Friedman, Ledford, Meiferdt, Albus garner checkered flags at FALS

by Darlene Miller

After a few weeks of rain-shortened races and race cancellations, everyone was ready for a great night of racing at Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday. Daren Friedman ended his almost yearlong winless streak in the late model division, but it was far from easy for the Forrest driver. Friedman and three-time FALS champ Scott Bull led the drivers to the green flag and Friedman stayed on the top side, followed by Fairbury’s Bull and Tonica’s Scott Schmitt. The top three encountered lap traffic with 10 trips into the 30-lap feature. Bull and Schmitt soon felt pressure from Jay Morris and Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver. A caution flag flew with 13 circuits to go as Roberts’ Dan Flessner stopped in turn one. At the restart, Friedman pulled away from the three and four-wide battle behind him and Morris and Weaver soon began to move up on the leader.

Another caution flag flew and the three were bunched and ready for the shootout but it was Friedman who left the duo behind and he won by just over two car lengths. “We have been working hard and have had a slow start. The track was great and slick. I hope this is a start of a roll,” said Friedman, who last visited victory lane in July 2014. Following Friedman to the line were Morris, Weaver, Bull and Derek Chandler in the top five. McKay Wenger, Schmitt, Donny Walden, Joe Harlan and Mike Spatola made up the second five. Weaver was the hard charger finishing third after starting 11th. Heat winners were Bull, Friedman and Schmitt, while Mike Spatola won the semi-feature. Bull set fast time with a time of 14.882 seconds.

Pontiac’s Jay Ledford increased his drive for a second modified title by “surviving” the first four laps of the 20-lap feature. Jacob Poel and Mason City’s Brian Lynn started in front. Trouble soon found Poel as he spun out in turn four of the first lap causing the first caution. Poel was relegated to the back and Lynn assumed the lead. Trouble soon found Lynn, as well, as he spun in about the same place as Poel. It was not good for Lynn and a group of drivers who were caught up in the red flag melee. Steven Brooks and Lynn were done for the evening. Ledford led the field to the green when trouble found Gardner’s Dave Porth as he spun entering turn three and a lot more competitors were done for the evening as another red flag stopped action.

Another caution came out with 16 to go before the field settled down. Ledford was riding low while being followed by Jeff Curl, Lance Dehm and Mike Learman. Ledford held off the trio by over five car lengths. “This feels great, I went to the top and it was a lot faster for me,” said Ledford. Poel recovered from moving to the back to place fifth. He was followed by Dustin Mounce (the hard charger by moving up 10 positions), Cullen Breeden, Nick Clubb, Jeffrey Ledford and Jeb Friedman. Lynn and Poel were heat winners and Poel set fast time with a 15.068 lap.

In the 15-lap sportsman feature, newcomer Brian Albus held off Richard Craven by a nose for his first win at FALS. Craven and his son Anthony set the early pace. The younger Craven had problems early and began to fall back. Bryant Frechette and Scott Williams moved up to second and third, respectively. Albus got around Williams and Frechette to take second and close the gap on Craven. Craven was running the low side and felt the pressure from Albus in the middle of the track and the crowd had to wait as the pair finished almost even but Albus claimed the win. “The low side had a lot of ruts and that is where I could catch him,” said Albus. Craven, Frechette, Williams, Eric Legner, Richie Rich, Steve Mattingly, Amber Crouch, Austin Williams and Anthony Craven rounded out the top 10. Heat wins went to the Cravens. Anthony Craven had fast lap time at 15.411.

A.J. Meiferdt held off a hard charging “Highside Hillbilly” Don Hilleary to win the 15-lap street stock feature. Lukes Gash and Andrew Funk led the early part of the race until Gash left his suspension behind him in turn one on the fourth lap. Funk took the top spot followed closely by Rick Thomas. Matt Maier brought out the next flag as he stopped on the track with seven laps to go. Hilleary took a slight lead with five to go before Meiferdt got around Funk and Thomas. Meiferdt took the lead with three laps remaining and won by three car lengths over Hilleary. Thomas, Funk, Barry Sauder, Darrell Dick, Eric Gaus, Justin Nelson, Doug Berbaum and Darrin Kohler followed. Funk, Gash and Maier were heat winners and Gash had fast time with a 15.636 lap. In the Sportsman make-up feature, Pontiac’s Richie Rich brought home the checkered flag.

