by Rocky Ragusa
Living up to his motto, “Refuse to Lose”, second generation driver Bobby Pierce continued his hot streak by picking up the featured, Sunoco ALMS Late Model win, sponsored by Central Illinois Buildings at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway.
Outside front row starter, Dennis Erb Jr., held an early lead in the 30-lap, $2,000 to win race, with Joe Harlan challenging Erb, followed by Scott Schmitt, Bobby Pierce, and Jay Morris. After a lap eight caution, Erb stuck his guns to the bottom, building a ten car length lead, with Harlan on the topside, and Pierce slipping by Schmitt for third. Erb held a straight away lead over the field, as Harlan, Pierce, Schmitt, and McKay Wenger ran in a tight formation for second. When the track went green following a caution on the 14th lap, Pierce used the double file restart to his advantage. Starting on the bottom, Pierce stuck his nose under Erb’s car and tried for the lead, but out of nowhere came Kevin Weaver to get by both contenders for a brief lead. With ten laps to go, Pierce moved to the top of the track. On the next circuit, Pierce shot by Weaver and Erb to take the lead. Pierce pulled away from the field to notch his 10th win of the year and seventh in the last month. Joined by his family and crew in victory lane, a jubilant Pierce spoke, “It’s kind of hard when you see that cushion up there and you are trying to run the bottom. You know the cushion is there. Fairbury always has a good cushion to run on. It’s the fear of whether you want to get up there and run it.” Weaver, Erb, Harlan, Daren Friedman, Wenger, Scott Bull, Brandon Thirlby, Derek Chandler, and Steve Thorsten completed the top ten. Bull was the race’s hard charger. Pierce was the night’s fast qualifier at a 12.964. Schmitt, Erb, and Harlan took heat wins.
As the field of UMP Modified drivers took the green flag, a ten car pile-up on the back stretch brought out the red flag and eliminated five cars from competition. Following the cleanup, Lance Dehm led the field with Jay Ledford, Nick Wallrich, Steven Brooks, and Jeb Friedman. After a lap three caution, Dehm set a torrid pace as Ledford and Brooks had an intense battle for second. Behind the top three, Friedman, Cullen Breeden, Wallrich, and Cory Schwengel ran in a tight quarters until Schwengel spun out in turn two for a caution on lap six. On the restart, Dehm pulled away, as Ledford had to contend with Brooks. Following the top three, Friedman had to deal with a couple of young lions as Breeden and Jeffrey Ledford looked to improve their position on the speedway. Dehm left the field after a caution on lap 11, as Friedman looked to wrestle second from Jay Ledford. Both cars went at it, “tooth and nail”, as Ledford held a slight advantage over Friedman. At the finish of the 20-lap race, Dehm had a straight away lead, with Ledford holding off a determined Friedman. The remainder of the top ten were: Mike McKinney, Brooks, Jim Farris, Kevin Hastings, Jeffrey Ledford, Breeden, and Schwengel. Dehm was the fast qualifier of the 21 cars in attendance at a 14.003. Hastings was the hard charger winner. Dehm, Wallrich, and Friedman won heat races.
Lukes Gash used his front row starting position to his advantage, taking the lead in the 15-lap, UMP Street Stock race. Brandon Kessinger and A.J. Meiferdt ran in single file as Jeff Semmens and Lon Franks ran side by side for fourth. The race had two early cautions for minor spin outs. On the restart Gash and Kessinger broke away from the competition, as Meiferdt, Franks, Semmens, and Lee Hall battled door handle to door handle for third.
By the halfway mark, Gash had a half a straight away lead. Hall broke away to put his bumper on the Kessinger car. Rick Thomas, after starting deep in the field, soon found himself in fourth. A caution came out with three laps to go as Thomas got an assisted spin. The cars went single file on the restart and Gash built a five car length lead, which he maintained to the end. Gash was able to take his first ever feature win at the American Legion Speedway. “We won the Hubert Memorial at Kankakee last year, but it is really special to be in victory lane here at Fairbury. I can’t thank my family, crew, and sponsors for all their support”, commented Gash. Kessinger, Hall, Thomas, Matt Maier, Darrell Dick, Semmens, Meiferdt, Justin Nelson, and Eric Gaus rounded out the top ten. Maier took the hard charger honors. Kessinger was fast qualifier for the night at a 15.798. Kessinger and Gash were the heat race winners.
Jeffrey Ledford had to contend with the father and son team of Richard and Anthony Craven in the 15-lap, UMP Sportsman event. Richard Craven led the opening laps with Ledford, Anthony Craven, Dustin Mounce, and Tim Bohm trailing. Following a lap three caution, Ledford found himself sandwiched between both Cravens as they battled for the front position. Ledford moved to the top side of the track after a caution on the sixth circuit to lead Richard Craven, as Mounce pressured Anthony Craven for third. Ledford extended his lead in the closing laps. Mounce looked to move up in the running order and tried valiantly to get by both Craven’s, but the laps ran out and Ledford made his way to the winner’s circle for the second straight week. “I have to thank my crew for all their hard work. With three cars, it can be trying. Thanks to all my sponsors and family, I couldn’t do it without them,” said Ledford. Anthony Craven, Richard Craven, Richie Rich, Mounce, Rick Thomas, Bohm, Amber Crouch, Bryant Frechette, and Matt Mills took the top ten positions. Rich earned the hard charger honors. Ledford posted quick time for the race at a 14.922. Anthony Craven and Ledford were the heat race winners.