Miller cashes in at Casey's Modified Nationals

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by Rocky Ragusa

Tenth starting Clayton Miller of Elkton, KY held off a late side by side battle with Brent Mullins of Litchfield to capture the $10,000 top prize at the 3rd Annual Casey's Modified Nationals, sanctioned by the American Modified Series, on Saturday night. Kevin Weaver of Gibson City won the $500 Mullins Race Engines Shootout Non-Qualifiers race, while Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, WI picked up the $5,000 Corn Belt Clash/American Late Model Series victory.

A stout field of 83 Modifieds, representing nine states and Canada, vied for a starting position in the lucrative race. A pair of Mooresville, NC drivers led in group qualifying as Max McLaughlin with a time of 13.830 led group one and Nick Hoffman was the fastest in group two with a time of 14.085.

With the large contingent of Modified teams on hand, teams faced added pressure as only the heat race winner advanced to the 50 lap feature event. Chris Arnold of Matoaca, VA, Trent Young of Hopkinsville, KY, Preston Seratt of Dyersburg, TN, Steven Brooks of New Lenox, Hoffman, Mike McKinney of Plainfield, Jimmy Payne of Glasgow, KY, and 2015 Fairbury & Farmer City Track Champion Jay Ledford of Pontiac took heat race wins.

Four semi features had the top three from each race transferring to the feature. Former NASCAR competitor, David Stremme of Davidson, NC took the first semi. Joining him were Jacob Poel of Spring Lake, MI, Miller, and Tait Davenport of Benton, KY. Nine provisional positions increased the field to 29 cars.

In the 50 lap race, Arnold and Hoffman led the field to the green flag. Hoffman took the lead with McKinney, Arnold, Payne, and Young following. Miller, running the top side of the track, was on the move early and by lap 10 found himself in a battle for third. After a caution on lap 11, Miller found the top groove to his liking, as he took over third, and two laps later got by McKinney for second. Miller overtook Hoffman for the lead on lap 15 and a caution fell to bunch up the field. Another caution on lap 19 had 14th starting Mullins in the hunt as he moved into the third spot.

On the restart, Miller ran the top, with Mullins in the middle groove, and a four way battle for third between Hoffman, McKinney, Allen Weisser, and Mike Harrison. After a lap 23 caution, Mullins was able to run side by side with Miller for the lead but Miller soon stretched his lead to four car lengths. Miller, Mullins, and McKinney pulled away and McKinney tried several times to take the second spot from Mullins. Miller soon found himself in slower traffic and was able to use it to his advantage and open his lead. After a caution on lap 36, Mullins was able to take the front spot but Miller came back to retake the lead on the following circuit. Two cautions in the final ten laps kept Miller from expanding his lead. A caution with one lap to go gave Mullins one last opportunity but Miller was able to pull away to pick up his second win of the year at Fairbury.

As his crew greeted him in victory lane Miller commented, “First and foremost, I have to give all the glory to God. My crew chief is an older lady and she has been sick for the last couple of weeks. I lost my dad last winter. He was the one that got me into this. It’s really an emotional win for me and my crew. The motor in the car is on its last leg. It has been smoking all night. We had to borrow parts for it but it came through for us.” 

Weaver, Kinder, Rusher, Gash grab checkers as Champions were Crowned

Kevin Weaver and Lukes Gash each capped off the regular season of racing at Fairbury American Legion Speedway by taking their ninth checkered flags of the season. Also bringing home wins were Chad Kinder and Rod Rusher.

Starting from the pole, Weaver of Gibson City held off the field to win for the ninth time this season and put an exclamation point on his championship campaign. Daren Friedman, Scott Bull, McKay Wenger, and Jay Morris completed the top five in the feature. Steve Thorsten led the second five with Snooky Dehm, Cole Swibold, Terry Starks, and Steven Stehle in tow. This season’s point champ, Weaver was followed in season points by Bull, Friedman, Scott Schmitt, Wenger, Dan Flessner, Joe Harlan, Torin Mettille, Morris, and Thorsten.

Kinder of Newton put his car in victory lane in a tune-up for the third annual Casey’s Modified Nationals $10,000-to-win race coming up this Saturday. Jeb Friedman was second with Steven Brooks, Vince Cooper, and Jay Ledford following in the top five. Jeff Curl, Brandon Maciejewski, Lance Dehm, Jimmy Dehm, and Brody Pompe made up the second five. Ledford finished as season points champion. Curl was second, Lance Dehm took third, with Friedman in fourth, and retiring driver Dave Porth scoring fifth. Nick Clubb, Chris Gaither, Jeffrey Ledford, Dustin Mounce, and Cullen Breeden were also top 10 placers in points.

