Weaver, Ledford Complete Hat Trick

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.

Miller Claims Cook Memorial, Craven Four-Peats Eden-Piercy Race

by Rocky Ragusa

The Fairbury American Legion Speedway can boast that they have some of the toughest competitors in the Modified class. Saturday night, Clayton Miller of Elkton, KY was able to make short order of the drivers in claiming the 2nd Annual Gary Cook Jr. Memorial race, sanctioned by the American Modified Series.

Mike McKinney and Miller led the 22 car field to the green flag, but a caution fell before a lap was completed. On the restart, Miller raced out to a two car length lead over McKinney, Chad Kinder, Jay Ledford, and Lucas Lee. A caution again fell on the third lap for Dustin Mounce, who battled an ill handling car. The restart had Miller running the top, McKinney on the bottom, Kinder in the middle, and Ledford on the bottom.

Miller opened up a five car length lead, as McKinney, Kinder, and Ledford battled for second. Kinder got under McKinney and challenged for position as Lance Dehm moved to the top side of the track and began picking off the cars. Miller lead by a half a straight away by lap ten, with Kinder following, Dehm moving to third, McKinney, and Ledford in tow. Miller was able to open a straightaway lead by the 15th lap and soon encountered slower cars. Kinder changed his line to the top side in hopes of running down Miller, as Dehm was five car lengths back. Current A.M.S. points leader, Tyler Nicely, was on the charge, as he started 17th and worked his way to fifth by the 18th circuit. Traffic slowed Miller’s momentum in the closing laps, as Kinder closed the margin to a two car length lead. Kinder managed to get under Miller several times, but Miller was able to hang on and take the $2,064, 30 lap feature.

“I have to thank God, first and foremost for giving me the opportunity and ability to do this,” said Miller. “I didn’t know Gary well, but did get to race with him a few times. He seemed like a real outstanding guy. That race was awesome. We went with a softer compound than most of the drivers because I knew I would have to run the top. I wanted to tighten the car up, but went with my gut and here we are.” Kinder, Dehm, Nicely, Ledford, Lee, McKinney, Vince Cooper, Josh Harris, and Jacob Poel completed the top ten. Mark Lamont (14.359) and Miller (14.054) led their qualifying groups. McKinney, Ledford, Miller, and Kinder took heat wins, while Nicely won the semi feature.

Richie Rich and Jeremy Nichols led the 14 car field to the green for the 11th Annual Gary Eden-Curt Piercy Memorial race for the Sportsman class. Rich jumped out to a straightaway lead by lap five, as Richard Craven challenged Nichols for second, with Scott Williams and Anthony Craven following. Craven took over second on the ninth lap, as Scott Hatzer moving into the fifth spot. Caution fell on lap 11 as Eric Saltzman tagged the wall in turn four. On the restart, Rich led the field, with Craven on the bottom and Nichols running the top, in a three-way contest for the lead. Craven worked his way by Rich on the 13th lap to take the front position. Caution fell on the 18th lap for Brandon Pralle spinning in turn three. On the restart, Craven was able to lead the final two laps and pick up his fourth straight Eden-Piercy feature.

“That was one of the best races I have been in,” said Craven. “It was a blast. I knew Rich and Nichols would be tough. They both raced me clean.” Rich set fast time at a 15.117 and received $100, as Chris Eden and Jerry Cremeens donated additional money for the winner’s purse. Trailing Craven to the finish were Nichols, Rich, Anthony Craven, Hatzer, Bryant Frechette, Amber Crouch, Brian Albus, Danny Smith, and Brandon Pralle. Rich and Nichols won the heat races.

In a caution plagued 15 lap Street Stock race, Andrew Funk ended a winless streak dating back to July 2011. Last week, brother Joel Funk stepped behind the wheel of Andrew’s car and took the win. This week Funk took the lead at the start and lead all the way for the win. “It has been a while since I have been down here,” spoke Funk. “I saw Luke coming. I was going into the turn too hard. I made some mistakes, but Luke is a good driver. I just stuck the car at the bottom and it worked out.” Luke Gash, Rick Thomas, Darrin Kohler, Joe Hillman, A.J. Meiferdt, Darrell Dick, Jesse Simmons, Barry Sauder, and Pete O’Dell rounded out the top ten. Funk completed the trifecta by being the fast qualifier (15.633) and taking the first heat. Thomas and Simmons claimed the other heat wins, while Eric Gaus was the semi feature winner.

Action ended with a 30 lap Late Model race. Scott Schmitt and Steve Dimmick led the field to the start. As the cars rounded the fourth turn, Schmitt tagged the wall and fell several positions back. Scott Bull was able to wrestle the lead away, as Kevin Weaver got by Dimmick for third, followed by Dan Flessner and Torin Mettille. Weaver moved to the top side and claimed the top position on lap four and motored away from the competition. Weaver soon found himself working the back markers as Mike Spatola moved into the fourth position, and on the 11th lap moved into third. By the halfway mark, Spatola got by Flessner for third, as Daren Friedman hounded Mettille for fifth. Bull closed the margin on Weaver as Weaver threaded thru slower cars. A caution fell on the 22nd lap for Spatola, whose night ended with a flat tire. On the restart, Weaver pulled away from Bull with Flessner, Friedman, and Mettile in order. A final caution fell with two laps to go for debris on the track. On the restart, Weaver pulled away from the field and claimed his first win of the year. “We ran the Pierce car tonight and it was working good. We tried a few things and it seemed to work. It feels good to win on one of our local tracks and still be able to win,” said Weaver. Bull, Friedman, Schmitt, Flessner, Mettille, Jay Morris, Steve Thorsten, Joseph Hughs, and Mike Glasscock rounded out the top ten. Schmitt was fast qualifier at a 13.031. Schmitt, Dimmick, and Bull won the heat races.

