by Jon Brown, TWIN FALLS, Idaho – A decade of pent-up excitement let loose Saturday night as the ASA-sanctioned Canadian-American Western Winged Sprintcar Series blew through Magic Valley Speedway.
The WWS became the first winged sprint tour to visit the 1/3rd-mile oval since about 2003, and the fans were all too happy to come out for the show.
“Those cars were just fast, fast, fast,” track promoter and former NASCAR Southwest Tour champion Eddy McKean said.
After a sluggish start, Sierra Jackson and her crew hit the reset button and found the formula to capture the checkered flag in the season opener, which also stood as a points race for ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway’s Mtn. Dew Winged Sprintcars.
The reigning ASA-sanctioned Canadian-American Western Winged Sprintcars Series champ went wire-to-wire Saturday night to win the season-opening 50-lap feature.
“We started over and it worked,” Jackson said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
The Middleton, Idaho racer started on the outside of the front row after scuffling through the early stages of the day at Magic Valley Speedway.
Jackson said her crew had to re-block the car and adjust shocks prior to the main event, which kicked off the second annual Northwest Sprintcar Asphalt Speedweek.
Speedweek continues Monday night with the 50-lap Memorial Day Classic at Rocky Mountain Raceways in West Valley City, Utah. About 20 sprintcars from Canada, California, Oregon, Utah and Idaho are expected to make the field.
Jackson felt pressure from A Dash winner Jeff Montgomery of Langford, British Columbia, but the Canadian felt just as much pressure from third-place racer Johnny Giesler of Meridian, Idaho when the top three sprintcars drove into slower traffic with four laps to go.
Giesler, who earlier in the night set the series record for Magic Valley with a 12.195-second qualifying lap, drove his Spiers Construction sprintcar form eighth to third in the main event.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit all day,” Giesler said. “The track was a little sticky today, and it looked like everybody was a little loose. That happens sometime.”
Giesler evening nearly ended on Lap 23 when Quesnel, British Columbia driver Ron Larson lost a right rear tire in the middle of turn 3 and 4 and parked his car sideways with a lurch. Giesler was running fifth directly behind Larson at the time of the yellow flag.
It took two restarts before the race got back on pace.
Jackson took the lead for good with 26 laps to go when she drove in front of Murgoitio from the bottom of the track on the backstretch.
Giesler set his sights on Murgoitio, getting slightly squirrely coming out Turn 4 on Lap 26 during his pursuit.
Jackson, Montgomery and Giesler broke away from the field after that.
Pressure from Giesler held Montgomery back as he chased Jackson.
“I knew Johnny was staying with me, too,” Montgomery said. “You’ve got to pick your holes and not leave much open.”
Murgoitio got the checkered flag in the second heat, taking advantage of Ryan Burdett’s bad luck on the final lap.
Burdett’s strong start came to an abrupt end as he led the field on the white-flag lap in the eight-lap heat race. He lost the engine, but quick thinking probably saved the price of buying a new motor.
“I looked down, and I had no oil pressure,” the West Jordan, Utah driver said. “I shut it off before it completely grenaded.”
While Burdett may have saved the engine from fatal damage, the kill switch move gave Murgoitio the momentum he needed to get the victory.
It was a disappointing development after Burdett had pulled away from the field to win the B trophy dash. In the post-race interview, he may have foreshadowed the bad luck.
“It was nice to get the car working finally,” Burdett said. “We were struggling earlier in the day.”
Ron Larson made the long, long tow from Quesnel, British Columbia picked up his second checkered flag of the night in one of the eight-lap heat races. His words after picking up the hardware turned out to be ominous.
The Canadian put on a dominating performance, leading the field by a half-second.
Roseburg, Ore.’s Andy Alberding worked his way from the back row to finish second. He battled with Meridian, Idaho’s Bryan Warf midway through the race, eventually overtaking him for third place with three laps to go.
Alberding then passed Richie Larson of Prince George, British Columbia on the final lap for second place.
Jeff Montgomery, part of a strong contingent of Canadians who came south to fly with the Western Winged Sprints, held off countryman Matt Mansell through the four-lap A Dash.
“It felt good,” the Langford, British Columbia racer said of picking up the checkered flag. “Matt was kinda freaking moe out a little bit.”
Both Montgomery and Victoria, British Columbia’s Mansell went sideways in the turns while they battled hard on the front row. Mansell eventually broke traction and ran through the infield in Turn 1 on the white flag lap.
West Jordan, Utah driver Ryan Burdett pulled away from the field to win the B dash and pick up the first checkered flag of the WWS season.
There were two other Canadians in Burdett’s dash – Ron Larson and Richie Larson of Prince George, British Columbia.
Canadian-American Western Winged Sprintcars Series
Magic Valley Speedway
Twin Falls, Idaho
Main event (50 laps) – 1. Sierra Jackson, Middleton, Idaho; 2. Jeff Montgomery, Langford, British Columbia; 3. Johnny Giesler, Meridian, Idaho; 4. Mike Murgoitio, Meridian; 5. Bryan Warf, Meridian
(Four laps each)
A Dash – 1. Montgomery; 2. Johnny Giesler, Meridian, Idaho; 3. Matt Mansell, Victoria, British Columbia; 4. Andy Alberding, Roseburg, Ore.
B Dash – 1. Ryan Burdett, West Jordan, Utah; 2. Jackson; 3. Ron Larson, Quesnel, British Columbia; 4. Richie Larson, Prince George, British Columbia
(Eight laps each)
Heat No. 1 – 1. Murgoitio; 2. Burdett; 3. Giesler; 4. Jackson; 5. Mansell
Heat No. 2 – 1. Ron Larson; 2. Alberding; 3. Richie Larson; 4. Warf; 5. Montgomery
Giesler, 12.195 seconds (98.303 mph)
Note — Western Winged Sprints track record