Giesler nudges ahead in WWS title chase as Jackson crashes late at Meridian

Giesler nudges ahead in WWS title chase as Jackson crashes late at Meridian

by Jon Brown, MERIDIAN, Idaho – The seesaw battle took one roll too many Friday night in the Canadian-American Western Winged Sprintcar series at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway.

Johnny Giesler of Meridian, Idaho eased ahead of Sierra Jackson of Middleton, Idaho in the season standings. He trailed Jackson by three points heading into the 40-lap Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic.
When Giesler won the classic and Jackson smashed into the backstretch wall after hitting an oil slick, the Meridian driver moved to the front heading into Saturday’s WWS Pepsi 75 finale.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a fun, fun battle with a lot of good cars,” Giesler said. “I just hope we get this thing working a little bit better.”
Jackson’s crew also will have to work hard to get her racecar back on the track Saturday.
She lost control and wrecked on the last lap when Wyatt King’s engine detonated and spewed oil all over the track.
Jackson was running fourth at the time. Two Meridian drivers – Mike Murgoitio and Bryan Warf – made it past King before the engine blew up. Murgoitio finished second to Giesler and Warf was third.
In other main events:
Kuna, Idaho’s Dennis Wurtz II was the second member of his family to win a feature Friday night, keeping just enough distance between himself and NAPA Late Models series champion Dylan Caldwell of Nampa, Idaho to take the checkered.
Larry Hull III of Boise, Idaho put some space between himself and second-place Ray Bolinger of Meridian, Idaho in the Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks season championship. Hull won the 40-lap feature by two car lengths over Jason Sanders of Caldwell. Bolinger wrecked in the trophy dash and struggled in his backup show the rest of the night.
The Mini Stocks title will be decided Friday during the season finale at the paved quarter-mile.
Kuna’s Daytona Wurtz grabbed the main event victory in the Jr. Stingers, while Riley Rogers of Meridian rallied to claim the season championship in the four-cylinder division for boys and girls ages 11 to 14.
The Western Winged Sprints championship chase isn’t the only tight winged sprints battle brewing at Meridian Speedway as the season enters its final race.
Murgoitio, who is battling Giesler for the local Mtn. Dew Winged Sprints series championship, struggled to pick up points throughout the night despite putting down the fastest qualifying time of the 14 winged sprints entrants.
“We had a great car at the beginning of the day and qualified fast time,” the reigning Mtn. Dew champion said. “We got to run the dash and the heat race (but the car) really doesn’t like the short run.
“It likes a long run to come in. We’re looking forward to that 75-lapper.”
Giesler also is looking forward to Saturday, no doubt. After his fourth series victory – and eight of the season overall – he’s on the cusp of two championships.
He fried his right rear tire during the Elliott Classic as King kept the pressure for most of the race. Giesler shot past King on the first restart after Dick Ingham blew a motor and spin in the dirt in Turn 4. The weekend marked Ingham’s farewell to open-wheel racing as he announced he will retire after 34 seasons of turning left.
Giesler built a big lead, but King reeled his former wingless sprintcar rival back in as the 23V winged sprinter began to mishandle in the turns.
After a while, Giesler regained his dominance as he apparently figured out how to drive the loose racecar or it tightened up for him again.
“I just drove the wheels off this thing, and we were able to get the Tom Elliott Memorial and it means a lot because the family is great,” Giesler said.
Tom’s son, Matt Elliott of Caldwell, Idaho, was able to start the race on the pole because of the draw. Earlier in the night, he picked up two checkered flags in preliminary races.
Dennis Wurtz II bolted to a big lead in the 35-lap NAPA Late Models finale and then cruised as Caldwell raced through the field in a vain attempt to catch the veteran.
Wurtz was thrilled with the victory, but – as was the theme all night long throughout the races – he was thinking family.
“I think her win was better, though,” Wurtz said of his daughter’s Jr. Stingers feature win.
Caldwell celebrated his season championship by climbing the catch fence in Turns 3-4 to salute with the North End Animals.
Caldwell’s championship run included seven feature wins at Meridian Speedway with Scott Walker carrying the crew chief duties.
“Finally, it’s been five or six years in the making, however long we’ve been together,” Caldwell said, reflecting on his teamwork with Walker. “It’s awesome. I’m at a loss for words. I knew we’d win (the championship) for a while, but now that it’s here, I don’t know what to say.”
Caldwell thanked his entire crew after the final feature of the night.
The Mini Stocks drivers ran an uncharacteristically clean race in their second-to-last feature of the year. Hull was out front when the first yellow flag came out 29 laps into the race when Brenden Fries of Boise spun out low in Turn 4.
He kept a comfortable distance in front of Sanders in the latter stages of the race.
Hull entered the night with a 14-point lead over Bolinger. The two drivers will settle the issue Friday night.
Daytona Wurtz had to share the spotlight Friday night after her main event victory at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway.
But the 13-year-old probably didn’t mind that her Jr. Stingers win came on the same night that Riley Rogers took home the season championship.
Wurtz, the daughter of NAPA Late Models racer Dennis Wurtz II of Kuna, Idaho, outlasted 25 laps of all-out racing to get the victory. There were seven caution flags during the longest main event of the season in the division for 11- to 14-year-olds.
Her perseverance didn’t go by without recognition from her peers.
“Daytona, by the way, you did awesome,” Hunter Gates of Nampa, Idaho, told his competitor after finishing second on the night.
Gates also finished second in the championship standings as Riley Rogers, who turned 12 last week, battled back from a mid-race wreck to finish fourth and secure the championship by 22 points.
“It feels great,” the Meridian, Idaho driver said. “I can’t believe I made it through the season all in one piece. We had a couple rough times here and there, but we made it through – all the family.”
Riley is the nephew of Domino’s Pizza Legends driver Mark Cirelli Jr.
Gates entered the championship race 30 points behind Rogers. With 15 laps to go, though, it looked as if Gates might have a chance to catch Rogers when the Meridian racer got caught up in a four-car crash on the backstretch.
Rogers was able to work his way from the back of the pack despite several single-file restarts. He drove past Peter Woog of Meridian on the final lap to wrap up fourth place. He made up three spots over the final 14 laps.
In the second-to-last round of heat races in the WWS season, Matt Elliott of Caldwell, Idaho, made it 2-for-2 on a night when the open-wheel racers paid tribute to his father, Tom, whose memorial sign still graces a Turn 2 billboard at the track.
Elliott picked up his second checkered flag of the night in the second eight-lap heat race. He held off Quesnel, British Columbia’s Ron Larson during the preliminary. Larson was steering hard and dirt-tracking in a hot pursuit of Elliott.
Middleton, Idaho’s Sierra Jackson drove underneath Roseburg, Ore.’s Andy Alberding at the start-finish line to grab third place in an effort to keep pace with Meridian, Idaho’s Johnny Giesler. Giesler and Jackson entered the final weekend tied atop the series championship standings.
Giesler may have nudged ahead of Jackson in the early going Friday when he finished second in the other heat race. Giesler was runner-up to longtime rival Wyatt King of Meridian, who won the race by 2½ seconds.
Giesler was daring throughout the race. He jumped to third place on an early restart that was nullified. Moments later, he rocketed into second place when the green flag dropped again.
During the trophy dashes, Elliott jumped out to the lead and stayed there as Giesler and King traded second and third behind him.
Rick Veenstra took advantage of a battle behind him to cruise to a victory in the other four-lap dash. Ryan Burdett of West Jordan, Utah, and Bryan Warf of Meridian battled for the runner-up position, which helped Veenstra build his advantage.
The weekend continues Saturday with the WWS Pepsi 75, which serves as the championship race for the Western Winged Sprints series.
The sprintcars, which will run the longest race of the year in the Northwest, share the track with the Allen Stroebel Modified Open Show II and Street Stocks.
World Famous Boat Racing with the Thunder Dogs and a fireworks show will cap Saturday’s action.
The gates at Meridian Speedway at 4 p.m., followed by qualifying at 5 p.m. and racing at 6:30 p.m.
Admission is $15 for adults, $12.50 for senior citizens and military personnel with ID, and $11 for children ages 7-11. As always, children 6 and younger get in free.
A family pass costs $46 and allows the admission of a family of two adults and four children (ages 7-11).
For more information on the speedway’s upcoming races, including buying tickets, visit More information is available by calling the track at (208) 888-2813 .
Western Winged Sprints Series information is available at

