MERIDIAN, Idaho — Jeff Russell will have his hands full this weekend during two nights of sprintcar racing at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway. But the Boise-based driver wouldn't have it any other way.
A 30-year veteran of racing -- including the past 10 in open-wheel race cars -- Russell is the new pilot of the 05 Winged Sprint owned by Rick Rule and Kelly Peterson of Ontario, Ore. He'll get his first taste of competition in the car Saturday during the first night of the Pepsi and Tates Labor Day Races at Meridian Speedway.
Russell is running third in the Super Modified Racing Association season, but now he'll use Saturday's race as a tuneup for the remainder of the ASA Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association. The NSRA campaign concludes Sept. 25-26 with a championship weekend at Meridian.
The son of Meridian co-operator Al Russell and 20-year veteran of motorcycle racing before switching to four wheels, Jeff Russell was offered the NSRA ride during a phone chat as he was returning from the Aug. 15 SMRA race in Madera, Calif.
"They've been so excited, and we want to get ready for the NSRA show," Russell said of the new partnership with Rule and Peterson. "We have high expectations, but we'll just take it one step at a time."
The Winged Sprints take the track Saturday along with an ASA Modified double main, Super Stocks, Mini Stocks, Legends and Jr. Stinger championship.
The modified drivers continue to chase points in the ASA Joe Gibbs Driven National Member Track Champion Award chase.
Russell won't hang up the fire suit for the weekend after Saturday. On Sunday, he climbs into a Non-Winged Sprint for another batch of laps. Late Model Lites, Street Stocks and Thunder Dogs also are running on the special night, which also will feature a 100-lap main event for Hornets.
Tickets each night cost $10 for adults, $7.50 for senior citizens and military personnel carrying ID and $5 for children ages 7-11. Children 6 and younger get in free. Fans can avoid the long lines at the gate by purchasing advance tickets at NAPA Auto Parts stores in Meridian and Kuna.
Each night the gates open at 4:30 p.m. with qualifying at 5 p.m. and racing at 6:30 p.m.
To get ready for racing a Winged Sprint against some of the best in the Northwest who call Meridian home, Russell took the paved quarter-mile Wednesday night for some testing. Friday, he's scheduled to test a new Non-Winged Sprint for his dad at his home track.
"I feel pretty comfortable," Russell said of his return to Winged Sprints in a car previously driven by Jim Todd from Weiser. "We've got a few things to iron out, but it's working pretty good."
Saturday night, Russell will match up against drivers such as Meridian series leader Chris Ratterree and young gun Cory Lockwood, both of whom live in Nampa. Lockwood has won two consecutive NSRA stops, including the two-day Daffodil Cup in Victoria, British Columbia, on Aug. 14-15, and the Don Hein Memorial at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Ore., last weekend. Another Nampa driver, Matt Elliott, has won twice at Meridian this season and also will put Russell to the test.
Having raced Super Modifieds with 410-cubic-inch engines since 1999, Russell admits that things will be a little different in a 360ci Winged Sprint. He has more wiggle room in a sprintcar.
"The super modifieds, you try to keep them going straight. Sprintcars are more loose," Russell said. "A sprintcar is more forgiving than a super modified."
Russell has become one of the strongest super modified racers on the West Coast, and although he had an 11th-place finish at Madera Raceway in California last month, he set one of the fastest qualifying times in track history before his luck soured. Including a win in the April SMRA feature at Shasta Speedway in California, he has registered seven top-five finishes this season. He sits third in the points behind perennial leader Troy Regier of Dinuba, Calif. Last year, Russell finished just five points behind Regier in the final standings.
"Things are really going good this year," Russell said. "We have a great crew."
As an American Speed Association-sanctioned track, Meridian Speedway is part of the ASA Member Track National Championship for the Modified division.
The goal of the ASA Short Track National Championship is to activate a measuring system that takes into account many variables, such as field size, inversion, wins and number of races in a season, and create a level playing field to determine who is the ‘best-of-the-best’ of the ASA Member Track Champions Nationwide.
