Ladies Lead the Way on Lowe’s Plywood Race Nightadmin
MERIDIAN, Idaho—With the second half of the Meridian Speedway season winding down Satuday night’s action was as intense as the late-July sun as seven divisions battled for both victories and ever-valuable championship points. Taking to the quarter-mile were the Domino’s Pizza Legends, Budweiser Modifieds and Coors Super Stocks, TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks, College of Western Idaho Transportation Program High School Tuners, Junior Stingers and the Thunderdogs.
Nine Junior Stingers rolled onto the quarter-mile for a twenty lap main event. When the green flag fell Chad Duval worked from his second row starting spot to take the lead while the rest of the field formed a tight pack behind him. Battling through the pack was Daytona Wurtz, who had knifed her way to second within two laps, then swung low on Duval to take the lead. With Wurtz out front Duval tried to mount a charge to retake the lead, but his racer slid wide into the turn one wall. The restart saw Wurtz and last race’s winner Taylor Occhipinti bumper to bumper at the head of the pack. As the pair made their way through traffic Occhipinti lost time to Wurtz, but a turn four crash would erase that deficit with just eight circuits to go. When racing resumed Wurtz and Occhipinti went to work on traffic again, but this time Occhipinti was able to maintain contact with Wurtz. With three to go Occhipinti made his move, jumping to the low side of Wurtz and taking the lead. Wurtz tried a desperate last lap run to retake the lead, but her car broke wildly loose and she had to settle for second to the Marv’s Tire Service machine of Occchipinti.
The CWI High School tuners, next step in driver development, contested a 25 lap main event. CJ Stirm wasted no time as she drove her YMC Heating and Cooling machine through a three-wide turn one to take second behind leader Tayvia Morris. But Stirm wasn’t the only one on the move as Kendra Occhipinti used the second lap to scoot high around both Stirm and Morris to claim the top spot. Next up it was Peter Woog’s turn to charge three wide to second, then challenge Occhipinti on the high side for first. Occhipinti was able to fend off this charge by pushing Woog high off turn two. With a dozen circuits remaining Rogers rolled into contention for the lead, joining the already tight battle between leader Occhipinti and Woog. As the lead pack pulled up on lapped traffic Alex Hibbert’s Team Construction car spun in turn four. As the leaders scattered around the Hibbert Occhipintin swerved low, leaving Woog only the infield as an escape option, and he bounced his racer through the grass. Officials deemed Woog was part of the caution, and moved him to the back of the pack along with Hibbert. Woog would leave the track two laps later.
The Hibbert caution set up a ten lap sprint to the finish that began with Occhipinti and Harris side by side for first and Rogers outside of Stirm for third. Rogers took advantage of the high side on the restart, jumping first around Stirm, then ducking low inside Harris while Harris worked Occhipinti high for the lead. With six laps to go Rogers would make the pass on Harris, then dash back to the top side of the track to battle for the lead. As Occhipinti and Rogers fought for first Harris pulled back into the mix and with four to go the leaders were three wide at the front. Harris’ car would begin to fade, then Rogers got loose in turn four, allowing Occhipinti to pull away to victory.
“That was an amazing race,” said Rogers as he collected his second place trophy. “[Occhipinti] took me to school.”
Next the TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks rolled onto the asphalt for 35 laps. Everett Meeks, back on track after a heat race wreck, pulled to the early lead, with Brandon Shira hot on his heels. But Shira was unable to mount a charge as Casey LeBold battled for second from the outside lane. Behind Shira and LeBold the entire eighteen car field was stacked up side by side. Four laps into the race it was Robbie Hyde that broke the stalemate, pulling his racer to second. As Meeks faded from the lead it was LeBold and Hyde battling for the lead. This battle would rage until ten laps in Hyde made the move below LeBold for the top spot. During the battle for first Mary Johnson had battled her way to second and was bumper to bumper with first place Hyde. With twenty to go Johnson charged to the lead. Three laps later Casey LeBold’s engine let go coming out of turn four, coating the track in a thick line of oil. As LeBold encountered mechanical issues Keri Ballard and Drew Crenshaw came together in turn four. Crenshaw would continue, but Ballard would not.
The restart saw favorites Jason Sanders and Donavon Parker sixth and seventh. Sanders would get jammed up and drop to ninth, while Johnson was able to pull out to a solid lead on the pack. Parker would fare far better, knifing his way up to fourth before he and Blake Coria made contact for second place. Coria would spin and Parker would be sent to the back of the pack. With the field realigned for a ten lap sprint Sanders found himself in fourth behind Johnson, Duane Gerber, and Hyde. On the restart Gerber surged ahead, but Johnson was able to reel him back in and retake the top spot. Sanders muscled his way to second and Lowe’s Plywood Race winner Travis Pavlacky settled in third. Then the battle for the win began. Sanders looked low on Johnson with five laps remaining, but Johnson’s Mulder’s Auto Machine entry held off the charge. Next lap Sanders tried the high line, but was again thwarted. As Sanders tried to reload for another run at Johnson, Pavlacky pulled high on Sanders for second. Now Sanders had to fight to keep second, which allowed Johnson to claim her second main event victory of the season.
