by Rocky Ragusa
A large crowd braved cold temperatures as the Fairbury American Legion Speedway opened their 72nd year of racing action. Taking feature wins were Michael Kloos (Trenton), Tyler Nicely (Owensboro, Ky.), AJ Meiferdt (Coal City), Lake Nichoalds (Onarga), and Jason Brandt (East Peoria).
27 I Beam Sliding Doors Late Models vied for a starting position in the 30-lap feature race. Jay Morris set quick time with a 13.058. Ryan Unzicker, Dan Flessner, and Kevin Weaver won their respective heat races, and Scott Bull was the B-Main winner. The final ten circuits had the fans on their feet as Michael Kloos rode the bottom of the track, while Ryan Unzicker and Jason Feger tried different grooves to move into the lead. Kloos weaved and dodged lapped traffic in the closing laps, in a race that was not decided until Jim Whittington waved the checkered flag. Feger held on for second, followed by early race leader, Unzicker. Mike Spatola, Scott Schmitt, Jordan Bauer, Taylor Scheffler, 16th starter Scott Bull (hard charger), Chad Zobrist, and Rich Bell rounded out the top ten. Kloos, preparing for a big racing weekend in early May, commented in the winner’s circle, “That was a fun race when you can go two-three wide with the caliber of these drivers. We came up on lap traffic and I had to make a decision on where to go. Luckily, it worked out.”
A stout field of Varsitee Screen Printing Modified drivers were on hand for a 20-lap feature race. Steven Brooks topped 29 other drivers with a 14.008 time in qualifying. Heat race wins went to Tyler Nicely, Jeffrey Ledford, and Chad Bauer. Nick Clubb took the B-Main. Nicely has struggled thus far in the 2017 campaign with DNFs and several top fives to show for his results. Making the haul from Kentucky, Nicely held the field in check to post his first win of the year. Jeffrey Ledford shook off a brief challenge from Brooks, but wasn’t able to pose a threat to Nicely and settled for second. Jay Ledford, Brooks, and Bauer took the first five positions. The rest of the top ten were 11th starter Jeff Curl (hard charger), Jamie Lomax, Jimmy Dehm, TD Burger, and Rich Dawson.
Infrequent visitor, Joe Brown, turned back 20 other drivers in qualifying for the Tool’s Auto Sales Street Stock 15-lap contest at a 15.835. Brown, Michael Clark, and Dane Arvin won heat races. Brown led over Clark early in the race, as eighth starter AJ Meiferdt picked off cars and found himself in second by lap seven. A caution came out on the eighth lap, and Meiferdt took advantage to move by Brown for the lead. Clark took over second and made a brief run at Meiferdt, but on this night Meiferdt proved to be too strong for his competitors. Meiferdt (hard charger), Clark, Brown, Curtis Radke, Arvin, Barry Sauder, Peter Odell, Mitch Hahn, Ryan Anderson, and Chad Sauder were the top ten finishers. Meiferdt commented following his win. “We started out slow in the heat race and threw the kitchen sink at the car for the feature. I don’t know what worked, but it took off in the feature.”
Ten cars signed in for the CR Towing Sportsman 15-lap feature race. Lake Nichoalds was the heat race winner. Nichoalds drove a smooth, steady race and pulled away from his competition for the triumph. Rick Thomas held off the persistent challenges from Amber Crouch for second. Anthony Craven, driving his father’s car, was fourth, and hard charger Steven Mattingly finished in fifth after starting eighth. Rounding out the top ten were Tyler Roth, Brandon Pralle, Scott Williams, Eric Legner, and Dustin Mounce. Speaking in the winner’s circle, Nichoalds spoke of the hard work by his crew. “I didn’t know it, but after the heat race we found a broken tie rod. I have to thank my crew for getting me back out for the feature.”
The Hobby-Modified has been designed to introduce people with aspirations to experience racing and possibly moving on to different classes. Thad Gee took the heat race win for the eight cars on hand. In the 12-lap feature, Gee led until dropping out on the third lap with mechanical issues. Jason Brandt assumed the lead and held a five-car-length lead over Mike Petersen for the remainder of the race. Brendan Patterson, Makinzi Semmens, and Bryan Saner completed the top five. “It’s good to be back in victory lane,” Brandt said. “We did a lot of work on the car in the off season. I think we will be in good shape.”