by Jon Brown, MERIDIAN, Idaho — A packed house turned out Saturday at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway, and the racers gave the 2,500-plus fans exactly what they wanted.
Any short track worth its salt lends itself to thrilling side-by-side racing, and Meridian’s tight, quarter-mile oval didn’t disappoint during Teacher Feature night – even in races that eventually were decided by large margins.
Veteran racers Gale Carter and Kim Bradford put on an old-fashioned, door-to-door drag race in the Super Stocks main event. After the race’s second yellow flag, the two drivers drove hard side-by-side with only inches of air between them for 14 laps, with Carter surging ahead and then Bradford nosing forward lap after lap.
With two laps to go, smoke began to whisper from the rear of the No. 29 racecar driven by Eagle, Idaho’s Bradford, forcing him to tuck in behind his foe’s car and concede the checkered flag.
“It was a lot of fun,” the Boise, Idaho driver Carter said. “Kim was really running me tonight.
“I like Kim a lot. I’ve always rooted for him. I always hoped that he’d win races, but not at my expense.”
The two men finished in the same order after a competitive Fast Dash that Carter characterized as “brutal”.
The side-by-side excitement carried through to the other features:
In the 25-lap Street Stocks main, Chad Bess held off reigning division champion and fellow Nampa, Idaho driver Melissa Weaver.
Nampa’s Shelby Stroebel swept the twin 40-lap ASA Modifieds features, walking away from the field in the first race but needing every bit of his 2011 championship racecar to win the second 40.
In the Tom Plummer Memorial for the Domino’s Pizza Legends, former series champion Camron Madsen of Boise prevailed in an early-race duel with Kuna, Idaho’s Andrew Clark and ran away in the 40-lap event.
In the first installment of the Tates Hornets 100 Series, Meridian, Idaho’s Colton Nelson came out on top after a race of attrition that also featured a miraculous green-flag run of 49 consecutive laps.
Becky McGavin, a sixth-grade teacher from Boise’s Lowell Elementary, was declared the winner of the Teacher Feature after the car driven by race leader Shannon Bach of Boise’s Washington Elementary overturned during a Turn 4 wreck as she was heading toward the white flag nine laps into the scheduled 10-lap challenge.
Stroebel won the first ASA Modifieds feature by a half-lap against a dozen other competitors.
“It is a great field of cars,” Stroebel said. “A lot of us put a lot of extra effort in to get out here. Tony Flores, Montie Potter and my daughter (Caitlin) have cars out, and that’s good to see.
“It’s fun to see good hard racing. Some cars got torn up, but it was good solid racing for the first one.”
Eighteen laps into the race, he found himself side-by-side with Boise’s Montie Potter heading for the green flag to restart the race after yellow flags on consecutive laps.
Despite racing on the high side, Stroebel powered past Potter and stretched out to a commanding lead.
Potter just got a bit of his own medicine when Stroebel passed him twice on those restarts. One lap earlier, Potter had sped past Star, Idaho’s Wes Pogue on the high side after the first yellow flag.
Tim Elam of Boise spun out to trigger the first caution – and run Pogue’s strong early run. Pogue was four car lengths ahead of Potter and working through lapped traffic when Elam’s car broke loose in Turn 3.
The second one wasn’t as much of a cakewalk for the man known as “Cupcake”, though.
Kuna driver Charlie Ham Jr. had a big advantage early, but within nine laps of the start, Stroebel had poked his car into the top five. The reigning track champion started at the back of the 14-car field after winning the opening main.
Ham was ahead by 3½ seconds when Fruitland, Idaho’s Travis Pavlacky lost the control battle with his car and spun while exiting Turn 2 with 22 laps left.
Ham chose to run on the high side, conceding the low groove to Meridian’s Rus Ward on the restart. After a side-by-side race for three laps, Ward took advantage of Ham’s gamble and edged ahead. Stroebel found himself in second place with 10 laps left.
Three laps later, Stroebel took the lead from the high side when Ward got trapped behind lapped traffic. Stroebel would win by three seconds.
