Speed, Sportsmanship and Sprintcars on Display Friday for the Tom Elliott Sportsman Classicadmin
Past met present Friday as Meridian Speedway hosted the 51st annual Canadian American Modified Racing Association reunion. Over 30 vintage sprintcars packed the pit area and tried the tight confines of the quarter mile as part of the reunion festivities. Joining the golden age sprinters were their modern counterparts the Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association’s Western Winged Sprintcars, the TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks and the Junior Stingers.
Friday night’s main event action kicked off with a twenty lap Junior Stinger main event. On the green flag Bryce Edwards, in his BC Towing and Recovery, Garden Valley Chevron car, stormed around the outside of pole sitter Shane Harris for the lead. Behind this duo championship contenders Daytona Wurtz and Taylor Occhipinti that were on the move early, working their way from the back of the pack to first and second in just one lap. Now the fight for first was on as Occhipinti began searching high and low for a way around the All Makes Auto Salvage, Glen’s Towing machine of Wurtz. While Wurtz burned her way through a pack of lapped traffic Occhipinti waited patiently for his opportunity to pass. Occhipinti’s first chance was a restart with ten circuits remaining that brought him even with Wurtz. Wurtz would take Occhipinti to school on the restart, pinning him to the wall and shooting past him in turn one. Occhipinti and his Marv’s Tire Service, Bearclaw Graphics machine would have another chance to claim the top spot as a melee in turn four that collected early leader Edwards, Chad Duval, Jacob Thompson, and Erin Harrod would bunch the pack back up.
On this restart Occhipinti would fare better and keep pace with Wurtz through turns one and two, but Wurtz would not be denied as she shot down the back chute to the top spot. With seven to go Occhipinti dove low on Wurtz and moved her up the track to take the lead away. Wurtz tried to counter with her own swipe on the low side, but would be stymied by the damaged car of Edwards. Frustrated, Wurtz dug her bumper into Edwards’ quarter panel and spun the lapped car into the infield. The move would result in Wurtz restarting in the back of the filed while Occhipinti started on the front row alongside Katie Lober. It would take one lap for Wurtz to zoom back up to the front and rejoin the lead battle. With laps running out Wurtz started a strict regimen of dives low, but Occhipinti was able to fend off every one of them over the last two laps to claim victory.
“This was one of the funnest races I’ve ever had,” said Occhipinti in Arctic Circle Victory Lane.
The TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks had thirty laps to settle their second-to-last main event of the season. Pole sitter Alex Duda got surprised by rookie Vin Stockman on the opening lap for the lead. Back in the pack bumpers were used before patience as on lap three Mary Johnson and Donavon Parker tangled in turn three. Parker got the worst of the exchange, and the second place man in points would pull his damaged Raceway Video, Double D’s Auto Repair car into the pit area for repairs. Thanks in part to another caution flag Parker would rejoin the field without losing a lap to the leaders. Back at the point Stockman reclaimed the top spot on the restart, bringing Jayson Wardle and Duda along to fill the top three spots on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard. Eight laps in Wardle would race his Prime Cuts Butcher Shop, Perfectly Posh car around Stockman for the lead while at the rear of the field Parker and Johnson found themselves door-to-door again. This meeting would conclude without further incident.
At the halfway point the field began to string out, allowing quick-qualifiers Jason Sanders, Travis Pavlacky and Ray Bollinger to work their way forward. While Sanders and Pavlacky made good progress, Bollinger wasn’t so lucky. On lap fourteen Drew Crenshaw’s Discount Tire, Sticker Mafia car spun in turn three and slid up the track. Left with nowhere to go Bollinger piled into Crenshaw.
On the restart Wardle wasted no time pulling back to the lead with Mike Davis and Brandon Hild in tow. Now Pavlacky made his move, darting high with a dozen laps to go to claim fifth, then fourth. With eight circuits remaining Pavlacky joined Wardle, Hild, and Blake Coria in a four way fight for the lead. The high groove would prevail as Hild pulled to the lead and opened the door for Pavlacky to take second. Now Pavlacky pulled to the outside to try a pass on leader Hild. But Hild would battle back in his Allison Concrete, Darren Purkey Welder car on the low side. As the white flag fell the two were dead even, side-by-side, and that’s how they would run the whole last lap. But in the end it was Pavlacky and the high groove’s superior momentum that would prove to be victorious.
“That was an awesome win for us,” said Pavlacky as he posed with his trophy. “I’m glad to get one in the truck before the season was over.”
The Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association Western Winged Sprintcars did battle for 40 laps to find the Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic victor. Point leader Matt Hein lined his Independent Motor Rebuilders, Longs Building Supply machine up on the outside of Johnny Giesler’s Telmate, Spiers Construction sprinter on the front row as the green flag fell. Hein couldn’t keep pace with Giesler and would settle into second place while the seventeen car field settled in behind them. The early battle was for fourth as Bryan Warf tested Matt Mansell on the low side, finally picking the Victoria, British Columbia driver off on the low side. Also working to the front of the pack was Sierra Jackson. Piloting one of Ryan Burdett’s backup cars Jackson worked her Telmate, Jon Irby Landscaping sprintcar from ninth starting spot up to sixth in just over a dozen quick laps. While Jackson worked her way through the field Giesler and Hein started to work through lapped traffic. Caught in a gaggle of cars including Matt Elliott, Justin Sugura and others Hein broke to the outside while third place runner Burdett went low. The pair went three wide into turns three and four, somehow making it out the other side in one piece. The stack up was costly, though, as it allowed Giesler to pull out to an almost full lap lead.
A caution near the halfway point bunched the field back up, and when the green flag fell Hein went back to work on Giesler. Giesler would not be moved from the top spot, as he immediately opened a two second advantage over NSRA point leader Hein. The battle for fourth heated up again as Jackson and Warf went tire to tire, literally, in turn one for the position. Both racers broke sideways at the contact, but both drivers were able to settle their sprintcars and continue. Jackson would take the spot one circuit later on lap 25. As the laps wound down it was clear nobody was going to catch Giesler for the lead, but second place was still very much in question as Jackson and Hein now went side by side for the runner up spot. The duel would intensify as the white flag waved. Jackson would use another dive from the low line in turn one to snag second from Hein behind winner Giesler.
“It’s hard to beat these guys at their home track,” said championship leader Hein. “Hopefully we have enough of a cushion built.”
“You always love to win this trophy,” said Giesler of his Tom Elliott Sportsman Classic win. “I know [the Elliott] family and they’re awesome.”
Another award handed out Friday night was the Tom Elliott Sportsman’s Award. This year Kenny Hamilton was chosen to accept the award for his willingness to assist racers with all aspects of the sport from loaning pieces and parts to tutoring first-time drivers on how to handle a racecar.
“I’m so proud of this,” said Hamilton as he thanked the Elliott family. “This is a tremendous honor for me.”
In CAMRA vintage racing action Willy Ransom piloted the American Recycling Super Modified to the A main event win after screaming around the outside of the field to the front. Rhody Hays in an aged Super-6 and Ken Hamilton in the legendary Pink Lady also claimed CAMRA vintage sprintcar wins Friday.
The open-wheel action continues on Championship Saturday as the NSRA Western Winged Sprintcars and the CAMRA Vintage Sprintcars complete their double-header. Three champions will be crowned Saturday, including those in the NSRA, Coors Super Stocks, and the College of Western Idaho Transportation Program High School Tuners. General admission for this fast race night is just $15.25 for adults. Gates open at 4 p.m. with racing at 6:30 p.m. Don’t miss the final winged sprintcar showdown of the season under the big yellow water tower at Meridian Speedway.