Wild Saturday Night Settles Three Championships at Meridian Speedway

Wild Saturday Night Settles Three Championships at Meridian Speedway


Matt Hein carried a slim points lead into the NSRA Western Winged Sprintcar championship weekend at Meridian Speedway. Photo Credit: MS Staff

Past, present, and future collided on Championship Saturday as the Canadian American Modified Racing Association rolled over 30 vintage sprintcars onto the quarter-mile for their 51st Reunion.  Along with these golden age sprinters were the ultra-modern Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association Western Winged Sprintcars, who looked to settle their season’s championship battle under the big yellow water tower.  Also crowing a champion Saturday were the future Meridian Speedway stars of the College of Western Idaho Transportation Program High School Tuner division and the Coors Super Stocks.  Rounding out the full night racing were the Budweiser Modifieds, who were just one race away from crowing their own overall season victor.

The vintage racers of the CAMRA Reunion ran three ten lap main events Saturday. The C main event saw Jeff Cook pilot his offset modified through the pack but come up just short of victory as Joe Davill claimed the trophy.  B main action went green with Brad Hunsaker thundering past Willy Ransom and Dean Waltman to claim the win.  The A main featured a full dozen restored racecars battling for the hardware.  Up front Billy Swift and Rob Lindsey put on a show for the lead, slipping and sliding side-by-side through the corners until Lindsey took sole possession of the lead with three circuits to go.  This would prove to be the race winning move as Lindsey claimed the checkered flag.

“It’s a lot of fun to race with these guys,” said Lindsey. “I kind of had to bide my time but was able to get it done on the outside.”

The College of Western Idaho Transportation Program High School Tuners settled their championship with a twenty lap main event under the lights. Coming into these last twenty laps Kendra Occhipinti held a twelve point advantage over Jordan Harris.  This pair started side-by-side in row four when the green flag fell.  James Pahl wasted no time as he rocketed to the lead on lap one while Occhipinti followed on the high side in her Marv’s Tire Service, Bearclaw Graphics car to third.  Harris sat mired in traffic deep in the pack, looking for a clean way through to the front.  On lap three Occhipinti tracked leader Pahl down and threw her car sideways into turn three to take over the position.  Now the battle was on for second as Kodi Newberry laid a fender on Pahl’s Raceway Video, Double D Auto car to take the runner up spot.  Meanwhile Harris was running out of time battling CJ Stirm, in a borrowed car after a heat race wreck, for the fifth spot on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard.  With four to go Harris would get the help he needed as a race for second between Riley Rogers and Newberry went south in turn four.  With both racers involved in the caution flag and sent to the back, leaving Pahl, Stirm, and Harris to chase down Occhipinti.  On the restart Occhipinti outdueled Pahl for the top spot while Stirm pulled low to try a pass for second.  Stirm would slide up into Pahl in turn two on the last lap, slowing both herself and Pahl enough for Harris to sneak around the low side for second.  But even these last lap heroics wouldn’t be enough to claim the championship.  Instead it was Occhipinti claiming the win on the night and for the season.

“We had a pretty solid year,” said a gracious Harris as he stood by his Kim’s Kars, Crossfit 208 racer post-race. “Kendra, nice job.  Nobody’s touching you.”

Champion Occhipinti was more stoic in Arctic Circle Victory Lane, thanking her family and competitors for a great season.


Tensions ran high in the Budweiser Modified and Coors Super Stock ranks early as point leader Darvin Ackerland and second place in points Rick Baldwin came together at the flag stand halfway through the A heat race. Baldwin moved his Pioneer Title Company, Summit Tile and Construction modified up the track to block Ackerland’s Curtis Clean Sweep, Music and Sons Auctioneers car, but instead made contact with Ackerland’s left front tire.  This touch put Ackerland in the concrete.  Akerland first slammed, then climbed the wall while third place Rob Powers piled into his stricken modified.  When the smoke cleared Ackerland hopped out of his demolished racer and Powers limped his Coors Super Stock, minus most of his right side sheet metal, to the pits.  Due to the incident Baldwin was disqualified for the night.  While Ackerland’s car wouldn’t make the call for the main event, Ackerland himself borrowed Sharlet Wilson’s Cycle City of Mountain Home, Outlaws and Angels modified to compete.  With second place Baldwin parked for the night the pressure was on third and fourth place Scott Durbin and Randy Keckley to make a run toward the top of the standings.

