by Rocky Ragusa
Although cold weather conditions forced track officials to move the racing program up an hour, fans flocked to the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday as 106 cars entered the pit area.
West Lebanon, Indiana driver, Ian Keller paced 41 other UMP DIRTcar Street Stocks for the 43-lap, Earl J. Hubert Memorial race, with a fast time of 15.487 seconds. The four heat race wins went to Scott Hufford, Keller, Jerrad Krick, and A.J. Meiferdt. Terry Miller and Eddie Wolf won the two semi-features to set the 20 car field. Meiferdt and Keller led the field to the green flag. Both drivers ran side by side before Meiferdt took over the lead on lap three. Krick was able to overtake Keller for second, but Keller moved to the top groove and reclaimed second. After a lap nine caution, Meiferdt, Krick, and Keller went three wide for the lead. Meiferdt held a slight edge as the drivers raced past the flag stand, but Krick snuck by Meiferdt on the next lap for the lead. After a lap 13 caution, Krick extended his lead, while Rick Thomas took over second, as Keller, running the top, scraped the wall. Krick, the current UMP DIRTcar Street Stock national points leader, held a straightaway lead at the halfway mark, with Thomas, Keller, Mike McKinney, and Meiferdt running in the top five. On the restart after a caution on lap 28, McKinney took over third and pressured Thomas for second. With the second thru fifth place cars looking to move up in the race, Krick led by 10 car lengths. A caution fell on the field with four laps to go and set the stage for an exciting finish. Krick stuck his car to the bottom, as Thomas tried to hold off the challenge from Keller. Keller got by Thomas and made a valiant effort to take over the lead. Keller was able to pull alongside of Krick in the corner, but Krick had the horses down the stretch. At the checkers, Krick took the win by a car length over Keller, followed by Meiferdt, Matt Dillon, Kyle Miner, Eddie Wolf (hard charger, started 16th), Curtis Radke, Peter Odell, Scott Hufford, and Joe Hillman. After taking his first career FALS win and over $2,000, Krick commented, “Keller is a master at the high side. I struggle up there. I am so glad the bottom came in. It’s more of my driving style. Fairbury is one of the best tracks around. We are lucky to go home with the win.”
Hometown driver McKay Wenger, the current UMP DIRTcar Late Model national points leader, helped his cause by winning the 30-lap Late Model race. After a brief challenge from Joe Harlan and Jay Morris, Wenger checked out from the field. One caution and slower traffic did little to stop Wenger on this night. Harlan held on for second over Scott Bull (hard charger, started 12th), Don Hammer, Dan Flessner, Bill Hough, Nick Kurtz, Steve Thorsten, Morris, and Glen Thompson. “We have a new car and motor tonight. We made the right choice on tires and gear,” said an excited Wenger. “We have to have first or second place runs in order to do the national points. I have to thank my crew for all their hard work.” Wenger took fast time over 19 other drivers at 13.278 seconds and also won his heat race, while Morris took the other heat win.
Mike McKinney got the jump on polesitter Jeffrey Ledford to take the lead at the start of the 20-lap UMP DIRTcar Modified race. The Plainfield native proved to be too strong for his competitors on this night as he took his second career FALS Modified feature win. “My dad and I have been busting our butts to get back to victory lane here”, said an exhausted McKinney. “Some of the top Modified drivers race here at Fairbury and to beat them is awesome.” Jay Ledford, Jeff Curl, Vince Cooper, Lance Dehm, Nick Allen, Nick Clubb, Zeke McKenzie, Tommy Duncan, and Dave Dulceak rounded out the top ten. Kyle Cooper started 17th and finished 12th to win hard charger honors. Jay Ledford turned back 23 other competitors in qualifying with a 14.081 second lap. Allen, Jeffrey Ledford, and McKinney won heat races, while Kory Maurice was the semi-feature winner.
Being out front might have been the safest place to be in the 15-lap, UMP DIRTcar Sportsman race. Six cautions marred the race, as defending track champion Richie Rich led flag to flag in securing his second win of the year. Brian Albus (hard charger, started 7th) avoided trouble to finish second, followed by Lake Nichoalds, Anthony Craven, Rod Rusher, Tim Dick, Brandon Pralle, Bryant Frechette, Amber Crouch, and Scott Williams. Craven and Rich took heat race wins, while Nichoalds was the fastest of the 15 cars at a 14.867.
In the Hobby Modified race, legendary softball and basketball coach, Tim McGuire took the win over Mike Petersen, Graham Jackson, Jason Brandt, Gregg Pierce, Makinzi Semmens, and Mason Duncan. Duncan was the heat race victor.