Anticipation is high for one of the top Dirt Late Model races in the country as the 27th Annual Prairie Dirt Classic, presented by the Bank of Pontiac, will run the weekend of July 29th & 30th. The two-day $27,000 to win World of Outlaws sanctioned event will play host to the top drivers in the country paying a strong $1,500 to start with a full payout of $90,000 for the 100-lap feature event. Fairbury officials are excited to announce the continued partnership with the Bank of Pontiac as title sponsor for the Prairie Dirt Classic weekend. The relationship between the Bank of Pontiac and the Fairbury Speedway will allow the PDC to reach an even higher level for fans, drivers, and crews.
by Darlene Miller
Track officials tried to combat oppressively high temperatures by starting races one hour later, but there was still plenty of heat with some photo finishes at Fairbury American Legion Speedway Saturday night. Along with the later start, officials also eliminated qualifying runs, with racers drawing numbers for their heat race positions and then using the passing points format during the heats to set the feature lineups.
Fans of the Sportsman class were treated to two close features, one a makeup of the Eden-Piercy Memorial from the May 28th rainout. In the regular night feature, Lake Nichoalds and Steve Mattingly led the field to the green flag. Mattingly took an early lead in the 15-lap feature. A caution came out with just two laps in as current points leader Richie Rich pulled off into the infield. Another caution flew with 10 laps to go and at that time Nichoalds and Mattingly were still even. Late in the race Nichoalds began putting distance between himself and Mattingly, who eventually brought out a final caution as he stopped in turn one. This proved beneficial to Bryant Frechette in the second spot who put the challenge to Nichoalds in the final laps but lost by inches. “I usually run the top line but it felt good on the bottom. I knew he (Frechette) was coming,” said Nichoalds. Rounding out the top ten were Brandon Pralle, Scott Williams, 11th starter Eric Legner, Tyler Roth, Anthony Craven, Blake Reid, Eric Saltzman, and Mattingly. Nichoalds and Rich were heat winners. Brian Albus captured the top prize of $500 in the highly contested Eden-Piercy Memorial 20-lap race by holding off a tough Nichoalds in a photo finish. “I got to thank my crew. It was my best race of the year,” said Albus. Frechette, Rich, Legner, Williams, Pralle, Craven, Amber Crouch, Reid, and Mattingly rounded out the field. Heat winners were Albus and Frechette.
by Rocky Ragusa
After a two-year wait due to Mother Nature, the Lucas Oil POWRi National Midget Series finally took to the Fairbury American Legion Speedway Saturday night. The series drew 22 drivers from eight states. Three heat races were held in which the winner of the 30-lap feature race would take home a $3,000 top prize. Minden, Nevada’s Tanner Thorson, Pocahonta’s Zach Daum, and Lemoore, California’s Carson Macedo would take their respective heat wins.
At the start of the feature, Thorson took the lead with Daum in second. Thorson, the current series points leader, and Daum, a two-time national champion, had the fans on their feet exchanging slide jobs and changing the lead lap after lap. On the 18th lap, Thorson was trying to put a slower car a lap down. Thorson got into the back of the car, flipping several times, and collected Macedo and Justin Peck. Macedo was the only driver to continue in the race. Daum resumed as the race leader, stretching his lead, only to be foiled by two cautions in the closing laps. A caution fell on the last lap. On the restart, with Daum safely in command, Garrett Aitken was racing with Spencer Bayston for second. Bayston shot by Aitken and held on for the runner up position. Daum recorded his 15th career POWRi feature win and spoke in victory lane. “This place is awesome. I have been looking forward to racing here since they put it on the schedule. The track is real racy. Tanner and I slid each other countless times and we had a lot of fun. We raced each other clean, hard, and with respect.” Bayston, Aitken, Macedo, Jake Neuman, Brayton Lynch, Holly Shelton, Kyle Schuett, Dalton Camfield, and Daniel Robinson completed the top ten.
Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver bested 22 other Late Model drivers in qualifying at a 12.953. Weaver, Mike Spatola, and McKay Wenger took heat race wins. Wenger and Weaver raced side by side at the start of the 30-lap, $2,000 to win race, with Weaver leading the first three laps before Wenger led the next two. Three straight cautions came out. Wenger was able to open up a five-car-length lead as Weaver had to contend with Frank Heckenast Jr. Behind the trio, Spatola was followed by Tanner English in a race for fifth with Scott Bull and Dan Flessner. After cautions on lap 19 and 20, Wenger, Weaver, and Heckenast separated themselves from the field. On the 24th lap, as Wenger was exiting turn two, he jumped the cushion allowing Weaver to move to the lead. A caution fell as the leaders crossed the line but an error in scoring allowed Weaver to maintain his lead. Weaver moved to the top side of the track in the closing laps and was able to pick up the win and is now tied with Roger Long with 66 career FALS feature wins. “It’s amazing how things changed those last laps,” said Weaver. “McKay bobbled and I was able to take advantage of it.” Wenger, Heckenast Jr., Bull, English, Spatola, Flessner, Scott Schmitt, Joe Harlan, and 21st starter Eric Smith completed the top ten.
