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NEVADA NATIVE DOMINATES NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST NAPA IDAHO 208 AT MERIDIAN SPEEDWAY
MERIDIAN, Idaho—The future stars of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing aligned Saturday at Meridian Speedway for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208. With 23 stock cars packed onto the pavement the fireworks started well before the evening-closing display presented by Platinum Motors.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Noah Gragson grabbed the Coors 21 means 21 Pole Award for the 54 mile event with a blistering thirteen second lap, but it wasn’t the race pace that had Gragson’s attention pre-race.
“It’ll be tiring for sure,” Gragson said of the 208 lap event. “It’s so hard to get these things through the turns.”
For series point co-leader Chris Eggleston the focus was on the tight confines of the asphalt quarter-mile.
“You have to be careful. Touch that back stretch wall and you’re gone.”
As the September sun sank to the horizon a stacked field of racers including local drivers Trevor Cristiani and Rob Powers fired engines and chased front row starters Gragson and James Bickford to the green flag.
Bickford and his Sunrise Ford, Interstate Plastics Ford prevailed early as he shot around Gragson’s AlertID, Colliers International Ford to lead the first lap. While Gragson settled into the runner up spot action picked up further back as Ryan Partridge and Brandon McReynolds fought door-to-door for the first dozen laps over sixth position.
Out front David Mayhew’s MMI Racing, Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet came to life and the third place starter powered around the outside of both Gragson and Bickford. Mayhew looked to settle in up front, but wasn’t safe there as on lap 30 he was collected in a John Wood spin.
“They hit a ton,” third place runner Bickford said of the turn one accident.
With Mayhew in the pit area and the green flag back out Gragson grabbed the top spot with McReynolds’ NAPA Auto Parts Toyota locked in his tire tracks. Gragson used his superior corner speed to pull away from McReynolds while local favorite Cristiani worked his Cyclone Cycles, Sharp Transportation Chevrolet into the seventh spot by the race’s second caution on lap 65.
At the NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208’s halfway point Gragson held the top spot over McReynolds, Partridge, Bickford and Eggleston. Cristiani’s charge to the front stalled at the eighty lap mark and he completed lap 104 in tenth.
As thirteen second laps flew off the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard the intensity picked up and on lap 114 a fight for sixth turned into contact and a Bickford spin through traffic on the front stretch. Bickford fired his car and continued, but his wounded car was mired deep in the snarling pack.
“We were going so fast,” Bickford said of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West field, “I don’t know how we didn’t hit more people.”
Lap 124 threatened to change the complexion of the championship battle as co-points leader Eggleston slid his NAPA Filters, H2O Fire Protection Toyota sideways and battered the turn three wall. Somehow Eggleston gathered his damaged racer and continued to steam his way toward the leader. Twelve laps later dreams of an Arctic Circle of Meridian Victory Lane appearance for Cristiani went up in smoke as his top ten racecar burst into flames and he retired from the event.
Under the caution for Cristiani’s misfortune McReynolds suffered some of his own as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West officials relegated the fast driver to the back of the pack. On the lap 143 restart Ryan Partridge blew past Gragson and took the lead. Gragson wheeled his racer hard in an attempt to wrestle his way back into the top spot. After a fierce five lap skirmish Gragson succeeded and continued his torrid pace.
As Gragson set sail from the field McReynolds sliced his way through the pack as he climbed back to the top five. McReynolds used a three-wide pass to make his way to fourth on a lap 174 restart. McReynolds wasn’t done there as he pulled his way to second with 28 circuits to go.
On a restart with just nine laps to go McRyenolds gave Gragson his best shot into turn one. As both racers slung their machines sideways Gragson caught traction first in the high line and motored to the inaugural NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 win.
“It was all about getting lane choice on the restarts,” Gragson said of his winning strategy.
The win catapults Gragson back into the series points lead by two markers over Eggleston and eight over Ryan Partridge. It also solidifies the Las Vegas, Nevada racer’s spot atop the Sunoco Rookie of the Year runners.
