Sheppard Earns Hard Fought Summer Nationals Win; Kinder Claims Modified Nationals Victory

by Darlene Miller | Photos by Rocky Ragusa

It was a perfect night for racing as the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model tour came blazing into the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday. The capacity crowd was not let down as Brandon Sheppard outlasted Billy Moyer in a fight to the finish to win the featured event. Chad Kinder and Andrew Funk were also feature winners on the night.

LM-jun25The “Moweaqua Missile” Shannon Babb set the fastest qualifying time while being the first qualifying Late Model of the night with a blistering time of 12.651 seconds. Fan favorites Sheppard, of New Berlin, and Billy Moyer from Batesville, Ark., brought the crowd to its feet as they took the green flag for the 50-lap, $10,000 top prize main event. The pair were even for the first two laps with Sheppard edging Moyer at the third lap. Moyer grabbed the lead and, with seven laps in, the lead group began facing lap traffic. With 11 laps in the book, Moyer and Sheppard were joined by hard chargers Babb and Jimmy Mars. Babb got around Sheppard with 17 laps gone and Mars, running low, got around the high-flying Sheppard. A yellow flag flew with 30 laps to go as the top four were Moyer, Babb, Mars, and Sheppard. Two laps later, Summer Nationals current points leader Bobby Pierce pulled to the infield to change a tire and rejoined the field at the back. Sheppard made another challenge to the top spot as he and Moyer were even one lap past the halfway point, but Moyer held him off and regained the advantage. Moyer then began to face a strong challenge from Babb, who eventually took the lead. A caution flag flew with 14 circuits to go for debris and Babb pulled off into the infield in turn two, seeing his night come to an end and a 20th place finish. Sheppard wrestled back the top spot with nine to go and won by three car lengths over Moyer for his 11th career Summer Nationals win. “It was tough competition tonight,” said an excited Sheppard. “I knew I had to go when I got to the top spot. I had to get up on the wheel and hit my marks. This is the best win yet.” Moyer took second followed by Mars, Michael Kloos, and El Paso’s Joe Harlan in the top five. Ryan Unzicker (who started 20th) led the second five to the line with Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver, Pierce, Manhattan’s Mike Spatola, and Pontiac’s Derek Chandler chasing. Heat winners were Babb, Sheppard, Bob Gardner, and Moyer. Chandler won the semi feature.

MD-jun25The DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals 25-lap, $1,500 to win race began the night of features. Front row starters Kinder and Mike Harrison soon moved away from the group and began to set a fast pace. The pair swapped the lead multiple times early but with 14 laps to go, Brent Mullins got around Harrison for the second spot. However, Mullins soon ran into trouble as spring problems made his car hard to handle and he dropped back in the field. NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier soon found himself sitting in the second spot and began to challenge Kinder. A couple of caution flags flew as Mullins was off the pace and pulled off with eight to go. Kinder and Allgaier battled for the top spot and Kinder held off Allgaier by a clip for his second Summit Nationals win in a row at FALS. The Newton native, Kinder said, “I knew it was going to be a tough night and tough out there. Sometimes you gotta be lucky and we will take it.” Harrison was third followed by Pontiac’s Jeffrey Ledford and Jacob Poel. Tyler Nicely was sixth with Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm, Pontiac’s Jay Ledford, Nick Hoffman, and Ray Walsh in tow. Heat winners were Kinder, Jeffrey Ledford, Mullins, and Harrison. The semi feature went to Mike McKinney. Kinder had fast qualifying time with a 13.757 second trip.


Dwight’s Funk brought home the Street Stock 15-lap feature. Funk quickly took the lead from polesitter Steve Mattingly. Dwight’s Rick Thomas moved to second and began to challenge Funk. A trio of caution flags flew as several drivers had problems on the track. Once the green flag flew, Funk established himself as the driver to beat and won by five car lengths over Thomas. “I was working hard and have decided to go all out this year,” Funk said. “It was a great win.” Peter Odell was third followed by Kyle Miner and 17th starter Kaleb Wood. The second five were Al Gray, Don Hilleary, Mattingly, Kyle Anderson, and Terry Miller. Funk, Mattingly, and A.J. Meiferdt were heat winners and Dennis Wernle was the semi feature winner. Mattingly had fast time at 16.062 seconds.

Weaver Garners $2,OOO Allen Memorial for Fourth Time

by Rocky Ragusa

The Fairbury American Legion Speedway played host to the 20th Annual “Pappy and Bob Allen Memorial" race on Saturday. The race honors the legacy of a father and son that shared the love of motorsports in Illinois through their parts business and owning race cars with a variety of drivers. Taking wins were Kevin Weaver, Mike McKinney, A.J. Meiferdt, Richard Craven, Graham Jackson, and Ryan Hamilton.

