by Rocky Ragusa
Mother Nature finally graced the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday as 86 cars in five classes participated in the weekly UMP race program.
It took two tries in the 30 lap Late Model feature before drivers settled down and were able to complete a lap. Kevin Weaver took command at the start with Steve Thorsten, Scott Schmitt, McKay Wenger, and Steve Dimmick following. Weaver drove a smooth line on the bottom of the track and quickly opened a half a straightaway lead. Wenger moved to the bottom and began challenging Schmitt for third. Wenger took the position on the sixth lap, as Mike Spatola moved into fifth. Wenger closed the margin on Thorsten and pressured him for second before a caution fell on lap 13.
The restart had Weaver comfortably in front as Thorsten and Wenger battled for second. Behind the top three, six drivers continued to swap positions. Torin Mettille moved into fourth and was on Wenger’s bumper as a caution dropped on lap 18. On the restart, Weaver led Thorsten, as Mettille got by Wenger, with Joseph Hughs, Mike Glasscock, and Kyle Hammer in a tight formation. After the last caution on lap 24, Weaver opened his lead, with Thorsten in a heated battle with Hughs and Spatola. Hughs got loose giving Spatola the third position. Spatola ran down Thorsten and took over the spot with two laps to go. At the checkers Weaver took his second feature win in a row followed by Spatola, Thorsten, Hughs, Glasscock, Scott Bull, Wenger, Hammer, Schmitt, and Dan Flessner. “The Bob Pierce car was running good tonight,” commented Weaver. “I have to thank my crew for all their hard work. It was a fun race. I heard it was exciting behind me. It feels good to win twice here. I can remember a few years ago when it was hard to get one win. Things are going good and I just hope we can keep it up.” Weaver set fast time with a 12.826 among the 23 entries. Weaver took a heat race win along with Schmitt and Thorsten. Hughs was the semi feature winner.
Pole sitter Jay Ledford took the lead at the start of the 20 lap Modified race with Jeb Friedman, Cullen Breeden, Jeremie Johnson, and Lance Dehm racing for second. Ledford opened up a five car length lead, as Friedman moved into second and Breeden took third. By the seventh lap, Ledford was lapping slower cars. Two cautions fell on lap eight for single car spin outs. Ledford jumped out to the lead, with Friedman, Breeden, and Johnson in a race for second. Dave Porth was on the move and challenged Dehm for fifth. After a caution on the 17th circuit, Ledford was able to pull away and score his first FALS win of the year. Friedman, Porth, Johnson, Breeden, Nick Clubb, Dehm, Jeff Curl, Jared Spalding, and Chris Gaither rounded out the top ten. The defending track champion, Ledford, spoke after the win. “I want to thank my crew. They really worked hard on the car this week. I couldn’t do it without them. Thanks to all my sponsors and the fans for coming out.” 21 cars took time trials and Ledford was the swiftest of the swift at a 14.059. Ledford, Friedman, and Breeden won heat races.
Current UMP national points leader Lukes Gash took the lead for the start of the 15 lap Street Stock feature race. Andrew Funk faced the challenge from a hard charging Rick Thomas. After a caution on the fourth lap, Thomas put the bumper to Funk several times and took the second spot, while Gash held a five car length lead. Gash held a ten car length lead as Funk tried several times to retake the second position from Thomas. Matt Maier had to contend with Tim Dick and A.J. Meiferdt in a battle for fourth. At the end of the race Gash was safely out front and took his first feature win of the year. “Anytime you see Andrew and Rick on the scoreboard you get nervous,” said Gash. “My crew told me I had a good lead, but with those two behind me you never know.” Funk bested 26 other drivers in qualifying at a 15.597. Funk, Gash, and Jason Maier won heat races, while Jeff Semmens took the semi feature.
In the 15 lap Sportsman race Richard Craven jumped out to a commanding lead with Anthony Craven, Scott Williams, Bryant Frechette, and Amber Crouch in the top five. With the track clean after a lap six caution, Richard Craven vaulted out to a straightaway lead. Frechette moved to the top side of the track to take over third and Crouch got by Williams for fourth. Crouch worked the bottom of the track and moved by Frechette with three laps to go. At the finish Richard Craven made it his third win in three starts. “I saw Anthony was in second and was waiting on a challenge from him,” said Craven. “I hate that Richie Rich fell out on the pace lap. I wanted to race with him but that’s the way it goes.” Richard Craven timed at a 14.823 for quick time among the 12 cars. Rich and Timmy Dick took heat wins.
Action opened in the Hobby Mod class. Tim McGuire was able to lead flag to flag for the feature win. An excited McGuire commented after the win. “This has been a lifelong dream to race here. My dad used to bring us here. To get the win, it is really a special moment.” Mike Peterson and Jason Brandt completed the field.