The ASA Joe Gibbs Driven National Member Track Champion Award was designed to give the National Champion exposure with one of the top teams in racing — Joe Gibbs Racing. Joe Gibbs Driven Oil, a division of Joe Gibbs Racing, sells the actual oil products developed and used by Joe Gibbs Racing to racers at all levels. More information can be found at www.joegibbsdriven.com.
The ASA Member Track program is comprised of a network of short tracks around the United States, as well as a variety of regional and national touring series. For news and information from all the racetracks and tours involved in the American Speed Association, visit www.ASA-Racing.com.
2009 points standings
(Through Aug. 29 races)
ASA Modifieds — 1. Tom Hill, Eagle, ID, 615 points; 2. Shelby Stroebel, Nampa, ID, 602; 3. Chris Fenton, Meridian, ID, 579; 4. Rus Ward, Boise, ID, 577; 5. Jeff Hill, Meridian, ID, 519
Winged Sprints — 1. Chris Ratterree, Nampa, ID, 621 points; 2. Cory Lockwood, Nampa, ID, 578; 3. Sierra Jackson, Middleton, ID, 507; 4. Cody Veenstra, Emmett, ID, 477; 5. Matt Elliott, Nampa, ID, 359
Non-winged Sprints — 1. Johnny Giesler, Meridian, ID, 889 points; 2. Wyatt King, Meridian, ID, 795; 3. Rob Grice, Nampa, ID, 573; 4. Zach Wilson, Boise, ID, 466; 5. Erik Miller, Middleton, ID, 389
Super Stocks — 1. Phillip Zubizareta, Boise, ID, 335; 2. Dennis Brodigan, Nampa, ID, 320; 3. Rick Baldwin, Middleton, ID, 305; 4. Gale Carter, Boise, ID, 286; 5. Terry Lydell, Mountain Home, ID, 273 points
Late Model Lites — 1. Jim Bailey, Middleton, ID, 436; 2. Rob Powers, Meridian, ID, 412; 3. Kale Freedman, Meridian, ID, 408; 4. Shaun Tubbs, Nampa, ID, 375; 5. Joe Barton, Nampa, ID, 353
Street Stocks — 1. Jaramie Fuss, Kuna, ID, 755 points; 2. Marv Weaver, Nampa, ID, 646; 3. David Short, Meridian, ID, 557; 4. Melissa Scott, Nampa, ID, 488; 5. Chad Bess, Nampa, ID, 475
Mini Stocks — 1. Ray Bolinger, Meridian, ID, 680 points; 2. Eddie Abels, Meridian, ID, 646; 3. Jason Sanders, Caldwell, ID, 594; 4. Tyler Burlingame, Meridian, ID, 447; 5. Donovan Parker, Boise, ID, 369
Legends — 1. Travis Anderson, Boise, ID, 688 points; 2. Camron Madsen, Boise, ID, 574; 3. Rob Collins, McCall, ID, 415; 4. Ryan Byrd, Salt Lake City, Utah, 338; 5. Tom Matheson, 305
Thunder Dogs — 1. Tommy White, Boise, ID, 441 points; 2. Chris Carlson, Boise, ID, 369; 3. Bill Lacy, Melba, ID, 360; 4. Jim Anderson, Meridian, ID, 335; 5. Dion States, Meridian, ID, 330
Hornets — 1. Vern Cornish, Nampa, ID, 564 points; 2. Mike Davis, Boise, ID, 490; 3. Eric Harry, Boise, ID, 481; 4. Tyler Saxton, New Plymouth, ID, 436; 5. Travis Pavlacky, Fruitland, ID, 429
Jr. Stingers — 1. Andrew Clark, Meridian, ID, 252; 2. Chance Davis, Emmett, ID, 207; 3. Colton Nelson, Meridian, ID, 185; 4. Jonathan Hull, 108; 5. Mike Williams, 106
Domino's Pizza Bandoleros — 1. Andrew Clark, Meridian, ID, 222; 2. Chase Gilbertson, 219; 3. Brok Kidd, Meridian, ID, 195; 4. Michael Hilliker, Sheridan, Mont., 72; 5. Russell Housel, 71