Utah Racer Stuns K&N Pro Series West Field with NAPA Idaho 208 Victory
Thunder rumbled beneath a brilliant blue sky Saturday, September 30, as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West invaded Meridian Speedway for the NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 presented by Perfect Hydration and Lights Out. The Royal Purple Modified Series, Domino’s Legends, and College of Western Idaho High School Tuners joined the rising stars of NASCAR for a rumble under the big yellow water tower in downtown Meridian, Idaho.
The Domino’s Legends kicked off main event action with a fifteen lap championship sprint. On the green Nampa, Idaho’s Darin Turpen and Boise, Idaho’s Brok Kidd raced hard into turn three before contact sent the front row spinning in front of the field. When the smoke cleared Zach Telford, Caity Miller, and Donovan Barr sat in a heap in front of the Big Smoke, Tobacco Connection North End Animals and a caution flag waved.
On the restart Garden Valley, Idaho’s Kyle Davis piloted his CMH, CB Tile machine to the lead with Miller’s damaged Farm Bureau Insurance of Darrin Post, Kustom Fab racer in tow. Miller worked to top groove as she moved to the lead on lap three. But championship leaders Ethan Jones and Casey Tillman were on the move, and they immediately set to work on the lady racer. An early caution brought Meridian, Idaho’s Jones to Miller’s outside, and on lap five Jones sped to the lead.
But Tillman followed Jones forward, and immediately latched onto the leader’s rear bumper. After three laps of set up Tillman drove his Taylor Made Upholstery, YMC legend to the outside, but Jones fought off the advance. Tillman’s next attack came low, but again Jones had the answer. With the white flag in the air Tillman made one last desperate push, and with a blow in turns three and four Tillman bashed Jones out of the way and dashed across the Caleb’s Chop Shop Victory Stripe first.
The victory sealed Tillman’s second straight Domino’s Legends championship.
The College of Western Idaho High School Tuners rolled onto the quarter-mile oval next to settle their 2017 season with a 25 lap main event. On the green Meridian, Idaho’s Rusty Houpt took his Boise Spring Works, Catapult 3 machine to the high line and the top spot, with Nampa, Idaho siblings Kendra and Taylor Occhipinti in tow. Kendra wasted no time as she slid beneath Houpt and took the lead on lap two. Taylor followed to set up an all-Occhipinti battle for the win.
Taylor worked the low side of the race track, but Kendra kept her younger brother at bay through the race’s halfway point. Though Taylor was able to keep his Marv’s Tire Service, Dillon Auto Craft Performance Engines machine on Kendra’s rear bumper, he couldn’t find a way around his sister and Kendra scored the victory in her final College of Western Idaho High School Tuner start.
Though Kendra won the race, it was Taylor Occhipinti who walked away with the College of Western Idaho High School Tuner champion.
The Royal Purple Modified Series brought sixteen of the Northwest’s best modified pilots to bear on Saturday’s 75 lap Allen Stroebel Memorial. The green flag waved and Kuna, Idaho’s Casey Tillman blasted to the lead. Nampa, Idaho’s Jay Cook followed Tillman forward in his Country Repair and 24 Hour Towing, NAPA Auto Parts of Nampa Caldwell machine, while the pack beat and bashed for position. First Nick Gibson and Al Jones tangled in turn one, then Rosalee Weller and Sharlet Wilson got together on the front straightaway to bring out a caution flag. All drivers were able to affect repairs and continue.
Tillman maintained the top spot on the restart with Utah racers Jeff Longman and Zach Webster, and Meridian, Idaho native Shelby Stroebel in tow. Stroebel was first to make his move and he piloted his Trinity Construction, Loanmart modified around the outside to take the lead on lap six. Webster followed suit in his Young Automotive Group, Subway machine and the top two runners began to draw away from the pack. The only thing that could slow the leaders was a yellow flag, and on lap nineteen the caution flag waved to bunch the field.
On the green Webster challenged Stroebel for the top spot on the inside, but the leader held station and pulled to a half-second lead. Stroebel’s lead only grew through the race’s middle third, and by lap forty two Stroebel held a two and a half second advantage. A mid-race restart brought Webster within striking distance, but while the West Jordan, Utah driver applied heavy pressure to the leader, Stroebel weathered the early challenge and pulled to another comfortable lead.
Stroebel clicked off fast lap after fast lap as circuits wound off the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard. With the gap to Webster a stable two seconds and Jentry Pisca a distant third, Stroebel cruised to the checkers.
“I think my dad would be proud to see all of us up here on the front stretch,” Stroebel said of the podium finishers.
Though he did not compete in the series’ final event to focus on his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West efforts, Nampa, Idaho racer Trevor Cristiani claimed the Royal Purple Modified Series championship.