Meridian Speedway
Canadian-American Western Winged Sprintcars
Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic
Friday’s unofficial results
Main events
Western Winged Sprintcars Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic (40 laps) – 1. Johnny Giesler, Meridian, Idaho; 2. Mike Murgoitio, Meridian; 3. Bryan Warf, Meridian; 4. Andy Alberding, Roseburg, Ore.; 5. Ron Larson, Quesnel, British Columbia
2012 Tom Elliott Sportsman Award winner – Cody Veenstra, Meridian
Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic champions – Bryan Warf, Meridian, 2011; Mike Murgoitio, Meridian, 2010; and Chris Ratterree, Nampa, Idaho, 2009
NAPA Late Models (35 laps) – 1. Dennis Wurtz II, Kuna, Idaho; 2. Dylan Caldwell, Nampa, Idaho; 3. Dan Lowther, Boise, Idaho; 4. Rob Powers, Meridian; 5. Jeff Wilson, Mountain Home, Idaho
NAPA Late Models champion – Caldwell
Jr. Stingers (25 laps) – 1. Daytona Wurtz, Kuna, Idaho; 2. Hunter Gates, Nampa, Idaho; 3. Kendra Occhipinti, Nampa; 4. Riley Rogers, Meridian, Idaho; 5. Peter Woog, Meridian
2012 Jr. Stingers champion – Rogers
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks (40 laps) – 1. Larry Hull III, Boise; 2. Jason Sanders, Caldwell, Idaho; 3. Sarah Shaw, Boise; 4. Donovan Parker, Garden City, Idaho; 5. Colton Nelson, Meridian

