Close Racing Punctuates Independence Day Double-Header

Close Racing Punctuates Independence Day Double-Header

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Larry Hull III proved practice doesn’t always make perfect Saturday as he claimed victory in the WESCO Sprintcar Shootout in only his second open-wheel appearance. Photo Credit: MS Staff

After an action-packed Independence Day celebration Meridian Speedway capped off its weekend double-header with the second leg of WESCO Sprintcar action.  Also capping a two-day event were the Domino’s Pizza Legends with their second regional qualifying race.  Along with these classes the College of Western Idaho High School Tuners and Thunderdogs also competed for their own Snake River Legends-sponsored trophies.

Racing their way into the A-main event six WESCO Sprintcars battled for two transfer positions.  On the green Thomas Harrod used his front row starting spot to spring to the early lead.  Kyle Burrill held second, but was quickly under attack from Ben Hinkle, who started last after a practice crash.  On lap four Hinkle passed both Harrod and Hinkle to take over the top spot.  Harrod maintained the second transfer position as Burrill regrouped for a run with ten to go.  Burrill jabbed high repeatedly over the last ten laps, but Harrod was able to fend off his challenges and claim a berth in the A-feature along with race winner Hinkle.

“We got a little something for them,” said Hinkle.

The CWI high school tuners took to the racing surface for a 25 lap main event.  The first lap saw last week’s winner Peter Woog work his way from the last row to third before a bonsai three-wide dive into turn one was enough for the young driver to claim the lead.  An early caution for debris would negate Woog’s lead, but he would restart second behind Tayvia Morris.  Woog took the lead back in the first corner as Morris’ car broke loose on the bottom.  Jordan Harris, second place runner in the last event, followed Woog to second, with Riley Rogers, Kendra Occhipinti, and Connor Woog filled the rest of the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard with five circuits down.  Peter Woog’s lead would shrink as he worked traffic on lap seven, and by lap ten Rogers had a fender alongside Harris for second.  With a dozen laps remaining Rogers claimed the second spot and set sail after first.  The fight for the lead would get physical as Rogers door-slammed Woog off of turn two with ten to go.  Two laps later Rogers would take the position cleanly.  But Woog wouldn’t give up as he used the momentum of the high side to keep stride with Rogers.  But once the leaders cleared lapped traffic Rogers’ lead ballooned to over two seconds as he motored to the Arctic Circle victory lane.

The Domino’s Pizza Legends saw twenty Young Lion and Semi-Pro division racers battle for regional qualifier points.  The first of forty laps was led by Greg Cortaberria, whose racecar was last seen upside down in turn four Friday night.  In mid-pack Friday night winner Chase Gilbertson had knifed through half the fast field in three laps.  Lap four saw Tristan Haider and Mark Cirelli Jr. pass Cortaberria for first and second.  As Cortaberria fell he took the top line backward, including local racers Aubree Wartman, Gilbertson, and Caity Miller.  When the caution flew ten laps into the event for a Scott Dawson spin the field tightened back up, and in spite of several three-wide battles the field made it through the next five laps caution free.  Haider would watch his lead evaporate on the fifteenth lap as Alex Ludeman worked the low side for the top spot.  Tim Mangini followed, and immediately put the pressure on.  Zach Blume would pull to third at the halfway mark as Mangini took over the lead in lapped traffic.  Mangini’s lead would grow as Blume worked both sides of Ludeman’s rear bumper to no avail.  With ten to go Gilbertson found himself sixth and in desperate need of help to close the field back up if he wanted to pull the weekend sweep.  That help would come in the form of a Brooke Schimmel spin with four laps remaining.  With just one mile of racing left Mangini led with Haider second, and Gilbertson third.  The restart saw Mangini catch Gilbertson sleeping as he pulled back into the lead.  Gilbertson gave chase, but couldn’t overpower the California driver as Mangini claimed the checkered flag.