New Papa Babb Takes Win at Fairbury Summer Nationals

by Rocky Ragusa

After the birth of his daughter on Friday, Moweaqua’s Shannon Babb asked his wife on Saturday if she wouldn’t mind if he stepped out for a while to get some fresh air. Babb and his crew loaded up his race car and headed to the Fairbury American Legion Speedway for the seventh stop on the UMP Summer Nationals tour. Babb took the lead after Scott Schmitt got caught behind lapped traffic and held on for his first win of the year.

47 drivers from eight states vied for a starting position in the 50 lap, $10,000 to win race. Manhattan’s Mike Spatola and Tonica’s Scott Schmitt tied for fast time at 12.957 seconds. Four heats races were ran with the top four transferring to the feature race. In heat one Spatola turned back Kent Robinson, Jason Feger, and Dan Flessner. In heat two Schmitt pulled away from Bobby Pierce for the win followed by Kevin Weaver and Tim Manville. The third heat race had Billy Moyer Jr. pulling away from the field with Ryan Unzicker, Daren Friedman, and Steve Thorsten following. Billy Moyer cruised to an easy win in the fourth heat race followed by Michael Kloos, Babb, and Scott Bull. A C-Main was held with Allen Murray from San Antonio, TX taking the win and moving on to the B Main along with Jay Sparks, Mark Voigt, and Jay Morris. Billy Drake made a last lap pass to win the B-Main with Mike Glasscock, Mike Provenzano, and McKay Wenger in tow. 18 cars made the race by their heat race finishing positions and Timothy Culp from West Monroe, LA, Bob Gardner, Wenger, and Missouri’s Jim Moon taking provisional starts for a 22 car field.

Moyer Jr. and Spatola led the field to the green flag with Moyer Jr. taking the lead followed by Spatola, Moyer, Pierce, and Schmitt. Moyer stuck the nose of his car under Spatola several times before taking second on the fourth lap. After a caution on lap six, Moyer looked to take the lead from his son, but Jr. was able to hold back the challenge. Unzicker was on the move early getting by Pierce and looked to take fourth from Schmitt. Moyer moved into the lead on the 14th lap and Unzicker charged into second on the 17th lap. Spatola, running third, stalled on the track for a caution on the 20th lap. The restart had Moyer leading Unzicker and Schmitt with Babb on the run in fourth spot. Another caution came out on lap 23 as Moyer dropped out with mechanical failure. Schmitt moved into the lead on the restart with Babb, Unzicker, Pierce, and Feger in the top five. Schmitt led Babb by a car length and soon encountered slower traffic.

While trying to overtake Gardner, Schmitt had nowhere to go allowing Babb and Unzicker to each move ahead. After a caution on lap 34 for debris, the top side of the track was working for Babb while Unzicker moved the bottom of the track. Schmitt had to contend with Pierce for third. On lap 37, Pierce tried a slide job on Schmitt. Schmitt hit the wall in turn two and fell back to ninth giving Pierce the third position. Drake looked to be the fastest car on the track during the late stages of the race and battled Feger for the fifth position. Unzicker looked under Babb several times to take the lead while Pierce soon joined in the hunt. With five laps to go the top three put some distance from the remaining cars. Another caution fell with four laps to go. On the restart, Babb and Unzicker pulled to a ten car length lead over Pierce. Pierce had his hands full as he had to contend with Moyer Jr. and Feger.

As the checkered flag waved, Babb, the defending Summer Nationals champion, took his 88th career Summer Nationals win. “The track started off a little drier than usual, but the cushion was right at the top,” said Babb. “Earlier the bottom was good. Fairbury is always pretty even, but the bottom slowed down and the top was the way to go. There were a lot of strong cars. Schmitt and Unzicker were both good. Fairbury always produces a heckuva race and there’s another one.”

With a storm moving into the area, the 25 lap Summit Modified Summer Nationals race was called to the stage. Brian Shaw and Chad Kinder led the 22 car field to the line. Kinder took the lead over Shaw, as Jay Ledford, Mike Harrison, and Lance Dehm followed. Kinder opened a five car length lead and Shaw had to contend with Ledford. Ledford, running the middle groove, took second on lap eight and was followed by Harrison. After a caution on lap ten, Ledford looked to overtake Kinder for the lead but Kinder was able to hang on. Kinder, Ledford, and Harrison broke away to a ten car length lead over the field as Dehm, Shaw, and current Modified Nationals points leader Tyler Nicely had their own race for fourth. Another caution came out on lap 16. Harrison got by Ledford to move into second and challenged Kinder for the front spot. Ledford had to contend with Nicely and Jeff Curl for the third spot. Kinder put some distance between himself and his contenders. On the white flag lap Harrison slowed in turn two. As the rain picked up, Kinder took the win over Nicely, Ledford, Curl, and Harrison.

