Moran, Clanton, Sheppard, Marlar Capture Showdown Wins on Opening Night of PDC; Davenport, Miller, Bollinger, Hoffman Take Modified Nationals Victories

LM Story by WoO

pdc-logo17Late Model Results | Modified Results

One of the most anticipated Late Model events in the country kicked off Friday evening at Fairbury American Legion Speedway with the running of the 28th annual Prairie Dirt Classic. Friday’s portion of the two-day show topped the charts of the 2017 season with the most cars entered in a World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series event with 65 Late Models in attendance. Late Model drivers from across the nation collided on the Fairbury, IL stage in hopes of walking away with a portion of the $93,000 purse. Friday’s portion of the two-day show set the stage for the 100-lap main event on Saturday with four showdown features taking place. The top four drivers from each showdown secured their position in the Prairie Dirt Classic with the top two finishers headed to the redraw. On Saturday, two Last Chance Showdowns will take place allowing six additional drivers to fight for their spot in the main event alongside four provisional positions to create a 26-car field for the 100-lap program.

Dyer's Top Rods Showdown Feature No. 1

jul28-lm1Devin Moran was a man on a mission during the first of four showdown features. He led every lap of the 25-lap feature over Jason Feger who was relentlessly trying to reel the Rookie of the Year contender in. By the time the checker flag fell, Moran had created 4.703-seconds between him and the rest of the field. Moran’s dominating performance proved he remained the fastest car on the track after grabbing quick-time earlier in the day. “Tomorrow night is going to be a long race and I’m not sure they will have the track the same,” said Moran. “I think we have to get a little better but I was pretty decent. We’ll just go back there and keep working on it.” McKay Wenger and Michael Kloos finished third and fourth respectively to secure the final transfer spots from the Dyer’s Top Rods sponsored Showdown.

Pontiac RV Showdown Feature No. 2

jul28-lm2Shane Clanton and Shannon Babb started in the front row of the Pontiac RV showdown where they ran side-by-side around the track in what looked like was going to shape up to a great battle for 25-laps. Unfortunately for Babb, he climbed the wall in turn two on lap two and was forced to retire from the race. Tyler Erb was next to battle Clanton before he followed in Babb’s misfortune ultimately leaving the race due to mechanical failures. Clanton then controlled the feature for the remainder of the event over a battle for second between Ryan Unzicker and Brian Shirley. “That was a work out right there,” said Clanton. “Our car is as good as it is … I hope tomorrow night we have a good enough car to last 100 laps here. 100 laps is a long time around here.” Dennis Erb Jr. wheeled his way from a 10th place start to claim the final transfer position from the second 25-lap feature.

FK Rod Ends Showdown Feature No. 3

jul28-lm3Chris Madden led the way for the first 17-laps of the 25-lap feature over a juggling match between five cars for the remaining three transfer spots involving Chris Simpson, Gordy Gundaker, Brandon Sheppard, Bobby Pierce, and Frank Heckenast Jr. Sheppard patiently waited to make his move on Madden and on lap-18 he saw the opportunity to slide pass the race long leader on the high side of the track nearly clipping the nose of the no. 44 machine in the process. “The track was a little bit treacherous up there but you know it’s FALS, if you can get up there to make it happen, you can make it happen.” said Sheppard. “Hats off to both Chris’ they did a good job and had some smooth lines running. They also probably don’t have as much stuff tore up as I do but we got it done and we got in the redraw. That’s the biggest thing. Getting in the redraw.” With only four laps remaining, Pierce was able to pass Madden for the final spot in the redraw. Madden ended up finishing third and Simpson fourth.

