by Rocky Ragusa
The Fairbury American Legion Speedway played host for the second time this year to the MARS/ALMS co-sanctioned Late Model series. Track points leader, Ryan Unzicker, took the feature win. Mike McKinney (Modified), AJ Meiferdt (Street Stock), Richard Craven (Sportsman), Mike Petersen and Brendan Patterson (Hobby-Modified) also graced victory lane.
23 I Beam Sliding Doors Late Models took time trials with Jason Feger leading the way at a 12.864. Feger, Mike Mataragas, and Tony Jackson Jr. picked up heat race wins. Outside front row starter and current points leader for the MARS series, Jackson Jr., took the lead with Mataragas on his heels, followed by Feger, Unzicker, and Derek Chandler. Mataragas led the next lap before Jackson led for two laps. Jackson pounded the infamous Fairbury cushion looking to extend his lead but Mataragas hung tough. The duo swapped the lead as Feger and Unzicker followed closely, with Scott Bull leading a host of drivers in fifth. At the halfway mark of the 40-lap race a four car pileup brought out the caution. On the restart, Unzicker, running the bottom of the track, was able to move into the lead. Two laps later, another yellow flag fell for Jackson who was bitten by the cushion. On the restart, Unzicker stuck to the bottom groove and was able to pull away from the field. Mataragas, Chandler, and Bull waged a furious battle for second, followed by Joe Godsey and Kevin Weaver. Jackson was able to rally to seventh before pulling off the track with ten laps to go. Unzicker went uncontested for the remainder of the race and took $3,000 for his third win at Fairbury. Mataragas, Bull, Godsey, Weaver, 19th starter Jeff Roth, Chandler, Mason Oberkramer, Donny Walden, and Jay Sparks completed the top ten. “The track was pretty good tonight, maybe a little bottom dominate but that’s the way I like it,” said Unzicker. “When the track slows down my car seems to come alive. My guys have worked hard on the car. It’s all a team effort.”
Jason Hastings led 30 other Varsitee Screen Printing Modified drivers in qualifying at a 13.894. Nick Lueth, Jeffrey Ledford, Nick Clubb, and Jeff Curl won their respective heat races, while Brent Gregory took the semi feature. In the 20-lap feature, Jeffrey Ledford led as eighth starter, Mike McKinney, quickly moved into the second position. Trailing the two “young guns”, Travis Kohler and Curl raced for third, with Lueth hanging on to fifth. McKinney was able to take the top position on the 10th lap, as Ledford tried to reclaim the lead. McKinney was able to hold on for his fifth win of the season. Ledford, Curl, Kohler, Hastings, Clubb, 14th starter Jay Ledford, Lueth, Dave Lilja, and 18th starter Logan Rogers rounded out the top ten. “With Jeffrey starting second I knew he was going to be tough. On the opening laps everyone was running on the bottom,” commented McKinney. “I went to the top and had to wait for my tires to heat up. It was a good race.”
Steven Mattingly was the fast qualifier at a 14.778 in the CR Towing Sportsman class. Richard Craven was the heat race winner. Track champion, Lake Nichoalds, and Craven had their own personal battle in the 15-lap contest. Craven took the lead from Nichoalds with six laps left and scored his first win of the year. Nichoalds, Brandon Pralle, Mattingly, Eric Saltzman, Anthony Craven, and Amber Crouch completed the running order. “It was a fun race. The only thing we changed was my wife. She hadn’t been to the races in about a year. I told her she had to go to the races with us,” laughed Craven.
Ian Keller was the night’s fast qualifier among the 24 Tool’s Auto Sales Street Stock drivers with a 15.601 second lap. Keller, track champion AJ Meiferdt, and Joe Brown won heat races, with Cody Clubb earning the semi-feature win. Meiferdt held a 10 car length lead early in the 15-lap feature, as Keller, Brown, Rick Thomas, and Pete Odell followed. Odell was on the move, picking off cars until a caution came out on the seventh lap. Odell took second as Keller dropped out. A caution with four laps to go gave Odell an opportunity to unseat Meiferdt, but Meiferdt had a little too much, taking his eighth Fairbury win and helping his cause in the national points race. Odell, Curtis Radke, Don Hilleary, Thomas, 13th starter Dane Arvin, Brown, Kyle Anderson, Michael Schomas, and Clubb completed the top ten. “This is our 12th win of the year,” an excited Meiferdt spoke. “Now we have to focus on the national points. We have to replace all the bad nights and keep doing what we are doing.”
The Hobby-Modified class held two feature races with the second race a makeup from June 17th. In the opener, Jason Brandt, who was the heat race winner, and Mike Petersen pulled away from their competitors while the rest of the field had their own race for third. Brandt led until the seventh lap, surrendering the lead to Petersen. Brandt continued to hound Petersen but Petersen was able to pick up the win. Brandt, Tim McGuire, Macy Vaughan, Bryan Saner, Haley Jones, Thad Gee, Brendan Patterson, and Makinzi Semmens rounded out the field. Gee led the first seven laps of the second race before tagging the wall on the front stretch. After the caution, Patterson took the lead from Petersen and pulled away for his second win of the year. Petersen, Saner, Vaughan, Gee, and Semmens completed the running order.