Points leaders bump their advantages

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.

Craven Captures Topless 2O Victory

by Rocky Ragusa

In search of his fourth straight Late Model track championship at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway, Scott Bull has dealt with the early season success of Kevin Weaver, Scott Schmitt, and recently Daren Friedman. Saturday night, Bull took the lead at the start of the 30 lap feature and cruised to his first win of the year.

Friedman led the 15 drivers in qualifying at a 13.040. McKay Wenger and Bull took the heat wins. In the feature, Bull got a good start over Wenger to take the lead with Friedman, Weaver, and Schmitt following. Bull, running the bottom of the track, was able to open up a straightaway lead as Wenger tried the top and bottom of the track looking to close the margin on Bull. After a caution on lap nine, Bull powered to a commanding lead while Weaver tried to take second from Wenger. By the halfway mark Bull had a straightaway lead over the competition. Schmitt began to fade and Dan Flessner moved into fifth. One lap later Friedman got by Weaver to move into the fourth position. While Bull stuck to running the bottom groove, the rest of the top five ran the top. No one was able to challenge Bull for the remainder of the feature race and Bull took the win in front of his hometown crowd. “It’s been a slow start for us,” said Bull. “We got some things figured out and hopefully it’s about to turn around.” Wenger, Friedman, Weaver, Flessner, Harlan, Schmitt, Joseph Hughs, Mike Glasscock, and the race’s hard charger, Steve Thorsten completed the top ten.

It’s never over till it’s over can best describe the finish of the Hobby Modified race. Jason Brandt broke away from the pack in the 10 lap feature and appeared to be on his way to his second win of the year. With two laps to go Brandt spun his car out in turn one handing the lead to Tim McGuire. McGuire was able to hold off Mike Peterson for the win, while Brandt made a game effort to retake the front position but tagged the front stretch wall at the checkered flag.

In the $450 to win Topless Sportsman Special, Richie Rich set fast time among the 12 drivers on hand with a 15.050. Richard Craven won the dash race and came back to win a heat race along with Rich. Rich started alongside Craven in the 20 lap contest. At the green flag Rich took an early lead but on the third lap pulled into the infield with a broken gear. Richard Craven assumed the lead and set a torrid pace lapping the back markers by the sixth lap. Craven had a straightaway lead over his son Anthony, with Eric Legner battling Steven Mattingly for third and Scott Williams in a duel with Brandon Pralle. A caution fell on lap 11 for Williams and Pralle. On the restart, Legner was able to take second from Anthony Craven, while Richard Craven had a healthy lead. In the closing laps Legner appeared to lose the handle on his car as he drifted high in the turns giving second back to Anthony Craven. At the checkered flag Richard Craven was able to pick up his fourth win of the year. “Richie was walking me like a dog at the start. I don’t know what happened to him, explained Craven. “My car was so tight. I was never so glad to see a caution flag. This old man is tired.” Anthony Craven took second with Mattingly, Legner, Williams, Amber Crouch, Eric Saltzman (hard charger), Austin Williams, Pralle, and Rich following.

Current Modified points leader Jay Ledford bested 23 other competitors in time trials with a 14.170 and won a heat race along with Lance Dehm and Jeff Curl. David Henderson was the semi-feature victor. A caution fell on the initial start of the 20 lap race. At the restart, Ledford led Dehm, Curl, Jeb Friedman, and Dave Porth as the top five ran in a tight formation on the bottom groove. Ledford changed his line running the top side in turns 1-2 and bottom in 3-4 putting some distance between himself and the drivers behind him. Dehm was able to pull away from Curl closing up on Ledford and was aided further with a caution on lap nine. Ledford led on the restart as Dehm and Curl resumed their race for second with Friedman and Porth close behind. With four laps to go Dehm pulled away from Curl and closed the margin on Ledford. A caution came out with two laps remaining for debris on the track. On the restart Dehm stuck the nose of his car under Ledford but the race leader was able to hang on for his fourth win of the season. “I have to give all the credit to my crew. They gave me a good car tonight,” said Ledford. Dehm, Curl, Friedman, Porth, Andy Sprague, Chris Gaither, Travis Kohler, Nick Clubb, and Alex Clubb (hard charger) rounded out the top ten.