WEHRS Machine Showdown Feature No. 4

jul28-lm4Mike Marlar led all 25-laps of the qualifying feature despite one mistake that almost cost him his victory. On lap 17, Marlar jumped the cushion ultimately losing his momentum on the backstretch. It was then Don O’Neal who paid the price as he was hit from behind bringing out the caution on the same lap. “I really got lucky there,” said Marlar. “I don’t know how everyone didn’t pass me. It looks like it cost O’Neal to get his car tore up and I hate that but I just got over that edge… We have a stellar field here with some of the best guys in the country so it’s a tough deal to get in from the heat race. We should have an awesome race tomorrow.” Rick Eckert had been steadily running second behind Marlar while fending off multiple charges from Tim McCreadie. On lap 20, McCreadie was able to pass Eckert followed by Jimmy Owens and Chris Ferguson who also found their way around the no. 7 by the time the checkers fell.

Modifieds

72 DIRTcar Summit Modified drivers were on hand hoping to grab one of the four transfer spots in four 20-lap Showdown Features and lock themselves into Saturday night's $5,000 championship finale. In the first showdown, Tait Davenport of Paducah, Ky., took the win and was followed by group fast qualifier Steven Brooks of New Lenox, Tyler Nicely of Owensboro, Ky., and Jacob Poel of Spring Lake, Mich. Davenport told the crowd he enjoyed the atmosphere at the Fairbury track and was glad to hang on to his top finish.

Clayton Miller of Elkton, Ky., was victorious by seven car-lengths in the second showdown. Derrick Ramey of Huntersville, N.C., Brian Shaw of Robinson, and Josh Harris of Utica, Ky., also advanced. Miller was skeptical of the topside, but “I made it stick,” he said.

Kewanee's Ray Bollinger started on the pole of the third showdown by virtue of his overall fastest qualifying lap. He took the lead with six laps to go and went on to score the win. He was followed by Jeffrey Ledford of Pontiac, Mike McKinney of Plainfield, and David Stremme of Mooresville, N.C. “This track is awesome,” Bollinger said, adding he knew the top was the place to be during the race.

The final showdown featured the top two in Modified Nationals points and it was current points leader Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C. capturing the flag-to-flag victory. Josh Rice of Verona, Ky., 18th starter Levi Kissinger of Mount Vernon, Ind., and Danny Schwartz of Ashmore also transferred. Highland's Mike Harrison, who trails Hoffman by 17 points, limped to a fifth place finish after mechanical trouble late forcing him to one of the last chance races on Saturday. “This was my first win at FALS, which was pretty cool,” Hoffman said.

Macedo Sweeps Land of Lincoln Trek

by Rocky Ragusa

Winged 410 Sprint Cars made their first appearance to the Fairbury American Legion Speedway Saturday night in nearly 15 years. A large crowd was on hand as California’s Carson Macedo (Sprint Car), Frank Heckenast Jr. (Late Model), and Mike McKinney (Modified) grabbed the hardware.

jul15-sprThe Interstate Racing Association and Midwest Open Wheel co-sanctioned Sprint Car race drew 39 drivers to the 1/4-mile dirt oval. Twelve drivers broke the old track record in qualifying as Carson Macedo turned a 11.219 to earn fast time honors. Four heat races were held as Macedo, Kody Kinser, Dave Uttech, and Jeremy Schultz advanced to the 30-lap feature. Bret Tripplett was the winner of the B-Main. In the $3,000 to win race, Schultz took an early lead with Tayler Malsam and Scotty Thiel following. Macedo started fifth and was on the move. He quickly moved in to second and executed a slide job on Schultz to take the top position on the 11th lap, as Thiel followed. In the waning laps, Bill Balog looked to have the fastest car on the track. Using slower traffic, Balog worked his way by Thiel but ran out of laps in his bid to catch Macedo. After taking the win the previous night at Lincoln, Macedo commented in victory lane. “This track reminds me of one back home. You have to get up there on the curb and let it rip around there. I can’t say enough about my team. They give me a car that can win about every single night. It’s all I can ask for.” Following Macedo to the line were Balog, Thiel, Paul Nienhiser, Schultz, Malsam, Blake Nimee, Tripplett, Kinser, and Kris Spitz.

