For the second consecutive year and third in the last four, the Prairie Dirt Classic has been named the Dirt on Dirt Race of the Year. A race that saw eight lead changes and the leader being passed 15 times, the PDC was voted the best race throughout the country in 2014!
by Darlene Miller
Scott Bull and Mike Harrison were big winners as the Fairbury American Legion Speedway came to an exciting end of its 2014 season on Saturday night with the Corn Belt Clash Late Model Series drivers, the American Late Model Series drivers, plus FALS regulars in a 40-lap feature.
Three-time defending FALS points champion Scott Bull picked up the victory to put an exclamation point on his outstanding season while also pocketing $3,000. Meanwhile, Highland’s Mike Harrison picked up the 2nd annual Casey’s American Modified Series Nationals race taking home $5,000. Richard Craven and Matt Maier were the winners of the Sportsman and Street stock features, respectively.
El Paso’s Ryan Unzicker and Dan Flessner of Roberts led the Late Models to the 40-lap feature and quickly set a fast pace. An early caution flag flew just one lap into the feature.
Unzicker led the group back to the flag bringing along Oakwood’s Bobby Pierce, Flessner, and New Berlin’s Brandon Sheppard. Four more caution flags flew before the group settled into some green flag racing with 33 laps to go. Pierce wrestled the lead away from Unzicker with 23 circuits to go. Pierce, on the bottom, Unzicker and Sheppard both running high, began to feel the presence of Bull charging forward from his seventh starting spot. A caution flag flew with seven laps to go, and on the restart Pierce jumped and was put in second place following Sheppard and one spot ahead of Bull, who was now in third place.
Bull of Fairbury grabbed the lead with six laps to go as another caution flag flew after Pierce and Sheppard made contact. Pierce was done for the evening. Bull continued showing the way and with four to go Sheppard pulled to the infield. Bull held off Unzicker and Daren Friedman of Forrest for the big win. “We’ve been working on our car and had been struggling a little,” Bull said. “Tonight the car felt good on the top or bottom. This is back where we need to be and I am looking forward to next year.” Rounding out the top 10 were Eric Smith, Jason Utter, Spencer Diercks, Mike Spatola, Joe Harlan, Ryan Vanderveen, and Jay Morris. Heat winners were Flessner, Unzicker, and Sheppard.
Points champion Jay Ledford of Pontiac and Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm sat up front for the 40-lap Modified feature. After a quick caution, Dehm took the lead while Ledford faced a tough challenge from Buffalo’s Jeff Leka. Dehm continued his domination of the field until a caution flag flew with 11 circuits to go. Harrison, after starting 17th, moved up quietly and rapidly through the field and grabbed the lead from Dehm with 10 trips remaining. Jeff Curl got around Dehm and made it a two-driver battle with four to go. Harrison held off Curl for the win.
The Summit Racing Equipment American Modified Series returned to action on Saturday evening at Fairbury’s American Legion Speedway in Fairbury, IL for the 2nd Annual Casey’s Modified Nationals and Mike Harrison of Highland, IL would charge from the 18th starting position and score the $5,000 victory aboard his Rinderer Farms/Kreke’s Performance/FlexiCorps.com Racing/Aggressive Graphics/All Purpose Erectors/Steve Schmitt Chevrolet/Broadway Bar and Grill sponsored #24H Impressive Race Car powered by a Performance Race Engine.
A two car pile-up would bring back the initial start, but when action got underway, Lance Dehm would jump to the race lead, while Jay Ledford and Jeff Leka would begin what would be a very entertaining battle for the second spot, while Jeff Curl and Matt Mevert would ride fourth and fifth. Dehm would motor away from the field and would begin the process of working slower traffic on lap 12, while Ledford and Leka would trade the runner-up spot on numerous occasions in a great door-to-door battle. Meanwhile, Mike Harrison would start to flex his muscles and start charging through the pack and would make his way into the top five on lap 22.
Harrison would take fourth on lap 24 and would settle into a three-wide battle for the runner-up slot with Ledford and Leka, with Harrison taking second on lap 27. Dehm’s large lead would be erased by a lap 30 caution for a slowed Jared Cagley in turn two. The double-file restart would see Harrison take the race lead exiting turn two and lead the lap, only to have the final caution of the race fly for a spin by Victor Lee one circuit later. The restart would see Harrison stave off the charges of Jeff Curl in the final few laps and pull away a bit in the final four trips to pick up the win. Curl would finish second, with Leka claiming the third position. Dehm and Ledford would round out the top five.
The remainder of the top ten at the completion of the Casey’s Modified Nationals would be Jimmy Dehm, Steven Brooks, Devin Gilpin, Tanner Wilson, and Matt Mevert. The 40 lap, $5,000 to win event would be slowed by three caution periods.
by Rocky Ragusa
The final night of points racing saw the crowning of the track champions and another exciting night of racing action.
