by Rocky Ragusa
Tenth starting Clayton Miller of Elkton, KY held off a late side by side battle with Brent Mullins of Litchfield to capture the $10,000 top prize at the 3rd Annual Casey's Modified Nationals, sanctioned by the American Modified Series, on Saturday night. Kevin Weaver of Gibson City won the $500 Mullins Race Engines Shootout Non-Qualifiers race, while Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, WI picked up the $5,000 Corn Belt Clash/American Late Model Series victory.
A stout field of 83 Modifieds, representing nine states and Canada, vied for a starting position in the lucrative race. A pair of Mooresville, NC drivers led in group qualifying as Max McLaughlin with a time of 13.830 led group one and Nick Hoffman was the fastest in group two with a time of 14.085.
With the large contingent of Modified teams on hand, teams faced added pressure as only the heat race winner advanced to the 50 lap feature event. Chris Arnold of Matoaca, VA, Trent Young of Hopkinsville, KY, Preston Seratt of Dyersburg, TN, Steven Brooks of New Lenox, Hoffman, Mike McKinney of Plainfield, Jimmy Payne of Glasgow, KY, and 2015 Fairbury & Farmer City Track Champion Jay Ledford of Pontiac took heat race wins.
Four semi features had the top three from each race transferring to the feature. Former NASCAR competitor, David Stremme of Davidson, NC took the first semi. Joining him were Jacob Poel of Spring Lake, MI, Miller, and Tait Davenport of Benton, KY. Nine provisional positions increased the field to 29 cars.
In the 50 lap race, Arnold and Hoffman led the field to the green flag. Hoffman took the lead with McKinney, Arnold, Payne, and Young following. Miller, running the top side of the track, was on the move early and by lap 10 found himself in a battle for third. After a caution on lap 11, Miller found the top groove to his liking, as he took over third, and two laps later got by McKinney for second. Miller overtook Hoffman for the lead on lap 15 and a caution fell to bunch up the field. Another caution on lap 19 had 14th starting Mullins in the hunt as he moved into the third spot.
On the restart, Miller ran the top, with Mullins in the middle groove, and a four way battle for third between Hoffman, McKinney, Allen Weisser, and Mike Harrison. After a lap 23 caution, Mullins was able to run side by side with Miller for the lead but Miller soon stretched his lead to four car lengths. Miller, Mullins, and McKinney pulled away and McKinney tried several times to take the second spot from Mullins. Miller soon found himself in slower traffic and was able to use it to his advantage and open his lead. After a caution on lap 36, Mullins was able to take the front spot but Miller came back to retake the lead on the following circuit. Two cautions in the final ten laps kept Miller from expanding his lead. A caution with one lap to go gave Mullins one last opportunity but Miller was able to pull away to pick up his second win of the year at Fairbury.
As his crew greeted him in victory lane Miller commented, “First and foremost, I have to give all the glory to God. My crew chief is an older lady and she has been sick for the last couple of weeks. I lost my dad last winter. He was the one that got me into this. It’s really an emotional win for me and my crew. The motor in the car is on its last leg. It has been smoking all night. We had to borrow parts for it but it came through for us.”