Weaver took the lead at the start of the 30-lap Late Model race with Mike Mataragas, Jay Morris, Mike Glasscock, and Derek Chandler following. On the restart after a caution on lap eight, Weaver, running the bottom, led while Mataragas, Morris, and Chandler raced side by side for second. Caution dropped on the field on lap 16. Weaver opened up his lead on the restart over Mataragas. Chandler tried to take over third from Morris but the treacherous Fairbury cushion caused Chandler to fall back several spots. Morris tried several times to take over second but was the victim of the cushion causing damage to his car and ending his night. With seven laps left, a red flag came out due to all emergency vehicles being called to a structure fire outside of Fairbury. There was a 25-minute delay as an ambulance was called in from Pontiac. When the cars went back to green, Weaver was able to go uncontested in recording his fourth Allen Memorial trophy. “It’s awesome to win this race. I knew Pappy and Bob when I first got into racing,” said Weaver. “After the delay, I was worried about how the tires would respond.” Mataragas was second, followed by Kolby Vandenbergh, Mike Glasscock, and Scott Bull (hard charger, started 13th). Weaver, Morris, and Mataragas took heat wins, while Bill Hough was the semi-feature winner. Weaver had the fastest time in qualifying at 12.997 seconds.

As announcer Mike Norris put it, there were more sliders than you get at White Castle in the Modified feature. Jay Ledford took the lead as Mike McKinney wrestled second from Nick Clubb. On the restart after two cautions came out on lap three, Ledford and McKinney went toe to toe exchanging slide jobs, bringing the race fans to their feet. Neither driver was able to get a clear cut advantage until McKinney seemed to shoot out of a cannon exiting turn four and pulled to a 10 car length lead with nine laps to go. McKinney was able to stretch his margin in the closing laps to secure the win. “I hope the fans got their money’s worth,” an exhausted McKinney spoke. “That was the most intense race that I have ever been in. I have a ton of respect for Jay and I hope that I earned his respect. It was a lot of fun racing with Jay.” Ledford, Jeff Curl, Steven Brooks, and Clubb completed the top five. Ledford was the night’s fast qualifier at 14.005 seconds and also won his heat race. Other heat winners were Clubb and McKinney.

The KidModz Series made its annual visit to FALS and found five drivers entered. Despite a caution flag with three laps remaining, Ryan Hamilton went uncontested to claim the 10-lap race for young drivers. Following Hamilton to the line were Dominic Mertzke, Michael Ledford, Blake Bailey, and Zach Sasser. Hamilton took the heat race win.

In the 12-lap Hobby Mod feature, front row starters Graham Jackson and Mike Petersen raced side by side for the first four laps before Jackson took over the lead. After a caution on lap six, Jackson led Petersen with Tim McGuire trying to hold off Mason Duncan and Jason Brandt. A caution fell two laps later. On the restart, Jackson held a five car length lead early, but Petersen and McGuire steadily pulled back on Jackson’s bumper. A caution with one lap to go gave Petersen and McGuire the opportunity to overtake Jackson. Jackson got a jump over the duo at the start and was able to hang on for an exciting win. Petersen, McGuire, Brandt, and Macy Vaughan completed the top five. Ten cars entered the Hobby Mod class as that class continues to grow. Jackson and Petersen won heat races.

It’s not over until it’s over proved to be true in the 15-lap Sportsman feature. Lake Nichoalds led the 14-car field to the green flag. Nichoalds took the lead with Richard Craven, Brian Albus, Steve Mattingly, and Amber Crouch in tow. When the field went back green after a lap four caution, Albus took over second from Craven but Craven came back three laps later to retake the position. A caution fell with two laps remaining had Nichoalds leading Craven and Albus. As the leaders were taking the white flag, Nichoalds got loose in turn four allowing Craven and Albus to get by. Craven was able to pick up his second win of the year. “Outside of the late cautions, it was a good race," said Craven. Albus, Nichoalds, Mattingly, and Anthony Craven comprised the top five. Nichoalds and Mattingly won heat races. Nichoalds took quick time honors with a 14.799 second lap.

A.J. Meiferdt and his team did some fine tuning on his motor and the chassis this week. It paid off as Meiferdt was rewarded with the win in the 15-lap Street Stock race. Andrew Funk pressured Meiferdt throughout the race until Meiferdt put some distance between himself and Funk. After a caution with two laps to go, Funk went to the top of the track but Meiferdt prevailed for the win. "I kept the car against the tires on the inside. Thanks to Calvin Coleman, we threw the kitchen sink at the car last night", said Meiferdt. “We put the car on the T1 chassis dyno and along with the motor, it worked out.” Funk was second, followed by Kyle Miner, Peter Odell, and Don Hilleary. Meiferdt and Funk won heat races. Shawn Ziemer was the fastest qualifier at 16.154 seconds.

