MERIDIAN, Idaho — Chad Bess couldn’t finish ahead of all the Weavers, but he beat the one he needed to for the Street Stocks championship at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway on Friday night.
Bess dethroned fellow Nampa, Idaho driver Melissa Weaver, who was in search of her third consecutive division championship on the historic paved quarter-mile oval.
Bess finished second in the 30-lap feature to Melissa’s father, Marv. Marv Weaver won another feature on the track he has frequented since 1964 – about 15,000 laps ago.
Bess, who had to jump into a borrowed car a week ago to preserve his title hopes, dedicated his championship run to a family member who was never able to visit the racetrack.
“This win goes out to my aunt,” Bess said on the verge of tears. “She passed away before she was able to see me race, so Debbie, this goes out to you.”
In other main events:
Larry Hull III of Boise, Idaho capped his championship season in the Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks division by winning a caution flag-riddled feature race.
Casey Tillman completed his comeback from a horrific season-opening wreck to win the Pepsi Sprintcars season championship by winning the division’s final feature of the season.
Veteran driver Ken Chandler of Boise, Idaho finally found the answers and won the Project Filter Pro-4 feature race on the final night of the season.
Middleton, Idaho’s Jim Bailey was crowned season champion in the Pro-4s and finished second in the main event.
Phyl Zubizareta took the green flag for the 40-lap Domino’s Pizza Legends feature to clinch the series championship in that division. For good measure, the Garden City, Idaho driver worked his way through the field and took the checkered flag at the end of the race, too.
Colton Nelson of Meridian, Idaho wrapped up the Hornets season championship even before the wild 40-lap main event began. But, just with a couple other champions Friday, he decided going out a winner would be a good thing, so he took the checkered flag for the feature, too.
Bess entered the night with a slim 22-point lead in the Street Stocks championship standings. His lead dwindled when Melissa Weaver took down the checkered flag in the division’s Fast Dash.
He was able to keep Weaver at bay through the main event as Boise’s Dan Lowther, driving in his first Street Stocks race of 2012, sprinted to the lead.
With 17 laps left, Marv Weaver bolted to the lead when Lowther’s car slowed and pulled out of the groove.
Weaver rocketed to a two-second lead as his daughter languished in seventh place, five spots behind Bess.
Bess kept the five-spot gap between he and Melissa Weaver over the last half of the race. He also whittled Marv Weaver’s lead down two a pair of car lengths with three laps left.
While Bess just missed a chance at beating Marv at the line, Melissa gobbled up two spots on the final lap to finish sixth.
After the race, Bess paid homage to the first family of stock car racing at Meridian.
“If it wasn’t for Marv and Melissa, this division wouldn’t be what it is,” he said. “They keep pushing and pushing.”
In the Mini Stocks, Larry Hull III may not have had the fastest car on the track Friday, but he had the best positions.
Former multi-time track champion Jason Sanders of Caldwell, Idaho, tried his darnedest to find a way around Hull during the last 30 laps of the 40-lap main.
Sanders drove underneath Hull several times, but could never knock the eventual season champion off his perch in the front of a crowded and crazy Mini Stocks field.
“He was really going to have to work for that,” Hull said. “He had a faster car than me, but it’s really hard to pass me underneath.”
The Mini Stocks feature had an inauspicious start with two caution flags before the first lap was booked. The third yellow flag flew on Lap 11 when Kuna, Idaho’s John Ellsworth’s car broke in Turn 1-2 and was nailed by Mary Johnson of Meridian. Sarah Shaw slammed on her brakes and stopped within inches of hitting Ellsworth, too.
After the first night of the Pepsi Sprintcars season at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway, one would have been hard-pressed to envision Casey Tillman as a champion.
But the Kuna, Idaho driver literally turned his fortunes right-side-up over the rest of the 2012 season.
He won his sixth feature of the season Friday night to kick off Cricket Green Flag Championship Night and lock up the season championship in the open-wheel division.
“I couldn’t have done it without my crew. Joey and Eric. Especially Eric he’s always been there late nights whenever I’ve bent something
“Everybody: Rod, Willie and everybody standing behind me, my family. I couldn’t do it without them.”
His crew had its hands full after the first night of racing this season when Tillman clipped tires with Josh Allen and wound up flipping upside-down in Turn 1.
Friday night, Tillman and his two closest competitors in the points chase – Jamie Ransom of Boise, Idaho, and Meridian, Idaho’s Josh Allen – rolled through the field nose-to-tail as the 30-lap race wore on.
