Some champs back in action Saturday as Meridian’s driver landscape shifts
by Jon Brown, MERIDIAN, Idaho – Fans will see some lineup changes as the 2013 season gets rolling at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway, but the racer’s heart will be on full display each Saturday night.
The pride and passion at the historic quarter-mile paved oval begins Saturday with the Stockcar Opener as Dylan Caldwell returns to the scene of his NAPA Late Models division championship.
The 21-year-old from Nampa, Idaho, emerged from a few seasons of struggles to string together a milestone victory and a winning streak while capturing his first track championship.
“It meant the world,” Caldwell said of the title. “It was awesome coming off all the bad luck we’ve had the last few years.”
With the backing of car owner and crew chief Scott Walker and team manager Jeremy McBurney, Caldwell won six consecutive main events in Meridian and had seven checkered flags total in a breakout season.
He took advantage of Boise racer Dan Lowther’s engine problems to flash to victory in the Bill Crow Memorial.
Caldwell celebrated the season championship in September by scaling the catch fence to get closer to the fans.
“The fan support is just great, and it seems to get bigger and bigger every year,” Caldwell said. “Without those guys, no one would really know us around here.”
The young racecar driver is testing a newly built machine Friday, only hours before the start of the season.
In addition to the Late Model opener, Saturday will feature season debuts for the Coors Super Stocks, Project Filter Pro-4s, College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Street Stocks, the TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks and the Jr. Stingers.
The opener marks the debut of Coors and TEAM Mazda Subaru as division sponsors at the track.
The season opener also means the first Westby’s Bike Races 4 Kids of the year, and the first round of Ultra Touch Car Wash Best Looking Car voting.
The gates open at 4 p.m. with qualifying after 5 p.m. and racing at 6:30 p.m.
Race tickets are $10 for adults, $7.50 for military personnel with ID and senior citizens 62 and older and $6 for children ages 7-11. Children 6 and younger get in free. A family ticket good for two adults and up to four children ages 7-11 is $30.
Buy tickets or get information on how to register a child for the bike races at www.meridianspeedway.com.
Caldwell is one of the few 2012 stockcar champions who will return to their same division for 2013.
Another Nampa driver, Chad Bess, is back in a quest to repeat as Street Stocks champion, but he’ll have his hands full in the reinvigorated division.
“Street Stocks have a good contingent of cars coming out of the woodwork,” Meridian Speedway managing general partner Adam Nelson said. “I expect a great showing this weekend.”
Meridian, Idaho’s Ray Bolinger left Mini Stocks as a champion, moving up to the eight-cylinder Street Stocks.
Middleton, Idaho’s Jim Bailey sold his championship car and won’t return to defend his Pro-4 championship. Ryan Bailey, however, will enter a car in the class this season, and perennial Mini Stock frontrunner Larry Hull III has graduated to Pro-4s.
Riley Rogers is back to defend his Jr. Stingers championship, but he’s going to have a slew of new blood with which to cope in the division for 12- to 14-year-olds.
Super Stocks champion Dennis Brodigan of Nampa plans to race a few hometown events, but is focused on the Carbon X Rocky Mountain Challenge Series Late Model tour, which comes to Meridian in July.
2012 championship recap
ASA Modifieds – Shelby Stroebel, Meridian, Idaho
Mtn. Dew Winged Sprints – Mike Murgoitio, Meridian, Idaho
Pepsi Sprintcars champion – Casey Tillman, Kuna, Idaho
NAPA Late Models champion – Dylan Caldwell, Nampa, Idaho
Project Filter Pro-4s champion – Jim Bailey, Middleton, Idaho
Coors Super Stocks – Dennis Brodigan, Nampa, Idaho
College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Street Stocks champion – Chad Bess, Nampa, Idaho
Domino’s Pizza Legends champion – Phyl Zubizareta, Garden City, Idaho
TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks champion – Larry Hull III, Boise, Idaho
Budweiser B Modifieds champion – Jay Cook, Nampa, Idaho
Tates Hornets champion – Colton Nelson, Meridian, Idaho
Hornet 100 Series champion – Nelson
Thunder Dogs champion – Sledgehammer (David Jolley, Nampa, Idaho)
Jr. Stingers champion – Riley Rogers, Meridian, Idaho