Experience, Survival Keys to TEAM Mazda Free Car Nightadmin
MERIDIAN, Idaho—Competitors fought more than just themselves Saturday as Meridian Speedway hosted TEAM Mazda Subaru Free Car Night and the fourth annual Jeff Russell Road to Recovery race. As the mid-July heat pushed track temperatures above 130 degrees the quarter-mile was ice rink slick as the Mountain Dew Winged Sprintcars, Meridian Speedway Modifieds, Project Filter Pro-4s, TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks, College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Program Street Stocks, and rookie Tates Rents Hornets battled for short track supremacy.
“The track’s so hot it just melts the tires after two, three laps,” said Meridian Speedway Modified driver Rodney Houpt.
Among the early evening casualties of the slick track was multi-time track champion Marv Weaver, who backed his Marv’s Tire Service Camaro into the wall during the College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Program Street Stock fast heat race. Also finding the Concrete Jungle challenging were TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stock competitors Jamie Leslie, Drew Crenshaw, and Jason Sanders, who came to grief in turn one when Leslie’s racer broke loose and tagged Crenshaw’s Discount Tire machine, who slid into Sanders. All driver were okay after the accident, but only Sanders would not retire for the evening.
Treacherous conditions weren’t confined to the racing surface, however, as mechanical problems plagued a number of crews, from engine problems for Ryan Newman’s Mountain Dew Winged Sprintcar to an oil leak on Mini Stock competitor Keri Ballard and even a violently overheating Street Stock for Melissa Weaver.
It seemed the only hassle-free on-track activity was the awarding of the TEAM Mazda Subaru Free Car, a 2000 Buick LeSabre.
With the early issues sorted main event action roared to life with the CWI Street Stocks contesting 25 laps. Pat Tully used his outside front row starting spot to grab the early lead from Destiny Huber. As Tully pulled to a one second advantage on the field Melissa Weaver worked the high groove and took second away from her father Marv on lap four. In two more laps Weaver would pull to the outside of Tully and with a power move in turn three Melissa Weaver took the top spot with seventeen laps remaining. As Weaver’s black and pink 92 car opened a sizeable advantage the battle became for second as Marv Weaver jabbed high and low looking for a way around second place Tully. For twelve laps the pair dueled for second on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard. Tully would fend off Marv’s challenge for second, but it was Melissa Weaver victorious again.
The Project Filter Pro-4s saw seven strong racers take the green flag on a thirty lap main event. On the break Ron Hayes and Larry Hull III raced their way to the point. Just five laps into the race Joe Barton had worked his Tysco Structural Enterprises number 58 to second and Kenny Chandler ran third. With twenty to go Chandler took his Project Filter car to the top shelf and blew past both Barton and leader Hull III in one lap. As Hull III fell out of the race with mechanical issues Ryan Bailey used the twenty-second lap to motor past third place runner Hayes. Though Barton would push his car to run down Chandler, his efforts would be too little too late as Chandler cruised to victory.
The Meridian Speedway Modifieds roared onto the quarter mile for thirty quick laps. Once the green flag dropped Brent Collins worked around Pete Trammell on the high side to take the lead, but it wasn’t long before points leader Rus Ward flew around Collins to take his Boise Spring Works modified to the point five laps into the event. Deeper in the pack Rodney Houpt and Cody Kirkland tangled on the front stretch while racing for fourth. Fast qualifier Dennis Wurtz II was a bit slower to work through lapped traffic, but by lap six he found himself second behind Ward. That second place run went up in smoke just two laps later as an engine failure ended Wurtz’ night early.
Once the speedy dry cleared four cars remained to battle for the final 22 laps. Ward resumed his post up front while Collins and Houpt gave chase. Houpt’s car would succumb to a slowly flattening right rear tire, and the Nampa, Idaho driver would have to settle for third. It was up to Collins to track down leader Ward, but Collins was overmatched and Ward claimed the checkered flag.
