in the 30-lap feature.
The race ended with some raindrops on the pavement, which was new for the Aussie.
“It got a little bit wet and a little bit scared and a little bit loose,” Kostecki said.
Jimmy Waters from West Jordan, Utah, finished second in the main event between Kostecki and third-place Davey Hamilton Jr., who traveled from Jamestown, Ind., to run a race with his grandfather Ken Hamilton as crew chief.
The younger Hamilton has been racing anything with wheels in Indiana.
“It feels great to be here again,” he said. “Top three in biggest race I’ve been in so far in the Ford Focus Midgets.”
In the Pro-4s, Lyons picked up a rare main event win at Meridian when race officials penalized Meridian, Idaho’s Jordan Fitch for a three-wide pass earlier in the 30-lap main event.
Lyons found himself in the winners circle after a rough start to the race that saw three restarts before the first lap was completed. Lyons spun his No. 22 racer in one of the false starts.
Fitch worked his way into the lead, passing Nampa’s Joe Barton with 11 laps remaining.
Lyons was out of the top five with 19 laps to go, but steadily worked his way into contention. He shot from fourth to second when reigning series champion Ken Chandler of Boise, Idaho, skidded into the Turn 1 wall with two laps left after going high to avoid Barton.
Rogers benefitted from a wacky Hornets finish. First-time Meridian racer Cade Hollon of Riggins, Idaho, led for most of the race, but checked up with the rest of the field with two laps to go. Hollon didn’t want to lose his car, which would have happened because race officials had declared a claimer race, meaning the winning car had to be forfeited for $600 or the driver would lose the trophy.
Rogers valued the hardware more than her racecar.
“I’ll take the win when I can take one,” she said, adding when told that not forfeiting the car may mean getting booted from the division for the rest of the year, “You can have it.”
Earlier in the evening, the USAC Western States Sprintcar drivers took a hammer to the Meridian record book.
When the dust had settled from a lively qualifying session, the USAC veteran Murgoitio owned the top mark after flashing around the paved quarter-mile oval at 73 mph clip to set the qualifying time record at 12.341 seconds.
Murgoitio, who usually runs in Meridian’s Mtn. Dew Winged Sprintcar series, was the last of the drivers who annihilated the previous mark set by Luis Ramos III of Clovis, Calif., last September. Ramos ran a 12.655 in USAC’s 2010 visit to the historic pavement in downtown Meridian. Nine different laps were faster than last year’s record.
The assault on the record book began with Cody Gerhardt of Madera, Calif. The two-time winner on the 2011 circuit got the weekend off to a fast start with 12.504 lap … and that was only after he originally broke the record with a 12.602.
Ramos then rolled out and knocked a tenth of a second off the fresh record, running a 12.401 to reclaim the crown.
Tim Skogland of Fresno, Calif., was next to set the mark before Murgoitio to an end to the hot pursuit.
Waters and Kostecki won the USAC Ford Focus Midget heat races.
After Waters won the first preliminary, Kostecki checked out to claim a five-second victory in his heat race, which again included Hamilton.
In the USAC Western States sprintcar heat races, Middleton, Idaho’s Sierra Jackson showed the out-of-towners what a local girl can do by out-racing Johnny Giesler of Meridian for the checkered in the first preliminary.
Giesler is coming off an ASA Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association victory – the first of his career – at Stateline Speedway in Post Falls last weekend.
Driving a car that hadn’t seen pavement in 18 months, Robert Beck of Redmond, Wash., a familiar face to ASA NSRA fans, put his knowledge of the Meridian oval to use and won the other USAC Western States sprintcar heat.