Sheppard makes rare FALS visit pay off

by Rocky Ragusa

The weather cancelled many area races this weekend and although Fairbury American Legion Speedway had a rain shower before hot laps, racing was still on the docket. The track also reaped the harvest of those extra drivers from the Lucas Oil Late Model Series that were rained out at LaSalle.

Thirty-five late models qualified for the $2,000-to-win, 30-lap feature with New Berlin’s Brandon Sheppard leading the way with a 12.662. That top qualifying time and a heat win put Sheppard on the pole next to Georgia’s Jonathan Davenport. A couple of cautions caused the feature to be restarted and one claimed El Paso’s Ryan Unzicker with a flat tire. Of the 20 that had started the race only 15 were in the running when the race finally took off. Davenport and Sheppard pulled to a slight advantage over the field in the first five laps but soon found Fairbury’s McKay Wenger in the fray. Davenport’s lead and his night ended when he broke coming out of turn two with 23 laps to go.

Sheppard grabbed the top spot with Wenger in tow. Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver overtook Wenger and then aimed for the top. Sheppard and Weaver were even with 21 laps to go. The pair battled back and forth and lap traffic did not slow the pair down with 15 circuits to go. A caution flag flew with 11 trips remaining and that bunched the field. The top two again took to a major battle in the last remaining laps before another caution flew with two laps left. Sheppard was able to hold off Weaver in the last few remaining feet of the race for the tight win.

“The track guys did well after the rain and I can’t wait to be back (for the Prairie Dirt Classic),” said Sheppard. Wenger came in third with Bobby Pierce next and then Scott Bull. Daren Friedman led the second five with Scott Schmitt, Mike Glasscock, Mike Spatola and Bob Gardner following. Sheppard, Davenport, Wenger and Pierce were heat winners while Glasscock and Spatola won the semi-features.

Steven Brooks also did the double take after being the top modified qualifier (14.235) and then capturing his heat and feature races. The win was not easy for Brooks and the gang as early cautions kept the field close. Pontiac’s Jay Ledford and Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm kept the heat on Brooks before a red flag stopped the field when Flanagan’s Dustin Mounce hit the wall and rolled his car. Cullen Breeden was collected in the accident. Both drivers were OK.

Once the debris was cleared and a totaled Mounce vehicle was towed away, Brooks took to the middle of the track pulling along Dehm and Ledford. Brooks was able to hold them both off for the close win. “This thing (car) was awesome tonight,” said the driver from New Lenox. Ledford and Ray Bollinger won their heats and Mounce won his semi-feature.

Bryant Frechette and Amber Crouch led the sportsman feature to the green flag. Frechette took the early lead over Crouch and Richie Rich. With six laps to go, Rich got around on the high side and held off Frechette and Crouch for the win. Scott Williams, Greg Roberts, Brandon Pralle, Eric Saltzman and Eric Legner rounded out the field. Frechette won the heat race.

In the street stock division, Dwight’s Joel Funk and Rick Thomas led the cars to the 15-lap feature. With four laps in, Thomas slowed coming off turn two and he was done for the evening. Funk took the lead bringing along Barry Sauder and Lukes Gash. Funk, however, took a slight lead with four laps to go. With the last lap flag flying, Sauder and Gash were back in the mix and Funk held them off by a few seconds for the win. Darrin Kohler, Darrell Dick, Chad Rockefeller, Eric Gaus, Al Gray, Chip Kalkwarf, Tyler Benson and Curtis Radke finished up the top 10. Funk, Thomas and Gash won their heats and Tyler Benson won the semi.

In the new hobby modified class, Tim McGuire won the heat while Jason Brandt captured the feature event.

Famed National Anthem Singer Jim Cornelison Inked for Pre-Race Duty at Fairbury’s 26th Annual Prairie Dirt Classic

The already electric pre-race festivities for the prestigious Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury American Legion Speedway will grow even bigger and better during this year’s 26th annual event on July 25.

FALS officials have announced that the national anthem for the blockbuster $26,000-to-win World of Outlaws Late Model Series show on July 25 will be sung by nationally acclaimed Jim Cornelison, who has performed at NHL, NASCAR, Major League Baseball, NFL and college sporting events. The singer, who is especially well known to Illinois sports fans, will undoubtedly add to the PDC’s pre-race excitement with his first-ever appearance at the quarter-mile FALS oval.

Cornelison’s appearance is being handled through the Fairbury Fan Club as track officials have their hands full with pre-race and race day duties for the historic July 24-25 weekend. The Fan Club will oversee ongoing fund raising efforts to go along with diehard FALS fans who have already stepped up with donations for this major addition to the PDC activities. More announcements about fund raising and Cornelison’s appearance will be made by the Fan Club in the near future.

Fairbury’s renowned race fans will have a chance to rock the stands and show the country how passionate they are on July 25th when Cornelison performs an unprecedented national anthem at a dirt-track race – only at FALS, of course!

Maier Captures Hubert Memorial

by Darlene Miller

No better way to enjoy opening night than to have a record established. That’s what happened Saturday at Fairbury American Legion Speedway. It was the speedway’s 70th season-opening night and it started off with the Earl J. Hubert Memorial race for street stocks and a new track record.

The street stocks took to the track for their qualifying efforts and Lukes Gash of Chebanese, one of the first three qualifiers, broke Calvin Coleman’s long-standing record of 15.409 seconds with a hot-lap time of 15.197.