by Jon Brown, MERIDIAN, Idaho – When a guy hasn’t lost a race in more than a year, it’s hard to believe fans could expect any suspense when he’s on the track.
But Meridian, Idaho’s Shelby Stroebel definitely delivered heart-stopping history Saturday when he put the finishing touches on the rarest of feats – an unbeaten championship season.
The ASA Member Track National Championship standings leader extended his win streak to 16 races – stretching back 54 weeks – by charging past Star, Idaho’s Wes Pogue with one lap to go during Saturday’s dramatic second 40-lap ASA Modifieds main event on a historic quarter-mile oval that saw perhaps its biggest milestone ever.
“This is definitely a dream,” Stroebel said. “You just never know: A tire falls off or you get in an accident.”
The rest of the field had no such luck as Stroebel made his 14th win in 14 2012 starts the crowning achievement in his second consecutive track championship. He drove from the back of the pack three different times in the two features to sweep the season.
In all, Stroebel raced 130 main-event laps Saturday night. With not quite as much drama, he worked his way to the front to win the first of the night’s two ASA Modifieds main event. Then immediately before the second Modifieds feature, he borrowed his daughter Caitlin’s Domino’s Pizza Legends car and sped to a third-place finish in the Austin Christopherson Memorial 50.
Ryan Byrd of Salt Lake City, Utah, drove another loaner car – a Legend owned by Nampa, Idaho’s Darin Turpen – to the Christopherson title.
In other main events:
Nampa’s Dennis Brodigan won the Dee Forrey/Don VanSchoiak Memorial 40 and wrapped up the Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks championship.
Dean Waltman of Boise, Idaho drove a vintage sprintcar to a victory in a 15-lap showcase of classic racecars. The engine in Waltman’s car is fed by a fuel injection system off a car that Kenny Hamilton ran at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the 1980 Indy 500 run-up.
Another Boise driver, Roy Kirkland, turned in a dominant performance in the Street Stocks, winning by nearly a full straightaway.
It was fitting that Stroebel’s strongest challenge of the ASA Modifieds season would come in the final race of the campaign.
As the night’s top qualifier, he was forced to start at the tail end of an 18-car field in the first feature. In the nightcap, he was in the seventh and final row of a 14-car lineup.
At one point in the second main event, Stroebel was half a lap behind the lead pack, which featured Pete Trammel of Boise, Pogue and Meridian’s Rus Ward, who served as Stroebel’s nemesis a year ago.
On Saturday night, the only foe Stroebel seemed to face was the clock as the laps ticked away and Pogue continued his strongest performance of the season.
“I got stuck in traffic, and Wes had a heck of racecar,” Stroebel said.
But once he got around Ward and into second place with 14 laps remaining, Stroebel picked off the distance between he and Pogue with each circuit. What had been a four-second lead for Pogue with 12 laps to go shrunk to one car length with a mile left in the race as Stroebel began pitching his car violently into the turns in a desperate attempt to make up ground.
He was on Pogue’s bumper with two laps left and squealed out of Turn 4 and into the lead with a pass at the line as the white flag flew.
With the amount of rear tire Stroebel used to overcome Pogue, it’s hard to believe he had enough rubber left to do the majestic donuts that he laid down moments before accepting the championship trophy.
Ever gracious, Stroebel tipped his racing helmet to his competitors, who came out in stronger numbers as the year wore on to keep the class going.
“I appreciate everyone coming out every week and racing hard. That’s what makes it fun,” Stroebel said.
Likewise, Byrd was appreciative of the opportunity afforded him when Nampa’s Darin Turpen handed over his dimunitive racecar for the out-of-town driver to race in the first of back-to-back Labor Day Legends features.
Byrd repaid the generosity by keeping the No. 4 car in one piece as wrecks intensify in severity as the 50-lap race trudged through five caution flags.
“I have to thank Darin Turpen for putting me in the car tonight,” Byrd said. “It was a rocketship from the start.”
Twenty-five Legends started the Christopherson Memorial. When Byrd had his hands full holding off Meridian points leader Phyl Zubizareta of Garden City, Idaho, with four laps remaining, there were 16 cars on the track.
“We were lucky we didn’t have five more laps because Zubizareta was coming after me,” the former Meridian Speedway regular said.
Zubizareta not only had the fastest Legends car of the night; he put his name in the record books with the fastest qualifying lap for the division in the history of the racetrack.
Zubizareta drove a 15.033-second lap in the time trials, shattering the record of 15.047 that Boise’s Travis Anderson pulled off nearly two years ago (Sept. 11, 2010).
While Byrd and Stroebel provided their share of nail-biting action, Dennis Brodigan didn’t even have to finish in the top five to secure a championship in the Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks.
