Nelson Claims Grandfather’s Memorial Trophy Saturday
Vibrant sun and a fast racetrack greeted a full garage area of Meridian Speedway competitors as they assembled for Saturday’s Les Schwab Tire Race Night. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds, Domino’s Legends, TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks, TATES Rents Hornets, and Junior Stingers opened Memorial Day Weekend with hard fought racing action.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds opened main event action with a 35 lap feature. On the green Casey Tillman overpowered Rick Moran to take the early lead. Behind Tillman, veteran racers Scott Durbin, Rodney Houpt and Larry Hull jockeyed for the runner up spot. Durbin was first to hold second in his racer, but with a good run on the high side Hull took the second spot away on lap six.
A lap ten caution bunched the field and brought Hull’s Diversified Carpet Cleaning, Shake N’ Bake racing modified inside Tillman. When the green flag waved Hull blasted to the front, dropping Tillman into the clutches of Caitlin Stroebel. Stroebel got the best of that battle and she led Colton Nelson and Josh Jackson into the fight for second.
Nelson was first to make his move as he piloted his Integrity Pools, Carbon Designs and Vinyl modified around Stroebel’s Trinity Construction, D&R Drainage Systems entry on the outside. Jackson followed suit as he and Nelson turned their sights to Hull. With a dozen laps left Nelson found his way to Hull’s rear bumper and the battle for the lead ignited. Nelson jabbed low first, and continued his assault until a caution flag waged with seven circuits left.
When the green flag waved Nelson snuck past Hull on the low side to take the lead. While Nelson set sail out front Jackson piloted his Jacksonbuilt Racing, Cyclone Cycles entry past Hull, but didn’t have enough to track down Nelson.
“I knew that last caution with seven to go…I kind of took it as a sign from the old man,” Nelson said in the Caleb’s Chop Shop Victory Circle.
Nelson’s grandfather LeeRoy Nelson piloted the number seven to a Meridian Speedway championship in 1980.
A full field of Junior Stingers took the green flag of their eighteen lap feature. Rusty Houpt was quick to the gas pedal and he took the lap one lead in his Boise Spring Works, Drip Catchers LLC racer. On the move early was Cody Castricone, who shot from his back of the pack starting spot and used the extreme outside line to plant his Linder Learning Academy, Meridian Chiropractic car in third on lap three.
Castricone’s run stalled as he challenged Alyse Schildhauer and her CCT machine for the runner up spot. This allowed Hailey Rogers to sneak beneath Castricone as she battled for the final podium spot. Rogers’ run fell short as her H&H Accounting, Wildside Wraps entry’s engine soured, which left Castricone to battle Schildhauer. With two laps left Schildhauer pushed high and tagged the front stretch wall, which handed second spot to Castricone. But all the action happened behind Houpt, who collected his second straight division main event win.
Nineteen TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks rolled to green for their 35 lap feature. David Pywell was quick out of the blocks and he powered around Mitch Eckhardt to lead lap one in his Treasure Valley Bees and Honey, Pywell Farms machine. First to challenge Pywell was Billy Shipp, who piloted his Riparetti’s Cylinder Heads entry to the front on lap five. A caution one lap later brought Eckhardt to Shipp’s outside for the restart.
Shipp held his place atop the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard until Eckhardt powered past the Melba, Idaho racer on a lap nine restart. But Eckhardt’s time at the top was short lived, as a wild slide two laps later put him sideways in front of the field. Ray Bolinger was the first to hit Eckhardt’s Blu Dog Buffalo Ranch, Silver Wings Rental machine while competitors scrambled to avoid contact. While six vehicles took damage in the exchange of paint, all continued to the lap eleven restart.
On the restart Terrell Daffron motored his way around Shipp to the front. Jason Sanders followed Daffron through the hole and moved his Divel Services, Print Craft of Caldwell racer into the second spot. Yet another caution brought Sanders to Daffron’s rear bumper for a restart with 21 laps to go.
Sanders wheeled his racer hard to keep pace with Daffron’s Gilmore Meats of Weiser, 208 Tire.com machine. At the race’s halfway point Sanders arrived at Daffron’s rear bumper and the fight to the finish began. Sanders ducked low and looked high in search of a way past Daffron, but lapped traffic thwarted every effort the Caldwell, Idaho driver made. With two laps left Sanders made a move to the high side of Daffron, but Daffron closed the door and sped across the finish line first.