In the sportsman division, it was better late than never as Rusher waited to win his first race of the season on the final race.

Steve Mattingly was runner-up and was followed across the line by Richard Craven, Anthony Craven, Brandon Pralle, Jerry Cremeens, Eric Saltzman, Austin Williams, Dustin Price, and Blake Reid. Richie Rich won the season title. Also finishing in the top 10 were Richard Craven, Scott Williams, Amber Crouch, Anthony Craven, Eric Legner, Pralle, Brian Albus, Saltzman, and Mattingly.

Gash ended his championship season with his ninth win in the street stock division. Gash started second and held off tough competition to win. A.J. Meiferdt, Ian Keller, Rick Thomas, and Jerrad Krick were top five runners while Curtis Radke, Eric Gaus, Billy Wicker, Don Hilleary, and Valerie Hurt comprised the second five. Gash ran away in the points race, leaving the rest of the field in his dust. Thomas was second with Meiferdt, Darrin Kohler, Gaus, Andrew Funk, Hilleary, Justin Nelson, Barry Sauder, and Radke making up the top 10.

Wenger, Friedman, Rich, Funk Take Fair Wins

by Darlene Miller

The “Reaper” held on to win the one “everyone wants to win” when he held off the “Flatland Flash” in the closing laps for the late model feature victory Saturday night at Fairbury American Legion Speedway. McKay Wenger of Fairbury stopped Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver from winning his ninth race of the season but not the points championship. Jay Ledford (modified), Richie Rich (sportsman), and Lukes Gash (street stock) were also crowned champions at the Fairbury Fair on Saturday night.

Wenger and Jay Morris of Watseka led the field to the green flag. The pair were tight but just five laps in of the 30-lap feature, Morris found himself riding the turn three wall and his evening was done. That caution put Weaver in striking distance of Wenger. The duo moved away from the pack and with four laps to go found themselves in the mix of lap traffic. The lap traffic slowed both drivers as they had trouble maneuvering. Wenger was able to hold on to the wheel and win by two car lengths. “What a race. I have been wanting to win this one,” said Wenger, who took home $1,200. El Paso’s Joe Harlan was third followed by Daren Friedman and Scott Bull. Scott Schmitt, Lance Dehm, Steve Thorsten, Torin Mettille, and Charlie Olson made up the second five. Wenger and Morris were heat winners. Weaver set fast pace with a qualifying time of 12.675 seconds.

Mike McKinney and Jay Ledford started on the front row of the 20-lap modified feature, but neither of them would see the win come their way. The duo fought early for the lead but three caution flags bunched the field. A red flag flew with 11 trips to go as the “Outlaw” Dave Porth, in his last season of racing, found himself upside down in between turns three and four. Porth was OK and with that Ledford also pulled off the track with problems and his night was also done. Jeb Friedman and Jeff Curl followed McKinney before he stopped in turn one with fluid leaking from his car. Curl, Friedman, and Brandon Maciejewski were the top three and a war ensued. Friedman wrestled away the lead from Curl with two laps to go and won by a half car length. “I had a special feeling about tonight,” Friedman said in winning $650. “It was a good night and we go out with a bang.”

It took a couple of restarts for the 15-lap street stock feature with Gash and Dwight’s Andrew Funk taking turns with the early lead. A red flag came out with 10 laps to go as Justin Nelson was upside down in turn four. The driver was uninjured and racing continued as Gash and Funk put the heat on each other. With four laps to go the third place driver and birthday boy Barry Sauder brought out a caution when he slowed in turn three with a flat tire. Funk grabbed the lead from Gash as he bobbled in turn two. Gash then spun in turn two and he fell back to 11th place. Funk held on to win by two car lengths over A.J. Meiferdt, Darin Kohler, Rick Thomas, Don Hileary, Eric Gaus, Valerie Hurt, Al Gray, and Chad Rockefeller. “I saw Luke mess up and I didn’t know what happened to him in turn two. It was a good win,” said Funk. Funk also won his heat along with Sauder.

Pontiac’s Richie Rich put an exclamation mark on his championship season by winning the 15-lap sportsman feature over Richard Craven. Rich and Craven started out front and the first red flag of the night flew for Amber Crouch who slammed her car hard into the tires going into turn three. The driver was OK but her evening was done. Rich took the lead and four caution flags later, held off Craven by six car lengths. “This was pretty awesome and to have my name with some of the best on that (sportsman) trophy is great,” Rich said. Brian Albus, Steve Mattingly, and Bobby Crego completed the top five. Rich and Craven won their heats.

Weaver Races His Way from 11th to Win FALS Fan Frenzy

by Darlene Miller

The “Flatland Flash” proved on Saturday that eight can be great, especially when $10,000 is the take home prize. Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver achieved that feat of winning eight races this season at Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Lukes Gash also hit that magic number in the street stock feature.