But, just for good measure, the Nampa driver decided to win the Don VanSchioack-Dee Forrey Memorial 40 to put a spectacular finish on his Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks season championship.
Brodigan immediately looked to the future after winning the first Super Stocks championship contested at the quarter-mile oval since 2010. He has his eyes on competing for a championship in the Carbon X Rocky Mountain Challenge Series.
“It’s been a great year, and we’re looking forward to next year,” he said. “Maybe we’ll run the RMCS tour and see what happens.”
Brodigan needed to finish no worse than eighth place in the main event to pull down the championship trophy. Instead, he also went home with a season championship trophy and the perpetual memorial trophy for a race staged in honor of two former Meridian Speedway racers.
In the first of two ASA Modifieds features, Stroebel had to drive his way through the 18-car field twice to keep his win streak alive.
The second time was the most dramatic for the the ASA Member Track National Championship standings leader.
Stroebel was running out of time as he languished in third place behind the side-by-side battle for first between Meridian, Idaho’s Rus Ward and Wes Pogue of Star, Idaho. Pogue was in the midst of his strongest run of the season.
With four laps remaining, Ward got loose and slid into Pogue’s path. Pogue spun out and a yellow flag came out. Because Pogue and Ward were both involved in the action that brought out the caution flag, they were sent to the back of the field.
That opened the door for Stroebel, who rocketed past Payette, Idaho’s Josh Jackson on the restart and walked away for another victory. He won by three car lengths.
As the fastest qualifier of the night, Stroebel began the race in the back of the field. Nine laps after the green flag dropped on the first of two 40s, Stroebel had worked his way into sixth place.
Then he was sent to the back of the field again when he and Terry Lawrence of Boise tangled in the middle of Turns 1-2 to bring out the first caution on Lap 10.
“Our goal is to win the national champs and (the wreck with Lawrence) made me wonder if we were going to get back to the front tonight, and we did,” Stroebel said.
In the Street Stocks feature, Kirkland enjoyed a comfortable margin of victory although he wasn’t sure if he would see the green flag drop.
“We didn’t think we were going to make the main because we broke an axle and the seal, and my pit crew fixed it in five minutes, so this is all about the guys in the pits,” Kirkland said.
Reigning division champion Melissa Weaver of Nampa got caught up in a wreck during the race, but still managed to finish second.
Weaver’s Chevrolet Camaro received moderate front-end damage when one-time race leader Dean Wilson of Boise got loose coming out of Turn 4 and sped up the track toward the front-stretch wall. He collected Weaver, who was knocked into the cement barrier.
Despite stalling while trying to rejoin the field when the green flag dropped, Weaver eventually worked her way back to second place as Kirkland took the checkered flag. She entered the day 47 points behind season series leader Chad Bess of Nampa. Bess didn’t finish in the top five.
The Labor Day weekend action continues Sunday with the fifth and final marathon race of the Tates Hornet 100 Series and the annual running of the Austin Christopherson 50 for the Domino’s Pizza Legends as the centerpiece of Tates Rents Fan Appreciation Night.
The Tates Hornet 100 championship will be settled with the fifth and final marathon race of the series. Sunday’s schedule also includes the annual running of the Austin Christopherson 50 for the Domino’s Pizza Legends. This year’s race also serves as a qualifier for the INEX Asphalt Nationals, which takes place in late October at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Last year, the INEX qualifier attracted Legends drivers from surrounding states such as Washington, Oregon and California.
Also planned for Sunday is the second annual Jack Links Snack Attack. Track officials will select one of the racing divisions for a fun race around the track. Last year, drivers had to speed around the oval and grab as many Jack Links snacks as they could as they crossed the start-finish line.
The first Kool Oldies 99.5FM Cruise on Sunday will help the racetrack honor the memories conjured up by the body styles of the Legends racecars, which draw inspiration from the old American-made coupes and sedans of the early 1930s. As part of the cruise, classic cars and other hot rods will feature up to 50 classic automobiles on display in the pits after the races and parading around the track during breaks in the action. Also on tap for the classics are Dash for Cash drag races and a tire burnout contest. Pre-registration is recommended for the event. Classic car owners can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In the Hornets 100 finale, fourth-generation driver Colton Nelson of Meridian, Idaho looks to lock up the Hornet series title. He’ll have to hold off Meridian’s Chuck Youngblood, who enters the final event of the five-race mini-series 97 points behind the leader.
The B Modifieds and the Thunder Dogs are set to race Sunday night.
The gates at Meridian Speedway day at 4 p.m., followed by qualifying at 5 p.m. and racing at 6:30 p.m.
Admission is $10 for adults, $7.50 for senior citizens and military personnel with ID, $6 for children ages 7-11. As always, children 6 and younger get in free.
