Sprintcar royalty descends on Meridian Speedway

The Pink Lady was in the garage this week getting outfitted with a new 410-cubic-inch engine.

On Thursday, 74-year-old Kenny Hamilton of Boise will get behind the wheel of the iconic Idaho sprintcar as the King of the Wing Series makes its debut on the quarter-mile oval at Meridian Speedway (qualifying starts at 5 p.m.).

Idaho native and former IndyCar driver Davey Hamilton, who is Kenny’s son, started the series last year with the aim of luring the nation’s fastest sprintcar drivers onto the same track at the same time.

“Getting involved with winged sprintcar racing and moving back to Indianapolis and participating, I found that none of the winged sprintcar guys raced out of their own region,” Davey said. “There wasn’t any special event where everybody could meet in the middle and really find out who the best of the best is.”

The King of the Wing aims to settle that dispute.

Twenty-five to 30 sprintcars are expected for Thursday’s 50-lap Pink Lady Classic, making it potentially the largest and fastest race assembled at the track in recent years.

This year’s series includes 11 races in four regions on tracks ranging in size from Meridian’s quarter-mile to the 5/8-mile track at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash.

The Northwest swing is the third stop on this year’s tour, and continues with back-to-back races Saturday and Sunday at Evergreen. The series wraps up in November with races at Madera Speedway, Irwindale Speedway and Kern County Raceway Park in California.

“As much as I still want to go race and have the desire to, it’s not the right thing to do,” Davey said. “I need to grow this series and make it good for all the competitors. This is an opportunity for us as pavement sprintcar guys to really kind of make a mark and make our series of true value, not only for ourselves but for the promoters, fans and everybody involved.”

Kenny Hamilton, a former owner of Meridian Speedway, leads a strong local contingent of drivers in Thursday’s race, including Middleton’s Sierra Jackson, 22, who enters second in the points standings behind Aaron Pierce of Daleville, Ind.

“I’m second, but I’m 30 points back. We’ve had a couple of rough nights in the series,” Jackson said. “I’m just looking to kind of stay out of trouble, finish and just make up those points wherever I can. Hopefully being at my home track and then Monroe — a track that we’ve raced at a few times — provides us with a little more background.

“We won’t be chasing setup, or driving styles or lines, so hopefully that proves to be in my favor.”

Kenny dusted off the Pink Lady in May during Meridian Speedway’s Diamond Cup. He quickly learned that the car, which was built in the winter of 1967 and still has its original fuel tank and hood, would need an upgrade to be competitive in the King of the Wing.

The original plan was to have the Pink Lady on display at the race for fans to see, but Davey floated the idea of outfitting the car with a new engine for his dad to drive.

“He’s 74-years-old, too, so he’s no spring chicken,” Davey said. “But it’s kind of cool that not only is it called the Pink Lady Classic, but that car is also going to be racing in the race.”