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.