Street Stock drivers had two feature races with the second a makeup race from June 20. In the first race 26 drivers were on hand and Michael Clark was the fast qualifier at a 15.359. Clark, Lukes Gash, and Andrew Funk won heat races while A.J. Meiferdt took the semi feature win. Clark led the first lap before Gash moved into the lead on the following circuit. Clark lost his position to Funk on the sixth lap with Rick Thomas following. After a yellow flag on lap nine, Gash held a three car length lead to the checkered flag over Funk, Thomas, Lon Franks, Billy Wicker, Don Hilleary (hard charger), Darrell Dick, Meiferdt, Clark, and Eric Gaus. “My car has been phenomenal all year long,” spoke Gash. “I saw Michael bobble in 3-4. I got under him and knew it would be a drag race back to turn 1.”

In the second feature Thomas took an early lead before Gash made an outside pass to claim the position on lap four. Meiferdt tried several times to get by Thomas but the savvy veteran held his ground. Gash was able to open a ten car length lead over the field before a red flag fell on the 11th lap as Darrell Dick rolled his car on the back stretch. Dick was carried to the hospital where it was learned he had a broken wrist. The restart had Gash extending his lead which he held to the checkered flag for his third win of the year. “Starting in eighth spot was the furthest back I have started and won,” said Gash. “The car would go wherever I wanted it to go.” Thomas, Meiferdt, Hilleary, Gaus, Darrin Kohler, Justin Nelson, Curtis Radke, Andy Thompson, and Matt Ramer completed the top ten.

Friedman, Ledford, Meiferdt, Albus garner checkered flags at FALS

by Darlene Miller

After a few weeks of rain-shortened races and race cancellations, everyone was ready for a great night of racing at Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday. Daren Friedman ended his almost yearlong winless streak in the late model division, but it was far from easy for the Forrest driver. Friedman and three-time FALS champ Scott Bull led the drivers to the green flag and Friedman stayed on the top side, followed by Fairbury’s Bull and Tonica’s Scott Schmitt. The top three encountered lap traffic with 10 trips into the 30-lap feature. Bull and Schmitt soon felt pressure from Jay Morris and Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver. A caution flag flew with 13 circuits to go as Roberts’ Dan Flessner stopped in turn one. At the restart, Friedman pulled away from the three and four-wide battle behind him and Morris and Weaver soon began to move up on the leader.

Another caution flag flew and the three were bunched and ready for the shootout but it was Friedman who left the duo behind and he won by just over two car lengths. “We have been working hard and have had a slow start. The track was great and slick. I hope this is a start of a roll,” said Friedman, who last visited victory lane in July 2014. Following Friedman to the line were Morris, Weaver, Bull and Derek Chandler in the top five. McKay Wenger, Schmitt, Donny Walden, Joe Harlan and Mike Spatola made up the second five. Weaver was the hard charger finishing third after starting 11th. Heat winners were Bull, Friedman and Schmitt, while Mike Spatola won the semi-feature. Bull set fast time with a time of 14.882 seconds.

Pontiac’s Jay Ledford increased his drive for a second modified title by “surviving” the first four laps of the 20-lap feature. Jacob Poel and Mason City’s Brian Lynn started in front. Trouble soon found Poel as he spun out in turn four of the first lap causing the first caution. Poel was relegated to the back and Lynn assumed the lead. Trouble soon found Lynn, as well, as he spun in about the same place as Poel. It was not good for Lynn and a group of drivers who were caught up in the red flag melee. Steven Brooks and Lynn were done for the evening. Ledford led the field to the green when trouble found Gardner’s Dave Porth as he spun entering turn three and a lot more competitors were done for the evening as another red flag stopped action.

Another caution came out with 16 to go before the field settled down. Ledford was riding low while being followed by Jeff Curl, Lance Dehm and Mike Learman. Ledford held off the trio by over five car lengths. “This feels great, I went to the top and it was a lot faster for me,” said Ledford. Poel recovered from moving to the back to place fifth. He was followed by Dustin Mounce (the hard charger by moving up 10 positions), Cullen Breeden, Nick Clubb, Jeffrey Ledford and Jeb Friedman. Lynn and Poel were heat winners and Poel set fast time with a 15.068 lap.

