NAPA Big 5 Latemodel Thunder Follows Rain Saturdayadmin
The April showers subsided just in time for the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodel Opener Saturday night at Meridian Speedway. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds, Project Filter Pro-4s, Teleperformance Claimer Stocks, Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks, and the College of Western Idaho High School Tuners also rumbled to the green flag for a night of side-by-side racing.
The Teleperformance Claimer Stocks rolled onto the quarter-mile for their 25 lap main event first. On the green Nampa, Idaho’s Tommy Kirkland blasted around polesitter Scott Kelly’s This N’ That Auto Sales, Scotts Lawn Care truck to take the early lead. Behind Kirkland Brian Hyde sliced his way from mid-pack to second on lap three and set to work with 2015 division champion Casey Hart to track down the leader. Lapped traffic allowed Hyde’s Affordable Rain Gutter machine to close on Kirkland’s rear bumper. With eight laps to go Kirkland and Hyde made contact on the backstretch, which brought Meridian, Idaho driver Hart into a three-way fight for the top spot. Hyde put the gas pedal down and powered around Kirkland with six laps to go, then used lapped traffic to thwart a late-race charge from Kirkland to collect the trophy.
Eleven quick Project Filter Pro-4s battled for their season’s first main event victory. Ryan Bailey hooked the low line and pulled his Les Schwab, Fairly Reliable Bob’s entry to the early race lead, but soon found himself under attack by Kuna, Idaho racer Kenny Chandler, who took the lead on lap three. Quick-time Brendon Fries roared around the high side of the field in the race’s opening stages and found himself even with Chandler’s KCR machine on a lap eight restart.
Try as Chandler might Fries’ Chick-fil-A of Meridian, Boise Boys Transportation racer was too strong in the high line and steamed to the lead on lap nine. Now Chandler fell into the clutches of familiar foe Joe Barton. Barton made the move to second on lap eleven and set to tracking down Fries. Barton’s Tyco Structural Enterprises car was able to cut into Fries’ lead, but ran out of laps to make a move as Meridian, Idaho’s Fries piloted his machine to Caleb’s Chop Shop Victory Circle.
An experience-filled field of College of Western Idaho High School Tuners rolled to the green flag as darkness fell. Tayvia Morris in her Northwest Auto Services machine and Boise, Idaho’s Will Ostrum paced the field for four high-speed pace laps before Kendra Occhipinti broke ranks and took the top spot with a three-wide pass on the front stretch. Peter Woog, Daytona Wurtz, and Taylor Occhipinti followed the race leader to take the rest of the top four spots. Wurtz was first to break out of this pack as the Star, Idaho driver pulled inside Woog to take second and started reeling in Kendra Occhipinti’s Marv’s Tire Service, Bearclaw Graphics racer.
On lap ten Occhipinti’s car stumbled and Wurtz screamed by for the lead while Occhipinti fell to third, one spot ahead of her younger brother Taylor. At the halfway point quick-time Riley Rogers flew around the outside of both siblings to take third. Rogers immediately went to work on Woog, but a caution with ten laps to go bunched the field for a restart.
Wurtz spurted away from the pack on the green flag as Rogers worked his way below Woog for second. Once Rogers did, he started to eat as Wurtz’s lead and with four circuits remaining Rogers caught the race leader and turned the pressure up. The battle for the trophy came down to a green-white-checkered finish. Rogers pulled alongside Wurtz on the white flag lap and motored to a half car length victory over Wurtz. Behind the lead duo Taylor Occhipinti eked past Woog for third.
“That was an amazing race,” Rogers said. “This group of guys and gals is the most fun to race with here.”
The NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodels roared onto the speedway for a 100 lap romp to kick off their season. With the green flag in the air Tyler Marston-Henderson in his Maz-Tech Automotive machine sprinted to the early lead. Tyler Monroe, racing out of Star, Idaho, snagged the lead on lap two, followed by Jimmy Tremewan, Justin Ellis and Hannah Newhouse. With fifteen laps in the books the battle for sixth went bad when trophy dash winner Cameron Madsen and 2015 NAPA Big 5 Latemodel champion Dennis Wurtz II tangled on the front stretch. Wurtz II’s Glen’s Towing, All Makes Auto Salvage machine was pitched up on its side and slid along the turn one concrete. Wurtz II emerged from his wrecked racer okay and the race resumed with 81 laps remaining.
