Familiar Faces Dominate Labor Day Actionadmin
After a stormy start to the Labor Day weekend festivities at Meridian Speedway the skies cleared for Sunday’s Kool Oldies 99.5 Cruise and Drag Night. Joining 65 spectacular classic cars on the quarter mile were the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels, Domino’s Pizza Legends, and the TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks and Outlaw Compacts.
Battle lines in the Domino’s Pizza Legends division were drawn early in the evening as quick-time Casey Tillman played bumper tag with Chase Gilbertson on the final lap of the evening’s opening trophy dash. The pleasantries repeated themselves in the heat race as Gilbertson’s The Kart Shoppe, Major Tire and Hitch machine slid sideways and body-slammed Tillman on the front stretch. The contact sent Tillman to the infield and Gilbertson into the outside wall. Tillman would make the field for the 40 lap main event, while Gilbertson would be done for the evening.
Once the green flag fell on main event action Jamie Hyde moved around the outside of pole sitter Daynna Skiver going into turn three. The two would make contact and spin in the middle of the corner. As the field hit the brakes Steve Thimsen pounded Zach Blume, jumping over Blume’s left rear wheel. Both drivers would continue despite the damage.
The next start was less eventful as Hyde made a clean break past Skiver in turn one for the lead. Aubree Wartman followed Hyde high around Skiver, then pounced herself, taking her Project Filter, Rocky Mountain Renovation legend to the lead on lap three. While Wartman worked on the lead Blume piloted what was left of his North End Chevron, Rib Shack Catering racer to fourth and mid-season winner Caity Miller wheeled her way up to fifth. Now the damage on Blume’s machine started to show, and he fell backward through the filed. Camron Madsen would squeeze his way beneath leader Wartman on lap eleven to take his Sawadee Thai Restaurant, Busted Spur and Welding car to the top spot. But Madsen wasn’t alone as Tillman appeared in second and immediately tested Madsen’s rear bumper with 25 laps to go. Madsen would keep his cool and stick his legend in the low lane, but Tillman powered around the outside of Madsen on lap eighteen. Now in clean air Tillman started to log fast laps while Madsen fell into the clutches of Miller, whose car closed on the point leader until her engine detonated in turn two. Miller would climb from her smoldering car frustrated but unhurt while the Carl’s Cycle Sales Safety Crew extinguished the blaze.
The restart put Madsen inside of Tillman and Wartman beside Blume up front. Again Tillman was too strong on the top side as he fended off a mad challenge from Madsen to claim a car-length advantage off of turn two. With his tires hot from the lead battle Madsen found himself in a battle with Wartman and Blume for second. A late restart would bunch the top four one last time with just six laps to settle their second-to-last battle of the year. This time Tillman chose the low line and Wartman pulled to the outside to challenge the race leader. Tillman’s car was even more formidable on the low side, and he immediately rushed out to a comfortable lead. Madsen would follow Tillman to second while Wartman and Blume slid back to their previous third and fourth position. Blume would dive low in turn one on the final lap to try a pass, but Wartman would hold onto third behind Madsen and race winner Tillman.
After the race Tillman admitted his drive wasn’t as easy as it appeared. “After that red flag the brake pedal was on the floor,” said Tillman of his Tailor Made Upholstery, Affordable Transmission racer. “I started running [the high groove] because I figured it would be safer up by the wall.”
The TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks and Outlaw Compacts had 50 laps to settle the regulars versus visitors dispute. Meridian Speedway regular Mike Anderson raced around outside pole sitter Robbie Hyde to take the early lead while a thick knot of traffic formed around an eighth place battle between Brandon Shira in his Ace Auto Sales, Twin Dolphin car and Rick Brees. Mired in this pack were Larry Hull III and Drew Crenshaw, who desperately tried to bang and shove their way to the front. With five laps down Alex Duda’s Boise Boys Transportation, Big Rig Racing machine pulled low on Anderson for the lead. On lap nine Anderson would spin in turn one, leading to a wild restart. When the green flag flew Hyde’s The Cove of Twin Falls, Finish Line Graphics racer rocketed around Duda for first while behind them Blake Coria and Mike Davis came together on the back stretch for fifth place. Both racers would slide sideways, but continue as the field stacked up behind them. While the hard racing continued in the top five the rest of the field began to string out, which allowed fast qualifier Jason Gotz and his Eighteen Group car out of Portland, Oregon to work through the pack. With twenty laps down Gotz had his racer up to fifth. Two laps later the fight for the lead got ugly as Cade Holland and Hyde got together to bring out a caution. Both drivers were sent to the back of the pack, leaving Davis and Coria up front on the restart.