Returning from a little vacation and looking to pick up national points, current UMP national points leader Bobby Pierce returned to Fairbury on Saturday night. Pierce started on the outside of the front row in the 30-lap UMP Late Model feature.
At the drop of the green flag, Pierce wasted little time, jumping out to a commanding lead to post his second win of the season at Fairbury. Mike Spatola ran alone in second, while it was an intense battle for third. Eric Smith, Daren Friedman, Kevin Weaver, and Dan Flessner raced hard for the position, sometimes going four wide. Weaver’s night ended on the 20th lap after dropping the driveshaft. Friedman broke away from the pack and got by Spatola with two laps to go to finish second. Spatola, Flessner, Joe Harlan, Smith, Steve Thorsten, 2014 Track Champion Scott Bull, Mike Mullvain, and Jay Morris rounded out the top ten. In victory lane Pierce commented, “I love Fairbury’s cushion, even though it was a little treacherous. It’s a different track and you got to drive it like an animal. Thanks to Daren for giving me plenty of room on the start and congrats to Scott on his championship.” Friedman was the race’s fast qualifier at a 12.710. Friedman, Pierce, and Smith took heat race wins.
With his first ever track title locked up, Jay Ledford added icing on the cake. Ledford took the lead from Jimmy Dehm on the 13th lap after Dehm jumped the cushion. Ledford led the rest of the way in the 20-lap UMP Modified race and took his fourth win. After his miscue, Dehm got under Ledford several times but Ledford was able to hang on. “We had to be aggressive with the track tonight. I had to stay up on the wheel. I just hope I didn’t get into anyone,” said Ledford. Following Ledford and Dehm in the top ten were: Jeb Friedman, Jeff Curl, Jim Farris, Cullen Breeden, Collin Alexander, Dan Rork, and Cory Schwengel. Lance Dehm took fast time honors at a 13.888, while Jimmy Dehm and Curl won heat races.
Starting the season strong at Fairbury picking up three feature wins, Lukes Gash suddenly saw the racing gremlins bite back. Troubled with a variety of mechanical problems, Gash never gave up. Gash took the lead on the start of the 15-lap UMP Street Stock feature and held off Andrew Funk to earn a hard fought win. “I don’t know what happened the last couple weeks. Tonight we dropped the ball. I was a little nervous. I just wanted to run and finish the race,” said Gash. Funk, Jason Maier, Terry Miller, Rick Thomas, 2014 Track Champion Brandon Kessinger, A.J. Meiferdt, Nick Clubb, Eric Gaus, and Don Hilleary completed the top ten. Thomas was the fast qualifier at a 15.774. Miller and Gash won heat races.
by Darlene Miller
A longtime term paper for students at the beginning of the school year has been, “What I did for my summer vacation.” Writing that paper would be easy for 15-year-old sophomore-to-be Jeffrey Ledford. But keeping it to length may be difficult. Ledford, who attends Pontiac Township High School, would write about winning the sportsman points championship at Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Wednesday night. And he doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet.
The 20-lap Topless Sportsman race started the action on the first night of the Fairbury Fair. The feature got one lap in before driver Dustin Mounce of Flanagan crashed coming out of turn four and collected most of the field up in the melee. The race was red flagged as Amber Crouch, one of the drivers involved in the incident, had to be cut out of her car. She was conscious but was taken to a hospital. The feature was shortened to 15 laps as Richard Craven led the remaining cars to the green flag. Craven, who was sitting nine points behind Ledford at the beginning of the race, pulled to a quick lead followed closely by Ledford. Craven pulled away with five laps to go to win by three car lengths but Ledford won the championship by four points.
“This feels good,” said Ledford, who finished second in the race. “I want to congratulate Ledford,” said Craven. “It was a blast racing this year with him. It was fun and this is an awesome win.” Craven and Mounce were heat winners.
In the 20-lap modified feature, Jeffrey’s dad, Jay, padded his points lead by taking the race wire-to-wire. A late caution flag bunched the field but Ledford was able to hold on for the win over Mike McKinney and Lance Dehm, who currently sits second in points. “I will be glad when this is over (the points chase),” said Ledford. “It is a good track and my crew worked hard to get my car ready.” Ledford, McKinney, and Chenoa’s Jimmy Dehm were heat winners.
The 30-lap late model feature saw New Berlin’s Brandon Sheppard take a quick lead over his fellow competitors. Caution flags bunched the field. On a restart with 11 laps to go, it was ruled that Sheppard jumped the gun and was put in second place behind Tonica’s Scott Schmitt. The green flag flew and Schmitt held off a charging Sheppard and El Paso’s Ryan Unzicker for the win. “I made some mistakes toward the end of the race but I took my time and held on for the win,” Schmitt said. Heat winners were Schmitt, Sheppard, and Kevin Weaver.