by Darlene Miller
Four champions were crowned at Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night as the points season came to an end. All four leaders heading into the evening’s action held on to their position. The crowd had to wait for the final feature to see what was the closest finish of the night. Scott Bull and Kevin Weaver brought the crowd to its feet with a down-to-the-wire finish. Bull held off Weaver by a nose for the feature win and his second straight late model championship.
Heat winners Jay Morris and Mike Spatola led the field to the starting flag and battled for the lead over the first five laps. Hard charging on the high side was Daren Friedman, putting pressure on the pair. Friedman took a slight lead before a caution flag flew on the eighth lap. Morris grabbed the lead back on the restart. Bull was moving in closer from his ninth starting spot and Weaver from his 11th starting place. Weaver took the command point with 16 circuits remaining, but Bull was quickly on his tail and the pair moved away from the field. Weaver and Bull were side by side with two laps to go but a lap traffic car forced Weaver to move up to the top and Bull took the low side around the car. Bull got in front for good and won the race by a nose. “It was a close finish,” Bull said. “I knew he knew I was getting close to him.” Joe Harlan was third followed by Spatola and Torin Mettille. Friedman led the second five and was followed by Frank Heckenast, Jr. Tom Thoennes, Donny Walden and Steve Thorsten. Heat winners were Morris and Spatola and the hard charger was Thoennes.
In the first feature race of the night, Rick Thomas of Dwight held off his competitors to capture the street stock title. Thomas took the early lead from the front row but the caution flag flew for a wreck in turn 2 on the third lap. The field was bunched up but Thomas was on the gas and stretched his lead out to a four-car advantage. The race was then red flagged with two laps to go as Mike Stirewalt’s car caught on fire coming out of turn four. Thomas and pole sitter Matt Maier were door to door but Thomas held off to win by one car length. “Cool, that’s what I needed,” Thomas said after being told this was the final points race. “I could not do it without everyone helping me.” Maier brought home second followed by Terry Miller, Lee Hall and Joel Funk. Justin Nelson led the second five that included Andrew Funk, Nick Clubb, Paul Westermeyer and A.J. Meiferdt. Heat race winners were Maier and Thomas. Westermeyer was also the hard charger of the race having moved up 10 spots.
Jimmy Dehm of Lexington held off an 11-car field for his first UMP Sportsman title. Dehm started second but was able to take the lead on the third lap after a couple of cautions. It was his eighth win of the FALS season and 12th this year. “It was good to finish what we started,” Dehm said. He is moving up next year to the modified division. The top ten were Dehm, Richie Rich, Paul Graf, Dustin Mounce, Scott Hatzer, Amber Crouch, Darrell Dick, Jim Bailey, Chris Dick and Scott Williams. Rich won the heat race.
As a prelude to the late model finish, the modified finale featured a tight finish involving the points leader. Odell’s Jim Farris and Forrest’s Jeff Curl led the feature to the green flag and stayed in front by running neck and neck for a couple of laps. Curl grabbed the lead down low but on the outside lane came a hard charging Lance Dehm of Chatsworth. A blanket could have been thrown over the three for the next two laps as the trio pulled away until a caution flag flew with 10 laps to go. Joe Gillispie had spun out in front of Farris, but Farris with quick action was able to avoid the stopped car in turn two.
Curl led the field to the green restart flag but with eight laps to go, Dehm closed the gap. He then passed Curl with four circuits remaining and won by less than a car length. “Can’t get better than three-wide racing,” Dehm said in victory lane. “We put a new side on our car. We worked on this car all week and it paid off.” Despite his second-place run on this night, Curl became track champion of the modified class for the second time in three years. Farris was third, followed by Saunemin’s Jeb Friedman, Dan Rork, Cullen Breeden, Jared Cagley, Dave Porth, Kevin Hastings and Sam Ball. Farris won a heat race and was the top qualifier with a 14.074 second lap. Curl won the other heat race.