“What a heck of a weekend,” said second place Gilbertson.  “I was sleeping on the restart, and [Mangini] put his best one down.

“I can’t believe we won with this thing,” said Mangini of his rebuilt racer.

The WESCO Sprintcar main event saw 22 cars take 35 laps around the quarter mile.  Larry Hull III thundered around the outside of Justin Segura to claim the early lead.  With five laps in the books Casey Tillman had climbed to fourth, and Colton Nelson had hooked up with Ryan Newman to make their way to the front.  With twenty to go the top three were separated by little more than a second and Tillman was working over second place Segura’s rear bumper.  Jasen Skyberg, Friday night’s winner, used some of this contact to sneak his way into the top three.  Skyberg tried Segura low to no avail.  Lap after lap Segura and Skyberg brawled in the corners, and only a caution for Tillman’s blown engine was enough to separate the pair.

The separation wouldn’t last long as on the restart Skyberg went right back to Segura’s rear bumper.  Three laps later Skyberg would finally pull off the pass, leaving Segura in the clutches of B-main event winner Ben Hinkle.  With six to go Skyberg tried passing leader Hull III on the low side, but instead lost ground.  That bobble would be the deciding factor as Hull III, in only his second open-wheel start, picked up the win.

“The car was perfect,” said an ecstatic Hull III.

The Pro and Masters Domino’s Pizza Legends looked to lay down a fast fifty lap main event as day turned to night.  On the start Jason Irwin shot out to an early lead followed by Peyton Saxton and Rick McNeil.  Six laps in Saxton started knocking on Irwin’s rear bumper.  Robert Cayton and Casey Tillman, fresh out of his SPI Super Six sprintcar, battled for third.  As the leaders logged fast laps James Ingham and Duane Swanson put on a spectacular duel for ninth, which eventually saw Swanson win out.  After twenty laps of green flag racing Tillman’s car began to fade, allowing fifth place runner Tony Mangini and sixth place Randy Schaaf to close on him.  At the midpoint of the race leader Irwin had lapped all the way up to tenth place, but was still unable to outpace second place runner Saxton.  The yellow flag would fly when Johnethan Davis went for a spin in turn two.

The restart saw Tillman use cone strategy to challenge Irwin for the lead, but the real action was behind the leaders as Donnie Rebbit got turned in the first corner.  As the pack caught the spinning car Ingham climbed Lloyd Bigler’s left rear tire and flew into the stopped Rebbit.  All drivers would climb from their vehicles okay.  This time Tillman was able to hang with Irwin and Saxton, as he settled third behind the pair.  With twenty to go Cayton jumped below Tillman for the third spot, bringing Manginin and Schaaf with him.  Schaaf would spin from fifth two laps later, setting up an eighteen lap sprint for the win.  The Saxton-Irwin battle picked up right where it left off before the caution with Saxton, whose car was now showing smoke entering the corners, still looking for a way around Irwin.  While Saxton could close through the corner, Irwin was able to power away down the straightaways.  With ten to go Cayton would join the fight for first, but Saxton would ignore the pressure and keep his sights locked on the victory.  With four to go Saxton would make his move, blasting down the inside on Irwin, but it wouldn’t be enough as Irwin battled back on the outside to claim the win.

“That was a heck of a race,” said Saxton.

After a long, hot weekend Meridian Speedway will fire engines again next Saturday, July 12 for TEAM Mazda Subaru Free Car Night and the Jeff Russell Road to Recovery Race.  Racing will include the Mountain Dew Winged Sprintcars, Project Filter Pro-4s, Meridian Speedway Modifieds, TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks, College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Program Street Stocks, and rookies only Tates Rents Hornets.  General Admission for this full night of racing thrills is just $10.25.  Visit for advance tickets and be sure to text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 for special information.

As always this weekend’s action was sponsored by The Contingency Connection, which offers nearly $2000 in awards each week from NATIONAL manufacturers.  See Meridian Speedway officials for more details about Contingency Connection.