Hard Racing Dominates Pepsi Season Opener Saturday


Hard Racing Dominates Pepsi Season Opener Saturday

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Tony Ackerland raced his way to victory in the debut of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds Saturday. Photo Credit: MS Staff

Meridian Speedway kicked off its 65th season of auto racing in front of a packed house Saturday, April 16 with the Pepsi Season Opener.  The NASCAR Whelen All-American Modified Series Modifieds, College of Western Idaho Super Street Stocks, TATES Rents Hornets, Domino’s Legends, Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks, and the Junior Stingers were first to battle the asphalt quarter-mile under the NASCAR Home Tracks banner.

The eleven to fourteen-year-olds of the Junior Stinger division took Meridian Speedway for an eighteen lap main event. Shane Harris used a lightning quick start to take the early lead in his Kim’s Kars, Crossfit 208 machine while DJ Sirani gave chase.  Harris used the low line to perfection for the first half of the race while Sirani kept pace on the outside.  Something had to give, and on lap nine Harris got loose in turn three.  Sirani pounced on the opportunity and stormed around the high side to victory.

The Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks rolled fourteen fast racers to the green flag of their 30 lap main event. Outside pole sitter Garry Hussey suffered a parts failure as the whole field dove into turn one behind him.  Hussey spun down the track and collected Rick Brees before the pair shot into the turn two concrete.  Hussey would affect some quick repairs and return to battle while Brees’ machine was towed from the track.

Trouble at the point continued as both trophy dash winner Mike Vester and Robbie Hyde claimed the lead before they were spun out of the top spot on the next lap. Jason Sanders was next to try the top spot as he powered around Terrell Daffron’s Gilmore Meats, Select Properties racer through turns one and two on the restart.  Behind the lead duo Alex Duda and Mike Davis battled for third and fourth as Hyde worked on Jayson Wardle for the final spot on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard.

With a dozen laps to go a caution flew and the field bunched for the restart. Daffron pedaled his machine in the high line, but Sanders was too strong and pulled back to the lead.  Now Daffron had his mirrors full of Wardle, Vester, and Davis.  With five laps left Wardle made his move and slid his way to second.  In the exchange Daffron spun from third and collected fourth place Vester’s Discount Tire, All Metal Classics machine.  On the final restart Sanders stormed away from the pack while Hyde’s Guppies Hot Rod Garage, M.C. Promotions racer blasted past Wardle on the final lap to take second.

“It was like dodgeball,” Sanders said of the main event. “We just dodged it all and made it good.”

Ten Domino’s Legends zipped to the start of their 30 lap main event. Johnethan Davis took the lead on lap one in a GCAT Towing car rebuilt after a hard heat race wreck.  A cut tire on lap two would force Davis to the back of the pack as the streak of leader misfortunes continued.

Darin Turpen was next to hazard the top spot, but lost the lead on lap five to quick-qualifier Aubree Wartman. Hot on Wartman’s heels was 2015 Domino’s Legend champion Casey Tillman, who began to eat into Wartman’s lead at an alarming rate.  Wartman used lapped traffic to stymie Tillman’s charge.  This plan worked until a caution came out with four circuits remaining, which allowed Tillman to pull beside the leader and prepare for one last ditch effort for the win.

On the restart Tillman rocketed around the high groove, but Wartman dug hard on the inside and held off the charge. Tillman tried to slingshot past Wartman again with three laps left, but he didn’t have enough for Wartman, who took home the trophy.

“It was a great battle at the end,” Wartman said in Caleb’s Chop Shot victory lane. “Casey and I have been back and forth all day.”

A full field of fifteen TATES Rents Hornets crowded the quarter-mile to contest a 25 lap main event as darkness fell over Meridian Speedway. Monica Heath found the gas pedal first and piloted her PBT Auto Sales racer to the lead on lap one.  Trenton Barrington overtook Heath on lap six and set sail to a comfortable lead in his Alic Motors entry.  Further back in the pack Michael Capps, Bill Allen, and Charlie Atkinson battled door-to-door for the remaining spots on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard.  A caution with eight laps to go brought the leaders together for a shootout to the checkers.