Weaver did not have an easy time of it after starting 11th at the drop of the green flag. Tonica’s Scott Schmitt and Menomonie, Wisconsin driver Jimmy Mars set a torrid pace in the 50-lap late model feature. The pair battled back and forth in the early laps until Schmitt was able to take the lead.

The top drivers were beginning to lap the field by the seventh circuit with Schmitt still in command. Chatham’s Brian Shirley joined the duo for the top spot with 33 laps to go and found himself in second place. Shirley finally grabbed the top spot on the next lap riding the high side. A caution came out for debris in turn four with 29 trips to go and bunched the field.

On the restart the trio were three-wide coming across the line until Schmitt took the lead back from Shirley, who started to fade. Weaver, who had been stalking in the middle of the pack, started making his move to the front. He got around Shirley for the third spot with 16 laps to go. The crowd kept cheering Weaver on as he reeled in Mars and was in second with 10 laps remaining. Three trips later Weaver moved past Schmitt for the lead.

Schmitt and Mars did not make it easy on the new leader as they stayed in the hunt. The trio brought the crowd to its feet down the stretch as Weaver was able to hold off the challengers by a car length for the big payday. “That was a lot of fun and a good time,” said Weaver. “It was awesome. My setup was tight at first and then I could run good on the bottom. The top finally came in and I let it hang out. I was glad my equipment held on.”

Schmitt came in second and was followed by Mars, Jason Feger, who started fifteenth, and Scott Bull in the top five. Fourteenth starter McKay Wenger led the second group of five with Shirley, Joe Harlan, Eric Smith, and Justin Reed in tow. Heat winners were Derek Chandler, Mars, and Schmitt. Rich Bell had fast time with a 12.725 second lap.

Crossville’s Mark Lamont received an A-plus for his “test” and took home $1,000 from the modified race. Lamont came to FALS “to do some testing” for the upcoming Casey’s Modified Nationals $10,000-to-win race in September.

Lamont and Ray Bollinger led the field to the green flag with Bollinger taking the quick lead. A couple of caution flags flew in the first two laps before Lamont wrestled the lead away from Bollinger for the top spot in the 25-lap feature. The caution flag flew several times and two red flags slowed the field down. A multi-car crash, coupled with Jeff Winterland’s car flipping four times, brought out those red flags. Winterland was OK as he climbed out of his car.

Finally, the flags were held in check and Lamont won by three car lengths. Bollinger took second and was followed by Pontiac’s Jay Ledford and Jeffrey Ledford, Vince Cooper, Jeb Friedman, Chris Gaither, Lance Dehm, Dave Porth, and Collin Alexander. Lamont, Bollinger, and Jay Ledford were heat winners. Bollinger had quick time with a lap of 13.989 seconds.

Gash also won his eighth race of the season in the street stock feature. Gash and Rick Thomas were in the hunt for the win until, with five laps to go, the pair got tangled in turn one and Thomas’s night was over. Caution was flying in the wind numerous times before Gash was able to hold off Jason Maier and Barry Sauder to garner the checkered banner. “It was an incredible, nerve wracking race,” said Gash. “What a great year.” A.J. Meiferdt, Matt Maier, Darrin Kohler, Billy Wicker, Al Gray, Josh Hetherington, and Chad Rockefeller rounded out the top 10. Gash and Thomas were heat winners.

In the first caution-filled feature of the evening, Richie Rich held off all challengers to increase his season points lead in the sportsman division. Brian Albus, Amber Crouch, Steve Mattingly, and Richard Craven were in the top five. Scott Williams, Eric Legner, Bryant Frechette, Anthony Craven, and Austin Williams rounded out the finish.

Scott Melvin picked up the hobby mod win.

Lucky 7’s For Weaver, Ledford, and Gash

by Rocky Ragusa

Kevin Weaver, Jay Ledford, and Lukes Gash bagged their seventh feature wins at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night, while Jeb Friedman notched his first Modified win, Jason Brandt picked up his second win in the Hobby Mod class, and Richard Craven closed the gap in the Sportsman points with his victory.

In the 15 lap Sportsman feature, Richie Rich and Richard Craven started on the front row. As the green flag waved, Craven dove to the inside to try and take the lead, while Rich moved to the high side of the track. After two cautions on the fifth lap, Craven had to contend with Brian Albus in a race for second. The two drivers raced side by side before Craven was able to break away and set his sights on Rich. Craven got on the inside of Rich going down the backstretch at the halfway point and took the lead on the eighth circuit. Rich came back at Craven several times in the closing laps but Craven was able to hold off the persistent challenge from Rich. For Craven it was his sixth win of the year and he closed the points margin to 24 with two points races remaining. “I saw Rich bobble in the turn. He is trying to win a championship and I’m trying to take it away,” said Craven. Following Craven and Rich to the line were Anthony Craven (hard charger), Albus, Steve Mattingly, Rod Rusher, Amber Crouch, Eric Legner, Scott Williams, and Blake Reid. Rich was the races fast qualifier at a 15.120 and won the first heat race, while Richard Craven took the second heat race.