With 13 laps left, Tillman drove underneath Allen heading into Turn 3 to grab second place and continue his pursuit of Meridian’s Colton Nelson. Nelson had led from the beginning of the race.
With nine laps, Tillman and Nelson bumped. Tillman was able to drive ahead and pull out to a four-car-length lead as Nelson and Ransom battled hard for second place.
While accepting congratulations on his championship in victory lane, Tillman reflected on the harrowing beginnings of his season.
“You couldn’t ask for anything else after being upside-down in the first race of the season,” he said.
A Western Idaho Racing Association Hall of Famer, Chandler had a feeling he had something special going on early in the night with his No. 33 Pro-4 racecar.
It took a little hard luck on the part of first-time Pro-4 competitor Donovan Parker of Garden City, Idaho, for Chandler to cash in on the good vibe, though.
Parker had built a 3½-second lead in his series debut, but 18 laps into the race, the leader lost his line and had to save the car from hitting the wall in the middle of Turns 1-2.
When Parker slowed to prevent a massive hit, Chandler took advantage and gobbled up the deficit. By the midway point, Chandler had a three-second lead over Bailey.
Chandler nearly called his shot after winning the division’s Fast Dash earlier in the night.
“It’s been a real rough year for us,” the former track champion said. “We’ve been fighting motors all year long with a lifter problem, but we got it figured out and the Project Filter Pro-4 is fast tonight.
“We’re ready to put a period on it tonight.”
And Chandler did just that, while Bailey put an exclamation point on his comeback season.
“I’ve got to tell you, this has been a long time coming. We’ve been working hard,” Bailey said. “I just got to thank everybody. My wife, my best friend Jim Thompson, my brother Ryan.”
Then Bailey turned his attention to his return to championship form.
“When I quit racing in ‘98, my dad said don’t ever buy another car because you’ll never have another year like that one,” Bailey said. “Well, Dad, we just had one.”
Zubizareta didn’t have to work very hard to wrap up the season championship in the Legends cars, but he drove up to the front of a crowded field just the same.
“It’s amazing,” Zubizareta said. “I’ve been racing 10 years in search of a championship, and I finally got it.
“Once we got it, I said, ‘I just want to come out here and win no matter what it takes.’ ”
Zubizareta rallied from a poor restart after the race’s third yellow flag to catch Nampa, Idaho’s Sara Henry and take the lead with 13 laps remaining.
Henry had rocketed away from Zubizareta on a side-by-side start after Tillman nearly wrecked when something broke on his Legends car.
Zubizareta had to survive one more yellow flag when Andrew Clark of Boise spun in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. There was a single-file restart after that caution flag, and the series champion kept his advantage over Henry.
In the Hornets finale, Nelson went high with 10 laps remaining to pass Chuck Youngblood of Meridian and lock up the lead.
But while Nelson won the feature and the championship, someone else will drive the car in 2013. The track claimed the racecar, and it will be put up for auction for other Hornets drivers to bid on.
Nelson held off Lynn Sharp of Nampa and another Meridian driver, Rob Powers, over the final laps.
Sharp slid between Powers and a lapped car in the middle of Turn 4 to grab second place.
Watch for information about the 2013 racing season on www.meridianspeedway.com.
Cricket Green Flag Championship Night
Friday’s unofficial results
Pepsi Sprintcars (30 laps) – 1. Casey Tillman, Kuna, Idaho; 2. Colton Nelson, Meridian, Idaho; 3. Jamie Ransom, Boise, Idaho; 4. Josh Allen, Meridian; 5. Tristen Spiers, Adrian, Ore.
