Nampa Racer Claims Pivotal Victory on Lucky Rides Night
The stars of Meridian Speedway assembled Saturday, August 12, for Alpha Home Systems Lucky Rides Night at the quarter-mile oval. The College of Western Idaho Super Stocks, TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks, Teleperformance Claimer Stocks, College of Western Idaho High School Tuners, and Junior Stingers battled to position themselves for the final stretch run to a speedway championship.
The Junior Stingers brought five fast competitors to their fifteen lap feature. On the green Nampa, Idaho’s Jessica Harris and Star, Idaho’s Hannah Scott battled door to door for the top spot. Harris put her Kim’s Kars, Challenger Auto Transport machine out front early, but she quickly came under fire from Meridian, Idaho’s Rusty Houpt. Houpt navigated his Boise Spring Works, Drip Catchers LLC racer from the back of the pack to the leader’s rear bumper in two laps, and by lap five Houpt held the top spot.
But Houpt wasn’t safe up front either as fellow Meridian, Idaho racer Hailey Rogers moved around Harris and put her H&H Accounting, Goodwill Finance machine in the runner up spot on lap seven. Rogers made quick work of Houpt’s advantage and with six laps left Rogers began her assault on the lead. After two hard laps of racing Rogers took the top spot and sped away from the field to take the checkers.
“Rusty [made me] work for that,” Rogers said in the Caleb’s Chop Shop Winner’s Circle.
The College of Western Idaho High School Tuners ran through their 20 lap feature. On the green Nampa, Idaho’s Kendra Occhipinti shot from her back of the pack starting spot to lead the first half of lap one, but her brother Taylor Occhipinti got an even better start and steamed to the lead going into turn three.
While the Occhipinti siblings’ Marv’s Tire Service, Dillon Auto Craft Performance Engines machines held the top two spots on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard, Rusty Houpt, fresh off of a runner up finish in the Junior Stinger main event, stormed past Sierra Lawrence’s Commercial Tire of Grandview, R&R Services of Boise racer and Jett Nelson’s entry to take third place. Try as Houpt might, he couldn’t track down runner up Kendra Occhipinti or race winner Taylor Occhipinti before the checkered flag fell.
The TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks packed the quarter-mile for a 25 lap contest. The green flag waved and Boise, Idaho’s Will Ostrum moved his Diversified Carpet Cleaning, Volt Vapes machine past Katie Lober for the lead. First to challenge Ostrum was Kuna, Idaho’s Jayson Wardle, who used the inside groove to put his Catapult 3, Lazee Days RV Rental racer up front on lap three. But Wardle had company immediately in the form of Caldwell, Idaho’s Jason Sanders and Meridian, Idaho’s Donovan Johns. Sanders was the first to make a move, but the inside line wasn’t kind to his Divel Services, It Works by Jennifer Sanders machine, and he fell back to third.
At the race’s halfway mark second place Johns’ Volt Vapes, March Financial Services entry lost power and allowed Sanders to launch his second attack on the top spot. Lapped traffic slowed Sanders’ advance, but with seven laps left the track cleared and the battle resumed. Circuit after circuit Sanders tried the inside, and time after time Wardle kept his racer out front and crossed the Caleb’s Chop Shop victory stripe first.
“Jason’s one of my best buddies,” Wardle said of the first place battle. “I have to hand it to him, he drove the wheels off of that thing tonight.”
The College of Western Idaho Super Stocks had thirty laps to find a main event winner. On the green Kuna, Idaho’s John Riparetti shot to the lead in his Riparetti Cylinder Heads, Clark Transmission of Nampa machine, but the man on the move was Pat Tully, who raced his way from mid-pack to the lead in just two laps with Nampa, Idaho’s Melissa Arte in tow. Arte wasted no time pulling even with Tully, and for four laps the pair battled side by side for the top spot. Though Tully fought hard, Arte’s Marv’s Tire Service, Dillon Auto Craft Performance Engines entry was too strong and she powered to the lead.
Tully pushed his machine hard to keep pace with Arte, and with a dozen circuits remaining the strain proved too much for Tully’s engine. The ensuing clean up brought out a red flag and reset the field for a final dash to the checkers.
Arte raced back to the point as the green flag waved while Caldwell, Idaho’s Daniel Johnson and Meridian, Idaho racer Ben Crow diced for the runner up spot behind her. Johnson moved his Darlene’s Printing, Real Estate Unlimited machine into the runner up spot as Crow settled his Excel Equipment Co., Trenching Services Co. racer into third. But all the action happened behind Arte, who ran away from the field for the win.
“I was actually glad we got that red flag,” Arte said of the mid-race break. “This was the hottest race night I can remember for a long time.”
With just two races left in the College of Western Idaho Super Stock season, Arte’s victory all but cemented her eighth Meridian Speedway championship.
The Teleperformance Claimer Stocks brought a full field of racers to the start of their thirty lap main event. On the break Caldwell, Idaho’s Scott Lawson blasted past Fred Nagele to lead lap one. Frist to challenge Lawson was Boise, Idaho’s Josh Fanopoulos, who turned up the wick on his Certified Services racer and moved to the leader’s outside on lap seven. Fanopoulos broke through three laps later, with Boise, Idaho’s Dan Lowther in tow. Lowther wasted no time and soon put his Allan Marsh Travel Center, Kline’s Alternators and Starters of Marsing racer atop the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard.
But Fanopoulos wouldn’t settle for second, and kept the pressure on Lowther through the race’s middle stages. While the leaders dueled out front, Rich Lawson pushed his Swan Falls Technology Websites and Computers, Franklin Auto and Truck Repair machine hard in pursuit of fourth place Jamie Hyde. Sparks flew from Lawson’s racer as he dove into the turns, and with eight laps left Lawson finally made his way around Hyde.
With the battle for fourth settled, the lead battle heated up as Fanopoulos launched his final bid for the win. With six laps to go Fanopoulos pulled to the outside, but slid wide and allowed Lowther to claim his eighth main event victory of the season.
Meridian Speedway wraps up its August festivities this Saturday, August 19, with Hot August Cruze and Drag Night at the quarter-mile. A vast array of hot rods and cool customs join the NASCAR Whelen All-American Modifieds, Project Filter Pro-4s, and Teleperformance Claimer Stocks on the quarter-mile asphalt oval. General admission to Saturday’s full night of cruising and racing is just $11 for adults, $6.50 for kids 7-11, and as always kids 6 and under get in free. Gates open at 4 p.m. with qualifying at 5:15 p.m. and racing at 6:30 p.m. Log on to meridianspeedway.com to purchase your advance tickets and text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 to receive exclusive updates from around the quarter-mile oval. We’ll see you this Saturday, August 19, for Hot August Cruze and Drag Night under the big yellow water tower at your NASCAR Home Track, Meridian Speedway.