Spatola picks up $1,OOO Pro (Crate) Late Model Win during busy Saturday at FALS

by Darlene Miller

History came to life on a hot Saturday night as Fairbury American Legion Speedway played host to seven features and six different winners.

CLM-jun11Manhattan’s Mike Spatola also tried to make history by winning two of those features only to come up one spot short in the Late Model race. Spatola started out the night capturing the makeup $1,000 to win Pro (Crate) Late Model feature. Jose Parga, Dakota Ewing, Brandon Eskew, and Torin Mettille rounded out the top five. Spatola also was victorious in the regular show over Ewing, Eskew, Parga, and Tom Knippenberg. Spatola and Mettille were heat winners while Spatola set fast time at 14.404 seconds. “It was a one night deal. I had a good car and it worked out well,” said Spatola, who sits in second place in Late Model track points.

LM-jun11Fairbury’s McKay Wenger and Spatola led the field to the green flag in the Late Model feature. Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver split the pair rather quickly and took the top spot. He moved down to his familiar low side on the track. The cagey veteran, Weaver later had to move up to the top side to weave through traffic. He slammed the turn two wall with two laps to go in the 30-lap feature. Weaver, who was denied the night before while leading at Farmer City, was able to hold on and capture the win. The win ties Weaver with Dwight’s Rick Thomas with 63 feature wins as they both chase “The Racing Farmer” Roger Long (66) for the most career feature wins at FALS. “It was hot out there and there was a lot of tension. I knew I had to go up top if we were to get the win,” said Weaver. Spatola brought home a close second followed by Wenger, Scott Schmitt, Scott Bull, and Joe Harlan in the top five. Mike Provenzano led the second five and was followed by Kolby Vandenbergh, Dan Flessner, and Lyle Zanker Jr. Spatola and Wenger were heat winners and Schmitt had fast time with a fast lap of 13.643 seconds.

MD-jun11Pontiac’s Jay Ledford took another step toward capturing another Modified title after barely holding off Steven Brooks for the victory in the division's feature. The pair were fighting back and forth for the lead the entire race before Ledford was able to hold off Brooks by a car length at the line. “I had a good race car,” Ledford said. “I got into a rhythm after I finally got around Steven.” Mike McKinney, Vince Cooper, and Jeff Leka completed the top five. Lance Dehm, Nick Clubb, Nick Lueth, Tommy Duncan, and Joe Gillespie rounded out the top 10. Ledford and Brooks won their heats and Brooks set fast time with a time of 14.560 seconds.

SP-jun11Yellow was the color of the night in the Sportsman division as seven cautions flew in the 15-lap feature. Richie Rich and Brian Albus started on the front row but Richard Craven grabbed the lead with 12 laps to go over Rich and held on. “It is good to be back in the winner’s circle,” Craven said. Albus was third with Steve Mattingly and Anthony Craven (hard charger, started 11th) in the top five. The second five was comprised of Amber Crouch, Brandon Pralle, Scott Williams, Eric Saltzman, and Blake Reid. Albus and Rich were heat winners and Rich had a 14.919 second lap for quick time.

SS-jun11Dwight’s Andrew Funk won the Street Stock event by 10 car lengths over Peter Odell. Coming in third was Darrell Dick with A.J. Meiferdt, Curtis Radke, Tim Dick (hard charger, started 11th), Michael Schomas, Terry Miller, Don Hilleary, and Valerie Hurt in tow in the top 10. “It feels good to win tonight,” said Funk. Funk and Odell won their heats and Funk set quick time at 15.950 seconds.

Youngster Mason Duncan won the feature in the Hobby Mods. Tim McGuire, Gregg Pierce, Mike Petersen, and Macy Vaughan completed the top five. Jason Brandt was the heat race winner.

Makeup Dates from May 28 Rain Out Features Announced

July 9
Street Stocks will run a regular show along with the May 28th makeup feature. The lineup is set for the makeup feature and no new entries will be allowed for that race. Any new cars will run in the regular show only. Points will be awarded for both features. Eligible drivers will receive pay for both features.

Spatola, McKinney, Rich, Funk, Perez, Wilson capture Fan Appreciation Night Wins

by Rocky Ragusa

Despite threatening weather early in the afternoon, Mother Nature was kind and gave the Fairbury American Legion Speedway a perfect night of racing on Fan Appreciation / Nostalgia Night at the track.

