by Jon Brown, MERIDIAN — He’s leading the nation, he’s dominating ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway, and generally no one seems to be able to catch Shelby Stroebel.
But the ASA Member Track National Championship leader and Meridian’s reigning ASA Modifieds division king seems to think that someone will dethrone him by the end of the season.
That would his 16-year-old daughter, Caitlin, who registered another top-five finish while her dad was collecting his 12th consecutive win in the division’s second feature of the night Saturday at the historic quarter-mile oval.
Caitlin nosed her racecar behind her father’s car on the final restart of the night with five laps left. But Dad was expecting her to go low and line up side-by-side after Rus Ward and Jentry Pisca tangled in the middle of turns 1 and 2 to bring out the race’s second yellow.
“I was actually really excited about that. I looked at the board and knew what would happen with Rus and Jentry going to the back,” Shelby said. “She was still up there, and that was great. I was hoping she’d follow Tony (Flores, who drives another Stroebel machine) around on the restart, and she did.
“She was in second place (on the restart), and by the end of the year maybe she’ll beat me.”
Beating Stroebel would be a feat for anyone, let alone a family member. But he’s not thinking about the national championship that he continues to chase midway through the season.
“We’ve done our homework on this car and on Caitlin’s car, too,” Stroebel said. “If we get bumped out of the national championship, I think we’ll put her in this car.”
Stroebel dominated the first 40-lap ASA Modifieds main event and is now 10-for-10 in the division this season.
In two main events, the fastest qualifiers also found a way to take the final checkered flags:
Middleton’s Jim Bailey won his second consecutive Project Filter Pro-4s feature.
Jordan Kirkland made his fast qualifying time stand up by winning the 20-lap Jr. Stingers feature.
In other features:
Jasen Skyberg of Boise won the 35-lap race in the return of the SPI Super Sixes tour to the Treasure Valley.
Larry Hull III held off two other competitors in a tight three-way race throughout most of the 40-lap Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks.
In the first ASA Modified race, Stroebel proved he owns the Meridian Speedway pavement.
On a muggy day that wreaked havoc with preparation, the track’s division leader wheeled his ASA Modified racecar from the dead-last No. 9 position to fifth place on the first lap.
By Lap 2, he had worked up to third place.
Six laps after the first green flag dropped, the reigning Meridian Speedway division champion was out front and pulling away toward his 11th consecutive main event victory.
Stroebel is 10-for-10 in 2012 ASA Modifieds main events, and he said with Saturday’s triple-digit temperatures, the condition of the asphalt wasn’t easy to peg in the early feature.
“It’s not as good as I like … I think we all struggle reading the track when it’s like this,” Stroebel said. “I think it’s actually a tight track, and we think it’s loose.”
Another driver who had the track figured out early was Stroebel’s daughter, Caitlin. On the heels of the first top-five finish of her Modifieds career, the 16-year-old took a page out of Dad’s book and drove in the track’s high groove to lead the race off the restart. She outran Tony Flores to the front after Randy Keckley’s spin triggered the race’s only yellow flag.
Father and daughter ran side-by-side for a few laps before Shelby claimed control and checked out.
Shelby Stroebel went on to lap every car except second-place Josh Jackson of Payette and Rus Ward of Meridian. He still held nearly a half-lap margin of victory over Jackson.
Bailey continued to rebound from a disappointing early season, winning a drag race on a restart with Jordan Fitch of Meridian with 23 laps to go. Chet Thorson spun out on the backstretch to bring out the only caution flag of the race.
“We’ve got a pretty good car again tonight,” Bailey said. “It’s awesome to struggle so much and then get two in a row. The car has just been awesome and the pit crew has been great.”
Skyberg won a three-car duel for domination in the SPI Super Sixes main event. He rode around the high groove of the track alongside race leader Bruce Giglogily of Nampa for several laps with Kuna’s Bob Bachman lurking in third place.
Sixteen laps after the three-car breakaway began, Skyberg finally broke through and pulled out to a two-second lead. Giglogily, meanwhile, was able to hold off Bachman to snag the runner-up spot.
“It took me a while to get around Bruce,” Skyberg said.
Skyberg, who also won the A Heat, cruised to an easy victory. He had a three-second margin over Giglogily and lapped six of the 10 cars that started the main event.
In the Mini Stocks, Hull and Jason Sanders of Caldwell hooked up in a battle throughout the main event. Midway through the 40-lap feature, the two racers drove past Meridian’s Colton Nelson to take control of the action.
Nelson had assumed the lead on a restart when then-race leader Donovan Parker of Garden City had to go to the pits before the race resumed after Nampa’s Art Heath lost a tire and smashed into the Turn 2 wall with 24 laps remaining.
Parker hadn’t had the lead very long. He went to the front on a cone restart after a gigantic Turn 4 wreck with 25 laps to go. Steve Keuter of Boise wound up on the Turn 4 wall in the melee, which cut the field from 26 cars to 14.
Hull benefitted from green-flag racing for the final 18 laps, even though Sanders and Meridian’s Ray Bolinger were breathing down his neck. The three drivers were five seconds ahead of the field, but neither Sanders nor Bolinger could get a run through lapped traffic to overtake Hull.
“It wouldn’t really be any fun if we didn’t have anybody on the back bumper,” Hull said.