In other action at Meridian Speedway Saturday the touring Pro Truck Series capped their season with the Extreme 75 presented by Extreme Staffing. When the green flag dropped Kevan Larson piloted his Larson Racing, Agri-Service truck to the lead while point leader Johnny Pierre methodically worked his DL Evans Bank, Elite Heating and Cooling machine into the top five.
Pierre’s patience paid off as he snuck to the low side of the racetrack and took the lead on lap 25. Cody Backus’ Emissions Made Easy, We Mark It Specialties racer was the first to reach Pierre’s tailgate on lap 33, but Pierre pulled away as the pair worked through lapped traffic.
A lap 39 restart brought Drew Reitsma to Pierre’s outside. Reitsma put the pedal down and ran around Pierre on the high side to take the lead. With the title all but wrapped up Pierre was content to ride in second and take the checkered flag for his third straight Pro Truck Series championship.
“We got her done again,” said an ecstatic Pierre post race.
The Domino’s Legends battled through a tough 25 lap feature Saturday minus one title contender. With Peyton Saxton’s absence the pressure was on Casey Tillman and Zach Blume to capitalize. Blume wasted no time as he pinned his Idaho Web Printers of Emmett, Northend Chevron car to the outside and roared to the lead on lap five. Tillman on the other hand had to pace his YMC Inc., Identify Sign Works as he worked through the field.
When Tillman cleared traffic on lap eighteen the battle began. Tillman dipped low and looked high as he worked to set up Blume. This set up was interrupted by Johnethan Davis, whose engine detonated on the backstretch and sent his GCAT Towing machine hard into the turn three water barrels. Davis climbed from his racer uninjured and the race resumed with just five circuits remaining.
Tillman powered his way around the outside of Blume in turn one and never looked back as he blazed his way around the quarter-mile to take the checkered flag. Blume, Chance Davis, Darin Turpen and Daytona Wurtz filled the rest of the Pepsi-Cola scoreboard.
The Kendall Ford of Meridian Mini Stocks kicked off main event action Saturday with a 20 car field taking the green flag. It took title contender Travis Pavlacky thirteen laps to battle his way past early race leader Rick Brees. Scott Shoecraft followed Pavlacky to the front of the field and pulled to Pavlacky’s tailgate on lap nineteen.
Shoecraft’s run stalled there as Pavlacky caught lapped traffic and used it to stay out front until the checkers fell. Jason Sanders, Mike Vester, and Brees rounded out the top five.
Labor Day weekend is just beginning at Meridian Speedway as Sunday night the Intermountain Outlaw Modifieds contest the Allen Stroebel Memorial on Oldies Cruise Night. The CT400 Sprintcars and Tates Rents Hornets will join the touring modifieds in their quest for the Jacksonbuilt Racing trophy. We’ll see you Sunday under the big yellow water tower for even more racing action under the big yellow water tower at Meridian Speedway.
Saturday’s Unofficial Results-
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208
NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 – NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (208 laps)-1.Noah Gragson 2.Brandon McReynolds 3.Buddy Shepherd 4.Chris Eggleston 5.Johnny White
Extreme 75 - Pro Truck Series (75 laps)-1.Drew Reitsma 2.Johnny Pierre 3.Daniel Shirley 4.Mason Newhouse 5.John Wong
Dominos Legends (25 laps)-1. Casey Tillman 2. Zach Blume 3. Chance Davis 4. Darin Turpen 5. Daytona Wurtz
Kendall Ford Mini Stocks (30 laps)-1. Travis Pavlacky 2. Scott Shoecraft 3. Jason Sanders 4. Mike Vester 5. Richard Brees
NASCAR K&N West Pro Series-Noah Gragson, 13.017 seconds
Pro Trucks-Drew Reitsma, 14.378 seconds
Dominos Legends-Zach Blume, 14.710 seconds
Kendall Ford Mini Stocks-Scott Shoecraft, 15.039 seconds