It was one of the few times the track’s reigning Mtn. Dew Winged Sprints champion saw the tail-end of an opponent’s race car during the division’s opening night on the historic paved quarter-mile.
Murgoitio snagged fast time then grabbed the first main event of the season with a 1.626-second cushion over second-place Johnny Giesler, also of Meridian, in the 35-lap winged sprints nightcap.
Other main event winners Saturday at Meridian included Star, Idaho’s TJ Monroe in the NAPA Late Models; Garden City, Idaho’s Phyl Zubizareta in the 35-lap Domino’s Pizza Legends; 2010 Jr. Stingers track champion Colton Nelson of Meridian in the 30-lap Tates Hornets race; and Bulldocious, driven by James DeMello of Boise, Idaho, in the 20-lap Thunder Dogs.
A seasoned veteran of his hometown track, USAC series in the Midwest and West and the ASA Northwest Sprintcar Association, the 28-year-old Murgoitio served notice that he’s ready to tackle the inaugural season of the Canadian American Western Winged Sprints Series, which opens with the Northwest Asphalt Speedweek on May 26 (Magic Valley Speedway, Twin Falls, Idaho), May 28 (Rocky Mountain Raceways, West Valley City, Utah) and May 30 and June 1-2 back at Meridian Speedway for the mid-week Bob and Tom Naylor Classic and then the two-day 96.1 BOB FM Diamond Cup XXIV to wrap up the week.
On Saturday, Murgoitio ran an 11.738-second fast lap, well off the time need to win the $2,500 10-second bounty, which will be mothballed until Meridian’s next winged sprints show on May 30 for the Naylor Classic. West Jordan, Utah racer Ryan Burdett, who towed to Meridian to get some track time in preparation for the Western Winged Sprints, ran a second-fastest time of 11.859, which was just .001 of a second faster than Meridian’s Johnny Giesler.
By turning the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying, Murgoitio earned the honor of starting from the back of the pack in the Fast Dash. He couldn’t make up enough spots in the six-car, eight-lap sprint and finished third behind winner Bryan Warf, another Meridian driver, and Giesler.
In the Late Models, Monroe ran the fourth-fastest qualifying lap and barely missed the victory in the Fast Dash. He made up for it in the main event, grabbing the victory over Lee Hackney of Meridian. Hackney had finished two-tenths of a second ahead of Monroe in the Fast Dash.
One week after getting his feet wet with a top-five finished in the Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks, Zubizareta returned to the Legends car he drove a year ago Saturday and looked right at home.
He ran the fastest-qualifying lap among the 18 entries on opening night then held off C Heat winner Casey Tillman of Kuna, Idaho to win the feature. Showing that the season will be a competitive one, all but three of the 18 competitors who pulled into the pits in Saturday’s sunshine finished the main event on the lead lap.
A fourth-generation racer (and teenager), Nelson rallied in the Hornets feature to beat former track champion Art Heath of Nampa by a half-second. Nelson ran the second-fastest lap in Saturday’s practice (17.315), but could manage only a fourth-place finish in the six-lap Fast Dash before finding his groove in the feature.
Drivers in the Project Filter Pro-4, Pepsi Sprintcars, B Modifieds and Jr. Stingers divisions get their seasons started Saturday as part of the Project Filter All-Star Challenge on Saturday.
It’s also Military Appreciation Night, so armed forces personnel showing their military ID will get in free.
Regular admission prices apply: $10 for adults, $7.50 for senior citizens, $6 for children ages 7-11 and free for children 6 and younger.
A family pass is available for $30, allowing admittance of two adults and up to four children ages 7-11.
The gates open at 4 p.m. with time trials start at 5 p.m. with racing at 6:30 p.m.
For more information on season tickets, driver profiles and racing action, visit www.meridianspeedway.com. You can reach the race track by phone at (208) 888-2813.
Winged Sprintcar season opener
Saturday’s unofficial results
Mtn. Dew Winged Sprints (35 laps) – 1. Mike Murgoitio, Meridian, Idaho; 2. Johnny Giesler, Meridian; 3. Sara Henry, Nampa, Idaho; 4. Matt Elliott, Meridian; 5. Cody Veenstra, Boise, Idaho
NAPA Late Models (30 laps) – 1. TJ Monroe, Star, Idaho; 2. Lee Hackney, Meridian; 3. Chris Fenton, Meridian; 4. Dylan Caldwell, Nampa; 5. Dan Lowther, Boise
Domino’s Pizza Legends (35 laps) – 1. Phyl Zubizareta, Garden City, Idaho; 2. Casey Tillman, Kuna, Idaho; 3. Johnathan Davis, Emmett, Idaho; 4. Chase Gilbertson, Boise; 5. Mike Cullum, Meridian
Tates Hornets (30 laps) – 1. Colton Nelson, Meridian; 2. Art Heath, Nampa; 3. Cody Garrett, Boise; 4. Lynn Sharp, Nampa; 5. Chuck Youngblood, Meridian
Thunder Dogs winner (20 laps) – Bulldocious (James DeMello, Boise)
Eight laps each
Mtn. Dew Winged Sprints
Fast Dash – 1. Bryan Warf, Meridian; 2. Giesler; 3. Murgoitio; 4. Henry; 5. Veenstra
B Heat – 1. Elliott; 2. Wyatt King, Meridian; 3. Sierra Jackson, Middleton, Idaho; 4. Dick Ingham, Boise; 5. Dave Parrie, Garden City
NAPA Late Models
Fast Dash – 1. Hackney; 2. Monroe; 3. Fenton; 4. Dennis Wurtz II, Boise; 5. Caldwell
B Heat – 1. Lowther; 2. Dave Thomasson, Meridian; 3. Travis Anderson, Boise; 4. Kim Bradford, Boise; 5. Jeff Wilson, Mountain Home, Idaho
Domino’s Pizza Legends
Fast Dash – 1. Jimmy Ingham, Meridian; 2. Gilbertson; 3. Zubizareta; 4. Aly Clark, Kuna; 5. Johnathan Davis
B Heat – 1. Darin Turpen, Nampa; 2. Mike Cullum; 3. Andrew Clark, Kuna; 4. Rod Stiller, Meridian; 5. Caitlin Stroebel, Meridian
C Heat – 1. Tillman; 2. Chance Davis, Emmett; 3. Steve Thimsen, Boise; 4. Charlie Fiscus, Star; 5. Daynna Skiver, Meridian
Six laps each
Fast Dash – 1. Tyler Sharp, Nampa; 2. Lynn Sharp; 3. Dakota Allen, Kuna; 4. Nelson; 5. Garrett
B Heat – 1. Chuck Youngblood; 2. Fred Nagele, Boise; 3. Sharlet Pataro, Mountain Home, Idaho; 4. Art Heath; 5. Alex Duda, Boise
C Heat – 1. Thomas Harrod, Nampa; 2. Stacy Heath, Nampa; 3. Jack Martin, Caldwell, Idaho; 4. AJ Collins, Meridian; 5. Jess Ryska, Meridian
D Heat – 1. Scott Thomas, Garden City; 2. Michael Capps, Meridian; 3. Lisa Bahr, Nampa; 4. Kevin Johnson, Kuna; 5. Nikkie Youngblood, Meridian
Mtn. Dew Winged Sprints – Murgoitio, 11.738 seconds
NAPA Late Models – Caldwell, 13.999
Domino’s Pizza Legends – Zubizareta, 15.466