by Rocky Ragusa
Despite threatening weather early in the afternoon, Mother Nature was kind and gave the Fairbury American Legion Speedway a perfect night of racing on Fan Appreciation / Nostalgia Night at the track.
17 UMP DIRTcar Late Models were on hand for their 30 lap race. Mike Spatola was the night’s fast qualifier at a 13.128. Spatola and Scott Schmitt took the heat race wins. Spatola used his front row starting position to quickly open a ten car length lead over McKay Wenger, Schmitt, Kevin Weaver, and Mike Glasscock. After a lap 12 caution, Spatola pulled away to a commanding lead as Schmitt got by Wenger for second, followed closely by Glasscock and Weaver. Schmitt, Wenger, and Weaver waged a tremendous battle for second as Glasscock dropped out of the race. Spatola soon encountered slower cars enabling Wenger, who broke away from Schmitt, and Weaver to narrow the margin on Spatola. With five laps to go, Wenger was on Spatola’s bumper as both drivers fought the treacherous Fairbury cushion. Wenger made repeated attempts with a slide job on Spatola but Spatola held his ground to pick up his first win at Fairbury since 2014. “The car was really loose coming off the cushion,” spoke Spatola. “I wasn’t watching my crew giving me signals and had no idea that McKay was that close. He made me get on the wheel and I appreciate him racing me clean.” Wenger, Schmitt, Jay Morris, and Dan Flessner (hard charger, started 16th) completed the top five, followed by Mike Provenzano, Scott Bull, Joe Harlan, Steve Thorsten, and Kevin Weaver, who dropped out on the final lap.
28 UMP DIRTcar Modified drivers time trialed seeking to start the 20 car feature race. Jay Ledford set fast time at a 14.198. Ledford, Steven Brooks, and Mike McKinney won heat races, while Jimmie Haager took the semi feature. At the green flag, McKinney took a straightaway lead as Brooks, Ledford, Lance Dehm, and Vince Cooper trailed. After three cautions in the first six laps, Brooks gave pursuit of McKinney as Dehm followed closely. McKinney had his hands full running the top side and Brooks making repeated attempts to claim the front spot. Brooks managed to briefly lead on lap nine but McKinney fought back on the next lap to retake the lead. In the closing laps, Brooks stuck his car under McKinney several times in the turns but McKinney was able to pull away down the stretch and take his second win of the year. “We were good at the beginning,” McKinney said. “I knew Brooks would be there. I just put the pedal to the floor and let it bang off the walls.” Dehm, Ledford, Jamie Lomax, Dave Crawley Jr., Tommy Duncan, Vince Cooper, Jeff Curl, and Nick Clubb (hard charger, started 17th) rounded out the top ten.
Fairbury’s new entry level class drew eight cars for the Hobby Mod division. Jason Brandt took the heat race win. Brandt led the feature until spinning out on the sixth lap. Mason Duncan led until a caution fell on the following lap. On the restart, Albie Perez pressured Duncan and got under Duncan as the leaders approached the flag stand on the eighth lap. Perez stuck to his race line and was able to hold off Duncan and Nolan Gunderson for the win, driving the Jeff Semmens owned entry. “This was a lot of fun,” spoke an excited Perez. “This is a great class for anyone looking to start. I have to thank Jeff and Makinzi for letting me race their car. I also want to dedicate this win to Ronnie Bohm.” Trailing the trio to the line were Tim McGuire and Macy Vaughan.
The Vintage Racing of Illinois Series brought their group of drivers and cars to Fairbury on Nostalgia Night. Ron Wilson from Pekin, a former driver at Peoria and Spoon River Speedway, drove his 1957 Chevy to the 15 lap feature win over a field of 14 cars. Wilson spoke in victory lane. “I actually retired this year and sold the car to Matt Ramer. He gave me the chance to drive it tonight. This is fantastic to get a win here.”
Lake Nichoalds set fast time (14.961) over 15 other UMP DIRTcar Sportsman drivers for their 15 lap race. Nichoalds and Scott Williams took heat race wins. After a caution flag on lap two, current points leader Richie Rich got his car under Brian Albus for the lead and pulled away for his third win of the season. “It’s unfortunate that Lake Nichoalds and Timmy Dick had their bad luck,” an exhausted Rich spoke. “We did a lot of work in the shop this week and it paid off.” Albus, Rod Rusher, Bryant Frechette, Steve Mattingly, Tim Dick (hard charger, started 12th), Anthony Craven, Amber Crouch, Williams, and Eric Legner completed the top ten.
18 UMP DIRTcar Street Stocks took time trials with Peter Odell from Morris leading the way with a 15.772. Two heat races were held with Rick Thomas and Barry Sauder taking the wins. Andrew Funk pestered Thomas for several laps before moving to the point on lap four. Following a caution on lap ten, Thomas moved his line to the top of the track and tried to reclaim the lead but Funk was too much and pulled out to a ten car length lead. A.J. Meiferdt stayed with Thomas and made a last lap pass to take the second position as Funk scored his first Fairbury win of the year. “It’s about time. We have had a lot of bad luck here. I ran the middle because I knew Rick would move to the top. It worked out for me,” Funk said. Funk was followed to the checkered flag by Meiferdt, Thomas, Sauder, Terry Miller, Odell, Chad Rockefeller, Curtis Radke (hard charger, started 15th), Darrell Dick, and Josh Hetherington.