In the Jr. Stingers main event, Kirkland used the high side of the track to seize control of the race in the final eight laps.
With eight laps to go, Kirkland roared past Nampa’s Kendra Occhipinti to grab the lead. He rolled out to a five car-length lead with six laps remaining and was out by half a straight-away two laps later.
But Kirkland would have to show off his power one last time after a second caution flag came out after Kuna’s Dakota Wurtz took a hard shot to the driver’s-side door when she spun and Erin Huddleston of Meridian had nowhere to go in the apex of turns 1 and 2.
The SPI Super Sixes touring class made its second Meridian appearance of the season.
Boise’s Jasen Skyberg won the A Heat, making a pass on the low side of Eagle’s Kevin Chipman in Turn 1 on the final circuit of the eight lap race. Behind Skyberg and Chipman, Boise’s Dean Waltman finished third after crashing hard with Kuna’s Bob Bachman (his son-in-law) when crossing the start-finish line. The impact sheared the rear cone off Waltman’s open-wheel racecar and prevented him from running in the main event.
Saturday is the Street Stock Showdown and $20 Car Load Night. In addition to the Street Stocks, divisions racing will include NAPA Late Models, Pepsi Sprintcars, Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks and Thunder Dogs.
See www.meridianspeedway.com for details on the $20 Car Load Night deal.
The track also will be opened for a portion of the Northwest Motorfest’s Main Street Cruise part of the 400 classic cars expected to cruise Main Street in Meridian will tour the quarter-mile oval.
Spectator gates open at 4 p.m. with qualifying at 5 p.m. and racing at 6:30 p.m.
For more information about the races or to buy tickets, visit www.meridianspeedway.com or call (208) 888-2813 .
Boys and Girls Club Night
Saturday’s unofficial results
ASA Modifieds No. 1 (40 laps) – 1. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian; 2. Josh Jackson, Payette; 3. Rus Ward, Meridian; 4. Jentry Pisca, Nampa; 5. Travis Pavlacky, Fruitland
ASA Modifieds No. 2 (40 laps) – 1. Stroebel; 2. Ward; 3. Pisca; 4. Caitlin Stroebel, Meridian; 5. Tony Flores
SPI Super Sixes (35 laps) – 1. Jasen Skyberg, Boise; 2. Bruce Giglogily, Nampa; 3. Bob Bachman, Kuna; 4. Kevin Chipman, Eagle; 5. Andy Graybeal, Emmett
Project Filter Pro-4s (35 laps) – 1. Jim Bailey, Middleton; 2. Jordan Fitch, Meridian; 3. Phil Dugan, Meridian; 4. Joe Barton, Nampa; 5. Kenny Chandler Jr., Boise
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks (40 laps) – 1. Larry Hull III, Boise; 2. Jason Sanders, Caldwell; 3. Ray Bolinger, Meridian; 4. Colton Nelson, Meridian; 5. Jayson Wardle, Boise
Jr. Stingers (20 laps) – 1. Jordan Kirkland, Boise; 2. Hunter Gates, Nampa; 3. Peter Woog, Meridian; 4. Jordan Harris, Nampa; 5. Kendra Occhipinti, Nampa
(Eight laps each)
Project Filter Pro-4s
Fast Dash – 1. Kenny Chandler Jr., Boise; 2. Joe Barton, Nampa; 3. Jim Bailey, Middleton; 4. DJ Lyons, Nampa; 5. Chet Thorson, Nampa
B Heat – 1. Phil Dugan, Meridian; 2. Jordan Fitch, Meridian; 3. Terry Sherman, Boise; 4. Rob Bean, Kuna
SPI Super Sixes
A Heat – 1. Jasen Skyberg; 2. Chipman; 3. Dean Waltman, Boise; 4. Bob Bachman; 5. Dean Bachman
B Heat – 1. Pat Young, Kuna; 2. Giglogily; 3. Graybeal; 4. Dave Skyberg, Boise; 5. Steve Howell, Boise
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks
A Heat – 1. Jonathan Hull, Boise; 2. Donovan Johns, Meridian; 3. Chad Barker, Kuna; 4. Sarah Shaw, Boise; 5. Bolinger
B Heat – 1. Mary Johnson, Meridian; 2. Donovan Parker, Garden City; 3. Brandon Shira, Boise; 4. Nelson; 5. Robbie Hyde, Twin Falls
C Heat – 1. Duane Gerber, Boise; 2. John Ellsworth, Kuna; 3. Pavlacky; 4. Art Heath, Nampa; 5. Nathan Dearing, Boise
D Heat – 1. Mike Davis, Boise; 2. Wardle; 3. Everett Meeks, Garden City; 4. George Gorton, Meridian; 5. David Edwards Jr., Nampa
(Six laps each)
A Heat – 1. Riley Rogers, Meridian; 2. Gates; 3. Kirkland; 4. Woog; 5. Daytona Wurtz, Kuna
B Heat – 1. Harris; 2. Eriq Arnold, Star; 3. Occhipinti; 4. CJ Stirm, Nampa; 5. Erin Huddleston, Meridian
ASA Modifieds – Shelby Stroebel, 14.244 seconds
SPI Super Sixes – Bob Bachman, 13.764
Project Filter Pro-4s – Bailey, 14.075
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks – Bolinger, 15.243
Jr. Stingers – Kirkland, 17.057