With a strong storm and potential tornado warnings in effect the remainder of the night’s racing program was canceled and will be rescheduled.

Rain shortens racing card as Weaver nabs Allen Memorial

by Darlene Miller

It has been a wet racing season thus far as Mother Nature has been tough on Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Rain plagued the races all night Saturday beginning right after qualifying with a delay of the start of the features by almost an hour.

Scott Schmitt of Tonica and Forrest’s Daren Friedman led the field to the green flag for the 30-lap, $2,000 to win 19th annual Pappy and Bob Allen Memorial late model feature. Friedman quickly took the point as Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver moved around Schmitt for the second spot. The pair battled back and forth until Weaver grabbed the lead with 21 circuits to go and rain began to fall. The cars went off the track until the rain stopped and pack trucks were called back out to work the track back in. Fifteen minutes later, the drivers came back out and resumed the feature.

Weaver began to pull away by three car lengths over Friedman with 15 laps to go when rain began to fall again. Weaver was declared the winner of the feature with ten laps to go and racing was done for the night. El Paso’s Joe Harlan and Fairbury’s Scott Bull were third and fourth, respectively. Spencer Diercks was fifth followed by Pontiac’s Derek Chandler, Fairbury’s McKay Wenger, Mike Glasscock, Dan Flessner and Torin Mettille. Mettille was the hard charger moving up eight spots. Heat winners were Friedman, Schmitt and Weaver. Eric Smith of Shirley won the semi-feature. Harlan was top qualifier with a 12.842 time.

The other feature of the night saw Lukes Gash win a tough street stock race over Andrew Funk. Funk had the early lead in the 15-lap feature but Gash soon applied pressure and the pair dueled. Gash got the upper hand with five laps to go and won by a car length. A.J. Meiferdt, Lon Franks, Don Hilleary, Rick Thomas, Darrin Kohler, Curtis Radke and Josh Hetherington rounded out the top ten. Eric Gaus finished 12th and was the hard charger as he started 18th. Darrell Dick and Funk were the heat winners.

The modified and sportsman features will be made up at a later date.

Weaver, Ledford Complete Hat Trick

by Rocky Ragusa

Mother Nature finally graced the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday as 86 cars in five classes participated in the weekly UMP race program.

It took two tries in the 30 lap Late Model feature before drivers settled down and were able to complete a lap. Kevin Weaver took command at the start with Steve Thorsten, Scott Schmitt, McKay Wenger, and Steve Dimmick following. Weaver drove a smooth line on the bottom of the track and quickly opened a half a straightaway lead. Wenger moved to the bottom and began challenging Schmitt for third. Wenger took the position on the sixth lap, as Mike Spatola moved into fifth. Wenger closed the margin on Thorsten and pressured him for second before a caution fell on lap 13.

The restart had Weaver comfortably in front as Thorsten and Wenger battled for second. Behind the top three, six drivers continued to swap positions. Torin Mettille moved into fourth and was on Wenger’s bumper as a caution dropped on lap 18. On the restart, Weaver led Thorsten, as Mettille got by Wenger, with Joseph Hughs, Mike Glasscock, and Kyle Hammer in a tight formation. After the last caution on lap 24, Weaver opened his lead, with Thorsten in a heated battle with Hughs and Spatola. Hughs got loose giving Spatola the third position. Spatola ran down Thorsten and took over the spot with two laps to go. At the checkers Weaver took his second feature win in a row followed by Spatola, Thorsten, Hughs, Glasscock, Scott Bull, Wenger, Hammer, Schmitt, and Dan Flessner. “The Bob Pierce car was running good tonight,” commented Weaver. “I have to thank my crew for all their hard work. It was a fun race. I heard it was exciting behind me. It feels good to win twice here. I can remember a few years ago when it was hard to get one win. Things are going good and I just hope we can keep it up.” Weaver set fast time with a 12.826 among the 23 entries. Weaver took a heat race win along with Schmitt and Thorsten. Hughs was the semi feature winner.

