Nampa Native Dominates Pepsi Season Opener
Meridian Speedway roared back to action Saturday, April 8 for the Pepsi Season Opener. The Royal Purple Modified Series, College of Western Idaho Super Stocks, Teleperformance Claimer Stocks, Project Filter Pro-4s, and College of Western Idaho High School Tuners kicked off the asphalt quarter-mile’s 66th season of short track racing action.
The College of Western Idaho High School Tuners battled through the first main event of a crisp evening. San Jose, California’s Noah Capps led the first of twenty laps in his Boise Bath and Kitchen Company, Sublime Electric racer while the pack jockeyed for position behind him. On the move early were Nampa, Idaho siblings Kendra and Taylor Occhipinti, who knifed their way to second and third in just three laps. On lap four Kendra made her move and dove below Capps with brother Taylor in tow. While DJ Sirani worked his Husky Auto Electric car past Capps for third Taylor worked on a way to put his Marv’s Tire Service, Dillon Auto Craft Performance Engines machine in the top spot. Taylor jumped to the high groove at the race’s halfway point and stole the lead from his sister. Try as Kendra might she wasn’t able to muster a counterattack and Taylor Occhipinti scored Saturday’s first main event trophy.
Six strong Teleperformance Claimer Stocks battled their way through a tough twenty lap main event. Josh Hale piloted his ASAP Towing, Idaho Spring Water racer to the lead on lap one. Behind Hale, Dan Lowther picked his way through the field before he put his Alan Marsh Travel Center, Fire Snacks machine in the top spot on lap four. Further back in the pack 2016 class champion Brian Hyde worked to free his Affordable Rain Gutters, All Makes Auto Salvage racer from a battle with Caldwell, Idaho racers Rich and Micky Lawson. Once clear, Hyde set his sights on Hale. These two rivals traded paint for the third spot throughout the final seven laps, with Hale securing the third spot at the checkers. But all the action happed behind Lowther, who claimed the first Teleperformance Claimer Stock win of 2017.
A full field of Project Filter Pro-4s flew through a fast 25 lap feature. Boise, Idaho’s Jonathan Hull sped to the early lead in his Diversified Carpet Cleaning, All-American Towing racer with Nampa, Idaho’s Jordan Harris and Meridian, Idaho driver Brendon Fries in hot pursuit. Fries was the first to break ranks as he put his Chick-Fil-A, Frogman Trucking machine in the high groove and took second from Harris on lap eight, then took the lead from Hull on lap ten. A caution with fifteen laps remaining reset the field with Fries, Hull, Ryan Bailey, Kenny Chandler, and Harris the top five.
On the restart Fries jumped back to the lead and brought Chandler’s Project Filter, Fairly Reliable Bob’s machine with him to the runner up spot. Chandler wasn’t content to run second and with seven laps remaining the Kuna, Idaho racer caught Fries. With the white flag waving Chandler pulled to the outside of Fries and powered to the checkered flag out of turn four.
The College of Western Idaho Super Stocks roared onto the quarter mile to contest their twenty lap main event. On the green outside pole sitter Ben Crow spun and collected Lynn Sharp’s A-1 Chem Dry, PBT Auto Sales machine. Crow effected repairs on his Caldwell Transportation, Emerald Transportation racer, but Sharp retired from the event.
On the restart Daniel Johnson raced to the top spot in his Darlene’s Printing, American Redline Auto Salvage car followed by Melissa Arte, Hunter Gates, and Crow. Arte pushed her Marv’s Tire Service, Dillon Auto Craft Performance Engines machine hard to keep pace with Johnson as her set up came in. By the race’s halfway point Arte was running faster laps than the leader, and with two to go she caught Johnson. But Arte’s drive came up short and Johnson crossed the finish line first.
The ground-pounding Royal Purple Modified Series crowded the quarter-mile with sixteen machines for their season-opening fifty lap feature. Outside polesitter Caitlin Stroebel rolled around Boise, Idaho’s Aubree Wartman to put her Trinity Construction, DNR Drainage Systems racer in the lead on lap one. But Stroebel’s turn at the top was short-lived as Salt Lake City, Utah’s Al Jones took the lead on lap two in his Red Bone Trucking, Fat Boy Ice Cream modified. Fellow Utah drivers Mark Ith Jr. and Eric Rhead followed Jones past Meridian, Idaho’s Stroebel to settle in second and third in the early going.
On the move was quick-qualifier Trevor Cristiani, who worked his Rocky Mountain Racecar Supply modified into the top ten by lap nine, and top five by lap fourteen. While Ith Jr. worked Jones over for the top spot, Cristiani sliced his way to third spot and quickly erased the straight away gap between himself and the lead duo. A caution on lap twenty reset the field with Ith Jr. and Cristiani on Jones’ rear bumper.
On the restart Cristiani worked by Ith Jr. to take second and set his sights on Johnson. At the halfway point Cristiani blasted past Johnson on the inside and took the lead. Cristiani settled into the top spot and navigated traffic to gain a substantial gap over the rest of the field until a caution flag with fifteen laps remaining bunched the field once again.
On the restart Cristianin roared back into the lead with Ith Jr. and Tyler Whetstone in tow. The battle for fourth got physical as Magna, Utah’s Zach Webster worked over Boise, Idaho driver Lee Hackney. A steady dose of front bumper allowed Webster to move his Young Automotive Group, Subway machine to Hackney’s outside and take the fourth. But all the action happened in Cristiani’s mirror as the Nampa, Idaho native took home the first Royal Purple Modified Series event of the season.
Modifieds take center stage again this Saturday as the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds open their 2017 campaign. The College of Western Idaho Super Stocks, TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks, Tates Rents Hornets, Junior Stingers, and Thunderdogs round out an action-packed night under the big yellow water tower. General admission is just $11 for adults, $8.50 for seniors and military members, and $6.50 for kids 7-11. Gates open at 4 p.m. with qualifying at 5 p.m. and racing at 6:30 p.m. Log on to meridianspeedway.com to keep up with all the news from around the quarter-mile and for official results from Saturday night’s action. We’ll see you Saturday at your local NASCAR Home Track, Meridian Speedway.