By DJ Everett
It was Magic Valley Pipe & Steel night last Saturday night at Magic Valley Speedway!! The Northwest Tour Truck Series opened their year at the 1/3-mile oval along with the McClimans Racing Engines Minis, Brennan’s Carpet Midgets, Magic Valley Pipe Hornets, and Double Deckers! The crowd settled on what would be an action packed night!
The first race of the night was the McClimans Racing Engines Minis main event the first of two. The green was flying and Troy Palmer led the early laps from the outside front row. Robbie Hyde kept Palmer in his sights running second but a fast closing Mike Audet was able to sneak past Hyde and into the runner up spot. Cecil Miles, Chad Everett, and Roy Boots Jr were all making gains from the back of the pack and soon caught the leaders. Audet kept showing Palmer a nose down low as Miles was ready to pounce on Audet for second. The top 5 were in close quarter of one another at this point. Audet tried the outside of Palmer and while that was going on, Angel Newberry got out of shape coming out of turn 4 and took a run through the infield coming to a stop in the grass just off of turns 1 and 2 bringing out the caution. On the restart Palmer resumed his lead with Miles now giving heavy pressure after getting by Audet for second. A few laps later Miles was able to get up and around Palmer for the lead while Audet pulled it to the infield after running in the top 5. Miles had Everett, Boots, and Palmer on his bumper. On the last lap, Everett tried an inside move on Miles but Miles was able to beat Everett to the line by half of a car length to grab his first win of the year.
The Northwest Tour Trucks rolled out for their first of two main events. Neal Latham from the front row grabbed the lead going into turn 1 as Parker Jones followed on through into second and the same for John Newhouse into third. Jones was right on the rear decklid of Latham battling for the top spot. Newhouse started to catch the top two and right away it was a three truck battle for the lead. McDonald’s qualifying quick qualifier Jenna Quale started to pick them off one at a time as she was making her way through the field. Latham started to pull away from Jones as Jones started to have his hands full with Newhouse as the battle for second was on. Quale got by Jayden Park for fourth and started to track down the top 3. Newhouse put a fender down low on Jones with the two running side by side for a lap before Newhouse grabbing sole possession of second with Quale moving into third. Newhouse had a half of a straightaway deficit behind leader Latham but now had to deal with Quale for second. Latham loved what he was seeing in his rear view mirror with a side by side battle for second and started to pull away. Latham started to close in on lapped traffic at this point. The first truck he attempted to put a lap down was Terrell Daffron and as the two came off of turn 4, they made contact with Latham’s right front fender coming off and skipping down the front straightaway. That right front fender found the front nose of Newhouse and stayed there for the rest of the race. Latham was finally able to get through the lapped traffic but Newhouse was starting to close fast. The white flag flew and Newhouse was right there to make a move. They came off of turn 4 and Latham beat Newhouse to the line to earn his first career NWTTS win. MVS announcer and Everett Motorsports & Media #15 truck owner DJ Everett, which Latham was driving while Everett is recovering from back issues, was elated in victory lane.
A special opening ceremonies took place on this night starting off with the R&A Trucking Big Wheelz race where Jesalyn Sweatfield took home the trophy. Next up was an interview with Nascar legend and championship winning crew chief Jeff Hammond who was here with Purple Heart Racing of the NWWTS to give some coaching. The crowd gave Hammond a huge welcome who signed autographs and posed for pictures in the pit area after the races. After that was a big memorial tribute to Chaz Groat who we lost in January. Devin Westover drove Chaz’s midget around the track for a few laps flying a Chaz Groat memorial flag which will be flown at the flagstand each racing night this year. A plaque and flowers were presented to Chuck and Julie Groat with an emotional speech given by each. Finally, Darren Jones and Purple Heart Racing gave a fitting tribute to the military which he will do at each NWTTS race.
Back to racing and the Double Deckers made their first appearance of the year with a good size field that produced plenty of action. The team of Chad Everett and Zach Rydalch were able to get the best of the field weaving their way through traffic and pulling it into victory lane.
The McClimans Racing Engines Minis were back out for their second main event of the night and when Jr Flagger Justyn Rodriguez flew the green flag it was Roy Boots Jr jumping to the high side of Angel Newberry to take the lead as Newberry was still struggling with the handling of her machine by getting sideways in turns 3 and 4 on the opening lap. Chad Everett and Robbie Hyde were now chasing down leader Boots. Cecil Miles from the back started working his way forward with Everett and Boots now side by side for the top spot. They remained in that formation for multiple laps with Hyde in third looking on and Miles closing in on the top three. Boots’ car started to slow on the frontstretch and immediately pulled off the track due to safety concerns after having receiver issues. That handed the lead to Everett but as soon as that happened, Hyde and Miles went by to claim the top two spots. This setup a battle to the end between the two. Miles put his machine in the high groove and rolled on by Hyde for the lead in which he would keep all the way to the checkers for his second win on the night. Jr Trophy Presenter Ashton Rodriguez joined in on the festivities in victory handing the hardware to the winner.
The Brennan’s Carpet Midgets were next to roll out and at the drop of the green, Ashlyn Powell led the field early. Powell who won her first career midget heat race earlier in the day had a swarm of midget drivers behind her jockeying for position that included River Merrill, Devin Westover, Natalie Waters, and McDonald’s qualifying quick qualifier Anthony Quintana. The top 5 you could cover them with a blanket. Merrill dropped down low underneath Powell and the two young ladies were now fighting for the top spot. Merrill was able to eventually get by and started to pull away from the field. Powell now had company with Quintana who was driving his car for all its worth. As they exited turn 2, Quintana and Powell were side by side and both cars got hooked on each other and drifted up out of the groove. Once both cars became unhooked, Waters and Westover were able to get past. Quintana got back on the gas and was driving back up through the field when his car found the backstretch wall and coming to a stop in turn 3 bringing out the caution. Merrill’s huge lead was erased at this point and this brought Waters and Westover right on Merrill’s rear bumper for the restart. When the green flew again, Merrill got a good jump on the field and started to drive away again. That would be enough to give the young Utah driver her very first career midget win. Waters was able to sneak by Westover on the final lap for second. Merrill and Powell looked very strong in this race and are ones to keep an eye on during the season.