Mountain Dew Winged Sprintcars saw 25 thunderous laps of action as the shadows grew long across the front straightaway. Colton Nelson outdueled Justin Segura in turn three to take the point, but it was Bryan Warf on the attack, charging around the high side of second place Segura on lap five and repeating the high side hijinks a mere five laps later. Once Warf’s Dave’s Quick Lube-sponsored racer got to clean air he was able to run away and hide, pulling to a four second advantage with five laps remaining over second place Nelson. That gap would only grow as Warf dominated another Meridian Speedway main event.
Eighteen TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks rolled onto the racetrack for a 35 lap brawl. On the start Rick Brees used a daring three-wide move to overtake Alex Duda and Casey LeBold for the lead. Surprise quick-time Travis Pavlacky was mired in traffic when he and first-time Mini Stock driver Casey Tillman came together in turn one. While the damage was relatively minor Tillman still took the time to display his displeasure under caution as he planted a row of donuts down Pavlacky’s passenger’s side door.
With 27 laps to go the field went back green. This time Brees would get turned around in turn four. Pavlacky would find himself turned around again on the front stretch. Once the smoke cleared Duda found himself in the lead, with Mary Johnson second and Donavon Parker third. Sanders, repaired car and all, ran fourth. Duda’s lead would be short lived as Johnson jumped around the high side and took the lead, bringing Parker and Sanders with her. With fifteen laps down Tillman had battled into the top five, looking to put as much space between himself and Pavlacky as possible. The twenty lap mark saw Tillman use lapped traffic to overtake Sanders for third. But a late caution would bunch the field one more time for a twelve lap shootout.
With Johnson, Parker, Tillman, and Sanders making up the top four something had to give, and once the green flag fell it was Parker who was unable to move around the high side of Johnson. Tillman used the opportunity to work his way under both Parker and Johnson, and he would succeed, taking the point with just nine circuits remaining. Now it was Sanders on the move, jabbing to the low side of Johnson. But another caution would give Johnson, Sanders, and Parker another shot at the win. Johnson immediately went to the high line, but there was nothing doing there. Sanders took the open low line to work around Johnson. As Tillman’s Boise Trader.com Mustang checked out in the final two laps Parker went to work on Sanders, but Sanders was able to fend off the charge, taking second.
“It was a handful after I got hit,” said Tillman. “But I wasn’t going to give up that easy.”
The rookies of the Tates Rents Hornets division contested a 35 lap main event to close the evening’s festivities. Kenny Piatt led the first five laps, but would surrender the lead to Mitch Parker on lap six. Piatt wouldn’t let Parker get away, and as the laps ticked away it was a two car battle for first. Piatt would bide his time until the ten to go mark, when he used a three wide, inside shot to take over the lead. Three laps later Piatt would try another three wide pass for first, but this time lapped car Linda Everett shut the door on Piatt, handing the lead back to Parker. A late caution would bunch the pair back up, but again it was Parker pulling to the point and driving all the way to Arctic Circle Victory Lane.
Next Saturday, July 19, Meridian Speedway will play host to another hot night of action as the Domino’s Pizza Legends return to the quarter mile on Boys and Girls Club Night. Also chasing the checkers will be the Budweiser Modifieds and Coors Super Stocks, TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks, the College of Western Idaho Transportation Program High School Tuners, Junior Stingers and Thunderdogs. Kids, make sure to get to Meridian Speedway early and sign up for the IDADIV Credit Union Penny Gold Rush. Gates open at 4 p.m. on Saturday, with racing set to begin at 6:30 p.m. General admission to watch these seven divisions do battle is $10.25. Remember to text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 for special information, and log onto www.meridianspeedway.com for more information.
As always this week’s action was a Contingency Connection event. Each week Contingency Connection offers nearly $2000 in awards from NATIONAL manufacturers. For more information on Contingency Connection, see Meridian Speedway officials.