Following a caution flag with two laps to go, Jason Brandt pulled alongside of Tim McGuire. Racing side by side Brandt was able to edge McGuire for the win in the 10 lap Hobby Mod class. Starting last in the field Brandt commented in victory lane, “It was a tough race. We have a great group of guys in the class and I am glad to have the support from the track. Thanks to my dad, Gerry for all his help getting the car ready, and what he does for the class.” McGuire, Mason Duncan, Scott Melvin, and Graham Jackson completed the top five. Duncan was the heat race winner.

Lukes Gash, after a race for second with Barry Sauder, closed in on Rick Thomas in the 15 lap Street Stock race. Gash overtook Thomas on the sixth lap and pulled away from his competition taking the win and extended his lead in the divisions point standings. “I saw Barry’s line and it looked like the fast way around. It has been an unbelievable year,” spoke Gash. Thomas, Sauder, Andrew Funk, A.J. Meiferdt, Billy Wicker, Eric Gaus (hard charger), Darrin Kohler, Don Hilleary, Curtis Radke completed the top ten. Funk set quick time at a 16.138, while Thomas and Gash won heat races.

Kevin Weaver took an early lead at the start of the 30 lap Late Model feature as Scott Schmitt and Daren Friedman traded paint for second. Friedman got out of shape in turn two giving Schmitt possession of the runner up spot and rapidly closed in on Weaver. Steve Thorsten stuck the nose of his car under Friedman several times as he looked to advance his position. Weaver ran the infamous Fairbury cushion on the ragged edge and paid for it on the ninth lap giving the lead to Schmitt. Schmitt encountered slower cars and Weaver found himself back on Schmitt’s bumper. After a caution on the 14th lap, Schmitt and Weaver raced side by side for the first position. Weaver was able to edge ahead of Schmitt but looked like it could have changed anytime as Weaver worked the treacherous cushion. In the closing laps Weaver maneuvered through lapped traffic and was able to put some distance on the field. As the checkered flag waved Weaver took the win over Schmitt, Friedman, Thorsten, Bill Hough, McKay Wenger (hard charger), Scott Bull, Snooky Dehm, Kyle Hammer, and Blaine Hendrick. “I am glad I can still get it done, running the cushion,” commented Weaver. “I just try to hit my marks and be aggressive. If you slow down driving you can mess up."

The Modified class ran two feature events with the second race a makeup for the June 13 rainout. In the first race, Jay Ledford and Jeb Friedman led the field to the green flag. Ledford took the lead as Friedman looked under Ledford several times to move into the lead. On the fourth lap, Ledford was able to open up his lead, as Jeff Curl had overtaken Lance Dehm and Jeffrey Ledford for third. Curl was soon on the back bumper of Friedman and saw an advantage to move into second on lap 12. A caution dropped on lap 14 and the field went to a double file restart. Ledford took command, as Curl, Dehm, and Friedman diced for second. Curl was able to pull ahead and closed up on Ledford. Ledford was able to take the checked flag and put a little distance over his competitors in the race for the track championship. “I had Jeff on the bottom and Lance on the top,” spoke Ledford. “I had to block two lanes and it was tough to do.” Curl, Dehm, Friedman, Tommy Duncan (hard charger), Dave Porth, Chris Gaither, Jeffrey Ledford, Jimmy Dehm, and Richie Dawson completed the top ten. Ledford and Friedman won heat races, while Lance Dehm was the fast qualifier at a 14.181.

Two weeks ago at the Prairie Dirt Classic during one of the Modified heat races, Jeb Friedman and Lance Dehm got together. The results saw Friedman hit the tire as cars exit the track in turn three. Friedman’s car rolled over and he later went to the hospital for a checkup. Friedman, a little sore, got his car fixed and returned the next week. Friedman started on the pole in this week’s makeup feature. Grabbing the lead at the start, Friedman led all 20 laps and took his first win of the year. “It’s been a heck of a year trying to keep up with Jay Ledford, “said Friedman. “ I have to thank all my family and crew for supporting me and helping to get the car back together.” Trailing Friedman to the stripe were Jay Ledford, Lance Dehm, Jeff Curl, Tommy Duncan, Dave Porth, Cullen Breeden, Jeremie Johnson, Jeffrey Ledford, and Chris Gaither.