On the restart Barrington resumed the lead while Allen worked the low side of Capps’ Boise Bath and Kitchen Company, Subline Electric car. Capps got the best of that battle and drug Atkinson past Allen as well.  A restart with three laps to go saw Barrington get turned from the top spot.  Capps was the beneficiary and slithered his way to the lead and the win.

The College of Western Idaho Super Street Stocks charged to the start of their twenty lap main event.  Pat Young got his Bell’s Automotive car hooked up and sprinted to the early lead, but it took Melissa Weaver-Arte just two laps to storm her way to the point.  Young fought back on the high side, but weaver-Arte’s Marv’s Tire Service, Dillon Auto Craft Performance Engines machine was too strong in the low line.  Gale Carter raced his way inside Young for second on lap five, but again Young put the pedal to the metal and kept pace.  With ten laps left Carter cleared Young and set to work tracking down Weaver-Arte in his Shake N’ Bake Racing, Associated Pacific Movers machine.  This left Young in the clutches of Todd Seaver.

The handle on Young’s car soured in the last ten laps as he came under heavy attack from Seaver’s Lucas Oil, Loan Mart entry. Only a lurid slide from the fourth-place challenger allowed Young some breathing room.  But, with two to go, Seaver was back again.  Coming to the white flag Young and Seaver made contact.  Young slid sideways down the front stretch but somehow gathered his car in the turn one grass.  Seaver raced away to third place while Young salvaged a fifth place finish behind Ben Crow.  At the head of the class was Weaver-Arte, followed by Carter.

“It got a little rough at the end and I hate that,” Seaver said. “But everybody’s got to have a lane to race in.”

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds packed thirteen strong racecars into the concrete jungle for a 50 lap feature. On the green Rodney Houpt used the high line to take his Boise Spring Works, Ward Racing machine to the first lap lead.  Houpt’s first challenge came from Dylan Caldwell, who dove his Roadrunner Glass Co., Redline Recreational Toys machine to the inside line and took the lead on lap six.  Tony Ackerland followed Caldwell past Houpt and immediately set to work on making the lead his own.  On lap ten Ackerland picked Caldwell off on a lapped car and claimed the top spot.

Caldwell shot back around Ackerland on a lap twelve restart to retake the lead. Ackerland settled into second while Colton Nelson fought his way to third.  Rus Ward found himself fourth and young Jordan Kirkland rounded out the top five with thirty laps to go.

Ward decided it was time to go and he stormed his way around the outside of Ackerland to take second before going to work on Caldwell in the low line. This move backfired as Ackerland roared past Ward’s A-1 Heating and Air Conditioning, Boise Metal Works machine in the high line eight laps later.

With twenty circuits to go Ackerland snuck his modified to the outside of Caldwell and motored to the top spot. Behind Ackerland a hornet’s nest of angry racecars formed with Nelson, Larry Hull III, Stafford Smith, and Ward all battling for third.  Hull III and Nelson tangled for third with thirteen laps to go.  Nelson got the better end of the contact which left Hull III in the clutches of Smith for fourth place.  This battle went south with eleven laps remaining when contact sent both drivers around in turn four.

Ackerland led the field to the restart while Caldwell clawed to maintain the second position over Nelson. Behind Caldwell and Nelson, Kirkland worked his Simple Harvest modified around Ward on the final lap.  Smith tried to duplicate this move in turn three, but contact sent both he and Ward around coming to the checkered flag.  Up front it was Ackerland who claimed the first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified victory.

“This class is going to be super competitive this year,” Ackerland said.

The short-track thrills continue next Saturday, April 23 with the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodel Opener. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds, Project Filter Pro-4s, Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks, Teleperformance Claimer Stocks, and College of Western Idaho High School Tuners round out another full night of racing action.  Plus, don’t miss the first of four Commercial Tire Bike Races 4 Kids.  Tickets for Saturday night’s action are just $10.25.  Advance tickets are available on meridianspeedway.com.  Be sure to ‘Like’ us on Facebook and text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 for exclusive updates.  We’ll see you next Saturday under the big yellow water tower at Meridian Speedway, your NASCAR Home Track.