Pole sitter Jay Ledford took the lead at the start of the 20 lap Modified race with Jeb Friedman, Cullen Breeden, Jeremie Johnson, and Lance Dehm racing for second. Ledford opened up a five car length lead, as Friedman moved into second and Breeden took third. By the seventh lap, Ledford was lapping slower cars. Two cautions fell on lap eight for single car spin outs. Ledford jumped out to the lead, with Friedman, Breeden, and Johnson in a race for second. Dave Porth was on the move and challenged Dehm for fifth. After a caution on the 17th circuit, Ledford was able to pull away and score his first FALS win of the year. Friedman, Porth, Johnson, Breeden, Nick Clubb, Dehm, Jeff Curl, Jared Spalding, and Chris Gaither rounded out the top ten. The defending track champion, Ledford, spoke after the win. “I want to thank my crew. They really worked hard on the car this week. I couldn’t do it without them. Thanks to all my sponsors and the fans for coming out.” 21 cars took time trials and Ledford was the swiftest of the swift at a 14.059. Ledford, Friedman, and Breeden won heat races.

Current UMP national points leader Lukes Gash took the lead for the start of the 15 lap Street Stock feature race. Andrew Funk faced the challenge from a hard charging Rick Thomas. After a caution on the fourth lap, Thomas put the bumper to Funk several times and took the second spot, while Gash held a five car length lead. Gash held a ten car length lead as Funk tried several times to retake the second position from Thomas. Matt Maier had to contend with Tim Dick and A.J. Meiferdt in a battle for fourth. At the end of the race Gash was safely out front and took his first feature win of the year. “Anytime you see Andrew and Rick on the scoreboard you get nervous,” said Gash. “My crew told me I had a good lead, but with those two behind me you never know.” Funk bested 26 other drivers in qualifying at a 15.597. Funk, Gash, and Jason Maier won heat races, while Jeff Semmens took the semi feature.

In the 15 lap Sportsman race Richard Craven jumped out to a commanding lead with Anthony Craven, Scott Williams, Bryant Frechette, and Amber Crouch in the top five. With the track clean after a lap six caution, Richard Craven vaulted out to a straightaway lead. Frechette moved to the top side of the track to take over third and Crouch got by Williams for fourth. Crouch worked the bottom of the track and moved by Frechette with three laps to go. At the finish Richard Craven made it his third win in three starts. “I saw Anthony was in second and was waiting on a challenge from him,” said Craven. “I hate that Richie Rich fell out on the pace lap. I wanted to race with him but that’s the way it goes.” Richard Craven timed at a 14.823 for quick time among the 12 cars. Rich and Timmy Dick took heat wins.

Action opened in the Hobby Mod class. Tim McGuire was able to lead flag to flag for the feature win. An excited McGuire commented after the win. “This has been a lifelong dream to race here. My dad used to bring us here. To get the win, it is really a special moment.” Mike Peterson and Jason Brandt completed the field.

Miller Claims Cook Memorial, Craven Four-Peats Eden-Piercy Race

by Rocky Ragusa

The Fairbury American Legion Speedway can boast that they have some of the toughest competitors in the Modified class. Saturday night, Clayton Miller of Elkton, KY was able to make short order of the drivers in claiming the 2nd Annual Gary Cook Jr. Memorial race, sanctioned by the American Modified Series.

Mike McKinney and Miller led the 22 car field to the green flag, but a caution fell before a lap was completed. On the restart, Miller raced out to a two car length lead over McKinney, Chad Kinder, Jay Ledford, and Lucas Lee. A caution again fell on the third lap for Dustin Mounce, who battled an ill handling car. The restart had Miller running the top, McKinney on the bottom, Kinder in the middle, and Ledford on the bottom.

Miller opened up a five car length lead, as McKinney, Kinder, and Ledford battled for second. Kinder got under McKinney and challenged for position as Lance Dehm moved to the top side of the track and began picking off the cars. Miller lead by a half a straight away by lap ten, with Kinder following, Dehm moving to third, McKinney, and Ledford in tow. Miller was able to open a straightaway lead by the 15th lap and soon encountered slower cars. Kinder changed his line to the top side in hopes of running down Miller, as Dehm was five car lengths back. Current A.M.S. points leader, Tyler Nicely, was on the charge, as he started 17th and worked his way to fifth by the 18th circuit. Traffic slowed Miller’s momentum in the closing laps, as Kinder closed the margin to a two car length lead. Kinder managed to get under Miller several times, but Miller was able to hang on and take the $2,064, 30 lap feature.

