Experience, Patience Keys to Hot Saturday Nightadmin
Engines roared as the temperature soared Saturday night as the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels clashed to settle their longest race of the 2015 season, the NAPA Treasure Valley 125. The Pepsi Sprintcars and Idaho Sprintcar and Roadster League Super Sixes, Domino’s Legends, and Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks joined the ground pounding Latemodels on a hot, slick racetrack to battle for their own Connections Credit Union-sponsored trophies. With cockpit temperatures approaching 150 degrees and the track temperature nearing the same mark experience was at a premium in each and every feature race.
The Pepsi Sprintacrs and Idaho Sprintcar and Roadster League Super Sixes joined forces to open main event action. So may open-wheelers packed onto the racetrack that the main event was moved from thirty to forty laps. Aaron McPeak was quick out of the blocks when the green flag flew and the Boise, Idaho racer quickly set to building a comfortable margin. The going was tough for those mired in traffic like Star, Idaho’s Tony Ackerland and Meridian, Idaho racer Riley Rogers as the slick pavement made passing difficult.
One racer that had the hot track figured out was Jasen Skyberg, who broke free of the pack and set the first challenge to McPeak on lap ten. McPeak kept his Pepsi Sprinter out front despite the challenges Skyberg’s ISRL Super Six mounted from the inside line. Also on the move was Rogers, who raced his way into fifth spot on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard just after halfway. Rogers would make it as high as second before he and Thomas Harrod tangled in turn three while they negotiated lapped traffic. Rogers’ sprintcar first hooked wheels with Harrod, then turned around and barrel rolled in turn four. Rogers emerged from his battered Extreme Towing and Recovery machine unscathed.
The final eight laps went green with Skyberg, McPeak, Ackerland, Ryan Newman, and Ryan Wiederich in the top five. On the green Skyberg jumped to the lead and planted himself in the low groove, ready to fend off the hard-charging Pepsi Sprintcars of Ackerland and Newman. Ackerland cut and fidgeted behind Skyberg in an attempt to make a hole for himself on the stickier low side of the racetrack. Skyberg held him off. Finally at the white flag Ackerland jumped outside in turn three and roared around Skyberg to claim victory by 47 one-thousandths of a second.
“This group of guys we race against, they’re tough,” Ackerland said in Arctic Circle Victory Lane. “Jasen, being the competitor that he is, raced me for everything he’s worth.”
Fifteen strong Domino’s Legends rolled onto the speedway next to settle a thirty lap main event. Action started early as Aubree Wartman got turned around mid-pack and collected Delaney Blume. Neither Wartman’s Project Filter, Major Tire and Hitch machine nor Blume’s Idaho Web Printers of Emmett, Northend Chevorn racer would continue. When racing resumed Nampa, Idaho’s Darin Turpen grabbed the lead while deep in the pack Ethan Jones and Peyton Saxton hooked up in the high line and rocketed their way toward the front of the field. By lap five Saxton had ditched Jones for the low line and worked his way up to fourth behind Turpen, Johnethan Davis, and Zach Blume.
Davis and Blume picked the low side of the racetrack and freight-trained past Turpen’s Rocky Mountain Supply, Turpen Motorsports machine. Saxton followed, and was so fast on the inside he blew past both Blume and Davis to take the lead on lap nine. Blume wouldn’t let Las Vegas, Nevada’s Saxton drive away, and immediately dispatched Davis. Blume caught a caution after Erie, Penn. driver Matt Mead spun due to contact at the halfway point and set up a fifteen lap shootout.
On the restart Davis hammered the gas pedal and the Emmett, Idaho driver was able to overtake Saxton in turn one. Saxton got his 3rd Generation Racing machine wound up down the back straightaway and retook the position one lap later. With a dozen circuits to go Blume made a hard dive inside Davis to take second back. Davis had to wash up to the slick second groove and his car yawed sideways in turn four before it collected Randy Beddow and Jones.
Now it was Kuna, Idaho’s Casey Tillman who took a turn at Saxton on the restart. Despite two hard laps from Tillman’s YMC Inc., Identify Sign Work machine, Saxton was again able to race to the lead and stay there to collect another Meridian Speedway victory.
“It was definitely hard from the cockpit,” Saxton said of his race. “This is the best track with the best fans…I love it.”