“That was a lot harder than the first race. All of them were racing hard,” Stroebel said. “What a great feeling it was to beat them on their best run.”
In the Tom Plummer Memorial, the veteran Madsen finally shook the presence of teenager Clark to assume a comfortable lead 13 laps into the 40-lap main event. Clark started the race on the pole, but dropped out of the position during pace laps in a “missing man” formation assumed in honor of Plummer, a longtime Legends class supporter who died recently.
Madsen was part of a field of 20-plus racers who came out to pay their respects to Plummer.
For Madsen, who smoked his tires in celebration afterward, he grabbed a checkered flag in his 2012 debut.
“It might be one of my only races this season,” Madsen said. “I just brought it out for Tom.
“It’s a lot more competitive than in the past. It’s a little bit of a workout.”
Madsen put five car-lengths between himself and Emmett, Idaho’s Johnathan Davis within a few laps of the race’s fourth yellow flag. The caution was triggered by a six-car pileup in Turn 4 that ended Jimmy Ingham’s night.
Bess and Weaver battled for the Street Stocks lead throughout the division’s 25-lap main event. This night, however, Bess held off the reigning track champion.
For the second year in a row, Bess has had to rally after wrecking his car.
Bess’ black beauty Chevrolet Camaro now sports a white hood, yellow hood scoop and yellow fenders instead of the full black paint job with which he started the year.
“We’ve been working on this thing all night long for the last two weeks,” Bess said after pulling away to claim the checkered flag. “The guys worked their (butts) off.”
Bess also dedicated his victory to Plummer.
“This win’s for Tom,” he said. “We lost a hell of a guy a couple of weeks ago, so this win’s for him.”
Six laps after he took the lead from Fruitland’s Bobby Riggs, Bess found himself side-by-side with Weaver on a restart. The caution flag came out when Riggs’ car lost power and wound up in the infield while he was running in fourth place.
With 10 laps remaining, Bess was fighting a handling problem, but Weaver couldn’t get around him despite riding her rival’s bumper. Bess eventually got a little breathing room.
The Late Models of the Carbon X Rocky Mountain Challenge Series make their 2012 Meridian Speedway debut next Saturday for the NAPA Auto Parts Treasure Valley 100. The Pepsi Sprintcars, Mini Stocks and Thunder Dogs also will run, and the first night of Spectacular Drags for fans will be held.
Tickets are available at the Meridian Speedway box office: $15 for adults, $12.50 for senior citizens and military personnel with ID, $11 for children ages 7-11. Children 6 and younger always are admitted free at the track.
Race fans can save $2 off the ticket price for each age group by getting their tickets online through Easy Tix. Visit a participating NAPA Auto Parts store to pick up a promo code to save another $2 off the online purchase.
You can link to Easy Tix online off www.meridianspeedway.com
A family pass is available for $46, allowing admittance of two adults and up to four children ages 7-11.
The gates open at 4 p.m. with time trials start at 5 p.m. with racing at 6:30 p.m.
The RMCS racers will hold a Friday night test and tune at the track from 3 p.m. to dark. Spectator admission is free.
For more information on driver profiles and the weekly racing action, visit www.meridianspeedway.com. You can reach the race track by phone at (208) 888-2813 .
