Courtney, Heckenast Capture Thursday Night Shootout Victories

Results | Story & Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

The Fairbury Speedway had a Thursday night special with Late Models and a combined All Star Circuit of Champions / Interstate Racing Association Winged Sprint Car race. Both races paid $5,000 to the winner. Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Ind., led flag-to-flag in netting the Sprint Car feature, and Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., rallied for the Late Model win.

courtney sprThe All Stars made their first Fairbury appearance since 1995 and saw 32 drivers in attendance for their 30-lap feature race. Scotty Thiel laid down a lap of 11.310 seconds for quick time. Ian Madsen, Travis Philo, Tyler Courtney, and Parker Price-Miller took heat race wins. Cap Henry was the winner of the B-Main. Courtney and Paul McMahan won their respective dash races to determine the first 10 starting positions. Nicknamed “Sunshine”, Courtney established himself as the driver to beat. Courtney led with Bill Balog and Rico Abreu keeping pace. As Courtney weaved his way past slower traffic, he was able to distance himself from his competition. A caution with two laps to go set up a wild finish. Balog’s failed slide job to take the lead allowed Abreu to sneak by for second. Courtney, the All Stars points leader, was able to pick up his fourth win of the year. “I should have started a little lower on that last restart,” explained Courtney. “I was expecting a slider, but Balog left me just enough room so I had to go for it. We just needed to be a little better on that restart and not give the guy a chance, but I led the lap that counts.” Abreu and Balog joined Courtney on the podium with Madsen, Giovanni Scelzi, Thiel, Hunter Schuerenberg, Henry, Spencer Bayston, and McMahan completing the top ten.

heckenast lmKevin Weaver’s time of 13.004 seconds gave him fast time as 20 Late Model drivers made qualifying attempts for their 40-lap race. Three heat races were held with Weaver, Shannon Babb, and Ryan Unzicker winning their respective races. Weaver took the lead at the start with Babb, Dennis Erb Jr., Unzicker, and Eric Smith following. After two cautions on lap two, Babb went to the top side of the track and took the lead from Weaver on the frontstretch on lap nine. Unzicker moved by Weaver on lap 16 and began to run Babb down. Unzicker went to the top of the track and closed in on Babb. As Unzicker was looking to move into the lead, he slipped in turn one, giving Babb the opportunity to extend his lead. McKay Wenger tagged the wall for a caution with 11 laps to go. On the restart, Unzicker had to contend with Frank Heckenast Jr. Running side by side with Unzicker, Heckenast moved into second with seven laps to go. With three laps remaining, Heckenast tried a slide job and made contact with Babb. Babb slowed enough to allow Heckenast to take over the lead and capture the win. An apologetic Heckenast commented in victory lane after his fifth career Fairbury win. “I feel terrible for Babb. He has been my hero growing up and I would never race him like that. I had Babb set up and he pushed really hard in three and four and stopped. It killed my momentum and I thought this is it right here. We were going to lose the race or go for it.” A dejected Babb settled for second, with Smith, Unzicker, Weaver, Rich Bell, Gordy Gundaker, Trevor Gundaker, Jeffrey Ledford, and Mike Provenzano rounding out the top ten.

Tyler Courtney survives a frenzy at Fairbury for fourth All Star win of 2021

Story by Tyler Altmeyer

For the fourth time of his career - for the fourth time this season - “Sunshine” Tyler Courtney is a FloRacing All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 main event winner, securing his fourth check in the victory column in a wire-to-wire display at the almost legendary Fairbury Speedway in Fairbury, Illinois, on Thursday, June 3. Starting from the pole position by way of dash victory, Courtney’s campaign at the front of the field was far from a cake walk, as the former USAC champion was forced to slice and dice through wave after wave of slower traffic, all before fending off a wild, last-ditch effort slider from the “North Pole Nightmare” Bill Balog. Adding some extra depth to the stat sheet, the All Star visit to Fairbury, which also featured the Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint Series, was the first appearance by the All Star Circuit of Champions since 1995. “This has been a great last few weeks for this NOS Energy Drink/Turbo car. The guys have been busting their butts back at the shop to keep this thing fast,” Tyler Courtney said in Fairbury victory lane, driver of the Clauson Marshall Racing/NOS Energy Drink/Turbo/No. 7BC sprint car. “I’m having a blast right now. This is a good time of year to get going. We still have three more nights this weekend and a big week next week.”

Although the first five laps were relatively uneventful, a caution on lap six would essentially clump the field back together, eventually leading to an incredible three-car battle in traffic between Courtney, Bill Balog, and West Coast heavy hitter, Rico Abreu. By lap 13, slower cars were stacked up two and three wide in front of the leaders, and although Courtney was all but stuck, the Indianapolis, Indiana-native was successful in slowly maneuvering through the mess, simultaneously keeping Balog in his back seat with Abreu also in tow. Lap after lap, traffic maintained its relentlessness, not allowing Courtney to find any breathing room, stretching his legs to a near-straightaway command, until lap 25. Just as Courtney thought his troubles were over, the caution flags would reappear on lap 28 setting up what would be a three-lap dash to the finish. As mentioned, the ensuing restart led to a wicked, turn four slide job attempt by Bill Balog, barely leaving Courtney enough room to get by. Suffice it to say, Courtney squeezed through and held on to secure the $5,000 payday. Rico Abreu, who got by Balog after his failed slide job attempt, finished second at Fairbury, followed by Balog, Ian Madsen, and Gio Scelzi. “I should have started a little lower on that last restart,” Courtney said when discussing the last restart and Bill Balog’s slider. “I was expecting it, but he left me just enough room so I had to go for it. We just needed to be a little better on that restart and not give the guy a chance. But we led the lap that counts.”

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