Plainfield’s Mike McKinney continued his recent dominance in the Modified class. McKinney set fast time at a 14.233, won his heat race, and took the $1,000 to win, 25-lap feature, although he did get a scare. McKinney raced out to a commanding lead at the start of the feature with Brian Lynn, Steven Brooks, Jeff Curl, and Jay Ledford trailing. Caution came out on lap five as Nick Clubb, who was the other heat race winner, cut a tire and hit the backstretch wall. After another caution on lap six, McKinney led as Ledford moved into third. McKinney held a straightaway lead by the 10th lap while the battle for second found Curl moving into second, followed by Ledford, Lynn, and Brooks. Curl drove a smooth, methodical pace as he pulled away from his competitors and began to close the margin on McKinney for the final ten laps. Curl was able to get under McKinney several times in the closing laps but McKinney had too much in the end and won his third straight feature by a car length. An exhausted McKinney commented following the race. “It wasn’t as dominate as before, but it looks like Curl is back. That is good to see. Our car is bad fast. It’s been an unbelievable year.” Track points leader Ledford was third, followed by Brooks, Lynn, Tommy Duncan, Lukes Gash, 14th starter Lance Dehm, Michael Thayer, and Bobby Stremme.
by Darlene Miller | Photos by Rocky Ragusa
Hard work, perseverance, and a little luck helped end the long winner’s circle drought for El Paso’s Joe Harlan as he took the Late Model feature win at Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night. Mike McKinney, Richie Rich, Andrew Funk, and Mason Duncan captured the other features.
Harlan had not won a feature at FALS since June 18, 2011, and would not let this win get away from him. He started on the pole next to Steve Thorsten in the 30-lap feature and the pair battled back and forth for the first few laps before current points leader Kevin Weaver began to flex his muscle and enter the fray. Three caution flags flew before nine laps had passed with the last flag claiming Weaver as he pulled off to the infield with mechanical issues. Fairbury’s McKay Wenger and Scott Bull soon began to challenge Harlan and Thorsten for that top spot. Wenger, who started ninth, was on the high side with 19 laps left and in second place and closing in fast on Harlan. Thorsten had dropped to fourth. The pair of Harlan and Wenger began to reach lap traffic and Wenger grabbed the lead with 14 trips to go. Wenger’s lead would not last as, with nine laps to go, he suffered problems and pulled to the infield. Harlan assumed the lead again but soon faced a tough challenge from Pontiac’s Derek Chandler running on the top side. Harlan fought him off and won by two car lengths. Chandler followed with Bull, Mike Spatola, and Thorsten in the top five. Dan Flessner, Nick Kurtz, Allen Murray, Jay Morris, and John Gardner Jr. made up the second five. “We had luck on our side tonight. It feels like the first time since I have been here, (winner’s circle),” said Harlan. Harlan along with Bull and Thorsten won the heats and Spatola topped the clock at 12.638 seconds. Spatola was also the hard charger starting 19th to finish in the fourth spot.
Mike McKinney won his second Modified feature of the weekend by holding off Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm and Pontiac’s Jay Ledford. McKinney, who started on the pole in the 20-lap feature, took the early lead but could not pull away from the challengers. A few yellow flags flew but McKinney was able to hold off Dehm by a car length for the win. Ledford placed third followed by Jeff Curl and Nick Clubb. Steven Brooks led the second group of five across the line with Jeffrey Ledford, Travis Kohler, Nick Lueth, and Dustin Mounce in tow. “I never thought we could do this (win) my dad and I,” said McKinney who has ten wins on the season overall and five at FALS. Heat winners were Dehm and McKinney, who also qualified first with 14.021 seconds.
In the Sportsman race, Pontiac’s Richie Rich started on the pole but at first could not get away from the pack as four caution flags flew early in the 15-lap feature. With six laps to go, problems began to slow up Rich but not enough for the current points leader to take the win over Lake Nichoalds by four car lengths. “It feels good to be back in victory lane” said Rich. Taking third was Richard Craven with Bryant Frechette, Troy Medley, Steve Mattingly, Anthony Craven, Tim Dick, Brandon Pralle, and Amber Crouch completing the top 10. Rich and Nichoalds won heats and Rich posted fast time with 14.432 seconds.
Dwight’s Andrew Funk won his 18th feature of the season overall and fifth at FALS in the 15-lap Street Stock feature. Funk started on the pole and faced small challenges from Kyle Miner early in the race and A.J. Meiferdt later on but held off the pack to win by seven car lengths. “This has been a dream season so far,” said Funk. Meiferdt was second followed by 15th starter Don Hilleary, Eric Gaus, Al Gray, Chad Rockefeller, Curtis Radke, Ryan Anderson, Peter Odell, and Mitch Hahn. Funk, Miner, and Radke were heat winners and Meiferdt was fastest in qualifying with 15.557 seconds. Dwight’s Rick Thomas won his 64th career checkered flag in the Street Stock make-up feature from the May 28th rainout. Hilleary, Hahn, Odell, and Funk completed the top five.
Mason Duncan won the Hobby Mod feature from the pole after he won the heat race. Mike Petersen, Tim McGuire, Macy Vaughan, and Makinzi Semmens followed Duncan to the checkers.