jul15-lmAfter the World of Outlaws race was rained out in Brainerd, Minnesota, Frankfort’s Frank Heckenast Jr. made the journey to Fairbury to tune up for the upcoming Prairie Dirt Classic. Engaging in a see-saw battle with his cousin, Mike Spatola, Heckenast was able to capitalize on Spatola’s misfortune on the last lap of the 30-lap, I Beam Sliding Door Late Model $2,000 to win race. With the checkered flag in sight, Spatola cut a tire down as the two roared down the backstretch giving Heckenast the lead and his first career win at Fairbury. “This place is awesome,” spoke Heckenast. “I always enjoy racing here when I can. Mike definitely had the better car. Running with the World of Outlaws I have learned you have to be there at the end and stay up on the wheel.” Spatola hung on for second, followed by Daniel Flessner, McKay Wenger, Mike Mataragas, 11th starter Jay Morris, Donny Walden, Kevin Weaver, Rickey Frankel, and Mike Glasscock. Heckenast was the night’s fast qualifier and took one heat race, while Mataragas was the other heat race winner.

jul15-mdIn the Varsitee Screen Printing 25-lap $1,000 to win Modified race, Plainfield’s Mike McKinney found a groove that worked for his car and was able to pick up his third win of the year. In a race-long battle with Steven Brooks and Jeffrey Ledford that saw the trio use every inch of the track, McKinney was able to open up a ten car length lead after a caution with eight laps to go, holding off Ledford and Brooks for the win. Logan Rogers, Jeff Curl, Derick Doerr, Jimmy Dehm, Alan Stipp, Michael Mennel, and Dave Lilja completed the top ten. “I had to work for that one,” said McKinney. “It wore me out racing with Jeffrey and Steven. In these conditions, it was pretty tough, but I stuck to the middle groove and the car worked.”

Nichoalds captures Eden-Piercy Memorial

by Darlene Miller

A full moon and more than 100 drivers led to some exciting heat and feature races on Saturday night at Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Highlighting the evening’s events was Lake Nichoalds with his victory in the Eden-Piercy Memorial Sportsman feature. Also taking the checkered flag were Mike Spatola (Late Model), Steven Brooks (Modified), and AJ Meiferdt (Street Stock).

The big race of the night was the Sportsman feature named after Gary Eden and Curt Piercy, two drivers who were past champions at FALS. Eden captured the 1983 Six-Cylinder title while the 1992 Street Stock title went to Piercy. Flanagan’s Eden, 54, passed away in 2006 after fighting cancer. Piercy of Normal died at 41 in 2004 in a plane crash.

jul08-spNichoalds of Onarga has been on a roll this season and added the 25-lap, $1,000 feature to his tally. “We were very fortunate to win. We have had a good year,” Nichoalds said after winning his seventh FALS feature. Monticello’s Tim Dick and Nichoalds led the field to the green flag, but a caution flag flew before a lap was completed. The field was slowed and when the flag flew again, Dick rode the bottom and Nichoalds ran up top and the two pulled ahead of the field. The pair ran close together until, with seven laps to go, Nichoalds established the lead. However, Nichoalds did not get far because hard-charger Steve Mattingly (who started eighth), Brandon Pralle and Dick began to close the gap. Then, with two laps to go, Nichoalds finally blew off the competition and won by 10 car lengths. Mattingly came in second with Dick taking third. Pralle and Richard Craven followed. Bryant Frechette led the second five with Amber Crouch, Dustin Mounce, Rick Roedel, and Patrick Hawkins in tow. Nichoalds won the dash and a heat race. Dick won the other heat race and was top qualifier with a lap of 14.514 seconds.