Newhouse was the first to challenge Monroe’s ASAP Auto Services entry for the lead. After twenty laps of heavy pressure a mid-race caution flag allowed Twin Falls, Idaho’s Newhouse to cool her Boise State University machine’s tires and mount another charge. With just forty laps to go Newhouse made contact with Monroe and took the lead, but Monroe took issue with this move and repaid the favor in turn two. Newhouse spun, a caution flag flew, and both drivers were sent to the back of the pack.
Ellis inherited the lead in his Neil Alan Fine Jewelry, Dillon Performance Engines entry after this scuffle, followed by Tremewan and Morgan Rasmussen in second and third. Rasmussen was soon under attack from early leader Marston-Henderson for third as the young driver tried to put a car between himself and woman-on-a-mission Newhouse, who had sprinted all the way back up to fifth.
While Marston-Henderson worked on Rasmussen the leader encountered heavy lapped traffic and Tremewan was able to pull to Ellis’ rear bumper. Ellis worked his way through the traffic best and the Meridian, Idaho native retained his lead while traffic jumbled Rasmussen, Marston-Henderson and Newhouse. A caution flag with seven laps remaining erased Ellis’ hard-fought margin and brought Tremewan, Marston-Henderson, Newhouse, and Monroe to his rear bumper for one final restart.
Ellis outgunned Tremewan into turn one while Monroe and Newhouse traded blows for fourth and fifth. Tremewan did his best to slide his machine around Ellis, but Ellis proved too strong and collected the first trophy of the NAPA Auto Parts Big 5 Latemodel season.
“This has been a long time coming,” Ellis said of his victory.
The Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks finished their season-opening back-to-back appearances with a thirty lap main event. On the green Terrell Daffron outmuscled Les Schild into turn one for the early lead. Meridian, Idaho racer Garry Hussey took the top spot from Daffron on lap two while fast heat winner Mike Vester and veteran Robbie Hyde worked their way forward. Both Vester and Hyde suffered issues on lap five and would drop to the back of the pack for the restart.
Daffron found the handle on his Gilmore Meats, John’s Auto Body machine and shot to the lead while quick-qualifier, Caldwell, Idaho’s Jason Sanders marched through the field after a lap one incident claimed his driver’s side door. First Sanders motored around Hussey for second on lap twelve, then he pulled even with Daffron on lap fourteen. Daffron dug hard in the inside line, but couldn’t fend off Sanders’ strong Divel Services, Excel Concrete Construction hot rod. While Sanders cruised to a second straight victory Blake Coria spent the final dozen circuits working his Cutter’s Grand BBQ, BC Towing machine beneath Hussey’s racer. Nampa, Idaho driver Vester tried to follow Coria’s lead, but he and Hussey came together on the white flag lap and both failed to finish.
“Four guys grabbed ahold of the door and just ripped it off,” Sanders said of the quick repairs that kept him in the race.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modifieds stormed Meridian Speedway to close the night with a forty lap feature. Larry Hull III was first to race his way out front while Ontario, Canada’s Stafford Smith and Colton Nelson worked their way past polesitter Walt Calkins for second and third. By the time this pair made their move Hull III had pulled to a three second lead in his Shake N’ Bake Racing, Divesifed Carpet Cleaning entry. On lap fourteen Nelson piloted his Integrity Pools, YMC Inc. machine below Smith for second as he tried to track down Hull III, whose lead had ballooned to half a track.
Nelson wheeled his modified hard in his bid to catch Hull III, but nobody could touch Hull III’s entry as he powered to the Caleb’s Chop Shop Victory Circle. Nelson, Smith, Dylan Caldwell, and Rus Ward rounded out the top five.
“My guys worked their butts off to make this thing as good as it is,” Hull III said.
Next Saturday, April 30, Meridian Speedway takes a break from racing to host the Boise Lantern Fest. For more information visit www.thelanternfest.com.
Racecars retake the quarter-mile Saturday, May 7 for the Sprintcar Opener, featuring the Mountain Dew Winged Sprintcars, CT400 Sprintcars, the season’s first Pepsi Crate Car-Super Six Challenge Race, Teleperformance Claimer Stocks, College of Western Idaho High School Tuners, the TATES Rents Rookie Hornets, and the Clarity Credit Union Penny Gold Rush for Kids. General admission to a full night of open-wheel excitement is just $10.50 for adults, $8.00 for seniors and military members. Be sure to check meridianspeedway.com for the latest news from around the concrete jungle, like Meridian Speedway on Facebook, and text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 for exclusive news. We’ll save a seat for you Saturday, May 7, under the big yellow water tower at Meridian Speedway.