When the green flag fell on their 30 lap main event Gale Carter surprised Jess Ryska to take his Pacific Movers ride to the top spot. Durbin worked his Demeray Construction, Fenton Trucking modified quickly to third while Keckley’s Pegasus Towing, Advanced Transmissions racer encountered engine trouble on lap three and had to pull into the pit area.  Meanwhile Ackerland, duct tape numbers peeling in the breeze, drove his way up to fourth.  At the front of the field Powers, with bits of his Vapology, Aerial Rentals racecar still littering the front straightaway, took the lead and pulled away from the field.  At the halfway point Ackerland had figured Wilson’s car out and began putting pressure on Durbin for third overall.  Durbin used his modified’s superior bite off the corner to fend off Ackerland on the low side.  As the laps wound down Durbin and Ackerland caught Gale Carter’s Coors Super Stock.  Ackerland pinned Durbin low behind the slower Carter, and on the white flag lap would pull even with Durbin.  But Durbin’s car had better launch off the corner and he was able to beat Ackerland off turn four and back to the line for the Budweiser Modified victory.  All of this happened over eight seconds behind Powers, who took the time to throw three tire-melting donuts down on the turn four asphalt in celebration of his championship season.

“I’ve gotta thank my wife for supporting me out here all these years,” said Powers in Arctic Circle Victory Lane. “I’ve always wanted to do some donuts.”

Going into the NSRA Western Winged Sprintcar Pepsi 75 the championship was still wide open. Matt Hein held the top spot in his Independent Motor Rebuilders, Coast-Line West Insulation machine, but just seven markers behind the Roseburg, Oregon driver sat Middleton, Idaho’s Sierra Jackson.  Also lurking around the top spot was Friday night’s winner Johnny Giesler, who trailed Hein by 29 points.  Giesler’s Telmate, Speedmart sprinter held the pole position with Hein to his outside, while Jackson had her work cut out for her after drawing the eighth starting spot.

As the green flag waved Giesler outmuscled Hein into turn one to claim the lead. Further back in the pack Jackson floundered in seventh as she waited for her car’s setup to come in.  After ten laps it did just that and she started to put immense pressure on Richie Larson’s Mr. Sandman Meridian, CMH Underground Utilities car for sixth.  While Jackson worked to move forward Hein pulled up to Giesler to challenge for the lead and ensure himself the championship.  On lap fourteen Hein would sneak under Giesler for the top spot and immediately set to pulling away from his foe.  Now it was up to Jackson to make her way through the field.  At the one third mark Jackson cleared Larson in lapped traffic and set her sights on fifth place Matt Mansell.

As the eleven second laps clicked by the handling on some racers began to sour, meaning an increasing amount of traffic for the leaders to deal with. Deftly Hein bobbed and weaved through the never-ending stream of slower cars, Mansell would not be as lucky as a gaggle of cars stopped his progress.  This allowed Jackson to close on Mansell, but the Victoria, British Columbia driver would fend off her challenges until with 24 laps to go he slid high on the entry to turn three.  This handed Jackson fifth on the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard.  Now Hein turned the wick up on his sprinter even more, running his machine ragged at the front of the field.  But this torrid pace would heat up Hein’s tires, and with twenty laps left second place Giesler pulled a surprise dive into turn three which caught Hein out and sent Giesler to the first position.  Now Giesler set sail, much as he did on Friday, and pulled out to a commanding lead.  But a cut tire for Mansell with ten laps to go would bunch the field for one last shootout.

As the field got back up to speed Hein used his cooled tires to pull to the outside of Giesler and rocket to the top spot. Giesler would have bigger problems two laps later as his car pulled off the track, leaving Bryan Warf second and moving Jackson up to third.  While Hein motored away from the field Warf and Jackson settled into second and third.  Behind the podium finishers Ryan Burdett and quick-time Rick Brown went wheel-to-wheel for fourth.  Burdett would wheel his Royal Purple, FRB Welding sprinter sideways to win this battle, but no one would take down Hein as he roared across the line first.

After Hein pulled his car to a stop he jumped out and raised his arms in victory as he took home both the main event trophy and the NSRA Western Winged Sprintcar trophy as well.

“Anytime you can beat Johnny Giesler in Meridian, you did something,” said Hein. “I have to congratulate Sierra [Jackson] on a great year.”

With an incredible weekend of racing behind it Meridian Speedway turns its attention to the final two events off the 2014 asphalt racing schedule. Next Saturday, September 20 the excitement continues with the Meridian Speedway Modifieds, Project Filter Pro-4s, TEAM Mazda Subaru Mini Stocks, Tates Rents Hornets, Thunderdogs, Tile Outlet Bike Races for Kids, and the return of World Famous Boat Races.  General admission for Saturday night’s action is just $12.25.  Be sure to text ‘meridianspeed’ to 84483 for special information and check out www.meridianspeedway.com for advance tickets.

As always this week’s action was brought to you in part by Contingency Connection. For more information about Contingency Connection see Meridian Speedway staff or officials.