Western Winged Sprints trophy dashes
(Four laps each)
A Dash – 1. Cody Veenstra, Meridian; 2. Ryan Burdett, West Jordan, Utah; 3. Bryan Warf, Meridian; 4. Mike Murgoitio, Meridian
B Dash – 1. Matt Elliott, Caldwell, Idaho; 2. Wyatt King, Meridian; 3. Johnny Giesler, Meridian; 4. Ron Larson, Quesnel, British Columbia
Western Winged Sprints heat races
(Eight laps each)
Heat No. 1 – 1. King; 2. Giesler; 3. Sara Henry, Nampa; 4. Warf; 5. Dave Parrie, Boise
Heat No. 2 – 1. Elliott; 2. Larson; 3. Sierra Jackson, Middleton, Idaho; 4. Andy Alberding, Roseburg, Ore.; 5. Murgoitio

Trophy dashes
(Four laps each)
NAPA Late Models – 1. Dennis Wurtz II, Kuna, Idaho; 2. Dylan Caldwell, Nampa, Idaho; 3. Travis Anderson, Boise; 4. Tyler “TJ” Monroe, Meridian
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks – 1. Donovan Parker, Garden City, Idaho; 2. Larry Hull III, Boise; 3. Sarah Shaw, Boise; 4. Ray Bolinger, Meridian
Jr. Stingers – 1. Jordan Kirkland, Boise; 2. Riley Rogers, Meridian; 3. Ali Norton, Kuna; 4. Hunter Gates, Nampa

Heat races
(Eight laps each)
NAPA Late Models
A Heat – 1. Dennis Wurtz; 2. Rob Powers, Meridian; 3. Dan Lowther, Boise; 4. Caldwell; 5. Anderson
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks
A Heat – 1. Jason Sanders, Caldwell, Idaho; 2. Jeff Waldemar, Kuna, Idaho; 3. Larry Hull III; 4. Parker; 5. Shaw
B Heat – 1. Colton Nelson, Meridian; 2. Donovan Johns, Meridian; 3. Jason Lampman, Middleton, Idaho; 4. Mary Johnson, Meridian; 5. Mike Davis, Boise
C Heat – 1. Brendan Fries, Meridian; 2. Jayson Wardle, Boise; 3. Robbie Hyde, Twin Falls, Idaho; 4. Duane Gerber, Boise; 5. Richard Brees, Meridian
D Heat – 1. Everett Meeks, Garden City; 2. Brandon Shira, Boise; 3. Travis Pavlacky, Fruitland, Idaho; 4. George Gorton, Meridian; 5. David Edwards Jr., Nampa
(Six laps each)
Jr. Stingers
A Heat – 1. Daytona Wurtz, Kuna; 2. Kendra Occhipinti, Nampa; 3. Gates; 4. Rogers; 5. Kirkland
B Heat – 1. Peter Woog, Meridian; 2. Tyson Fuss, Kuna; 3. Jordan Harris, Nampa; 4. CJ Stirm, Nampa; 5. Eriq Arnold, Star, Idaho

Fast time
Western Winged Sprints – Murgoitio, 11.488 seconds
NAPA Late Models – Travis Anderson, 14.015
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks – Bolinger, 15.237
Jr. Stingers – Riley Rogers, Meridian, 16.663 (track record; previous – Rogers, 16.765, June 11, 2012)