by Rocky Ragusa
Five classes of racing action took place at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night with the Sportsman class featured in a 20-lap, $500 to win Topless Special sponsored by CR Towing and Recovery of Joliet. Richard Craven took the win, while Kevin Weaver, Mike McKinney, Andrew Funk, and Mason Duncan also visited victory lane.
The Sportsman class took to the speedway as the cars ran without tops and spoilers were optional. Points leader Richie Rich set fast time at a 14.379. Lake Nichoalds and Richard Craven were the heat race victors. As Craven led the first lap, a caution fell on the field. The restart had Craven running the bottom, Nichoalds on the topside, followed by Steve Mattingly, Rich, and Brian Albus. Nichoalds pressured Craven repeatedly for the lead as Mattingly trailed closely. After two cautions, Nichoalds pulled alongside of Craven with nine laps to go but Nichoalds was caught in the Fairbury cushion, giving Craven some breathing room. Mattingly was able to move into second with seven laps remaining. After two cautions, Nichoalds snuck by Mattingly to retake second. Nichoalds looked to take the lead from Craven after a caution on lap 15 but Craven stood his ground. Suddenly with two laps left Nichoalds had a left rear tire go flat to end his bid. Craven was able to score his third win of the year and 30th career feature win at Fairbury. “The car felt awesome all night,” commented Craven. Mattingly, Rod Rusher (started 14th), Rich, Troy Medley, Bryant Frechette, Amber Crouch, Nichoalds, Brandon Pralle, and Eric Saltzman rounded out the top ten.
In the Late Model division, Kevin Weaver was the night’s fast qualifier with a 12.587. Weaver and Mike Spatola won heat races. Spatola held a small advantage over Weaver with McKay Wenger, Scott Bull, and Joe Harlan following. After a caution on lap nine, Spatola and Weaver continued their duel. Weaver, running the bottom, was able to lead on the 11th lap but Spatola came back to lead the following circuit. Bull, driving a smooth and consistent race, closed up on the two front runners. Bull overtook Spatola for second on lap 16 but Weaver was able to use slower traffic to distance himself from the competition. On the white flag lap, Spatola slammed the front stretch wall to end his night. With one lap to go, Weaver stuck his car to the bottom and turned back Bull for the win. “The car was good on the bottom and I felt it was the faster way around,” said Weaver. Don Hammer, Harlan, Boom Briggs, Jay Sparks (started 15th), Jay Morris, Steve Thorsten, Kolby Vandenbergh, and Glen Thompson completed the top ten.
Jay Ledford was the fast qualifier at a 13.855 for the 20-lap Modified race. Ledford, Lance Dehm, and Jacob Poel were heat race winners. Ledford led the field at the start with Poel, Jeffrey Ledford, Dehm, and Nick Lueth following. Two cautions came out on the second lap. With the track cleared, Ledford was hounded by Poel for the lead, with Jeffrey Ledford, Dehm, Lueth, and Mike McKinney fighting for third position. As Poel looked to take the lead a caution came out on the fourth lap. Jeffrey Ledford, running the top groove of the track, was able to run down the leader and take second on lap 10. After a caution on the 12th lap, Jeffrey Ledford overtook his dad Jay for the lead. The Fairbury cushion bit Jeffrey in turn two causing an accident and ended the young Ledford’s bid for a feature win. The restart had Jay Ledford leading McKinney, Lueth, Collin Thirlby, and Poel. McKinney tried a slide job on Ledford in turn three and exiting turn four and was able to take the lead with five laps to go. Ledford made several attempts to retake the lead but McKinney was too strong on this night. “The top was awesome for us tonight,” an excited McKinney spoke. "This is a testament to what my dad and I are doing. We are a low budget team competing with these guys and having a lot of fun.” Ledford settled for second followed by Lueth, Thirlby, Poel, Travis Kohler, Matt Maier, Nick Clubb, Dustin Mounce (started 16th), and Chris Gaither.
Al Gray was the fastest qualifier among the 18 Street Stock drivers on hand for their 15-lap race with a time of 15.656 seconds. Gray and A.J. Meiferdt won heat races. Gray led the first lap in the feature before surrendering the lead to Meiferdt, with Rick Thomas, Peter Odell, and Andrew Funk in a tight battle for third. Two cautions fell on lap four, including one for Gray. On the restart, Meiferdt led Funk, but Thomas dropped out with mechanical issues. Funk ran side by side with Meiferdt for the lead before taking over on lap eight. Funk was able to extend his lead to ten car lengths as the checkered flag waved giving him his fourth win of the season. “It was easy on the bottom and I knew I had to run hard,” spoke Funk. “The track was tacky and the car stuck.” Meiferdt, Eric Gaus, Curtis Radke, Darrell Dick (started 14th), Josh Hetherington, Valerie Hurt, Gray, Don Hilleary, and Ryan Anderson completed the top ten.
Mason Duncan and Tim Mullins won heat races for the 12-lap Hobby Mod race. Duncan led at the start with Tim McGuire and Mike Petersen in a spirited duel for second followed by Mullins and Macy Vaughan. Duncan had a comfortable lead on the field before Petersen overtook McGuire for second and narrowed Duncan’s lead. Petersen was able to take the lead on the 10th circuit but Petersen and Duncan got together and Petersen’s bid for the win came to an end. McGuire moved into the lead as four cars remained on the lead lap. McGuire led the field and Duncan wasted little time to take second. As the leaders rounded turn four on the final lap Duncan was able to edge ahead of McGuire in an exciting finish. “That was an interesting race,” Duncan said. “I want to apologize to Tim for getting into him.” Completing the top ten were Mullins, Vaughan, Brendan Patterson, Gregg Pierce, Makinzi Semmens, Petersen, Brandon Post, and Jason Brandt.