Meridian’s Fenton Claims Western States Caterpillar 75admin
Two regional series crowded the confines of Meridian Speedway Saturday, July 2, for the first of two action-packed race nights of Independence Day weekend. The Royal Purple Modified Series and INEX Legends brought over twenty machines each to Saturday night’s main events, along with full field from the Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks, Pepsi Crate Cars, and College of Western Idaho High School Tuners.
The College of Western Idaho High School Tuners rolled a full field of teenage racers onto the quarter-mile oval for a twenty lap feature. On the green Will Ostrum blew past Noah Capps to lead the first lap in his Diversified Carpet and Upholestry Cleaning car. Deep in the field Jordan Harris, Daytona Wurtz, and Kendra Occhipinti linked up in the high line and worked their way to the top of the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard. Harris made his way to the lead on lap five, while track record setter Riley Rogers knifed his way through the pack to take the runner up spot one lap later.
Now Rogers set his sights on Harris. First Rogers tried to work the high line, but Harris’ Kim’s Kars machine was too strong. Rogers then changed to the inside line, and after three laps raced his H&H Accounting, Wilside Wraps entry to the lead. Now Harris’ attention turned to third place Kendra Occhipinti, who looked to replicate Rogers’ race winning move. A lapped car thwarted that plan and Occhipinit had to settle for third behind Harris and race winner Rogers.
“I love coming out here with this car,” Rogers said. “I love racing with these guys.”
The Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks brought 16 rowdy racers to their 25 lap main event. Luke Wolverton was first to the gas pedal and zipped to the lap one lead while the pack jockeyed side-by-side for the first five laps. Sheldon Hodges was the first to clear the traffic jam and challenge Wolverton. On lap ten Hodges piloted his Pro Moto Billet, BK Industries racer to the top spot.
Hodges enjoyed his lead for just four laps before Alex Duda piloted his Boise Boys Transportation, Busted Spur Welding machine to second place. Duda stalked Hodges until just five laps remained. Through turns one and two Hodges’ machine popped, sputtered, and slowed, and Duda got hard into the back bumper. With the two cars hooked together both Hodges and Duda sailed into the turn two concrete. Both drivers climbed from their vehicles oaky after the hard hit, but both machines retired from the race.
With the top two in the pit area Garry Hussey assumed the lead, followed by Robbie Hyde, Ian Michael, and Jason Sanders as the field rolled to a five lap shootout. On the green Hyde wheeled his Guppies Hot Rod Grille, M.C. Promotions machine hard to take the lead, but Hussey roared past to keep the top spot. Sanders followed Hussey past Hyde to second place, but his Divel Services, Print Craft of Caldwell racer didn’t have enough for Hussey, who collected his second straight division win.
“It was all about patience,” Hussey said of his drive to the Caleb’s Chop Shop Winner’s Circle.
The Domino’s Legends joined with the INEX Legends to bring 25 Legends to Saturday’s 40 lap regional qualifier. On the green Caity Miller outdueled Chance Davis to put her Farm Bureau Insurance machine in the lead on lap three. The racing got physical early as Duaine Swanson, Casey Tillman, and Rick McNeill bounced off of each other for third, fourth, and fifth. McNeill made his way out of that hornet’s nest and settled third while quick-time Parker Steele tore his way through the pack and sat fourth after just ten laps.
Steele wasn’t content there as he wheeled his racer hard past McNeill to third, then past Davis for second. A caution flag brought Steele to Miller’s rear bumper, and allowed Chance Davis and Tristan Haider to pull up in the outside line.
On the restart Miller overpowered Davis, but couldn’t fend off Steele, who motored by on the inside line. Now the battle was on for third as Davis worked to keep Haider, Darin Amidon, and Jake Wood behind him. Amidon was first around Davis on the outside, while Haider’s pass was negated by a caution flag just after the race’s halfway point.
Steele retained his lead on the restart while Amidon settled into second. Again fireworks erupted for third as Haider fought hard to overtake Miller. Finally, Haider made the move with just twelve circuits remaining. Hard-charging Randy Schaaf made the same move around Miller, then flew around Haider to claim third place for himself. With eight laps to go Schaaf ducked below Amidon to take second and set to tracking down Steele. Schaaf rocketed around the quarter-mile at a qualifying pace, but ran out of laps to track down Steele, who put his racer in the Caleb’s Chop Shop Winner’s Circle.