jul08-lmSpatola of Manhattan started on the pole of the 30-lap Late Model feature and went on to score his second win of the season by holding off El Paso’s Ryan Unzicker, Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver, and Fairbury’s Scott Bull at the line. With 20 laps down, Spatola and the group were lapping the field and 12 of the 20 starting cars were already down a lap. “We’ve been struggling a bit and tonight we tried some more stuff,” said Spatola. “I just kept digging and came home with this win.” Dan Flessner of Roberts was fifth and Ken Rumble, Jay Sparks, Mike Mataragas, Steve Thorsten, and hard-charger Mark Rose (started 19th) rounded out the top 10. Heat wins went to Mataragus, Spatola, and Unzicker. Torin Mettille won the semi-feature while Flessner topped the charts by turning a 13.067-second circuit in prelims.

jul08-mdIn the 20-lap Modified feature, Plainfield’s Mike McKinney took the quick lead on the high side but would see his night end with a flat tire with 14 laps to go. With McKinney pulling off the track the caution flag flew and a new group of racers fought for the lead. Steven Brooks, Jeffrey Ledford, and newcomer to the track Brian Wolfmeier were now fighting for the lead. The group ran almost flawless laps, but they just missed catching Brooks at the line. “That was a good win. I hated to see McKinney get a flat,” said Brooks. Wolfmeier was next and Bob Pohlman Jr., Ledford, Jeff Curl (in a backup car) followed. Nick Clubb led the second group with Donovan Lodge, Jason Hastings, 17th starter Jimmy Dehm, and Travis Kohler following. Brooks, McKinney, Pohlman Jr., and Wolfmeier brought home heat wins, while Dehm won the semi-feature. Brooks had top hot lap time of 14.110 seconds.

jul08-ssMeiferdt of Coal City took off in the 15-lap Street Stock feature and moved quickly away from Rick Thomas of Dwight and Chebanse's Lukes Gash. A couple of caution flags flew slowing the field and allowing Gash and competitors Ian Keller and Curtis Radke to join in the battle for the top spot. With the group breathing down his neck, Meiferdt held on by a half car length. “I thought I heard them coming. I knew I had to stay smooth and keep it cool tonight,” said Meiferdt, the current points leader, on his seventh win of the FALS schedule. Gash took second followed by Keller, Radke, Thomas, and Jim Ransom in the top five. 17th starter Peter Odell, Joe Brown, Michael Schomas, and Kyle Anderson completed the top 10. Meiferdt, Keller, and Thomas were heat winners. Meiferdt had the fast time with a 15.380-second trip.

jul08-hmFifth starter Brendan Patterson of Spring Bay picked up the Hobby-Mod feature win. He was followed by Graham Jackson, Makinzi Semmens, and Macy Vaughan. Mike Petersen and Thad Gee won the heat races.

Burger, Cook, Hughes Earn First FALS Wins

by Rocky Ragusa

Six classes of racing, including the Vintage Racing of Illinois Series, was held Saturday night at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Taking the checkered flag were Kevin Weaver (Late Model), TD Burger (Modified), AJ Meiferdt (Street Stock), Lake Nichoalds (Sportsman), Dawson Cook (Hobby-Modified), and Kraig Hughes (Vintage Cars).

jul01-lm14 drivers made qualifying attempts for the I Beam Sliding Doors 30-lap Late Model race. Daniel Flessner set fast time with a 12.651 second lap. Kevin Weaver and Mike Spatola took the heat race wins. Weaver, in a Jay Morris owned car, led at the start with Spatola, Ryan Unzicker, Steve Thorsten, and Flessner following. As Weaver was running the bottom groove, Unzicker changed his line and went to the top side. Unzicker got by Spatola for second and closed up on Weaver. Unzicker took the lead on the 13th lap, but Weaver came back to reclaim the lead on lap 18. Once in the front, Weaver pulled away and picked up his first win of the year. “We have been struggling with our car this year and I have to thank Jay for letting me use his car tonight,” Weaver said. “Ryan got by me and I knew I had to get back up on the wheel.” Unzicker, Spatola, Thorsten, Donny Walden, Don Hammer, Flessner, Bill Hough, Scott Bull, and Glen Thompson completed the top ten.