“I have to thank God, first and foremost for giving me the opportunity and ability to do this,” said Miller. “I didn’t know Gary well, but did get to race with him a few times. He seemed like a real outstanding guy. That race was awesome. We went with a softer compound than most of the drivers because I knew I would have to run the top. I wanted to tighten the car up, but went with my gut and here we are.” Kinder, Dehm, Nicely, Ledford, Lee, McKinney, Vince Cooper, Josh Harris, and Jacob Poel completed the top ten. Mark Lamont (14.359) and Miller (14.054) led their qualifying groups. McKinney, Ledford, Miller, and Kinder took heat wins, while Nicely won the semi feature.

Richie Rich and Jeremy Nichols led the 14 car field to the green for the 11th Annual Gary Eden-Curt Piercy Memorial race for the Sportsman class. Rich jumped out to a straightaway lead by lap five, as Richard Craven challenged Nichols for second, with Scott Williams and Anthony Craven following. Craven took over second on the ninth lap, as Scott Hatzer moving into the fifth spot. Caution fell on lap 11 as Eric Saltzman tagged the wall in turn four. On the restart, Rich led the field, with Craven on the bottom and Nichols running the top, in a three-way contest for the lead. Craven worked his way by Rich on the 13th lap to take the front position. Caution fell on the 18th lap for Brandon Pralle spinning in turn three. On the restart, Craven was able to lead the final two laps and pick up his fourth straight Eden-Piercy feature.

“That was one of the best races I have been in,” said Craven. “It was a blast. I knew Rich and Nichols would be tough. They both raced me clean.” Rich set fast time at a 15.117 and received $100, as Chris Eden and Jerry Cremeens donated additional money for the winner’s purse. Trailing Craven to the finish were Nichols, Rich, Anthony Craven, Hatzer, Bryant Frechette, Amber Crouch, Brian Albus, Danny Smith, and Brandon Pralle. Rich and Nichols won the heat races.

In a caution plagued 15 lap Street Stock race, Andrew Funk ended a winless streak dating back to July 2011. Last week, brother Joel Funk stepped behind the wheel of Andrew’s car and took the win. This week Funk took the lead at the start and lead all the way for the win. “It has been a while since I have been down here,” spoke Funk. “I saw Luke coming. I was going into the turn too hard. I made some mistakes, but Luke is a good driver. I just stuck the car at the bottom and it worked out.” Luke Gash, Rick Thomas, Darrin Kohler, Joe Hillman, A.J. Meiferdt, Darrell Dick, Jesse Simmons, Barry Sauder, and Pete O’Dell rounded out the top ten. Funk completed the trifecta by being the fast qualifier (15.633) and taking the first heat. Thomas and Simmons claimed the other heat wins, while Eric Gaus was the semi feature winner.

Action ended with a 30 lap Late Model race. Scott Schmitt and Steve Dimmick led the field to the start. As the cars rounded the fourth turn, Schmitt tagged the wall and fell several positions back. Scott Bull was able to wrestle the lead away, as Kevin Weaver got by Dimmick for third, followed by Dan Flessner and Torin Mettille. Weaver moved to the top side and claimed the top position on lap four and motored away from the competition. Weaver soon found himself working the back markers as Mike Spatola moved into the fourth position, and on the 11th lap moved into third. By the halfway mark, Spatola got by Flessner for third, as Daren Friedman hounded Mettille for fifth. Bull closed the margin on Weaver as Weaver threaded thru slower cars. A caution fell on the 22nd lap for Spatola, whose night ended with a flat tire. On the restart, Weaver pulled away from Bull with Flessner, Friedman, and Mettile in order. A final caution fell with two laps to go for debris on the track. On the restart, Weaver pulled away from the field and claimed his first win of the year. “We ran the Pierce car tonight and it was working good. We tried a few things and it seemed to work. It feels good to win on one of our local tracks and still be able to win,” said Weaver. Bull, Friedman, Schmitt, Flessner, Mettille, Jay Morris, Steve Thorsten, Joseph Hughs, and Mike Glasscock rounded out the top ten. Schmitt was fast qualifier at a 13.031. Schmitt, Dimmick, and Bull won the heat races.