by Darlene Miller
Things are heating up at American Legion Speedway as the season winds down. Drivers leading three of the four classes, however, tried to cool the competition as they won their respective feature races Saturday. Kevin Weaver had to fend off a late charge after a caution to prevail in the late model finale. Jay Ledford moved a step closer to repeating his 2014 title with a win in the modified feature, and Lukes Gash triumphed in the street stock feature to increase his point standings advantage.
In the 30-lap late model feature, Daren Friedman and Weaver led the field to the green flag. Friedman commanded the early lead riding the top shelf. A car stopped in turn two six laps into the feature and almost collected the leaders as they were coming up on lapping the driver. Friedman and Weaver both threaded the needle to get around him and did not sustain any damage. Another flag flew as Glen Thompson slapped the front stretch wall on the following lap. When the green flag flew again the pair pulled away but Friedman soon found himself unable to get around a lap car and Weaver took the lead on the 21st circuit. With six laps to go, another caution bunched the field and gave Friedman and Scott Schmitt a chance to bear down on the leader. All three drivers took to the high side on the restart, but the challengers were unable to catch Weaver.
“It was a good race. I knew the lap traffic car was my only chance to beat Friedman and pin him in. We had a pretty good car tonight,” the current points leader and 1991 Prairie Dirt Classic winner said. Schmitt brought home second followed by Friedman, Dan Flessner, and Joe Harlan. Derek Chandler paced the second five with Scott Bull, Torin Mettille, Aaron Ricketts, and Donny Walden in tow. Friedman and Weaver were heat winners and Schmitt set fast time with a time of 12.737 seconds.
In the 20-lap modified feature, Ledford, looking to win his second straight title, held off Lance Dehm and Jeb Friedman for the win. Ledford took the quick lead as Dehm and Friedman fought for the second spot. The pressure was on Ledford midway through the race and a caution with four laps to go gave the pair a chance to catch the leader. Ledford put down the pedal and won by two car lengths. “This is unbelievable,” Ledford said. “The main difference between winning this year vs. last year is the pressure is off. I finally achieved a long time goal of winning a championship in 2014, so this year I am having fun trying to enjoy each moment and if I win another championship, great! If not, I am having a good time with my crew, friends, family, and fans.” Steven Brooks was fourth followed by Dave Porth, Cullen Breeden, Jimmy Farris Jr., Nick Clubb, Chris Gaither, and Jimmy Dehm. Lance Dehm and Ledford were heat winners and Ledford had fast time at 13.946 seconds.
The street stock feature saw Gash extend his lead in the points by holding off Rick Thomas and A.J. Meiferdt for the 15-lap win. “We are on a hot streak right now and this is a really cool win” said Gash. Eric Gaus and Lon Franks completed the top five. The second five were Don Hilleary, Curtis Radke, Justin Nelson, Darrin Kohler, and Doug Berbaum. Gash won his heat and had top qualifying speed at 15.392 seconds. Meiferdt won the other heat.
Richard Craven looked like the driver to beat in the sportsman race but it was his son, Anthony, taking home his first FALS checkered flag. The elder Craven and Richie Rich led the field to the line. Rich spun in turn two and collected Richard Craven with six laps to go. Two laps later, Scott Williams took the lead but he and Anthony Craven were even at the stripe one lap later. The younger Craven took the lead with two circuits remaining and held on. “This is perfect” said Craven. Eric Legner was third and was followed by Steve Mattingly, Rich, Brian Albus, Brandon Pralle, Austin Williams, Richard Craven, and Eric Saltzman. Heat winners were Scott Williams and Richard Craven. Craven also set fast time at 14.748 seconds.