Saturday’s unofficial results
ASA Modifieds No. 1 (40 laps) – 1. Shelby Stroebel, Nampa, Idaho; 2. Montie Potter, Boise, Idaho; 3. Tim Elam, Boise; 4. Rus Ward, Meridian; 5. Jentry Pisca, Nampa
ASA Modifieds No. 2 (40 laps) – 1. Stroebel; 2. Ward; 3. Charlie Ham Jr., Kuna, Idaho; 4. Wes Pogue, Star, Idaho; 5. Pisca
Street Stocks (25 laps) – 1. Chad Bess, Nampa; 2. Melissa Weaver, Nampa; 3. Marv Weaver, Nampa; 4. Roy Kirkland, Boise; 5. Daniel Johnson, Caldwell, Idaho
Domino’s Pizza Legends Tom Plummer Memorial (40 laps) – 1. Camron Madsen, Boise; 2. Johnathan Davis, Emmett, Idaho; 3. Sara Henry, Nampa; 4. Chase Gilbertson, Boise; 5. Casey Tillman, Kuna, Idaho
Teacher Feature (10 laps) – 1. Becky McGavin, Lowell Elementary sixth grade teacher; 2. JaNae Anderson, Washington Elementary music teacher; 3. Laina Hodson, Riverglen Jr. High math teacher
Super Stocks (30 laps) – 1. Gale Carter, Boise; 2. Kim Bradford, Eagle, Idaho; 3. Jeff Meads, Nampa; 4. Rob Powers, Meridian; 5. David Harris, Meridian
Hornets 100 Series No. 1 (100 laps) – 1. Colton Nelson, Meridian; 2. Casey Tillman, Kuna; 3. Art Heath, Nampa
Eight laps each
Fast Dash – 1. Melissa Weaver; 2. Rick Baldwin, Middleton, Idaho; 3. Marv Weaver, Nampa; 4. Bess; 5. Johnson
B Heat – 1. Bobby Riggs, Fruitland, Idaho; 2. Kirkland; 3. Bill Lawrence, Grand View, Idaho; 4. Micky Lawson, Caldwell; 5. Jon Carlton, Meridian
Fast Dash – 1. Carter; 2. Bradford; 3. Dennis Brodigan, Nampa; 4. Justin Ellis, Boise
B Heat – 1. Harris; 2. Powers; 3. Steve Gilbert, Emmett; 4. Greg Wright; 5. Meads
Domino’s Pizza Legends
Fast Dash – 1. Phyl Zubizareta, Garden City, Idaho; 2. Madsen; 3. Henry; 4. Gilbertson; 5. Mike Cullum, Meridian
B Heat – 1. Tillman; 2. Zach Blume, Eagle; 3. Andrew Clark, Kuna; 4. Steve Thimsen, Boise; 5. James Ingham, Meridian
C Heat – 1. Darin Turpen, Nampa; 2. Johnathan Davis, Emmett; 3. Charlie Fiscus, Star, Idaho; 4. Aubree Wartman, Boise
D Heat – 1. Caitlin Stroebel, Meridian; 2. Aly Clark, Kuna; 3. Chance Davis, Emmett; 4. Jenna Cullum, Meridian; 5. Daynna Skiver, Meridian
Six laps each
Heat No. 1 – 1. Stacy Heath, Nampa; 2. Kevin Johnson, Kuna; 3. Scott Thomas, Garden City, Idaho; 4. Lisa Bahr, Nampa; 5. Dustey Arnold, Star
Heat No. 2 – 1. Allen Arnold, Star; 2. Thomas Harrod, Nampa; 3. Jack Martin, Caldwell; 4. Jason Rupp, Boise; 5. Brenden Fries, Meridian
Heat No. 3 – 1. Monica Heath, Caldwell; 2. Al Russell, Kuna; 3. Chuck Youngblood, Meridian; 4. Blake Correia, Boise; 5. Alex Duda, Boise
Heat No. 4 – 1. Colton Nelson, Meridian; 2. Art Heath, Nampa; 3. Cody Garrett, Boise; 4. Jess Ryska, Meridian; 5. Rob Powers, Meridian
Four laps each
Heat No. 1 – 1. Nathan Day, Dennis Technical Center auto accessories; 2. Anderson; 3. Theresa Perry, Amity Elementary second grade; 4. Michael Hughes, Dennis Technical Center Automotive
Heat No. 2 – 1. Heather Fisher, Mountain View H.S., reading and driver’s ed; 2. Hodson; 3. Kimra Parsons, Amity Elementary second grade; 4. McGavin
ASA Modifieds – Shelby Stroebel, 14.442
Street Stocks – Melissa Weaver, 15.118
Domino’s Pizza Legends – Sara Henry, Boise, 15.271
Super Stocks (30 laps) – Dennis Brodigan, Nampa, 14.793