Hull III would use his All American Tow, Cuddy Mountain Transport car to shove Coria to the point in turn one before he dive bombed Coria’s BC Towing and Recovery entry for the lead in turn three later that lap. Now Gotz made his move to second, bringing Jason Sanders and Donavon Parker with him to the lead pack. Just past halfway Gotz’ fast car gave up and he pulled to the pit area, leaving the usual suspects of Hull III, Sanders, and Parker in a three car breakaway for the lead. With fifteen to go Sanders pulled to Hull III’s rear bumper as the leader worked traffic. With a dozen circuits remaining Sanders would poke a bumper low on Hull III, but the run wouldn’t stick. Sanders wouldn’t be able to make another attempt as Parker turned up the wick on his newly-painted Raceway Video, Superior Satellite machine for second. Parker would claim the runner-up position with six laps left. With three to go Parker was all over Hull III’s bumper, but a pack of lapped traffic would spoil the battle as Hull III was able to blunt Parker’s run and claim the victory.
“This car just doesn’t ever die,” joked Hull III in Arctic Circle Victory Lane.
The NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodel series wrapped up their season with the Labor Day 100 to close out the night’s action. Championship leader Lee Hackney brought a commanding point lead into the evening, but had to be careful after a sub-par qualifying effort saw him take the green in mid pack. On the start Pat Tully surprised Dylan Cladwell to claim the early lead. Behind the leaders Hackney and Dennis Wurtz II, one and two in points, battled for third and Hannah Newhouse tried to fend off a furious charge from Eddy McKean for fifth. On lap five Caldwell would overpower Tully’s Cyclone Cycles, Fenton Trucking car for the top spot and in the exchange third place Hackney would get shuffled up high, but make the most of it as he first fell to fifth, then worked his Walker’s Suspension and Alignment, Westside Body Works car up to the second spot. As Tully fell through the field he trapped Wurtz II behind him. Wurtz II would fall from third to sixth before he was able to wedge his Glen’s Towing, Curtis Clean Sweep car between Newhouse and the wall to take the preferred groove around Tully. Trevor Cristiani was the race’s early mover, working his Fast Lube Plus, Perkins Repair entry quietly to second after just fourteen laps. Two laps later Cristiani would fly around Caldwell for the top spot. Lap nineteen would fell two early contenders as both Hackney and Caldwell experienced mechanical difficulties, bringing out a caution flag. The restart saw Cristiani lead Bryan Warf and Wurtz II to the green. Wurtz II wouldn’t last long as McKean nudged his left rear quarter panel and sent him spinning in turn one. The concrete wasn’t kind to Wurtz II’s racer, buckling the entire nose and forcing the hood to be removed before Wurtz II continued.
Once the green flag came back out Cristiani sprinted to a healthy lead while McKean worked his way back through the latemodel field from last. At the quarter race mark Cristiani’s lead was over one second and his lap times were one tenth of a second faster than his closest competition. The battle for third position heated up now as Newhouse started playing peek-a-boo in Travis Anderson’s rearview mirror. On lap 46 Newhouse would lay a heavy bumper to Anderson’s Block and Head Shop car out of turn two and take third behind Cristiani and Warf. Anderson’s car didn’t respond well to the long green flag run taking place and he would slip backward into the clutches of Mike Marston. Out front the story was Cristiani as he lapped up to fourth place by the halfway point of the race as his car ticked off faster and faster lap times. The only thing that slowed Cristiani was contact between the lapped cars of Wurtz II and Newhouse on the back strait away. Once that skirmish cleared itself Cristiani cruised past the pair and his fast laps picked back up until debris brought out a caution with 25 circuits to go.
The restart would be the last the field saw of Cristiani as again he checked out. But the real battle materialized when Wurtz II tracked down McKean at the back of the pack. As though some casual contact in turns one and two wasn’t enough to show his displeasure Wurtz II buried the nose of his racer in McKean’s left rear corner through all of turns three and four before letting the Twin Falls, Idaho driver go. With the Wurtz II hurdle cleared McKean would work his way to fourth, but no amount of work could outdo Cristiani, who claimed his third NAPA Big 5 Series victory in a row.
“I can’t thank these fans enough,” said Cristiani. “I think we’ve got some big things coming…but right now this is what it’s all about.”
While Cristiani won the final three battles of the season it was Lee Hackney that won the war, claiming the overall NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Series championship for 2014.
With one championship decided Meridian Speedway looks to settle two more title fights next Saturday, September 6, on Domino’s Legends Championship night. Along with the Domino’s Pizza Legends the Pepsi Sprintcars and College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Program Street Stocks also cap their 2014 season Saturday. Appearing alongside these title fights are the Budweiser Modifieds and Coors Super Stocks, Thunderdogs, and the final Kart exhibition of the season. General admission for next Saturday’s championship events is just $10.25 for adults.
As always this weekend’s event was sponsored in part by The Contingency Connection. For more information about The Contingency Connection see Meridian Speedway staff and officials.