jul01-md23 Varsitee Screen Printing Modified drivers were on hand for their 20-lap show. Jason Hastings was the night’s fast qualifier at 14.106 seconds. Hastings, Jeffrey Ledford, and TD Burger claimed heat race wins. Hastings led Burger, Ledford, Jeff Curl, and Jimmy Dehm before a caution fell on the second lap. On the restart, Burger was able to squeeze by Hastings for the lead with Curl following. Burger was able to open a five car length lead over Curl, but Curl was on Burger’s tail in the corners. Vince Cooper was on the move getting by Hastings for third, with Nick Clubb and Nick Lueth in a tight pack. Following a lap 11 caution, Burger and Curl hugged the bottom groove as Jimmy Dehm went to the top side to move into fourth as he raced Hastings for third. Dehm took third with six laps to go and looked to have the fastest car. Burger drove a fine line on the bottom as Curl looked for any opening to take the lead, but Burger held steady and took his first career Modified win at FALS. “It doesn’t matter how many wins we have, after cutting my teeth here it feels good to get this Fairbury win,” spoke Burger.” I knew Jeff was there so I had to hug the tires and thankfully we held on.” Curl, Dehm, Hastings, Clubb, Lueth, Cooper, Eric Vaughan, Derick Doerr, and Kaleb Wood rounded out the top ten.

jul01-spScott Williams set quick time at 14.656 seconds for the 10 CR Towing Sportsman cars. Lake Nichoalds won the lone heat race. Nichoalds took the lead at the start of the 15-lap race, with Brandon Pralle and Williams in check. After a lap two caution, Nichoalds led Pralle as Amber Crouch moved into third. Pralle stuck to Nichoalds bumper following a caution on the eighth circuit but was not able to make the pass. At the finish, points leader Nichoalds recorded his sixth win of the year. Pralle took second as Richard Craven rallied for third. Crouch, Williams, Eric Legner, Tyler Roth, Patrick Hawkins, Steven Mattingly, and Anthony Craven completed the field.

jul01-ssCurtis Radke bested 21 other Tool’s Auto Sales Street Stock drivers in time trials with a 15.400 second trip. AJ Meiferdt, Pete Odell, and Jim Ransom were the heat race winners. After two early cautions, Meiferdt was able to fend off the challenges from Radke winning his sixth race of the season and stretching out his points lead. Meiferdt commented after the race, “It’s been an incredible year and I just hope we can keep rolling.” Radke, Joe Brown, Rick Thomas, Ransom, 14th starter Dustin Mounce, Mitch Hahn, Don Hilleary, Nick Seplak, and Tanner Sullivan completed the top ten.

jul01-hmDawson Cook and Mike Petersen were the heat race winners for the 11 Hobby-Modified cars on hand for their 12-lap race. Cook, a third-generation driver and the son of the late, great Gary Cook Jr., was the class of the field leading flag-to-flag for the win. “I have to thank my crew. They put so many hours into this, along with Mike Spatola for his help, “said Cook. Petersen, Brendan Patterson, Tim Mullins, Graham Jackson, Jason Brandt, Makinzi Semmens, Macy Vaughan, Bryan Saner, and Haley Jones trailed.

jul01-vtThe Vintage Cars of Illinois Series brought 14 cars to test the ¼ mile dirt oval. Valerie Hurt and Justin Rutledge took heat race wins. Kraig Hughes made it three wide with three laps to go and hung on for the 15-lap feature win. “This is my first ever feature win,” Hughes said. “We haven’t had the best of luck with our Street Stock. I want to thank Matt Ramer for letting me race one of his Vintage cars tonight.” Hurt took second followed by Robert Mitchell and John Ryan.

