by Rocky Ragusa
Highland’s Mike Harrison held off a stout field of Modified competitors to win the Fifth Annual Casey’s Modified Nationals race Saturday night at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Lucas Lee of Paris, Tenn., was the winner of the Mullins Race Engines Non-Qualifiers Shootout, while Bloomington veteran racer Billy Drake took the Late Model feature.
67 Modified drivers representing 10 states were on hand for the $10,000 to win American Modified Series race featuring some of the top open wheel drivers in the country. Qualifying was broken down into two groups that saw Buffalo’s Jeff Leka earning fast time honors at a 13.646 in group one, while Lucas Lee was quickest in the second group with a 13.755. Six heat races were held that saw the top two finishers advancing to the feature race. Ray Bollinger (Kewanee), Mike McKinney (Plainfield), Mike Harrison, Brian Shaw (Robinson), Danny Schwartz (Ashmore), and Dylan Woodling (Warsaw, Ind.) taking the wins. Four B-Mains gave drivers one last chance to move into the prestigious event. Ryan Unzicker (El Paso), David Stremme (Mooresville, N.C.), Tyler Deibert (Highland), and Zach Hoffman (Troy) earned their way into the 50-lap main event.
Bollinger and Harrison led the 24-car field to the green flag. Harrison led with Bollinger, Schwartz, Allen Weisser, and Brent Mullins following. Bollinger was able to keep pace with Harrison as the top two drivers in the national points held nothing back. Bollinger, running the bottom groove, took over the front position on lap nine. Harrison came back at Bollinger to lead on laps 14 and 15, while Weisser joined the mix for the lead. Weisser was able to take the lead on lap 16 and opened a 10 car length lead as Harrison and Bollinger battled for second, followed by Schwartz and McKinney. Bollinger’s race came to an end on the 23rd lap as he dropped out with suspension problems, drawing the first caution of the night. Weisser led on the restart, but on lap 28 a light rain began to fall. After a 10 minute delay, track crews went to work and soon had the track ready to race. Weisser lost his lead to Harrison on the restart, but Weisser was relentless in his bid to reclaim the lead. Behind the duo, four cars put on a show as Schwartz, Mullins, Unzicker, and McKinney swapped the third spot. Cautions fell on lap 34 and 35 with Weisser taking over on the 35th circuit. Weisser’s car began to misfire and his dreams of taking the big check vanished as he had to park his car in the infield with motor problems. Harrison moved back into the lead and after another brief rain delay, and Mullins’s attempt to take over the lead, Harrison pulled away to claim his third Casey’s Modified race, fourth A.M.S. race of the year, and 32nd feature win of the season. Mullins, Unzicker, 19th starter Devin Gilpin, 18th starter Levi Kissinger, McKinney, 23rd starter Jeff Curl, Michael Long, Stremme, and Schwartz completed the top ten in a race that saw six lead changes among three drivers. A jubilant Harrison commented after the race. “I ran as hard as I had to. Allen started to pull away and I had to get back at it. I hated it for Ray and Allen’s misfortune. I felt the rain showers benefited me, but those guys were still tough on the bottom. The last 20 laps I drove my heart out for my team and the fans.”
The I Beam Sliding Doors Late Model race drew 23 entries for the 40-lap, $3,000 to win special. Oakwood’s Bobby Pierce, tuning up for this weekend’s World 100, set fast time at a 12.484. Billy Drake, Pierce, and Bloomington’s Jason Feger captured heat wins, while Towanda’s Donny Walden took the B-Main. Following a caution on the 32nd lap, Drake moved his car to the bottom of the track and powered by Pierce for the lead. Drake was able to pull away and win his second feature race of the year at Fairbury. Ryan Unzicker, Pierce, Scott Bull, Mike Spatola, Kevin Weaver, 15th starter Allen Weisser, McKay Wenger, Jay Morris, and Feger rounded out the top ten. “We have either been really good or bad here. There hasn’t been much in between,” said Drake. “Thanks to my sponsors and crew. We found something wrong with the car last night and my crew busted their tails to get us here tonight.”
The night of racing ended with a 20-lap race for Modified drivers not making the featured event. Lucas Lee started 20th in the race and took over the lead on lap 12. Bob Pohlman Jr. tried repeatedly to reclaim the lead but Lee withstood the challenge. Jeff Leka, Travis Kohler, Scott Heeren, Bradley Jameson, Chris Smith, Dawson Cook, Blake Thompson, and Tommie Seets Jr. finished in the top ten positions. A somewhat disappointed Lee spoke in victory lane. “It’s better than nothing. I had to go to my backup car after messing up in the heat race. We will take this win and go on to the next race.”
Harrison Scores Summit Racing Equipment AMS Casey’s Modified Nationals Victory at FALS
The Summit Racing Equipment American Modified Series rolled into Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday evening for the Casey’s Modified Nationals and the result would be the same as the night before at Farmer City as Mike Harrison of Highland, IL picked up his fourth win with the tour in 2017 and record his thirty-second UMP DIRTcar feature victory of the season and bag the $10,000 first place prize money.
Harrison took the lead at the start of the 50-lap, $10,000 to win event and maintained his spot on the point until lap nine when Ray Bollinger drove past Harrison for the race lead. Bollinger and Harrison battled for the lead until Harrison reclaimed the top spot on lap fourteen. Allen Weisser got into the mix at this point and Harrison’s second stint as the race leader would be short-lived as Weisser took the race lead on lap sixteen. The first caution of the event waved on lap twenty-three when Bollinger, who was running second at the time, slowed in turn two with a broken rear suspension. Weisser maintained the lead on the restart until the caution waved again on lap twenty-eight for a brief rain shower that passed over the track. When racing resumed, Harrison took the lead for the third time in the event, taking it away from Weisser until Dylan Woodling spun on lap thirty-four to draw the caution. On the restart, Weisser retook the race lead from Harrison, but action slowed again on lap thirty-six for a three-car tangle on the frontchute involving Brian Shaw, David Stremme, and Jay Ledford.
This restart saw Weisser maintain the lead until lap thirty-nine when Harrison took the lead in the contest for the fourth and final time. One final caution on lap forty-three for debris in turn one slowed the action, but Harrison would not relinquish the top spot again on his way to the $10,000 victory. Brent Mullins finished in the runner-up slot, with Super Late Model ace Ryan Unzicker driving to a third place finish. Devin Gilpin charged from the 19th starting position to finish fourth and 18th place starting Levi Kissinger completed the top five. The remainder of the top ten at the completion of the Casey’s Modified Nationals A-Main were Mike McKinney, 23rd place starter and hard charger award winner Jeff Curl, 17th place starting Michael Long, 15th place starter David Stremme, and Danny Schwartz.