by Rocky Ragusa
The weather cancelled many area races this weekend and although Fairbury American Legion Speedway had a rain shower before hot laps, racing was still on the docket. The track also reaped the harvest of those extra drivers from the Lucas Oil Late Model Series that were rained out at LaSalle.
Thirty-five late models qualified for the $2,000-to-win, 30-lap feature with New Berlin’s Brandon Sheppard leading the way with a 12.662. That top qualifying time and a heat win put Sheppard on the pole next to Georgia’s Jonathan Davenport. A couple of cautions caused the feature to be restarted and one claimed El Paso’s Ryan Unzicker with a flat tire. Of the 20 that had started the race only 15 were in the running when the race finally took off. Davenport and Sheppard pulled to a slight advantage over the field in the first five laps but soon found Fairbury’s McKay Wenger in the fray. Davenport’s lead and his night ended when he broke coming out of turn two with 23 laps to go.
Sheppard grabbed the top spot with Wenger in tow. Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver overtook Wenger and then aimed for the top. Sheppard and Weaver were even with 21 laps to go. The pair battled back and forth and lap traffic did not slow the pair down with 15 circuits to go. A caution flag flew with 11 trips remaining and that bunched the field. The top two again took to a major battle in the last remaining laps before another caution flew with two laps left. Sheppard was able to hold off Weaver in the last few remaining feet of the race for the tight win.
“The track guys did well after the rain and I can’t wait to be back (for the Prairie Dirt Classic),” said Sheppard. Wenger came in third with Bobby Pierce next and then Scott Bull. Daren Friedman led the second five with Scott Schmitt, Mike Glasscock, Mike Spatola and Bob Gardner following. Sheppard, Davenport, Wenger and Pierce were heat winners while Glasscock and Spatola won the semi-features.
Steven Brooks also did the double take after being the top modified qualifier (14.235) and then capturing his heat and feature races. The win was not easy for Brooks and the gang as early cautions kept the field close. Pontiac’s Jay Ledford and Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm kept the heat on Brooks before a red flag stopped the field when Flanagan’s Dustin Mounce hit the wall and rolled his car. Cullen Breeden was collected in the accident. Both drivers were OK.
Once the debris was cleared and a totaled Mounce vehicle was towed away, Brooks took to the middle of the track pulling along Dehm and Ledford. Brooks was able to hold them both off for the close win. “This thing (car) was awesome tonight,” said the driver from New Lenox. Ledford and Ray Bollinger won their heats and Mounce won his semi-feature.
Bryant Frechette and Amber Crouch led the sportsman feature to the green flag. Frechette took the early lead over Crouch and Richie Rich. With six laps to go, Rich got around on the high side and held off Frechette and Crouch for the win. Scott Williams, Greg Roberts, Brandon Pralle, Eric Saltzman and Eric Legner rounded out the field. Frechette won the heat race.
In the street stock division, Dwight’s Joel Funk and Rick Thomas led the cars to the 15-lap feature. With four laps in, Thomas slowed coming off turn two and he was done for the evening. Funk took the lead bringing along Barry Sauder and Lukes Gash. Funk, however, took a slight lead with four laps to go. With the last lap flag flying, Sauder and Gash were back in the mix and Funk held them off by a few seconds for the win. Darrin Kohler, Darrell Dick, Chad Rockefeller, Eric Gaus, Al Gray, Chip Kalkwarf, Tyler Benson and Curtis Radke finished up the top 10. Funk, Thomas and Gash won their heats and Tyler Benson won the semi.
In the new hobby modified class, Tim McGuire won the heat while Jason Brandt captured the feature event.