Saturday is one of those rare times when the veteran of 26 racing seasons and seven championships joins his compatriots in the fraternity of the Intermountain West’s best Late Model drivers for the only Meridian appearance in 2011 for the Carbon X Rocky Mountain Challenge Series.
The NAPA Auto Parts Treasure Valley 100 brings the region’s top stock car drivers to Meridian’s tight quarter-mile oval for exciting pass-for-points racing. Drivers from five states will make the trip.
And Jones is leading the way as the reigning RMCS series champion. He currently sits second in the 2011 standings to Jeff Hillock of Cedar Hills, Utah. But Jones is proof that anything can happen in a series with the unique perspective of putting the fastest cars in the middle of the pack for feature races and forcing drivers to find a way to the front.
Other locals who will look to run well include track qualifying record-holder Dave Minegar of Boise, who is making his 2011 debut; teenager Dylan Caldwell of Nampa, who is returning from a NASCAR internship with Mooresville, N.C.-based Kyle Beattie Racing for Saturday’s race; six-time Bill Crow Memorial champion John Nesmith of Meridian; and Tyler Bailey of Middleton, who leads the speedway’s NAPA Late Model Sportsman series.
The Meridian paved oval, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary season, is an intriguing place for skilled drivers to pull off the passing that series owner and founder Mike Minegar, a Boise businessman, says race fans salivate to see each Saturday at short tracks everywhere.
“Meridian is a blast to race on,” Jones said in agreement. “It’s one of those places that if you can do well at Meridian you can succeed anywhere.
“It’s a tight, tricky little bugger. Meridian is fun.”
Jones knows the track’s tricky temperament first-hand.
Last year, when RMCS ran two races at Meridian, Jones roared with the fastest car in hot laps for the NAPA Auto Parts Treasure Valley 100 on June 26 only to wreck and miss the main event. He rebounded for the Pepsi Gem State 75 on Sept. 4, however.
“In the first race, we had the fastest car in practice and stuck it in the fence in practice,” the 2007 Idaho state NASCAR champion said. “We came back in the second race in a bit of tight points battle and the other guy battling with us for the points fell out of the race. We finished (sixth).”
Two weeks later, Jones finished second in the season finale at the track where he made his name, Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, to sew up the 2010 crown.
The unique RMCS scoring format keeps the door open for consistent and courageous drivers to make tight passes and move up in the standings, something Jones has been doing throughout the 2011 season since failing to finish the season opener because of mechanical problems.
Jones has a win this season, but also has taken advantage of a system in which drivers earn points for passing opponents. The driver who accumulates the most points at the end of the night wins the bulk of the cash, even if he missed out on the checkered flag.
“Our series is all about qualifying because we do get passing points,” Jones said. “(The format) probably makes it more exciting for the fans and the racers. It’s always fun to race from the back.
“It’s a unique deal, and you don’t see it in many series.”
The RMCS is the only major regional Late Model series in the nation that inverts its starting field, putting the top qualifier back in the pack and requiring him to race to the front and earn the checkered flag.
Support divisions for Saturday’s big show include the Pepsi Sprintcars, the College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving Street Stocks and the Jr. Stingers for drivers ages 12-14.
General admission is $15 with a $2.50 discount for senior citizens and military personnel with ID and $4 off for children ages 7-11. A $2 discount is available for buying tickets online at www.meridianspeedway.com. Just buy, print and avoid the long lines at the admission gate.
NAPA Auto Parts store owners, employees and customers from throughout the Treasure Valley and the mountains have come together to bring the NAPA Treasure Valley 100 back to Meridian Speedway, and that includes discount coupons available at participating stores worth another $2 off when tickets are bought on the speedway’s website. Discount vouchers are available at 15 stores in places like Council, McCall, Eagle, Emmett, Parma, Mountain Home, Nampa, Caldwell, Homedale, Marsing, Boise, Kuna and Meridian.
In another special deal, a family of two adults and up to four children can get into the races for $46.
Gates open at 4 p.m. Saturday with racing at 6:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.meridianspeedway.com or call (208) 888-2813.
