by Rocky Ragusa
In 1965, attorney and consumer advocate, Ralph Nader, wrote a book, “Unsafe At Any Speed”. The book details the unsafe handling characteristics of the Chevrolet Corvair and in 1969 Chevrolet stopped producing the car. When the Fairbury American Legion Speedway brought back the Street Stock class, A.J. Meiferdt, of Coal City debut an eye catching, 1967 Convair. Meiferdt has experienced his ups and downs in racing at Fairbury, but Saturday night proved to be a high mark as Meiferdt took the lead at the start and handled his Corvair to an upset win in the 20-lap UMP DIRTcar Street Stock feature.
As the field took the green flag Meiferdt took the lead with Lee Hall jumping to second. The red flag came out on the track before a lap could be completed as six cars piled up on the front stretch. Darrin Kohler and Reese Miller violently flipped their cars and both drivers were able to walk away. On the restart, Meiferdt jumped out into the lead as Brandon Eskew, Hall, and Don Hilleary trailed. Caution came out on the fifth lap when Alex Clubb and Darrell Dick made contact. The restart had Meiferdt glued to the bottom, with Hall racing side by side for second with Eskew. At the halfway mark Hall was able to break away from Eskew and Jordan Smith making his presence known. The next lap the red flag was thrown for Keith Millen rolling his car. Millen came out of his car unhurt. Also involved were Lukes Gash and Jason Maier. The restart had Smith overtaking Hall for second and closing on Meiferdt. After another caution on lap 15, Smith pulled up on the outside to take the lead, but Meiferdt held off the challenge. Meiferdt drove a smooth steady line the final laps and was able to take home the $800 first prize. In the winner’s circle, Meiferdt commented, “What a way to get my first win. I have to thank Rick Thomas for spinning a four. It gave me the invert of the heat and just set up my night. I want to thank Team 23 and Calvin Coleman Race Cars. Schlappi Motors built me some awesome horsepower.” The rest of the top ten were Smith, Hilleary, Andrew Funk, Hall, Rick Thomas, Nick Clubb, Jeff Semmens, Darrell Dick, and Alex Clubb.
Rick Thomas led 43 other drivers in time trials with a 15.757 and got a bonus of $100 donated by the Pit Stop Café in Pontiac. Taking heat race wins were Brandon Eskew, Meiferdt, Todd Smith, Lee Hall, and Andrew Funk. Two semi features were held as Lukes Gash and Darrell Dick winning. The hard charger of the race went to Nick Clubb.
The night opened with a 15-lap UMP DIRTcar Sportsman race. Jimmy Dehm jumped out to a commanding lead as Richard Craven got by Jeffrey Ledford for second. After several early race cautions Dehm powered his way from the competition and soon found his way to a straight away lead. Richie Rich ran side by side with Ledford before taking third. While Dehm was comfortably in control, Rich ran down Craven but could never get by for second. At the checkers Dehm took his second feature win of the season. Dehm said following the race, “We have been working hard and are really on our game now. We are hitting it almost every night. It doesn’t always last so we have to take it while it’s here. So we are going to ride this high and hope it lasts.” Following Dehm at the stripe were Craven, Rich, Ledford, Jim Bailey, Chris Anderson (hard charger), Tyler Roth, Matt Mills, Amber Crouch, and Scott Williams. Dehm and Ledford won heat races.
In the 20-lap UMP DIRTcar Modified feature, Jim Farris took an early lead with Jeff Curl taking second from Lance Dehm. Curl was soon racing side by side for the lead with Farris with Jay Ledford following. Curl moved to the point on lap four and Ledford got by Farris. Ledford tried different lines to overtake Curl but Curl was able to withstand Ledford. Caution came out on lap 11 as Justin Delong and Nick Allen tangled in turn two. On the restart, Curl led as Ledford and Farris ran side by side for second. Two laps later Ledford took second and closed up on Curl. Farris faded as Jeb Friedman and Dehm got by. At the completion of the race Curl won his fourth race of the year. The previous week Curl had been on the road with the Summit Modified National tour and held the points lead. “The car was great tonight. We learned a lot on the road. It’s nice to be back home sleeping in our own beds and winning in front of these awesome fans,” an emotionally drained Curl spoke. Ledford, Friedman, Dehm, Farris, Justin Delong, Cullen Breeden, Kevin Hastings (hard charger), Mike McKinney, and Matt Hamilton completed the top ten. 25 drivers competed in qualifying with Dehm earning the Warren Hartman qualifying honors at a 14.067. Dehm, Farris, and Gary Turpin won heat races. Jared Cagley was the semi feature winner.
Racing ended with a 30-lap, UMP DIRTcar Late Model feature. As the green flag waved Tom Thoennes and Rich Harlan hit the front stretch wall to bring out a yellow flag. Pole sitter Daren Friedman took the lead with Scott Bull, Eric Smith, Donny Walden, and Jay Morris in pursuit. As Friedman ran the top of the speedway, Bull stuck his car at the bottom. Morris and Walden got by Smith as a caution came out on the tenth lap for Mike Glynn who hit the back stretch wall. With the track clear Friedman led by ten car lengths as Bull had to hold off Morris. On the 27th lap Friedman jumped the cushion and Bull was able to take the lead. At the finish the defending track champion claimed his first win of the year. “It’s been rough. We have been close. I want to thank Bull Power. He just built us a new motor and it runs awesome. I want to thank my crew for all their hard work. Thanks to all my sponsors and fans for the continued support.” Friedman, Walden, Derek Chandler, Scott Schmitt (hard charger), Joe Harlan, Smith, Morris, Torin Mettille, and Steve Thorsten rounded out the top ten. Schmitt led in qualifying with a 12.832. Morris, Bull, and Friedman won heat races; Mettille took the semi feature.