Babb Rolls To Flag-To-Flag Summer Nationals Victory

by Darlene Miller

The Summer Nationals roared into Fairbury American Legion Speedway for the 10th leg of the 29-race tour on Saturday night. The “Moweaqua Missile” Shannon Babb dominated the 50-lap Late Model feature for the $10,000 win. Highland’s Mike Harrison took home the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals $1,500 prize, and Coal City’s AJ Meiferdt continued his FALS hot streak as he won the $800 Midwest Street Stock Championship race, his fifth Street Stock feature win of the season.

jun24-lmFairbury’s McKay Wenger and current series points leader Bobby Pierce of Oakwood brought the 22-car field to the green flag and it took only a moment for fourth place starter Babb to grab the lead. Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville quickly moved to the second position after starting sixth. The caution flag flew with just four laps in for Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., and after the restart the pair found themselves in lapped traffic just nine laps into the feature. Another yellow flag flew with 28 laps down for Pierce and Troy's Tim Manville in turn two. On the green, Babb, Erb, and Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, pulled away from the group behind them. Babb, running the middle, felt constant pressure from Erb who was relentless running the low groove. But Babb held him off at the finish line for his second win of this year’s tour. “I got by Pierce and I knew I had to do it early in the race,” said Babb. “The car was excellent. We made a good call on the car (setup). This is awesome. Thanks to all the fans.” Erb Jr. was second, followed by Simpson, Brent Larson of Lake Elmo, Minn., and Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., in the top five. The second five included Trenton's Michael Kloos, Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Matt Furman of Portland, Ore., Pierce, and Bloomington's Jason Feger. Heat winners were Babb, Pierce, Simpson, and Wenger. Chatham's Brian Shirley won the “C” main, while Mike Spatola of Manhattan won the semi feature. Dan Flessner of Roberts was quickest in his qualifying group with a 12.822 second lap, while Moyer Jr. was tops in his group with a 13.075 clocking.

jun24-mdPlainfield's Mike McKinney and Mike Harrison were in the front row of the 25-lap Modified feature. The pair battled back and forth for the lead in the first three laps before the yellow flag came out. McKinney and Pontiac’s Jeffrey Ledford battled for the lead on the restart. Soon, Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C., got past Ledford to take over second. Harrison, riding the top side, was in third after also getting past Ledford. Harrison grabbed the lead from Hoffman with 18 laps complete but a caution flag flew for an incident that almost collected the new leader. The battle again flared up between Harrison, Hoffman, and McKinney but Harrison held on to win by a car length. “We put on a show,” said Harrison. “The top felt right off the start. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t like the top, but I found a good rhythm up there.” Kewanee's Ray Bollinger was fourth followed by Jeff Curl of Fairbury. Leading the second group of five was Buffalo's Jeff Leka, Lucas Lee of Paris, Tenn., Levi Kissinger of Mt. Vernon, Ind., Peoria's Allen Weisser, and Ledford. Harrison, Hoffman, Ledford, and McKinney were heat winners. Weisser picked up the semi-feature victory. Bollinger had the top speed of 13.958 seconds in the first group of qualifying, while McKinney was fastest in the second group with a 13.835 second lap.

jun24-ssMeiferdt and Ian Keller of West Lebanon, Ind., led the field to the green in the 20-lap Street Stock feature with Meiferdt setting the early pace. Wilmington's Joe Brown, Jerrad Krick of Earl Park, Ind., and Dwight’s Rick Thomas battled for the second position, with Thomas taking command of the second spot with five laps to go. “My car was awesome and unreal. It is cool to get in victory lane tonight,” Meiferdt said. Krick was third and was followed by Brown, Keller, Chebanse's Luke Gash, Curtis Radke of Milford, 15th starter Peter Odell of Streator, Lovington's Jeremy Nichols, and Michael Schomas of Ottawa in the top ten. Heat winners were Brown, Keller, Krick, and Meiferdt. Meiferdt also won the dash and had fast time with a 15.299 second trip. Chad Rockefeller of Monee won the semi feature.