McKinney Charges From 22nd To Claim $10,000 FALS Super Nationals; Pierce Edges Wenger To Win Late Model $10K Thriller

Results | Story & Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

Despite threatening weather conditions during the morning and afternoon, a strong field of cars were in attendance for the twin 50-lap features for the MARS Late Model Series and DIRTcar Modifieds. Track champion Mike McKinney took the Modified race, while DIRTcar Summer Nationals champ Bobby Pierce won a slugfest in the Late Models.

mckinney md61 Modifieds were on hand for the annual Casey’s Modified Nationals. In his first appearance to the track, Cole Falloway paced group one qualifiers with a time of 14.305 seconds. A time of 14.159 seconds gave Curt Spalding quick time for group two. Falloway, Treb Jacoby, Mike Harrison, Spalding, Will Krup, and Kenny Wallace picked up heat race wins. Three semi features had Garrett Jameson, Allen Weisser, and Nick Hoffman advancing to the $10,000 to win main event. Falloway opened a 10-car length lead at the start as Spalding, Krup, Harrison, and Wallace trailed. Harrison looked to be the fastest on track and was up to second by the eighth lap. Harrison pulled alongside Falloway on the ninth lap and took over the lead on lap 10. Just as quickly as Harrison took the lead, his night came to an end with engine problems. Falloway moved back into the lead with Tyler Nicely in pursuit. Nicely moved into the lead on lap 15 and headed the field for the next ten circuits. Nicely led Falloway, Spalding, Nick Hoffman, Derek Losh, and 22nd starter Mike McKinney. Falloway moved to the point on lap 26, but it was short lived, as Summit Modified Nationals champion Hoffman took command.

McKinney, the fastest car on the track, was up to second by lap 31. McKinney and rival Hoffman went toe to toe before McKinney pulled ahead on lap 36. McKinney stretched his lead, and as the checkered flag was waved, had over a half straightaway lead as he picked up his 99th career feature race win. “We shouldn’t have even been in the race,” said McKinney. “We had to take a provisional after getting caught up in that heat race wreck. I made some laps in the b-main because I knew we were in the feature and just planned to run a few laps in the feature. To beat Nick, one of the best drivers in the country, it means the world to me.” Hoffman settled for second with Spalding taking third. Brandon Bollinger, Weisser, Falloway, Victor Lee, Dillon Nusbaum, Wallace, and Jacoby completed the top ten.

pierce lmNew Solutions Ag was the presiding sponsor for the $10,000 to win MARS Late Model Series race which drew a field of 29 competitors. Frank Heckenast Jr. was the event’s fastest qualifier with a time of 12.965 seconds. Heckenast, Tanner English, and Kevin Weaver won their respective heat races. Scott Schmitt was the winner of the semi-feature. 22 drivers took the green flag from flagman Jim Whittington. Second starter English led lap one before Heckenast moved to the front. Three straight yellow flags had the field go to a single file restart. With Heckenast and English running the bottom, Bobby Pierce found his comfort zone on the Fairbury cushion. Pierce was able to get by English for second as the caution fell for Shannon Babb’s spin. On the restart, Pierce opened a ten-car length lead while English and Heckenast raced side by side for second with Weaver and Brian Shirley following. English took over the second spot and closed the margin on Pierce. As Pierce was entering turn one, he changed his line with English on his bumper. Contact was made with English looping his car around for another yellow flag. The restart had Pierce leading Heckenast, Shirley, Jason Feger, and McKay Wenger. Shirley moved to second with a heated battle between Heckenast, Wenger, and Feger behind him. Wenger took over the third position, and as the trio were entering turn one, Feger got into the back of Heckenast resulting in a caution. Another caution fell on lap 26 for fifth running Taylor Scheffler who tagged the wall on the backstretch. When the field went back to green, Wenger, working the bottom, overtook Shirley for second and closed in on Pierce.

The final 20 laps were some of the best racing that Fairbury has seen. Wenger, running the bottom, was able to lead laps 30-34. Pierce, in the middle and top side, took over to lead laps 35-44. Wenger, looking for his first $10K win, took over on laps 45-46. Pierce edged ahead on the 47th lap. Wenger executed a slide job to take over on laps 48 and 49. On the final lap, Pierce dove under Wenger in turns one and two, and Wenger slid up the track just enough for Pierce to get by. Contact was made as Pierce looked to hold off Wenger. Pierce was able to hang on and earn a hard-fought victory. “I’m pretty fired up,” commented Pierce. “That’s a tough race. I am glad it's over with. I think that every car that battled for the lead hit me. Wenger had a good race. I know he wanted that win badly." Somewhat dejected, Wenger spoke after the race. “One of these days we are going to get us one. That is all I had. I guess all you can ask for is to be there and have a chance.” Garrett Alberson finished in third, followed by Ryan Unzicker, English, Feger, Heckenast, Mike Spatola, Trevor Gundaker, and Torin Mettille.

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