A dozen Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks took the green flag for a thirty lap feature under the lights Saturday. Jayson Wardle was ready for the green flag and jumped out to the early race lead. Quick qualifiers Travis Pavlacky and Brandon Hild wasted no time in the back of the pack and diced their way through traffic early. On lap five Alex Duda piloted his Boise Boys Transportation, Shave Shop racer around Wardle to take the lead. Duda’s advantage was short lived as just three laps later Pavlacky pulled his pickup to the outside of Duda and shot past to take the top spot. At the race’s halfway point it looked as though Hild was the only competitor capable of matching Pavlacky, but on the same lap Hild raced his Allison Concrete, PCAS Concrete Supply car to second place, he pulled into the pit area with mechanical issues.
The battle for fourth place heated up as Pat McGuire, Wardle, and Jamie Leslie came to automotive blows for the position. McGuire in his Kuna Mountainland Physical Therapy, Ace Auto Salvage motored through the dust up and took the position on his way to a third place finish, behind Duda and the strong racer of Fruitland, Idaho’s Pavlacky.
Sixteen NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels thundered onto the quarter mile to compete for the NAPA Auto Parts Treasure Valley 125 crown. With the sun below the West grandstands and air temperatures cooled to a balmy 100 the green flag waved over the field. Tyler Bailey raced his Project Filter, Tates Rents machine to the front on lap one while two-time defending race winner Trevor Cristiani picked his way forward from the eleventh position in a backup car.
First to challenge Bailey was Dennis Wurtz II, who tried to work his Glen’s Towing, All Makes Auto Salvage racer around the high side of the track. Two-time NAPA Big 5 Latemodel winner Chris Fenton joined this battle to make it a three-way scrum for the top spot. This battle turned ugly as the leaders approached a pair of back markers on lap ten. One of the slower cars jumped into the outside line as the leaders bore down on them in turn three. There wasn’t enough time for everyone to slow down, and Fenton was the one caught out. Fenton spun his Fenton Trucking, CF Flooring machine to avoid contact, but his racer still sustained damage and he was forced to the pit area ten laps later for repairs.
On the restart John Nesmith surprised Wurtz II and motored around the Boise, Idaho driver to take second place. But the man on the move was Cristiani, whose Idaho Gasket car came to life as the track cooled. Pinned to the high groove Cristiani reeled off a series of laps two and three tenths of a second faster than the leader. Resistance was futile as Cristiani took third on lap 25, second on lap 29, and finally dispatched Bailey to take the lead on lap 33.
Cristiani checked out from the field as patience descended over Meridian Speedway until a mechanical failure on Tyler Marston-Henderson’s racer put the young competitor in the front stretch wall. After a lengthy clean up the field bunched back up for a restart with seventy laps to go.
While Wurtz II and Nesmith battled for second Cristiani raced out to another big lead. Twenty laps later Cristiani drew a bead on the back bumper of seventh place runner Justin Ellis. One lap after Cristiani put Ellis’ Neil Alan Fine Jewlery, Sherwin-Williams Paints car one lap down, the Nampa, Idaho racer closed on first-time NAPA Big 5 Latemodel pilot Colton Nelson in turn four. As Cristiani neared Nelson’s car splattered the track with gear oil. Cristiani was able to slide through the puddle and maintain control, but Ellis wasn’t so lucky and ended up in the infield after a smoky pirouette.
Cristiani wasted no time asserting his dominance after this final restart. With twenty circuits remaining he already held a three second lead. With repairs made Fenton rejoined the race to gain valuable division points, but even his fast laps paled in comparison with Cristiani’s. In the end Cristiani claimed the checkered flag by nearly seven seconds over Nesmith and Wurtz II.
“I never thought this would happen in a million years,” a tired Cristiani said in Arctic Circle Victory Lane. “We wrecked our primary car last night and were up until four in the morning getting this one together. It’s pretty special.”
This was Cristiani’s third straight NAPA Auto Parts Treasure Valley 125 win.
The fireworks continue on and off track next Saturday as Meridian Speedway celebrates July 4 in style with the Stinker Stores Firecracker 50 presented by the City of Meridian. The Intermountain Outlaw Modifieds, CT 400 Sprintcars, Project Filter Pro-4s, Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks, Junior Stingers, and Tates Rents Hornets are set to provide the action before the annual fireworks extravaganza lights up the night sky. Admission to a full night of racing and the best seats for Meridian’s premier fireworks show is just $13.25 for adults. Make sure you check meridianspeedway.com for all the latest speedway news and text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 for exclusive updates. We’ll save a seat for you Saturday under the big yellow water tower at Meridian Speedway.