A strong field of Pepsi Crate Cars roared to a 25 lap main event green flag. Heat race winner Tyler Barrow surrendered laps one and two to Aaron McPeak’s Hugo’s Deli machine before Barrow made his way to the top spot on lap three. The fast duo of Riley Rogers and Justin Segura took over second and third place while Ryan Wiederich settled into fourth.
Rogers looked high and low in his bid to take the lead, but Barrow held off the advances in his Valley Auto Alignment and Repair racer. Segura grew tired of waiting for something to happen, and on lap twelve he steamed around the outside of Rogers to take second. Next Segura sized up Barrow, and with just eight laps left the Caldwell, Idaho racer threw his Garage Graffix, Mac Tools machine low and made the winning pass.
“This thing’s just been on a rail,” Segura said. “I just love this class and what a challenge it is.”
Twenty-one Royal Purple Modified Series modifieds thundered to the green flag of the Western States Caterpillar 75. Polesitter Colton Nelson muscled his way to the top spot while contact of all sorts ensued mid-pack. Nelson enjoyed his lead for four laps before Rick Fowble made his way under the Meridian, Idaho racer to take the lead. An early caution brought Tim Elam up to third, Jeff Longman to fourth, and Eric Rhead to fifth for the lap eight restart.
On the green flag Elam raced to second in his Affordable Rain Gutters, CF Floor Covering modified, Rhead to third as Nelson fell into the clutches of Shelby Stroebel and Chris Fenton. Stroebel and Fenton made quick work of Nelson and the pair joined the rest of the top five as they raced away from the field.
Rhead was first to make a move as he powered his Baldor Dodge, Kaman Industrial Technologies machine around Elam for second, then closed on Fowble’s Rosenau Funeral Home, Idaho Pizza racer. On lap sixteen Rhead took the high line and stormed to the lead. Stroebel and Fenton followed Rhead past Fowble and started to pull away from the rest of the field. With 25 laps down Stroebel pulled his Trinity Construction, Loan Mart racer inside Rhead in turn three, but the two came together and spun. No damage was done to the cars, but both racers were sent to the back of the pack for the restart.
On the restart Fenton led Elam, Kyle Tellstrom, Fowble, and Zach Webster to green. Fenton raced to the lead while Elam disposed of Tellstrom to claim the runner up spot before a crash under caution sidelined Elam. The resulting scramble put Fowble second with Webster’s young Automotive Group, Subway entry third.
While things up front equalized, early leader Rhead turned up the wick on his machine and blasted through the pack. By lap 35 Rhead held fourth spot on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard and was just one second behind third place. Two laps later Rhead passed Fowble for the final podium spot and started to chop into runner up Webster’s advantage.
With thirty laps to go Rhead arrived at Webster’s rear bumper and hunted for a way around the West Jordan, Utah racer. Lapped traffic stymied a number of Rhead’s runs, which allowed Webster to hold station in second behind Fenton. Rhead’s night ended with sixteen laps left when his machine lost power on the back stretch. The resulting caution bunched the field and brought Webster, Stroebel, and Fowble to Fenton’s rear bumper.
Fenton used the restart to motor away from the pack while Webster and Stroebel worked to clear lapped traffic. With ten laps to go Fenton held a one-second lead over Webster, who had two car lengths on Stroebel. None of the top three could make a late move and Fenton claimed the Royal Purple Modified Series Western States Caterpillar 75.
“I didn’t know who was going to win this thing,” Fenton said. “We were just so equal and it was a great race.”
Meridian Speedway’s Independence Day celebration continues Monday, July 4 with the Stinker Stores Firecracker 50. The Royal Purple Modified Series and INEX Legends return to the speedway, along with the Mountain Dew and CT400 Winged Sprintcars, Project Filter Pro-4s, TATES Rents Hornets, plus the Commercial Tire Bike Races 4 Kids and the City of Meridian Fireworks Extravaganza. General admission to Monday night’s full slate of racing action is just $12.50 for adults, $6.50 for kids seven to eleven. Visit meridianspeedway.com to purchase your advance tickets and text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 to get exclusive updates from your local NASCAR Home Track. We’ll see you Monday night under the big yellow water tower at Meridian Speedway.