jun4-LM17 UMP DIRTcar Late Models were on hand for their 30 lap race. Mike Spatola was the night’s fast qualifier at a 13.128. Spatola and Scott Schmitt took the heat race wins. Spatola used his front row starting position to quickly open a ten car length lead over McKay Wenger, Schmitt, Kevin Weaver, and Mike Glasscock. After a lap 12 caution, Spatola pulled away to a commanding lead as Schmitt got by Wenger for second, followed closely by Glasscock and Weaver. Schmitt, Wenger, and Weaver waged a tremendous battle for second as Glasscock dropped out of the race. Spatola soon encountered slower cars enabling Wenger, who broke away from Schmitt, and Weaver to narrow the margin on Spatola. With five laps to go, Wenger was on Spatola’s bumper as both drivers fought the treacherous Fairbury cushion. Wenger made repeated attempts with a slide job on Spatola but Spatola held his ground to pick up his first win at Fairbury since 2014. “The car was really loose coming off the cushion,” spoke Spatola. “I wasn’t watching my crew giving me signals and had no idea that McKay was that close. He made me get on the wheel and I appreciate him racing me clean.” Wenger, Schmitt, Jay Morris, and Dan Flessner (hard charger, started 16th) completed the top five, followed by Mike Provenzano, Scott Bull, Joe Harlan, Steve Thorsten, and Kevin Weaver, who dropped out on the final lap.


28 UMP DIRTcar Modified drivers time trialed seeking to start the 20 car feature race. Jay Ledford set fast time at a 14.198. Ledford, Steven Brooks, and Mike McKinney won heat races, while Jimmie Haager took the semi feature. At the green flag, McKinney took a straightaway lead as Brooks, Ledford, Lance Dehm, and Vince Cooper trailed. After three cautions in the first six laps, Brooks gave pursuit of McKinney as Dehm followed closely. McKinney had his hands full running the top side and Brooks making repeated attempts to claim the front spot. Brooks managed to briefly lead on lap nine but McKinney fought back on the next lap to retake the lead. In the closing laps, Brooks stuck his car under McKinney several times in the turns but McKinney was able to pull away down the stretch and take his second win of the year. “We were good at the beginning,” McKinney said. “I knew Brooks would be there. I just put the pedal to the floor and let it bang off the walls.” Dehm, Ledford, Jamie Lomax, Dave Crawley Jr., Tommy Duncan, Vince Cooper, Jeff Curl, and Nick Clubb (hard charger, started 17th) rounded out the top ten.

jun4-HMFairbury’s new entry level class drew eight cars for the Hobby Mod division. Jason Brandt took the heat race win. Brandt led the feature until spinning out on the sixth lap. Mason Duncan led until a caution fell on the following lap. On the restart, Albie Perez pressured Duncan and got under Duncan as the leaders approached the flag stand on the eighth lap. Perez stuck to his race line and was able to hold off Duncan and Nolan Gunderson for the win, driving the Jeff Semmens owned entry. “This was a lot of fun,” spoke an excited Perez. “This is a great class for anyone looking to start. I have to thank Jeff and Makinzi for letting me race their car. I also want to dedicate this win to Ronnie Bohm.” Trailing the trio to the line were Tim McGuire and Macy Vaughan.

The Vintage Racing of Illinois Series brought their group of drivers and cars to Fairbury on Nostalgia Night. Ron Wilson from Pekin, a former driver at Peoria and Spoon River Speedway, drove his 1957 Chevy to the 15 lap feature win over a field of 14 cars. Wilson spoke in victory lane. “I actually retired this year and sold the car to Matt Ramer. He gave me the chance to drive it tonight. This is fantastic to get a win here.”

jun4-SPLake Nichoalds set fast time (14.961) over 15 other UMP DIRTcar Sportsman drivers for their 15 lap race. Nichoalds and Scott Williams took heat race wins. After a caution flag on lap two, current points leader Richie Rich got his car under Brian Albus for the lead and pulled away for his third win of the season. “It’s unfortunate that Lake Nichoalds and Timmy Dick had their bad luck,” an exhausted Rich spoke. “We did a lot of work in the shop this week and it paid off.” Albus, Rod Rusher, Bryant Frechette, Steve Mattingly, Tim Dick (hard charger, started 12th), Anthony Craven, Amber Crouch, Williams, and Eric Legner completed the top ten.

jun4-SS18 UMP DIRTcar Street Stocks took time trials with Peter Odell from Morris leading the way with a 15.772. Two heat races were held with Rick Thomas and Barry Sauder taking the wins. Andrew Funk pestered Thomas for several laps before moving to the point on lap four. Following a caution on lap ten, Thomas moved his line to the top of the track and tried to reclaim the lead but Funk was too much and pulled out to a ten car length lead. A.J. Meiferdt stayed with Thomas and made a last lap pass to take the second position as Funk scored his first Fairbury win of the year. “It’s about time. We have had a lot of bad luck here. I ran the middle because I knew Rick would move to the top. It worked out for me,” Funk said. Funk was followed to the checkered flag by Meiferdt, Thomas, Sauder, Terry Miller, Odell, Chad Rockefeller, Curtis Radke (hard charger, started 15th), Darrell Dick, and Josh Hetherington.