Fenton Bell Duel for NAPA Big 5 Latemodel Opener

Fenton Bell Duel for NAPA Big 5 Latemodel Opener

Meridian Speedway’s grandstands were packed Saturday, April 29, for the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodel Season Opener. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds, College of Western Idaho Super Stocks, TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks, and TATES Rents Hornets filled Saturday nights schedule with intense racing action.

The College of Western Idaho Super Stocks kicked off Ladies Night main event action with a thirty lap dash to the checkers. On the green Meridian, Idaho’s Ben Crow battled past Ron Hayes to lead lap one.  Crow was anything but safe up front as Caldwell, Idaho racer Daniel Johnson applied heavy pressure throughout the race’s first third in his Darlene’s Printing, Dillon Toyota Lift car.  With twenty circuits left Melissa Arte fought her way clear of the pack and drove her Marv’s Tire Service, Dillon Performance Engines machine to Johnson’s rear bumper.

Arte first tried the high line to get past Johnson, but Johnson wheeled his racer hard to maintain the runner up spot. With laps winding down Arte found an opening and flew past Johnson in the outside groove and set her sights on Crow’s Caldwell Transport, Emerald Transport car.  Arte chopped into Crow’s two second lead over the race’s final circuits, but the battle with Johnson had taken too much out of her machine and she was forced to settle for second place.

“Three different winners in three races this year in Super Stocks? This year’s going to be fun,” Crow said.

A baker’s dozen of TATES Rents Hornets took the green flag for their 25 lap feature. Caldwell, Idaho driver Bill Malone muscled his way to the lap one lead with Nampa, Idaho’s James Pahl in hot pursuit.  An early caution brought Pahl to Malone’s outside and the young driver took the top spot on lap two.  First to challenge Pahl’s Raceway Video machine was Bill Allen, who knifed his way through the pack and pulled to the leader’s inside on lap five.  Allen completed the pass on lap six and drove his Fast Eddy’s, Disaster Kleenup racer away from the field.

Next to emerge from the scrum was Star, Idaho’s Andrew Harbeston, who wheeled his machine hard to make up for his back of the pack starting spot. With ten laps left Harbeston passed Pahl for second and went to work catching Allen.  With three laps on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard Harbeston caught Allen and blasted past the leader to take the top spot and the win.

“It’s just ridiculous to get this win,” Harbeston said. “I’m so excited.”

Thirteen NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds rumbled to green for their forty lap feature. Kuna, Idaho’ Jerry Green used the outside line to take the first lap lead, but Randy Keckley was quick to mount a challenge and the Boise, Idaho driver put his Pegasus Transport, Curtis Clean Sweep modified in the top spot on lap two.  The revolving door up front continued to spin as Caitlin Stroebel and Colton Nelson pulled to Keckley’s rear bumper on lap six before the pair dispatched him on lap seven.  As the fight between Stroebel and Nelson heated up, the two front runners made contact.  The ensuing scramble sent Larry Hull III and Josh Jackson hard into the front stretch concrete.  Both drivers climbed from their machines okay, but were forced to retire from the event.

On the restart Nelson pulled his Integrity Pools, Julie Hart Home Loans by Premier Mortgage machine to Stroebel’s outside and rocketed to the top spot. This left Stroebel’s Trinity Construction, Clear Creek Station modified in the clutches of Dylan Caldwell, who also worked the high line to make his way past the lady racer.  Now Caldwell turned his Motor Mayhem Chassis Dyno Tuning, Cyclone Cycles machine loose on Nelson.  Caldwell chipped into Nelson’s advantage as the leader encountered lapped traffic, but as soon as Nelson found clean racetrack he opened a sizeable lead and sped to his first victory of the season.

“It feels good to take our first NASCAR modified win of the year,” Nelson said.

A full field of TEAM Mazda Mini Stocks crowded the quarter-mile for their 35 lap feature. Payette, Idaho’s Travis Pavlacky overpowered Melba, Idaho driver Billy Shipp to lead lap one, but Mike Davis tore his way out of the pack and took the lead on lap two.  Next past Pavlacky were Ian Michael, Jason Sanders, and Terrell Daffron, who in turn used an early caution to swarm Davis’ Bigelow Tea, DBI Speedshop racer on the restart.

The green flag waved and Davis pedaled hard to stay out front, but Michael kept up on the high side as the top four ran a flurry of high speed pace laps. Behind the battle Ray Bolinger pulled into the fray to make it a five car battle for the top spot.  The only thing that could break the pack up was lapped traffic, and with twenty laps to go the leaders caught a gaggle of slower cars.

Daffron forced his way through the middle of the fray and jumped from fourth to second in the exchange. With fifteen laps left Daffron put his Gilmore Meats, Select Properties of Weiser machine inside Davis’ mount and moved into the lead.  A late restart allowed Davis to jump back into the top spot, but the Boise, Idaho racer couldn’t fend off Daffron, who motored back to the top spot with seven laps left and to the checkers first.

Atlanta, Georgia’s Sal Iovino led a strong contingent of NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels to the green flag of their 100 lap main event. Carrollton, Texas’ Jesse Iwuji got on the gas pedal and blasted past Iovino to lead lap one.  This move came just in time as Iovino and John Newhouse tangled on lap two and pounded the turn one water barrels.  Justin Ellis was also collected in the wreck and all three drivers were forced to retire from the event.

Iwuji led the field to the restart with Craig Bell and Dylan Caldwell on his rear bumper. Bell shot past Iwuji’s Red List Group entry on the restart to take the lead in his Bell Automotive, Precision Framing machine.  Caldwell followed suit to put his Pro Power Clean, Performance Auto machine in second and Meridian, Idaho’s Chris Fenton moved his Fenton Trucking, CF Floor Coverings racer up to third.

Fenton wasn’t content to run third and he forced his way beneath Caldwell to take the runner up spot on lap eight. Fenton wasn’t done there as he roared into Bell’s rearview mirror and went to work on the leader on lap fifteen.

Bell countered each of Fenton’s challenges through the race’s first 28 laps before Fenton pinned the Kuna, Idaho racer behind a lapped car and took the point for himself. Now Bell went on the offensive as he jabbed high and low to get back to the lead.  A caution at lap 41 erased the gap Fenton had built over Bell and bunched the field for a restart.

Bell did his best to surprise Fenton when the green flag waved, but Fenton motored back to the top spot. Try as Fenton might he could not open more than a car length advantage over Bell as the race crossed the halfway point.

A lap sixty restart offered Bell another opportunity for the lead, but Fenton’s mount was too strong and again the Meridian, Idaho racer planted himself in the lead. Bell wheeled his machine hard to keep pace with Fenton, but the strain was too much and a mechanical failure sent Bell to the pit area with 25 laps left.  With the pressure lifted Fenton cruised through the race’s final quarter to claim victory.

“We had a good car all day long,” Fenton said.  “I’m just happy to be back in it.”

Monsters invade Meridian Speedway this Friday and Saturday as the Malicious Monster Truck tour makes a stop at the quarter-mile oval. Friday night, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds join the Malicious Monster Trucks while the TATES Rents Hornets race Saturday.  General admission to each night’s full slate of Malicious Monster Truck action is just $20 for adults, $18.50 for senior citizens and military members, and $6 for children 7-11.  As always, kids 6 and under are free.  Skip the line at the gate and purchase your advance tickets at meridianspeedway.com.  We’ll see you this Friday and Saturday under the big yellow water tower at your NASCAR Home Track, Meridian Speedway.