The Domino’s Legends brought a dozen strong competitors to the Austin Christopherson and Eldon Cahill Memorial race. Kyle Davis was quick out of the blocks to put his CMH, CB Tile racer in the lap one lead, but Phyl Zubizaretta had a different idea, and he wrestled the lead away on lap two. Next to battle for the lead was Casey Tillman, who rocketed around the high side of Zubizaretta and took the top spot on lap four.
The frantic fight for first didn’t stop there as Tillman immediately found himself under siege from Ethan Jones and Zach Blume. Jones was first to Tillman’s outside, but Tillman held his ground and kept the lead. Relegated to second, Jones now found his hands full with Eagle, Idaho’s Blume. Jones and Blume raced hard to keep pace with Tillman, but a lapped car separated the second and third place runners from the leader with ten laps left.
While Tillman walked away from his pursuers, Jones and Blume sliced their way through heavy traffic. Blume drew even with Jones no less than six times, but each time Jones found a way to keep the second spot. But up front it was all Tillman, who piloted his Taylor Made Upholstery, West Side Body Works legend to the checkers.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds rumbled onto the quarter-mile to honor LeeRoy Nelson with a 35 lap main event. On the green flag Hunter Gates blew past Rick Moran to take the lead. No sooner had Gates cleared Moran than the second place driver hit the back stretch wall and spun in front of the field. Beau Gillogly’s Razor’s Edge Window Cleaning, GRC Custom Fabrication machine and Caitlin Stroebel’s Trinity Construction, Clearcreek Station entry were collected in the melee. Stroebel was able to return to the race, but Gillogly and Moran were forced to retire.
On the restart Gates outmatched Joe Thuss to regain the lead in his YMC, Blue Line Graphics modified. Behind Gates the battle was intense for second as Josh Jackson worked over Rodney Houpt’s Boise Spring Works, Royal Purple Oil machine for the runner up spot. Jackson muscled his way by and assumed second place on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard before he drove into the leader’s rear bumper. Gates slid sideways, but was able to save his racer. However, the caution flag came out and both drivers were put to the back of the pack.
With the green flag back in the air Larry Hull found himself up front with Colton Nelson, grandson of Lee Roy Nelson, in hot pursuit. Nelson raced his way to Hull’s inside and the two fought wheel to wheel for five full laps. This battle went sour on lap eleven when Nelson slid into Hull and the pair spun through the infield grass. Both drivers righted their racers, but were relegated to the back of the pack.
This left Casey Tillman and Scott Durbin up front for the restart. Before the green flag waved Tillman’s car hooked a hard right and drove Durbin’s machine into the front stretch concrete. Gates and Nelson were swept up in the wreck as well. Nelson was able to drive away, but Gates was forced to retire from the event.
This handed the lead to Caitlin Stroebel as she worked to fend off Myles Pedersen. Stroebel was successful for two laps, but Pedersen turned the wick up on his Patriot Motorsports racer and roared to the lead. But it was Nelson who went on the offensive, and at the race’s halfway point the Meridian, Idaho racer took the lead in his Integrity Pools, Julie Hart Home Loans by Premier Mortgage modified. Nelson didn’t look back as he walked away from the field en route to winning his first Lee Roy Nelson Memorial trophy in five tries.
“I’ve wanted this trophy for such a long time…but grandpa just knew it wasn’t time yet,” Nelson said as his family crowded around him on the front stretch. “I hope this is him saying we’re working toward something big.”
The TATES Rents Hornets wrapped up Saturday night’s action. Joe Pettit raced out to the early lead, but it was Tommy Harrod and James Pahl who blasted through the pack and made their way to the front on lap five. A restart on lap eight pitted Pahl and Harrod against one another on the front row. Pahl got the better of the restart and immediately planted his Raceway Video racer in the outside line.
While Pahl worked the outside groove Harrod worked to find a way by on the inside. But Pahl was too strong, and he claimed the victory.
The Memorial Day Weekend action wraps up Monday, May 29 with the Bill Crow 50, Bob and Tom Naylor Memorial Classic, and the Sean Miller Memorial. The NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodel Series, Interstate Winged Sprintcars, Pepsi Crate Cars and Super Sixes, Teleperformance Claimer Stocks, and Thunderdogs battle for the hardware. General admission is just $11 for adults, and $6.50 for kids 7-11. Gates open at 4 p.m. with qualifying at 5 p.m. and racing at 6:30. We’ll see you this Monday night under the big yellow water tower at your NASCAR Home Track, Meridian Speedway.