Hornets Endure Cool New Test at Meridian Speedwayadmin
Meridian Speedway introduced fans to a new kind of thrills, spills, and especially chills Saturday as the inaugural Polar Bear Icicle New Year’s All Weather 300 took the green flag. Twenty-one brave Tates Rents Hornets competitors took to a partially snow-covered quarter mile.
With temperatures hovering at the freezing point Blake Coria and Lynn Sharp slid their way to the top of the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard. Further back in the pack Charlie Atkinson and Colton Nelson dodged sideways traffic on their way into the top five. At the fifty lap mark Atkinson and Nelson teamed up to pin leader Coria in the snowy high groove to take the lead. Coria’s misfortunes didn’t end there as one lap later he clipped one of the several tractor tires placed around the speedway. The damage was enough to cut a tire and cause the early leader to lose several laps as his crew repaired the damage.
Back on the track it was Atkinson’s turn at the front. His reign as leader lasted one corner as he went for a lurid, icy slide in turn two and forfeited the lead to Nelson. Bad luck for the leaders continued as a jam up with sixteen laps to go collected Nelson. Though the damage to Nelson’s car was minimal he would lose the lead to Atkinson. While Nelson would work to reel in his early race rival he would finish segment one second behind Atkinson. Sharp, Drew Crenshaw and Coria would round out the top five.
Fifteen cars rolled to the start of the second segment. Atkinson maintained his hold on the lead while Rob Stirmon, driving in relief of Nelson, methodically picked his way around the tricky track. Atkinson, too, would run this segment at a more conservative pace, opening the door for Travis Pavlacky, Sharp’s replacement, to claim first. Pavlacky held nothing back as he charged through lapped traffic. With Atkinson content to sit second Pavlacky was only challenged by third place runner Coria, who was desperate to get back on the lead lap before the race’s final segment. Even Coria’s quick laps weren’t enough to top Pavlacky, who would put the entire field one lap or more down by the end of the second 100 circuits.
Now it was up to Team Sharp’s third driver, Mitch Parker, to bring home the overall victory. Parker would back his pace off to conserve the two lap lead he owned over Atkinson. This strategy would backfire on lap five of the final 100 when a back marker spun and collected the overall leader. The damage to Parker’s right front corner was mostly superficial and allowed Parker to maintain the race lead. But the man on a mission was Atkinson, who pushed his rented Hornet around the leader once within the first ten laps. As Atkinson drew within striking distance once again Parker got a handle on his racer and began to pull away.
The reason for Parker’s growing lead became clear when, just 61 laps from the checkered flag, Atkinson pulled into the pit area with gearbox issues. Atkinson’s team would affect some quick repairs, but the Atkinson would need a lot of help to pass Parker and his Team Sharp entry. That help would never come as Parker pulled away in the closing laps to seal the victory for Team Sharp. Atkinson would coax his ailing car home second and Coria would finish third. Kenny Driebergen would earn fourth place and Kyle Latham in the Team Nelson entry would come home in fifth on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard.
Saturday’s race was just a taste of the action to come in the 2015 Meridian Speedway season. Be sure to keep an eye on www.meridianspeedway.com for all your short track news, including updates and advance tickets for July’s King of the Wing event and the return of NASCAR to your local quarter-mile oval. We’ll see you Saturday, April 18 under the big yellow water tower at Meridian Speedway.