In the 15-lap sportsman feature, newcomer Brian Albus held off Richard Craven by a nose for his first win at FALS. Craven and his son Anthony set the early pace. The younger Craven had problems early and began to fall back. Bryant Frechette and Scott Williams moved up to second and third, respectively. Albus got around Williams and Frechette to take second and close the gap on Craven. Craven was running the low side and felt the pressure from Albus in the middle of the track and the crowd had to wait as the pair finished almost even but Albus claimed the win. “The low side had a lot of ruts and that is where I could catch him,” said Albus. Craven, Frechette, Williams, Eric Legner, Richie Rich, Steve Mattingly, Amber Crouch, Austin Williams and Anthony Craven rounded out the top 10. Heat wins went to the Cravens. Anthony Craven had fast lap time at 15.411.

A.J. Meiferdt held off a hard charging “Highside Hillbilly” Don Hilleary to win the 15-lap street stock feature. Lukes Gash and Andrew Funk led the early part of the race until Gash left his suspension behind him in turn one on the fourth lap. Funk took the top spot followed closely by Rick Thomas. Matt Maier brought out the next flag as he stopped on the track with seven laps to go. Hilleary took a slight lead with five to go before Meiferdt got around Funk and Thomas. Meiferdt took the lead with three laps remaining and won by three car lengths over Hilleary. Thomas, Funk, Barry Sauder, Darrell Dick, Eric Gaus, Justin Nelson, Doug Berbaum and Darrin Kohler followed. Funk, Gash and Maier were heat winners and Gash had fast time with a 15.636 lap. In the Sportsman make-up feature, Pontiac’s Richie Rich brought home the checkered flag.

New Papa Babb Takes Win at Fairbury Summer Nationals

by Rocky Ragusa

After the birth of his daughter on Friday, Moweaqua’s Shannon Babb asked his wife on Saturday if she wouldn’t mind if he stepped out for a while to get some fresh air. Babb and his crew loaded up his race car and headed to the Fairbury American Legion Speedway for the seventh stop on the UMP Summer Nationals tour. Babb took the lead after Scott Schmitt got caught behind lapped traffic and held on for his first win of the year.

47 drivers from eight states vied for a starting position in the 50 lap, $10,000 to win race. Manhattan’s Mike Spatola and Tonica’s Scott Schmitt tied for fast time at 12.957 seconds. Four heats races were ran with the top four transferring to the feature race. In heat one Spatola turned back Kent Robinson, Jason Feger, and Dan Flessner. In heat two Schmitt pulled away from Bobby Pierce for the win followed by Kevin Weaver and Tim Manville. The third heat race had Billy Moyer Jr. pulling away from the field with Ryan Unzicker, Daren Friedman, and Steve Thorsten following. Billy Moyer cruised to an easy win in the fourth heat race followed by Michael Kloos, Babb, and Scott Bull. A C-Main was held with Allen Murray from San Antonio, TX taking the win and moving on to the B Main along with Jay Sparks, Mark Voigt, and Jay Morris. Billy Drake made a last lap pass to win the B-Main with Mike Glasscock, Mike Provenzano, and McKay Wenger in tow. 18 cars made the race by their heat race finishing positions and Timothy Culp from West Monroe, LA, Bob Gardner, Wenger, and Missouri’s Jim Moon taking provisional starts for a 22 car field.

Moyer Jr. and Spatola led the field to the green flag with Moyer Jr. taking the lead followed by Spatola, Moyer, Pierce, and Schmitt. Moyer stuck the nose of his car under Spatola several times before taking second on the fourth lap. After a caution on lap six, Moyer looked to take the lead from his son, but Jr. was able to hold back the challenge. Unzicker was on the move early getting by Pierce and looked to take fourth from Schmitt. Moyer moved into the lead on the 14th lap and Unzicker charged into second on the 17th lap. Spatola, running third, stalled on the track for a caution on the 20th lap. The restart had Moyer leading Unzicker and Schmitt with Babb on the run in fourth spot. Another caution came out on lap 23 as Moyer dropped out with mechanical failure. Schmitt moved into the lead on the restart with Babb, Unzicker, Pierce, and Feger in the top five. Schmitt led Babb by a car length and soon encountered slower traffic.

