by Darlene Miller
Three drivers took their first trip into the 2017 winner’s circle at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway during Fan Appreciation Night on Saturday. Mike Spatola (Late Model), Ryan Unzicker (Modified), and Joe Brown (Street Stock) brought home the victories. Lake Nichoalds won his third feature in the Sportsman division. Unzicker has been to the circle this season with his Late Model.
Manhattan’s Spatola started second in the Late Model feature next to Tonica’s Scott Schmitt. The pair quickly grabbed their lanes and Spatola, riding the high side, took the lead over Schmitt. Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver took the second spot with 21 laps to go in the 30-lap feature. Caution flags flew a couple of times bunching the field. The pack shook out with six laps to go as Spatola, Schmitt, and Weaver established the top three spots. Schmitt drove tough and tried to sneak in low to challenge Spatola but to no avail as Spatola crossed the line first. “We are getting better every night. I am getting more and more confident and it feels great to get a win,” said Spatola. Unzicker, doing double duty, finished fourth in front of Fairbury’s Scott Bull. Taylor Scheffler led the second five with Mike Glasscock, Dan Flessner, Steve Thorsten, and Ron Donaldson following. Spatola and Schmitt won the heats and Schmitt also had fast time with a lap of 13.129 seconds.
In the 20-lap Modified feature, El Paso’s Unzicker and Jeffrey Ledford of Pontiac led the 22-car field to the green flag. Ledford quickly took the lead riding the cushion closely followed by Jimmy Dehm and Unzicker. Ledford continued his lead during the cautions as the group behind were running three wide several times trying to close in. Another caution flew for debris in turn three with five circuits to go and, on the restart, Unzicker was soon in the lead and was able to fend off Ledford by two car lengths for the win. “This car was a rocket ship tonight,” he said. Steven Brooks was third while hard-charging Jeff Curl, who started 12th, and Dehm completed the
top five. Jason Hastings, Mike McKinney, Nick Clubb, Nick Lueth and Rich Dawson completed the top 10. Heat winners were Clubb, Ledford, and Unzicker. Brooks was the fast qualifier with 14.249-second trip.
Onarga’s Nichoalds won his caution-free Sportsman race starting from the third spot. Pole-sitter Richard Craven and Nichoalds battled the entire time and won by a half car length over Craven in the 12-car field. “Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t like running the bottom, but tonight it was good,” Nichoalds said. Bryant Frechette, Amber Crouch, Brandon Pralle, Dustin Mounce, Tim Dick, Scott Williams, Steve Mattingly, and Matt Ramer finished third through 10th. Craven and Frechette were heat winners and Craven, with a trip of 14.805 seconds, was top qualifier.
Brown of Wilmington won a caution-plagued Street Stock race for the first time at FALS in 10 years. “It feels good to be back on my 22nd wedding anniversary,” said Brown. AJ Meiferdt was next and had Lukes Gash, Darrell Dick, Peter Odell, Curtis Radke, Mounce, Andy Thompson, Justin Hamm, and Michael Schomas in tow. Brown
and Rick Thomas were heat winners and Gash was fastest in qualifying at 15.698 seconds.
East Peoria's Jason Brandt started second in the 12-lap Hobby Mod feature and went on to collect his second win of the season. Albie Perez, Mike Petersen, Thad Gee, Macy Vaughan, Brendan Patterson, and Haley Jones followed. Peterson won the heat race.