2012 Pepsi Sprintcars champion – Casey Tillman
Project Filter Pro-4s (40 laps) – 1. Ken Chandler, Boise; 2. Jim Bailey, Middleton, Idaho; 3. Joe Barton, Nampa, Idaho; 4. Kurt Madsen, Herriman, Utah; 5. Dayne Amyx, Boise
2012 Project Filter Pro-4s champion – Jim Bailey
Domino’s Pizza Legends (40 laps) – 1. Phyl Zubizareta, Garden City, Idaho; 2. Sara Henry, Nampa; 3. Jimmy Ingham, Meridian; 4. Chase Gilbertson, Boise; 5. Mike Cullum, Meridian
2012 Domino’s Pizza Legends champion – Phyl Zubizareta
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks (40 laps) – 1. Larry Hull III, Boise; 2. Jason Sanders, Caldwell, Idaho; 3. Jonathan Hull, Boise; 4. Ray Bolinger, Meridian; 5. Sarah Shaw, Boise
2012 Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks champion – Larry Hull III
Street Stocks (30 laps) – 1. Marv Weaver, Nampa; 2. Chad Bess, Nampa; 3. Rick Baldwin, Middleton; 4. Pat Tully, North Powder, Ore.; 5. Roy Kirkland, Boise
2012 Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks champion – Chad Bess
Tates Hornets (40 laps) – 1. Colton Nelson, Meridian; 2. Lynn Sharp, Nampa; 3. Rob Powers, Meridian; 4. Sharlet Pataro, Mountain Home, Idaho; 5. Chuck Youngblood, Meridian
2012 Tates Hornets champion – Colton Nelson
(Eight laps each)
Fast Dash – 1. Tillman; 2. Allen; 3. Ransom; 4. Erik Miller, Caldwell, Idaho; 5. Ryan Wiederich, Nampa
B Heat – 1. Colton Nelson, Meridian; 2. Cody Huddleston, Meridian; 3. Tristen Spiers, Adrian, Ore.; 4. Ryan Newman, Caldwell; 5. Michael Anderson, Nampa
Domino’s Pizza Legends
Fast Dash – 1. Zubizareta; 2. Sara Henry, Nampa; 3. Jonathan Davis, Emmett, Idaho; 4. Chase Gilbertson, Boise; 5. Mark Cirelli Jr., Nampa
B Heat – 1. Jimmy Ingham, Meridian; 2. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian; 3. Charlie Fiscus, Star, Idaho; 4. Aubree Wartman, Boise; 5. Steve Thimsen, Boise
C Heat – 1. Brent Collins, Boise; 2. Rod Stiller, Meridian; 3. Jenna Cullum, Meridian; 4. Dayna Skiver, Meridian; 5. Chance Davis, Emmett
Project Filter Pro-4s
Fast Dash – 1. Chandler; 2. Barton; 3. Madsen; 4. DJ Lyons, Nampa; 5. Bailey
B Heat – 1. Donovan Parker, Garden City; 2. Larry Hull III, Boise; 3. Terry Sherman, Boise; 4. Ron Hayes, Boise; 5. Rob Bean, Kuna
Fast Dash – 1. Melissa Weaver, Nampa; 2. Marv Weaver, Nampa; 3. Chad Bess, Nampa; 4. Rick Baldwin, Middleton; 5. Roy Kirkland, Boise
B Heat – 1. Pat Young, Kuna; 2. Gale Carter, Boise; 3. Dan Lowther, Boise; 4. Bobby Riggs, Fruitland; 5. Micky Lawson, Caldwell
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks
Fast Dash – 1. TJ Labronte, Meridian; 2. Mary Johnson, Meridian; 3. Larry Hull III, Boise; 4. Brenden Fries, Meridian; 5. Jason Sanders, Caldwell
B Heat – 1. Richard Brees, Meridian; 2. Ray Bolinger, Meridian; 3. Mike Davis, Boise; 4. Chad Barker, Kuna
C Heat – 1. Duane Gerber, Boise; 2. Jayson Wardle, Boise; 3. Jonathan Hull, Boise; 4. Robbie Hyde, Twin Falls, Idaho; 5. Nathan Dearing, Boise
D Heat – 1. Everett Meeks, Garden City; 2. John Ellsworth, Kuna; 3. Travis Pavlacky, Fruitland, Idaho; 4. Brandon Shira, Boise; 5. Leonard Reed, Meridian
(Six laps each)
Fast Dash – 1. Lynn Sharp, Nampa; 2. Thomas Harrod, Nampa; 3. Monica Heath, Caldwell; 4. Cody Garrett, Boise; 5. Art Heath, Nampa
B Heat – 1. Brandon Hild, Boise; 2. Al Russell, Kuna; 3. Jack Martin, Caldwell; 4. Rob Powers, Meridian; 5. Sharlet Pataro, Mountain Home, Idaho
C Heat – 1. Jess Ryska, Meridian; 2. Alex Duda, Boise; 3. DJ Everett; 4. James Pahl, Caldwell; 5. Michael Capps, Meridian
D Heat – 1. Jerry Davis, Emmett; 2. Jason Rupp, Boise; 3. Brenden Fries, Meridian; 4. Jennifer Fraser; 5. Donovan Johns, Meridian
Pepsi Sprintcars – Ransom, 13.516 seconds
Project Filter Pro-4s – Chandler, 14.054
Domino’s Pizza Legends – Mike Cullum, Meridian, 15.332
Street Stocks – Pat Tully, North Powder, Ore., 15.086
Pit Stop Drive Thru Mini Stocks – Sanders, 15.408