“This was a little redemption for me,” said Johnson in Arctic Circle Victory Lane. “We got schooled about three times last week by Casey Tillman. So, this one goes out to him.”
The Domino’s Pizza Legends brought 15 racecars to their 35 lap main event. When the green flag fell it was outside pole sitter Robert Rendo pulling to the lead. Further back it was tough sledding early for Aubree Wartman and Zach Blume as they sat mired in traffic. Finally at the five lap mark it was Wartman who jumped to the high groove and began whittling her way through traffic. This charge would be blunted when Daynna Skiver’s car faded and stacked up Wartman’s line. Meanwhile, it was Chance Davis and Caity Miller that worked their way to the front. Twelve laps in Miller and Davis were side by side for the lead, but it was Miller on the low lane that prevailed two laps later. With twenty to go Blume and Camron Madsen went to work on second place Davis. Madsen made a successful move under Davis, but Blume made contact with Davis, who spun in turn one. This set up a fifteen lap dash to the checkers.
With Blume to the back of the pack it was Madsen and Miller one two, with Johnethan Davis’ GCAT Auto racer third, Chase Gilbertson fourth and Wartman fifth. Gilbertson immediately shot to the high line, but there was nothing there. Still Gilbertson worked the top shelf on Madsen for second, his car sliding wildly out of the corners. With all the side-by-side battling up front Blume quietly sliced his way through the field to claim fifth on the Peps-Cola scoreboard by lap thirty. But his run would to the front would be cut short as Miller poured on the coal and piloted her machine to the victory.
“I can’t thank my family and my friends enough,” said an emotional Miller.
The Budweiser Modifieds and Coors Super Stocks joined forces for the Don VanSchoiack, Dee Forrey memorial race. On the break Sharlet Wilson and Rick Moran battled wheel to wheel for the top spot, with Moran taking the point after three laps. The early mover of the race was Rick Baldwin, who took his Bloodyfine.com car to third before being hung up behind Jess Ryska on the high line. As Baldwin worked to get past Ryska the two made contact. Ryska got the worst of it, spinning into Scott Durbin and Lynn Sharp before Wilson arrived on the scene and rearranged Ryska’s rear end housing. On the restart it was Rob Powers and Darvin Ackerland battling for the point. And it was Ackerland who motored around Powers’ Super Stock to take the lead. Further back in the pack Baldwin and Durbin worked in tandem to move their Shake N Bake team cars to fifth and sixth by the halfway point.
With fifteen to go Ackerland and Powers held a half track lead over third place Randy Keckley and Gale Carter. Sharp had recovered from the early race pile-up to claim fifth. With two to go Sharp got a run on Carter, but broke loose out of turn four and conceded fourth to Carter. But it was Darvin Ackerland batting 1.000 for the year as he pulled his Musick & Sons Inc. modified to Arctic Circle victory lane. But it was Powers who claimed the VanSchoiack, Forrey memorial trophy for his Coors Super Stock class victory.
“Dee Forrey and Don VanSchoiack were good guys,” said Powers. “This means a lot.”
“This old car works so good,” said Ackerland of his racer.
In Thunderdog action The Dutchess dashed ahead of Optimus Prime off the standing start, but it was Bulldacious that drew first blood, spinning The Devil Made Me Do It and collecting the resulting 50 bonus points, on lap one. The same two would come together four laps later with the same result. Now it was time for Bulldacious to go to work on leader The Dutchess. In turn three Bulldacious made the move, applying just enough bumper to send the Dutchess around and take the top spot. A spectator caution would bunch the field up and send Bulldacious to the back. The new leader was Optimus Prime, who pedaled his truck to the lead until a dozen circuits remained. Again it was Bulldacious with a spin for the lead, and it was a lead he would work feverishly to maintain it, spinning each competitor in the field at least once. But a late spectator caution bunched the field and again sent Bulldacious to the back. On the restart The Devil Made Me Do It spun in front of the field, and the resulting jam up collected everyone but The Dutchess, who zipped out to a lead she would defend with her first points-earning spin on Optimus Prime. But The Dutchess’ lead would be short-lived as The Devil Made Me Do It took the lead with eight laps remaining. That left The Dutchess in the clutches of Bulldacious, but the lady driver was able to take care of business, spinning Bulldacious for another 50 bonus points. But as that drama unfolded it was The Devil Made Me Do It who ran away for the win.
Next week the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodel series roars their way back to Meridian Speedway for the Treasure Valley 125. The Pepsi Sprintcars, College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Street Stocks, and Tates Rents Hornets will also race Saturday. Also appearing are the Tile Outlet Bike Races for Kids and the first Spectator Drag event of the season. Tickets for Saturday, July 26 will be $15.25. Be sure to check www.meridianspeedway.com for special ticket offers and text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483for special information.
As always this weekend’s action was sponsored by Contingency Connection, which provides nearly $2000 in awards each week from NATIONAL manufacturers. See Meridian Speedway officials for more details about Contingency Connection.