MERIDIAN, Idaho — The California kid must be in absolute love with Idaho.
Jeremy Doss, a 15-year-old race-car driver from Upper Lake, Calif., made it 2-for-2 on the state’s racetracks with an impressive victory in the NAPA Auto Parts Treasure Valley 100 on Saturday night at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway.
Doss, who won at Meridian as a 14-year-old in 2011, jumped on the final green flag to win his second CarbonX Rocky Mountain Challenge Series feature in as many starts with the regional series this season. Dating to the 2011, it was Doss’ third feature victory in the Gem State.
“It feels great,” Doss said after taking his second checkered flag in his second career RMCS start.
In other feature races from Meridian’s Saturday night, Kuna, Idaho’s Casey Tillman found redemption with his first Pepsi Sprintcars win of the season; Larry Hull III drove to victory in the Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks; and Sledgehammer, driven by Nampa, Idaho’s David Jolley, won the wet and wacky 20-lap Thunder Dogs main.
Doss, who won the RMCS’ 75-lap season opener at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls on April 21, sent an early message to his multi-state competitors by running a practice lap in the low 13-second range earlier on Saturday.
But the high schooler still had to work past a hometown driver and then hold off another local favorite to reel in the checkered in a race of attrition that featured 10 caution flags.
On Lap 67, Doss finally worked past Meridian, Idaho’s John Nesmith. Doss passed Nesmith low for the lead moments before Nesmith slowed in Turn 2 and was hit by RMCS points leader Steve Jones, another Meridian driver.
Kuna, Idaho’s Craig Bell, who was making his long-awaited return to the RMCS, chased Doss the remainder of the race. But one of the winningest drivers in series history couldn’t catch the young gun because of worn-out tires.
Bell had a strong race car for the first half of the fourth annual NAPA Auto Parts Treasure Valley 100. He sped past pole-sitter Travis Monett of Spring Creek, Nev., at the first green flag and looked to have his Late Model on a rail.
But after a 25-lap stretch under green-flag conditions, Bell couldn’t hold off Nesmith with 47 laps remaining. Another Meridian driver, Tyler Monroe, spun out to bring out a yellow flag, bunching up the field and giving Nesmith his shot at the lead.
Nesmith took his strong racecar to the outside and passed Bell on the 51st lap, but Doss coat-tailed the veteran and put his machine in second place. He would lead by as many as four car lengths.
Doss rallied for the lead after tangling with Bruce Quale of Twin Falls while the pair raced for second place behind Nesmith with 37 laps left.
Jones, who battled hard for position with Nesmith earlier in the race, saw his night end with 31 laps remaining when he drove high into Turn 3 in an attempt to pass Middleton, Idaho’s Tyler Bailey for third place. Jones lost control of his series-leading racecar and drove up onto the Turn 4 wall.
In the 25-lap Mini Stocks feature, Larry Hull III showed his quick time in qualifying was no fluke, drove to the checkered flag from the back of a crowded field.
Hull needed less than 10 laps to go from fifth place to the lead. He took advantage of a side-by-side restart after Meridian’s Colton Nelson brought a yellow flag with a spin in Turn 2. When the green flag dropped, Hull pushed past Sarah Shaw of Boise to take the lead for good with nine laps left.
“We came across a pretty good setup, and not to mention Mulder (Steve Mulder of Mulder Auto Machine) built us a pretty good motor. That helps a lot.”
This time, Casey Tillman saw the checkered, not the wrecker.
The Kuna, Idaho resident had his Pepsi Sprintcar dialed in just weeks after a nasty crash while racing for the lead.
The result was domination throughout the night at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway.
He worked his way from the back of the pack and walked away from the field in the 30-lap feature. Tillman beat his nearest competitor, division rookie Jamie Ransom of Boise, Idaho, by four seconds.
“The thing I’m most proud about is it’s in one piece, and it’s not upside-down in Turn 1,” Tillman said.
Three weeks ago, Tillman was racing Nampa, Idaho’s Ryan Wiederich for the lead in the division’s season opener when the tires of the two open-wheel cars touched and Tillman’s black No. 2 racer plowed into the Turn 1 barrels at nearly full speed.
Tillman set the table for his main event victory by picking his way through the field in the eight-lap Fast Dash earlier in the night.
“It’s all about the patience tonight. I just want to finish the race,” Tillman said after accepting his Fast Dash trophy.
“We spent the last two weeks putting this thing back together. I just have to thank my crew and my family for being back there and supporting me and putting it back together.”
Another Kuna racer, Craig Bell made a successful return to his home track Saturday in the second 12-lap heat race for the Rocky Mountain Challenge Series.
Bell battled a loose race car, but was able to stay ahead of persistent Thane Alderman of Las Vegas. Alderman peeked high and low for a way around Bell. With three laps left, Alderman drove to the bottom of the racetrack in Turn 2 and put his nose inside Bell’s rear quarter panel, only to run out of space. He was forced to back off and eventually lost second place to Red Bluff, Calif., racer Steve Gannon. Gannon and Alderman ran door-to-door behind Bell for the final lap before Gannon edged ahead for the runner-up spot.
In the first heat race for the Late Model tour based out Meridian, another Nevada driver led from the front all the way.
Travis Monett, who hails from Spring Creek in the Silver State, led by about two car lengths throughout the preliminary while racers jockeyed for position behind him.
Local driver Dylan Caldwell of Nampa started in the third row of the eight-car race and worked his way into second place by the end of the heat. He passed fellow local racer Tyler “The Torch” Monroe of Meridian, Idaho, for third place with seven laps left.
He finished off a three-lap challenge of another Meridian driver, Quint Whitman, nipping him by a nose at the checkered flag.
Meridian Speedway is closed this weekend for Memorial Day, but that doesn’t mean that the racing won’t stop.
The crew packs up and travels to Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho (Saturday) and Rocky Mountain Raceways in West Valley City, Utah (Monday) for the first two races of Northwest Asphalt Speedweek for the Canadian American Western Winged Sprints Series, featuring the best open-wheel drivers from the Intermountain Northwest and Western Canada.
The Saturday races in Twin Falls also will feature Meridian Speedway series points races for the Pit Stop Drive Thru Super Stocks and the Tates Hornets.
The Western Winged Sprints won’t be done after the Memorial Day weekend races, though.
The racers hit Meridian Speedway on Wednesday, May 30 for the 33rd Bob and Tom Naylor Memorial and are back at the historic paved quarter-mile on Friday and Saturday, June 1-2, for the Speedweek finale, which is the BOB 96.1 FM Diamond Cup XXIV presented by GNO Jewelry.