by Rocky Ragusa
With fans, race teams, and officials still talking about last weekend’s Prairie Dirt Classic, there was no hangover as drivers put on a great night of UMP racing action at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway.
Making their first ever appearance to the ¼ mile dirt oval were the Speedway Motors Illinois Lightning Sprint Series. Korey Weyant took the lead at the start of the 20-lap, $600 to win, Williard Bess Memorial race with Billy Brickley, Andy Baugh, Dave Baugh, and Brent Burrows trailing. Weyant set a lightning fast pace and began lapping cars by the third lap. Following a caution on the fourth lap, Weyant checked out on the field. Point’s leader Gedd Ross took advantage of the restart and moved by Burrow and Dave Baugh to take over fourth by the fifth lap. At the halfway point, Weyant held a straight away lead over Brickley and soon came on the slower cars. Brickley was able to catch up to Weyant, but once Weyant cleared traffic, he was able to pull away. Caution came out on the 17th lap as Dave Baugh spun out in turn two. On the restart, Weyant battled with Brickley for the lead. Weyant’s car began to slide up the track as Brickley looked to take the lead. On the last lap, Brickley looked to have an opportunity to take the lead, but was forced to back off to keep from hitting a tire in the infield. Weyant led Brickley, Burrows, Andy Baugh, Austin Archdale, Larry Eastin, Brad Funk, Dave Baugh, Ross, and Andrew Funk. Following the race, officials and race teams expressed their gratitude to the speedway for the opportunity to race at Fairbury. The track’s condition gave the drivers an opportunity for plenty of two and three wide racing for the fans.
In the 15-lap UMP Street Stock race, outside front row starter A.J. Meiferdt outgunned Nick Clubb into turn one to take the lead as Clubb, Rick Thomas, Brandon Kessinger, Jason Maier, and Matt Maier followed in a tight group. Meiferdt held a five car length lead as Clubb and Thomas put on a show with a fierce side by side duel for second. Jason Maier was able to move by Kessinger for fourth on the fifth lap as Matt Maier and Calvin Coleman looked to move up. At the halfway mark, Clubb and Thomas were still racing side by side enabling Meiferdt to open a 10 car length lead. Thomas got loose coming off of turn four with six laps to go and gave Clubb a little breathing room. Clubb was able to close up on Meiferdt with two to go as Jason Maier got by Thomas for third. The laps ran out for Clubb and Maier as Meiferdt was able to take his first win of the year. “Anytime you can come out and beat the caliber of competition here, it’s unreal,” said Meiferdt. “We worked on the car over the winter. We have struggled this year. The last few weeks have gotten better and we finally got it done.” Clubb, Maier, Thomas, Matt Maier, Kessinger, Coleman, Darrin Kohler (hard charger), Lukes Gash, and Darrell Dick completed the top ten. Kessinger set fast time at a 15.613, while Clubb and Meiferdt took heat race wins.
In a see-saw battle for the Sportsman track championship, Richard Craven clung to a one point lead over Jeffrey Ledford. Rod Rusher took the lead at the start of the 15-lap race as Scott Hatzer tried to hold off Ledford. Ledford moved by Hatzer on the third lap while Matt Mills looked to hold off Richie Rich in a race for fourth. Caution came out on the fourth lap as Bryant Ferchette looped it in turn two. On the restart, Rusher led Ledford with Hatzer trying to hold back Rich. Hatzer’s night came to an end on the sixth lap as contact with Rich brought out the caution and ended his night. The restart had Rich power by Ledford to take second and looking to take the lead. Rich worked the inside of Rusher before moving into the lead on the ninth circuit.
Ledford hit his marks and got by Rusher for second with five laps to go. Ledford closed the gap on Rich as a caution fell for debris with three laps remaining. The field went single file on the restart as Rich looked to hold off Ledford. Ledford used the track’s cushion for momentum and was on Rich’s bumper. The two gladiators raced side by side for the win as the white flag was waved. The crowd was on its feet as neither driver was going to back down. Ledford edged ahead of Rich in turn three and held on for the victory. “I ran the bottom at the beginning and thought that was where I would be best at, “an exhausted Ledford stated. “ I started rolling on the top and it was fast, when I hit it right. The last lap I got a good shot. My crew told me to run the bottom of three and four. I didn’t know what to do so I ran the top and it paid off.” With his win Ledford moved back into the points lead, by nine over Craven. Trailing Ledford and Rich were Richard Craven, Anthony Craven, Rusher, Mills, Dustin Mounce (hard charger), Tyler Roth, Brian Albus, and Amber Crouch. Ledford was the night’s fast qualifier at a 14.292. Rusher and Hatzer took heat wins.
Jimmy Dehm and Jeb Friedman, both drivers’ hungry for a feature win, led the field to the green flag in the 20-lap UMP Modified race. Friedman took the lead with Dehm, Lance Dehm, Jay Ledford, and Jeff Curl in tow. Friedman held a five car length lead as Jimmy Dehm repeatedly turned back Lance Dehm, while Jay Ledford and Jeff Curl raced side by side for fourth. At the 10th lap, Jimmy Dehm worked his way by Friedman for the lead and Lance Dehm took over second on the next lap. Jimmy Dehm moved out to a 10 car length lead as Ledford looked to take third from Friedman. Caution came out on lap 14 as Dan Rork stopped on the back stretch with mechanical problems. On the restart, Lance Dehm got under Jimmy Dehm for the lead but Jimmy Dehm was able to turn Lance Dehm back. Another caution fell on the 17th lap as Dave Porth stalled on the track with mechanical issues. The restart found the field going to a single file restart. Lance Dehm entered turn one and executed a slide job to move into the lead but Jimmy Dehm came back. Lance Dehm wasn’t going to be denied the lead and came back to reclaim the lead. Lance Dehm hung on to pick up his third win of the year at FALS. “That was a heck of a race,” commented Dehm. “The car had enough bite in the middle. I just gave it all I could.” Trailing the Dehm’s were Friedman, Ledford, Curl, Cullen Breeden, Jared Cagley, Kevin Hastings (hard charger), Alex Graf, and Curt Rhodes. Rork was the fast qualifier at a 13.782. Jimmy Dehm and Friedman took heat wins.
In the 30-lap UMP Late Model feature, McKay Wenger looked to make it two wins for the weekend. On the start Wenger quickly moved into the lead as Daren Friedman, Joe Harlan, Jay Morris, and Dan Flessner followed. Wenger set a tremendous pace and began to lap slower cars by the eighth lap. The traffic allowed Friedman and Harlan to edge closer to Wenger. Harlan showed the side of his car to Friedman for several laps, briefly taking over second. Some of the lapped cars were in a race of their own and on the 15th lap the leaders had to use caution in working their way by them. Harlan got by Wenger for the lead on lap 16, but the next lap Wenger moved into the front and wasn’t going to be denied on this night. A season of frustration ended with Wenger taking a popular win in front of his hometown fans. “After the heat race I told the crew the car was even better tonight than it was last night. Sometimes with the late model it’s easy to dial yourself out but then it’s just as easy to get back into the ballgame,” said Wenger. Friedman, Harlan, Jay Sparks, Flessner, Scott Bull (hard charger), Mike Mullvain, Steve Thorsten, Torin Mettille, and Eric Vaughan rounded out the top ten. Friedman was the event’s fast qualifier at a 12.707. Friedman and Wenger took the heat race wins.