by Rocky Ragusa
After rain washed out the opening night of "Sprint Mania" on Friday, the Fairbury American Legion Speedway track prep crew went to work in preparation for Saturday’s feature races. In spite of a late afternoon shower, Mother Nature blessed race teams and fans with an outstanding night of racing action on an ultra-fast track that saw Sprint Cars touring the 1/4 mile oval in the 11 second range.
The Lucas Oil POWRi WAR East and Wisconsin WingLESS Series brought in 31 drivers for their 35-lap, $4,000 to win race. Landon Simon, Tyler Courtney, Mario Clouser, and POWRi WAR points leader Korey Weyant won their respective heat races, while Kevin Thomas Jr. took the B-Main. Joe B. Miller led at the start, with Robert Ballou, Courtney, Clouser, and Dave Darland in a heated battle for second. Following a caution, Miller led Courtney as Ballou and Darland followed. Terry Babb brought out a red flag on the 14th lap as he flipped his car along the front stretch. Courtney pressured Miller on the restart and threw a slide job on Miller to take the lead. As Courtney maneuvered his way through traffic, Ballou, Darland, Miller, and Simon closed in on the race leader. With four laps to go, Courtney was working his way by a lapped car. Courtney’s car made contact, rolled, and his bid for the win ended. Ballou was able to lead the remaining circuits for the win. “We had our car too tight in practice and then too loose in the heat race,” spoke Ballou. “Hats off to the Fairbury track prep crew. Anywhere else they would have thrown in the towel. They wanted to make this race work. I think their effort will catch the attention of a lot of people. A lot of the Sprint Car tracks don’t put in the effort to prep a track.”
25 MOWA/IRA Winged Sprint Cars were on hand, vying for a starting position in their 35-lap, $4,000 to win race. A.J. Bruns, Carson Macedo, and Joey Saldana took heat race wins. On the start of the feature, Bruns and Brad Loyet tangled to bring out a caution. The restart had Saldana leading Hunter Schuerenberg. Saldana was able to extend his lead until encountering slower cars. Schuerenberg was able to catch up to the leader and looked to take the lead, but a caution fell on the eighth lap saving Saldana. After another caution, Saldana checked out on his competitors until Jake Blackhurst slowed on the track for a lap 12 caution. The yellow flag waved again on the 12th lap as IRA points leader Bill Balog slowed on the track. Saldana once again pulled away on the restart, with Schuerenberg, Macedo, Balog, and Travis Philo trailing. As Saldana threaded his way by the slower cars, Schuerenberg and Macedo closed the gap. Saldana got caught behind a slower car and Schuerenberg looked to take over the lead, but a caution flag fell giving Saldana the lead back. With three laps to go, Macedo’s car came to life as he shot by Schuerenberg. On the white flag, Macedo executed a pass on Saldana to take his second win of the year at Fairbury. “I got my wind back and the car came on in the end,” commented Macedo, a California native. “I am so thankful to God for a team like this. It’s phenomenal to come out here in the Midwest, to live the dream, and race everywhere.” A dejected Saldana settled for second, followed by Schuerenberg, Balog, Philo, Bret Tripplett, Mike Terry Jr., Joe B. Miller, Jordan Goldesberry, and Jim Moughan.
Robert Ballou made his POWRi Lucas Oil WAR East Sprint League debut in stunning fashion coming out victorious at the league's season finale event at Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Sprint Mania gathered a wide variety of drivers for the inaugural event with nine different states represented among the field of 31 cars. Ballou bested the group over Dave Darland, Joe B. Miller, Landon Simon, and League Champion Korey Weyant rounded out the top five.
The feature event was full of big sliders, close calls, and drama. Mario Clouser and Joe B. Miller led the 22-car starting field to green flag racing Saturday night with Miller leading lap one while Ballou sat third, but he didn't waste any time before throwing a slide job in turns three and four to take over second.
The yellow flag flew early on in the race for Mitch Wissmiller and Kevin Thomas Jr. who tangled and came to a stop in turns three and four. Kevin Thomas Jr. and Josh Hodges had originally travelled to Haubstadt, Indiana earlier that day for a race at Tri-State Speedway which got rained out. They loaded up and hauled directly to "FALS" where they tagged the back of the B-Main and both transferred into the feature event. Thomas won the B-Main from the back.
When the green flag came back out, a fierce battle within the top five continued to heat up. Joe B. Miller remained in the lead while Tyler Courtney challenged Ballou for second and then Dave Darland showed his nose to challenge Courtney for third. Courtney found enough momentum coming off of turn two and threw the slider at Ballou in turns three and four to make the pass for second leaving Ballou now in third.
As Miller began to catch lapped traffic, the red flag would wave for Terry Babb who got above the cushion in turns three and four and upside down. He climbed out under his own power but was done for the evening.
21 laps remained. The green flag flew, and Courtney was hot on Miller's trail as he followed him down the backstretch. Courtney threw the slide job for the lead, Miller crossed over and they drag raced down the front straightaway to the crowd's delight. Courtney was the new race leader.
Courtney remained in a comfortable lead while Ballou and Darland worked their way past Joe B. Miller. Ballou began reeling Courtney in as he caught lapped traffic. Ballou pressured Courtney in turns three and four, but Courtney remained in the lead until he made contact with lap car Kevin Thomas Jr in turns one and two and flipped with four laps to go. Courtney climbed out under his own power, but would not refire.
With an open racetrack and four laps left ahead of him, Ballou would go on to snag his first POWRi Lucas Oil WAR East win of his career and a stellar $4,000 payday over Dave Darland and Joe B. Miller.