by Rocky Ragusa
After the birth of his daughter on Friday, Moweaqua’s Shannon Babb asked his wife on Saturday if she wouldn’t mind if he stepped out for a while to get some fresh air. Babb and his crew loaded up his race car and headed to the Fairbury American Legion Speedway for the seventh stop on the UMP Summer Nationals tour. Babb took the lead after Scott Schmitt got caught behind lapped traffic and held on for his first win of the year.
47 drivers from eight states vied for a starting position in the 50 lap, $10,000 to win race. Manhattan’s Mike Spatola and Tonica’s Scott Schmitt tied for fast time at 12.957 seconds. Four heats races were ran with the top four transferring to the feature race. In heat one Spatola turned back Kent Robinson, Jason Feger, and Dan Flessner. In heat two Schmitt pulled away from Bobby Pierce for the win followed by Kevin Weaver and Tim Manville. The third heat race had Billy Moyer Jr. pulling away from the field with Ryan Unzicker, Daren Friedman, and Steve Thorsten following. Billy Moyer cruised to an easy win in the fourth heat race followed by Michael Kloos, Babb, and Scott Bull. A C-Main was held with Allen Murray from San Antonio, TX taking the win and moving on to the B Main along with Jay Sparks, Mark Voigt, and Jay Morris. Billy Drake made a last lap pass to win the B-Main with Mike Glasscock, Mike Provenzano, and McKay Wenger in tow. 18 cars made the race by their heat race finishing positions and Timothy Culp from West Monroe, LA, Bob Gardner, Wenger, and Missouri’s Jim Moon taking provisional starts for a 22 car field.
Moyer Jr. and Spatola led the field to the green flag with Moyer Jr. taking the lead followed by Spatola, Moyer, Pierce, and Schmitt. Moyer stuck the nose of his car under Spatola several times before taking second on the fourth lap. After a caution on lap six, Moyer looked to take the lead from his son, but Jr. was able to hold back the challenge. Unzicker was on the move early getting by Pierce and looked to take fourth from Schmitt. Moyer moved into the lead on the 14th lap and Unzicker charged into second on the 17th lap. Spatola, running third, stalled on the track for a caution on the 20th lap. The restart had Moyer leading Unzicker and Schmitt with Babb on the run in fourth spot. Another caution came out on lap 23 as Moyer dropped out with mechanical failure. Schmitt moved into the lead on the restart with Babb, Unzicker, Pierce, and Feger in the top five. Schmitt led Babb by a car length and soon encountered slower traffic.
While trying to overtake Gardner, Schmitt had nowhere to go allowing Babb and Unzicker to each move ahead. After a caution on lap 34 for debris, the top side of the track was working for Babb while Unzicker moved the bottom of the track. Schmitt had to contend with Pierce for third. On lap 37, Pierce tried a slide job on Schmitt. Schmitt hit the wall in turn two and fell back to ninth giving Pierce the third position. Drake looked to be the fastest car on the track during the late stages of the race and battled Feger for the fifth position. Unzicker looked under Babb several times to take the lead while Pierce soon joined in the hunt. With five laps to go the top three put some distance from the remaining cars. Another caution fell with four laps to go. On the restart, Babb and Unzicker pulled to a ten car length lead over Pierce. Pierce had his hands full as he had to contend with Moyer Jr. and Feger.
As the checkered flag waved, Babb, the defending Summer Nationals champion, took his 88th career Summer Nationals win. “The track started off a little drier than usual, but the cushion was right at the top,” said Babb. “Earlier the bottom was good. Fairbury is always pretty even, but the bottom slowed down and the top was the way to go. There were a lot of strong cars. Schmitt and Unzicker were both good. Fairbury always produces a heckuva race and there’s another one.”
With a storm moving into the area, the 25 lap Summit Modified Summer Nationals race was called to the stage. Brian Shaw and Chad Kinder led the 22 car field to the line. Kinder took the lead over Shaw, as Jay Ledford, Mike Harrison, and Lance Dehm followed. Kinder opened a five car length lead and Shaw had to contend with Ledford. Ledford, running the middle groove, took second on lap eight and was followed by Harrison. After a caution on lap ten, Ledford looked to overtake Kinder for the lead but Kinder was able to hang on. Kinder, Ledford, and Harrison broke away to a ten car length lead over the field as Dehm, Shaw, and current Modified Nationals points leader Tyler Nicely had their own race for fourth. Another caution came out on lap 16. Harrison got by Ledford to move into second and challenged Kinder for the front spot. Ledford had to contend with Nicely and Jeff Curl for the third spot. Kinder put some distance between himself and his contenders. On the white flag lap Harrison slowed in turn two. As the rain picked up, Kinder took the win over Nicely, Ledford, Curl, and Harrison.
With a strong storm and potential tornado warnings in effect the remainder of the night’s racing program was canceled and will be rescheduled.