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.