Eagle native John Dillon became the first driver from the state of Idaho to win the NAPA Idaho 200 since 2003 winner Darren Ripinski, and in doing so stopped the streak of defending and three-time race winner Gary Lewis, who finished second.
“That really feels good to know we were able to get this win and that bit of history,” Dillon said. “A lot of guys come here every week and race, and this is only my third trip here. So to pull this win off knowing who was out here is an awesome feeling.”
Dan Rhodes rounded out the top-3 running order at the checkered flag on Sunday at Stateline Speedway.
Lewis was all smiles in victory lane despite seeing his Idaho 200 streak come to a close.
“I couldn’t finish second to a nicer guy than John Dillon. This really is a victory for us after having to come all the way back through the field after getting spun.”
Dylan Caldwell led the 22-car field to the green flag and sat atop the leader board for the first three laps before John Newhouse went to the lead exiting turn No. 3. Newhouse stayed on the point until lap 17, when Newman Lake’s Kevin Richards streaked by for the lead and stayed out front for the next 20 laps.
Three-time Inland Northwest Super Stock champion David Garber got by Richards at lap 42 and brought Dillon with him into the top two positions. Lewis used a patient approach from his 15th-place starting position and got to sixth place by lap 50.
With Rhodes and Newhouse making Lewis work for every opportunity to continue his march to the front, Garber and Dillon blazed to a 10-car length lead.
Richards got to fifth, where he and Lewis battled for fourth, as both made contact on several occasions. On lap 67 with the leaders pulling away on a restart, Richards made contact with Lewis, sending him around in turn No. 4 and bringing out a caution. Both drivers were sent to the end of the field.
At the halfway break, Garber appeared to have a dominant car for the second 100 laps.
However, Craig Bell and Dave Minegar, who were running second and third at the time, had also looked strong in the first-half of the event.
Dillon, the defending champion of the Rocky Mountain Challenge Series, restarted the race fifth for contact with a lapped car.
On the restart, Dillon cleared Minegar off turn No. 4 for third place and rallied to Bell’s rear bumper by lap 130. Bell fell into Dillon’s clutches entering turn No. 3 and fell back to third.
As Dillon marched to the front, the crowd was watching Lewis weave his way through traffic and advance six positions over the course of the second-half’s first 50 laps.
With 40 laps to go, Dillon used lapped traffic to work around Garber for the lead and moved out to a hefty advantage with Lewis looming large in the rearview mirror. Garber, who had a tire go down with 31 laps to go, let Lewis have low side.
Zan Sharp tried to take the same opportunity but made contact with Garber, sending both to the sidelines with heavy damage. In the exchange, Rhodes moved into the top-3 and tried in vain to catch Dillon and Lewis over the final 25 laps.
Rhodes patiently worked with Lewis to close the gap on Dillon, but with 10 laps to go both drivers began to lose contact with Dillon’s Frontier Equipment Chevrolet.
Local drivers Dan Garber (8th), Blake Williams (9th) and Braeden Havens (10th) represented Stateline Speedway well.
Williams, at 15 years old, became the youngest qualifier for the Idaho 200, adding to a mark of history he set two weeks ago at the Montana 200. Havens, 16, was the second youngest qualifier in the race’s history.
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