While trying to overtake Gardner, Schmitt had nowhere to go allowing Babb and Unzicker to each move ahead. After a caution on lap 34 for debris, the top side of the track was working for Babb while Unzicker moved the bottom of the track. Schmitt had to contend with Pierce for third. On lap 37, Pierce tried a slide job on Schmitt. Schmitt hit the wall in turn two and fell back to ninth giving Pierce the third position. Drake looked to be the fastest car on the track during the late stages of the race and battled Feger for the fifth position. Unzicker looked under Babb several times to take the lead while Pierce soon joined in the hunt. With five laps to go the top three put some distance from the remaining cars. Another caution fell with four laps to go. On the restart, Babb and Unzicker pulled to a ten car length lead over Pierce. Pierce had his hands full as he had to contend with Moyer Jr. and Feger.

As the checkered flag waved, Babb, the defending Summer Nationals champion, took his 88th career Summer Nationals win. “The track started off a little drier than usual, but the cushion was right at the top,” said Babb. “Earlier the bottom was good. Fairbury is always pretty even, but the bottom slowed down and the top was the way to go. There were a lot of strong cars. Schmitt and Unzicker were both good. Fairbury always produces a heckuva race and there’s another one.”

With a storm moving into the area, the 25 lap Summit Modified Summer Nationals race was called to the stage. Brian Shaw and Chad Kinder led the 22 car field to the line. Kinder took the lead over Shaw, as Jay Ledford, Mike Harrison, and Lance Dehm followed. Kinder opened a five car length lead and Shaw had to contend with Ledford. Ledford, running the middle groove, took second on lap eight and was followed by Harrison. After a caution on lap ten, Ledford looked to overtake Kinder for the lead but Kinder was able to hang on. Kinder, Ledford, and Harrison broke away to a ten car length lead over the field as Dehm, Shaw, and current Modified Nationals points leader Tyler Nicely had their own race for fourth. Another caution came out on lap 16. Harrison got by Ledford to move into second and challenged Kinder for the front spot. Ledford had to contend with Nicely and Jeff Curl for the third spot. Kinder put some distance between himself and his contenders. On the white flag lap Harrison slowed in turn two. As the rain picked up, Kinder took the win over Nicely, Ledford, Curl, and Harrison.

With a strong storm and potential tornado warnings in effect the remainder of the night’s racing program was canceled and will be rescheduled.

Rain shortens racing card as Weaver nabs Allen Memorial

by Darlene Miller

It has been a wet racing season thus far as Mother Nature has been tough on Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Rain plagued the races all night Saturday beginning right after qualifying with a delay of the start of the features by almost an hour.

Scott Schmitt of Tonica and Forrest’s Daren Friedman led the field to the green flag for the 30-lap, $2,000 to win 19th annual Pappy and Bob Allen Memorial late model feature. Friedman quickly took the point as Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver moved around Schmitt for the second spot. The pair battled back and forth until Weaver grabbed the lead with 21 circuits to go and rain began to fall. The cars went off the track until the rain stopped and pack trucks were called back out to work the track back in. Fifteen minutes later, the drivers came back out and resumed the feature.

Weaver began to pull away by three car lengths over Friedman with 15 laps to go when rain began to fall again. Weaver was declared the winner of the feature with ten laps to go and racing was done for the night. El Paso’s Joe Harlan and Fairbury’s Scott Bull were third and fourth, respectively. Spencer Diercks was fifth followed by Pontiac’s Derek Chandler, Fairbury’s McKay Wenger, Mike Glasscock, Dan Flessner and Torin Mettille. Mettille was the hard charger moving up eight spots. Heat winners were Friedman, Schmitt and Weaver. Eric Smith of Shirley won the semi-feature. Harlan was top qualifier with a 12.842 time.

The other feature of the night saw Lukes Gash win a tough street stock race over Andrew Funk. Funk had the early lead in the 15-lap feature but Gash soon applied pressure and the pair dueled. Gash got the upper hand with five laps to go and won by a car length. A.J. Meiferdt, Lon Franks, Don Hilleary, Rick Thomas, Darrin Kohler, Curtis Radke and Josh Hetherington rounded out the top ten. Eric Gaus finished 12th and was the hard charger as he started 18th. Darrell Dick and Funk were the heat winners.

The modified and sportsman features will be made up at a later date.