Twenty-one NASCAR K&N Pro Series West competitors rolled onto Meridian Speedway’s quarter-mile asphalt oval Saturday for the third-annual NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 presented by Perfect Hydration and Lights Out. On the green pole sitter Todd Gilliland shot past Trevor Cristiani to lead lap one while Erie, Colorado’s Chris Eggleston went to war with New York, New York racer Julia Landauer and her Sunrise Ford, Braille Batteries Ford for third. Eggleston took the spot in his NAPA Filters Toyota and quickly closed on the lead duo of Cristiani and Gilliland as the leaders hurtled into lapped traffic.
Gilliand slung his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota through the pack while Cristiani and Eggleston lost ground. Soon Sherrils Ford, North Carolina’s Gilliland held a one and a half second gap over Cristiani. Gilliland’s big led was short-lived as a caution on lap 39 bunched the field for a restart.
When the green flag reappeared on lap 51, Gilliland regained the top spot while Cristiani fell into the clutches of Eggleston and Michael Self. After two laps of beating and banging Cristiani’s Pepsi-Cola Chevrolet came to life and he cut into Gilliland’s lead. From one second, to one car length Cristiani stalked the top spot until he caught Gilliland on lap 65.
Cristiani opened the battle with repeated jabs to Gilliland’s inside, but the leader held station. Next, Cristiani moved into the second groove, but Gilliland moved up as well. The cat and mouse game lasted until a caution slowed the field on lap 76.
This time Cristiani had Gilliland’s number, and when the green flag dropped the Ukiah, California driver worked the outside groove to take the lead. For fourteen laps Cristiani fought to hold the lead, but hard racing with Gilliland on lap 99 forced Cristiani into the backstretch wall. Cristiani would pit for repairs, but his shot at the NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 victory was done.
This left the lead to Gilliland, who had Eggleston to his outside and Derek Kraus behind him on the restart. Gilliland employed the lessons from his last two restarts to outduel Eggleston and put his Toyota back in the top spot. As Gilliland marched away from the field, Eggleston found Self and Kraus on his rear bumper, eager to take the runner up spot. Stratford, Wisconsin racer Kraus wanted it more, and he passed Self on lap 121 to take his turn at Eggleston. Kraus wasn’t able to make a move stick before the pair caught lapped traffic, and so the battle raged through the crowd.
As Eggleston and Kraus pushed each other, contact between lapped cars bottled Gilliland up, and brought the runner up fight to the leader’s rear bumper. Eggleston wasted no time as he pinned Gilliland behind lapped traffic and took the lead in his NAPA Filters Toyota. But Gilliland fought back, throwing jab after jab as the pair entered the corners. This battle allowed Kraus to sneak back into the lead fight. Kraus worked over Gilliland to put his Carlyle Tools Toyota in second on lap 149, then closed on Eggleston for the lead three laps later.
Kraus baited Eggleston to block the high line, and when Eggleston obliged on lap 154 Kraus crossed back to the inside and shot to the top spot. But 54 hard laps remained, and lapped traffic was thick as Kraus nudged and body slammed his way through car after car. With a masterful performance through the back markers Kraus built his lead first to two seconds, then three-and-a-half as Eggleston struggled to keep pace in the race’s closing stages. Eggleston’s only hope of catching Kraus was a caution flag, and he would get it on lap 205 to set up a green-white-checkered overtime finish.
The restart came on lap 113 with Eggleston inside of Kraus. The green flag waved and Eggleston jumped to the lead, which dropped Kraus into an absolute melee for second in turn two. When the fenders stopped flying and the smoke cleared Eggleston found himself in the Caleb’s Chop Shop Winner’s Circle ahead of the battered Sinclair Ford of Self and Gilliland.
The final restart was reviewed, and Eggleston was judged to have jumped the start, which dropped the Erie, Colorado race to seventh and handed the victory to Park City, Utah’s Self.
“This is unbelievable,” Self said. “It’s such an honor to get my first win in three or four years here in Meridian.”
The short track action continues this Saturday, October 7, as Meridian Speedway hosts the Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic. The NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels, Interstate Winged Sprintcars, and Project Filter Pro-4s settle their title fights Saturday, while the TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks and TATES Rents Hornets scrap in their penultimate outing. Meridian Speedway’s World Famous Boat Racing caps a full night of entertainment at the quarter-mile oval. General admission to the Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic is just $11 for adults, $8.50 for seniors and military members, and $6.50 for kids age 7-11. Log on to meridianspeedway.com for the latest results and news, and text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 to receive exclusive updates. We’ll see you this Saturday, October 7, for the Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic under the big yellow water tower at your NASCAR Home Track, Meridian Speedway.