2011 points standings
Carbon X Rocky Mountain Challenge Series
After June 11 races
1. Jeff Hillock, Cedar Hills, Utah, 714 points; 2. Steve Jones, Meridian, Idaho, 683; 3. Zan Sharp, Wellsville, Utah, 644; 4. Lynn Hardy, West Valley City, Utah, 618; 5. Bruce Quale, Twin Falls, Idaho, 575; 6. John Wong, Parma, Idaho, 574; 7. Eric Rhead, West Jordan, Utah, 555; 8. James Wulfenstein, Pahrump, Nev., 553; 9. Lonnie Lowder, Twin Falls, Idaho, 467; 10. John Newhouse, Twin Falls, Idaho, 421
After June 15 races
ESI Express ASA Modifieds — 1. Shelby Stroebel, Nampa, Idaho, 680 points; 2. Chris Fenton, Meridian, Idaho, 487; 3. Jentry Pisca, Nampa, 398; 4. Rus Ward, Boise, Idaho, 378; 5. Tom Hill, Eagle, Idaho, 365; 6. Darrel Dolling, Boise, 318; 7. Tony Ackerland, Star, Idaho, 218; 8. Rick Fowble, Twin Falls, Idaho, 209; 9. Jeffrey Hill, Meridian, 189; 10. Mike Reid, Boise, 179
Pepsi Sprintcars — 1. Joe Ransom, Boise, 321 points; 2. Eric Ransom, Boise, 273; 3. Rob Grice, Boise, 259; 4. Carl Marcum, Meridian, 239; 5. Josh Allen, Meridian, 209; 6. Kelly Perkins, Nampa, 156; 7. Ryan Wiederich, Meridian, 153; 8. Erik Miller, Caldwell, Idaho, 150; 9. Mike Murgoitio, Meridian, 115; 10. Kelly Newman, Boise, 108
Mtn. Dew Winged Sprints — 1. Sierra Jackson, Middleton, Idaho, 276 points; 2. Mike Murgoitio, Meridian, 228; 3. Chris Ratterree, Nampa, 226; 4. Cody Veenstra, Emmett, Idaho, 194; 5. Bryan Warf, Meridian, 189; 6. Johnny Giesler, Meridian, 151; 7. (tie) Matt Hein, Roseburg, Ore., 132; Wyatt King, Meridian, 132; 9. Andy Alberding, Roseburg, 115; 10. Jeff Montgomery, Victoria, British Columbia, 106
NAPA Late Model Sportsman — 1. Tyler Bailey, Middleton, 343 points; 2. Tyler Monroe, Star, 320; 3. Chris Fenton, Meridian, 315; 4. Dennis Wurtz II, Kuna, Idaho, 196; 5. Travis Anderson, Boise, 180; 6. Connor Elliott, Meridian, 173; 7. Jeffrey Wilson, Mountain Home, Idaho, 168; 8. Dan Lowther, Boise, 166; 9. Josh Jackson, Ontario, Ore., 103; 10. Kane Thomasson, Kuna, 96
CWI PTD Street Stocks — 1. Melissa Weaver, Nampa, 472 points; 2. Chad Bess, Nampa, 375; 3. Jeffrey Meads, Nampa, 333; 4. (tie) Tyler Nelson, Kuna, 321; Marv Weaver, Nampa, 321; 6. Shawn Hansen, Boise, 243; 7. Jim Anderson, Meridian, 233; 8. Bobby Riggs, Fruitland, Idaho, 144; 9. Patrick Tully, Caldwell, 137; 10. Roy Kirkland, Boise, 88
Project Filter Pro-4s — 1. Ken Chandler, Boise, 269 points; 2. Joe Barton, Nampa, 268; 3. Jim Bailey, Middleton, 210; 4. Dayne Amyx, Boise, 143; 5. Jordan Fitch, Meridian, 112; 6. Rob Taylor, Meridian, 101; 7. Rob Powers, Meridian, 84; 8. D.J. Lyons, Nampa, 77; 9. Neal Latham, Boise, 73; 10. Bud Rumsey, Prosser, Wash., 61
Edmark Mini Stocks — 1. Scott Shoecraft, Boise, 408 points; 2. Dell Scott, Nampa, 406; 3. Ray Bolinger, Meridian, 397; 4. Tyler Burlingame, Meridian, 356; 5. Eddie Ables, Middleton, 353; 6. Jason Sanders, Caldwell, 284; 7. Donovan Parker, Kuna, 270; 8. Sarah Shaw, Boise, 192; 9. Larry Hull III, Boise, 159; 10. Chad Barker, Boise, 124
Domino’s Pizza Legends — 1. Camron Madsen, Boise, 236 points; 2. Cameron Cotta, Meridian, 211; 3. Jimmy Ingham, Meridian, 162; 4. Brent Collins, McCall, Idaho, 155; 5. Phil Zubizareta, Boise, 152; 6. (tie) Chase Gilbertson, Boise, 132; Darin Turpen, Nampa, 132; 8. Zach Blume, Eagle, 115; Johnathan Davis, Emmett, 112; 10. Rod Stiller, Meridian, 107
Tates Rents Hornets — 1. Jonathan Hull, Boise, 319 points; 2. Josh Parkkila, Boise, 293; 3. Art Heath, Nampa, 270; 4. Brodie Stote, Boise, 264; 5. Fred Nagele, Caldwell, 259; 6. Amber Rogers, Meridian, 256; 7. Monica Heath, Caldwell, 255; 8. Brendon Fries, Meridian, 238; 9. Stacy Heath, Nampa, 231; 10. James Pahl, Caldwell, 228
Thunder Dogs — 1. The Catfish (John Pinkston, Meridian), 275 points; 2. IP Freely Too (Nick Forsea, Richland, Ore.), 254; 3. Screaming Keegan (Cory Keegan, Meridian), 250; 4. Big Tuna (Stan Irons, Boise), 238; 5. IP Freely (Brian Duvall, Kuna), 224; 6. The Sledgehammer (Dave Jolley, Nampa), 223; 7. Fare Lady (Kennon Irons, Boise), 219; 8. Buzz Kill (John Wortendyke and Jimmy Miller), 159; 9. Pickup Man (Cory Huddleston, Nampa), 128; 10. Clifford the Big Red Thunder Dog (Travis Pavlacky, Fruitland), 102
Jr.Stingers — 1. Cody Garrett, Boise, 155 points; 2. Hunter Gates, Nampa, 122;3. Chance Davis, Emmett, Idaho, 101; 4. Jordan Kirkland, Boise, 96; 5. KendraOcchipinti, Nampa, 90; 6. Matt Burger, Meridian, 86; 7. Colton Nelson,Meridian, 59; 8. Tyson Fuss, Kuna, 58; 9. Tyler Sharp, Nampa, 56; 10. KCGillogoly, Twin Falls, 41