A family pass costs $30 and allows the admission of a family of two adults and four children (ages 7-11).
Meridian’s penchant for doubleheaders continues Sept. 7-8 with the season finale for the Canadian-American Western Winged Sprintcar series. The action kicks off Friday night with the Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic and concludes with Saturday’s WWS Pepsi 75.
For more information on the speedway’s upcoming races, including buying tickets, visit www.meridianspeedway.com. More information is available by calling the track at (208) 888-2813 .
Championship Night No. 1
Saturday’s unofficial results
ASA Modifieds No. 1 (40 laps) – 1. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian, Idaho; 2. Casey Tillman, Kuna, Idaho; 3. Caitlin Stroebel, Meridian; 4. Josh Jackson, Payette, Idaho; 5. Dell Scott, Meridian
ASA Modifieds No. 2, championship (40 laps) – 1. Stroebel; 2. Wes Pogue, Star, Idaho; 3. Terry Lawrence, Boise; 4. Jackson; 5. Rus Ward, Meridian
2012 ASA Modifieds season champion – Stroebel (Unbeaten 14-race season; 16 consecutive wins dating to August 2011)
Dee Forrey/Don VanSchoiack Memorial 40 (Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks championship) – 1. Dennis Brodigan, Nampa; 2. Kim Bradford, Eagle; 3. Justin Ellis, Boise; 4. David Harris, Meridian; 5. Steve Gilbert, Emmett, Idaho
2012 Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks season champion — Brodigan
Austin Christopherson Memorial 50 (Domino’s Pizza Legends) – 1. Ryan Byrd, Salt Lake City, Utah; 2. Phyl Zubizareta, Garden City, Idaho; 3. Shelby Stroebel; 4. Andrew Clark, Boise; 5. Austin Hager, Meridian
Street Stocks (35 laps) – 1. Roy Kirkland, Boise; 2. Melissa Weaver, Nampa, Idaho; 3. Rick Baldwin, Middleton, Idaho; 4. Bobby Riggs, Fruitland, Idaho; 5. Micky Lawson, Caldwell, Idaho
Vintage racers (15 laps) – 1. Dean Waltman, Boise, Idaho; 2. Walt Calkins, Boise; 3. Brad Hunsiker, Chubbuck, Idaho; 4. Dave Skyberg, Meridian
Spectator Drags final – J.D. “Stacy” Borgman, Boise, Chevrolet Nova, def. Lynn Proctor, Eagle, Idaho, Dodge Viper (handicap race)
(Eight laps each)
Fast Dash – 1. Hunsiker; 2. Calkins; 3. Waltman; 4. Skyberg
Fast Dash – 1. Scott Durbin, Boise; 2. Marv Weaver, Nampa; 3. Chad Bess, Nampa; 4. Kirkland; 5. Melissa Weaver
B Heat – 1. Dean Wilson, Boise; 2. Riggs; 3. Lawson; 4. Baldwin
Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks
Fast Dash – 1. Rob Powers, Meridian; 2. Dennis Brodigan, Nampa; 3. Kim Bradford, Eagle, Idaho; 4. Justin Ellis, Boise
B Heat – 1. David Harris, Meridian; 2. Josh Jackson; 3. Steve Gilbert, Emmett, Idaho; 4. Gale Carter, Boise
Domino’s Pizza Legends
Fast Dash – 1. Ryan Byrd, Salt Lake City, Utah; 2. Mike Cullum, Meridian; 3. Ben Matheson, Pasco, Wash.; 4. Jim Landon, Tacoma, Wash.; 5. Phyl Zubizareta, Garden City, Idaho
B Heat – 1. Jonathan Davis, Emmett; 2. Casey Tillman; 3. Mark Cirelli Jr., Nampa; 4. Shelby Stroebel; 5. Sara Henry, Nampa
C Heat – 1. Chase Gilbertson, Boise; 2. Rod Stiller, Meridian; 3. Aubree Wartman, Boise; 4. Steve Thimsen, Boise; 5. Jimmy Ingham, Meridian
D Heat – 1. Andrew Clark, Boise; 2. Don “Rabbit” Gist, Hermiston, Ore.; 3. Brent Collins, Boise; 4. Jenna Cullum, Meridian; 5. Chance Davis, Emmett
Domino’s Pizza Legends – Zubizareta, 15.033 (track record; previous: 15.047, Travis Anderson, Boise, Idaho, Sept. 11, 2010)
ASA Modifieds – Shelby Stroebel, 14.018 seconds
Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks – Bradford, 14.446
Vintage racers – Hunsiker, 13.307
Street Stocks – Chad Bess, Nampa, Idaho, 15.503