Wenger Leads the Way for FALS Win

by Rocky Ragusa

With fans, race teams, and officials still talking about last weekend’s Prairie Dirt Classic, there was no hangover as drivers put on a great night of UMP racing action at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway.

Making their first ever appearance to the ¼ mile dirt oval were the Speedway Motors Illinois Lightning Sprint Series. Korey Weyant took the lead at the start of the 20-lap, $600 to win, Williard Bess Memorial race with Billy Brickley, Andy Baugh, Dave Baugh, and Brent Burrows trailing. Weyant set a lightning fast pace and began lapping cars by the third lap. Following a caution on the fourth lap, Weyant checked out on the field. Point’s leader Gedd Ross took advantage of the restart and moved by Burrow and Dave Baugh to take over fourth by the fifth lap. At the halfway point, Weyant held a straight away lead over Brickley and soon came on the slower cars. Brickley was able to catch up to Weyant, but once Weyant cleared traffic, he was able to pull away. Caution came out on the 17th lap as Dave Baugh spun out in turn two. On the restart, Weyant battled with Brickley for the lead. Weyant’s car began to slide up the track as Brickley looked to take the lead. On the last lap, Brickley looked to have an opportunity to take the lead, but was forced to back off to keep from hitting a tire in the infield. Weyant led Brickley, Burrows, Andy Baugh, Austin Archdale, Larry Eastin, Brad Funk, Dave Baugh, Ross, and Andrew Funk. Following the race, officials and race teams expressed their gratitude to the speedway for the opportunity to race at Fairbury. The track’s condition gave the drivers an opportunity for plenty of two and three wide racing for the fans.

In the 15-lap UMP Street Stock race, outside front row starter A.J. Meiferdt outgunned Nick Clubb into turn one to take the lead as Clubb, Rick Thomas, Brandon Kessinger, Jason Maier, and Matt Maier followed in a tight group. Meiferdt held a five car length lead as Clubb and Thomas put on a show with a fierce side by side duel for second. Jason Maier was able to move by Kessinger for fourth on the fifth lap as Matt Maier and Calvin Coleman looked to move up. At the halfway mark, Clubb and Thomas were still racing side by side enabling Meiferdt to open a 10 car length lead. Thomas got loose coming off of turn four with six laps to go and gave Clubb a little breathing room. Clubb was able to close up on Meiferdt with two to go as Jason Maier got by Thomas for third. The laps ran out for Clubb and Maier as Meiferdt was able to take his first win of the year. “Anytime you can come out and beat the caliber of competition here, it’s unreal,” said Meiferdt. “We worked on the car over the winter. We have struggled this year. The last few weeks have gotten better and we finally got it done.” Clubb, Maier, Thomas, Matt Maier, Kessinger, Coleman, Darrin Kohler (hard charger), Lukes Gash, and Darrell Dick completed the top ten. Kessinger set fast time at a 15.613, while Clubb and Meiferdt took heat race wins.

In a see-saw battle for the Sportsman track championship, Richard Craven clung to a one point lead over Jeffrey Ledford. Rod Rusher took the lead at the start of the 15-lap race as Scott Hatzer tried to hold off Ledford. Ledford moved by Hatzer on the third lap while Matt Mills looked to hold off Richie Rich in a race for fourth. Caution came out on the fourth lap as Bryant Ferchette looped it in turn two. On the restart, Rusher led Ledford with Hatzer trying to hold back Rich. Hatzer’s night came to an end on the sixth lap as contact with Rich brought out the caution and ended his night. The restart had Rich power by Ledford to take second and looking to take the lead. Rich worked the inside of Rusher before moving into the lead on the ninth circuit. 

Ledford hit his marks and got by Rusher for second with five laps to go. Ledford closed the gap on Rich as a caution fell for debris with three laps remaining. The field went single file on the restart as Rich looked to hold off Ledford. Ledford used the track’s cushion for momentum and was on Rich’s bumper. The two gladiators raced side by side for the win as the white flag was waved. The crowd was on its feet as neither driver was going to back down. Ledford edged ahead of Rich in turn three and held on for the victory. “I ran the bottom at the beginning and thought that was where I would be best at, “an exhausted Ledford stated. “ I started rolling on the top and it was fast, when I hit it right. The last lap I got a good shot. My crew told me to run the bottom of three and four. I didn’t know what to do so I ran the top and it paid off.” With his win Ledford moved back into the points lead, by nine over Craven. Trailing Ledford and Rich were Richard Craven, Anthony Craven, Rusher, Mills, Dustin Mounce (hard charger), Tyler Roth, Brian Albus, and Amber Crouch. Ledford was the night’s fast qualifier at a 14.292. Rusher and Hatzer took heat wins. 

Jimmy Dehm and Jeb Friedman, both drivers’ hungry for a feature win, led the field to the green flag in the 20-lap UMP Modified race. Friedman took the lead with Dehm, Lance Dehm, Jay Ledford, and Jeff Curl in tow. Friedman held a five car length lead as Jimmy Dehm repeatedly turned back Lance Dehm, while Jay Ledford and Jeff Curl raced side by side for fourth. At the 10th lap, Jimmy Dehm worked his way by Friedman for the lead and Lance Dehm took over second on the next lap. Jimmy Dehm moved out to a 10 car length lead as Ledford looked to take third from Friedman. Caution came out on lap 14 as Dan Rork stopped on the back stretch with mechanical problems. On the restart, Lance Dehm got under Jimmy Dehm for the lead but Jimmy Dehm was able to turn Lance Dehm back. Another caution fell on the 17th lap as Dave Porth stalled on the track with mechanical issues. The restart found the field going to a single file restart. Lance Dehm entered turn one and executed a slide job to move into the lead but Jimmy Dehm came back. Lance Dehm wasn’t going to be denied the lead and came back to reclaim the lead. Lance Dehm hung on to pick up his third win of the year at FALS. “That was a heck of a race,” commented Dehm. “The car had enough bite in the middle. I just gave it all I could.” Trailing the Dehm’s were Friedman, Ledford, Curl, Cullen Breeden, Jared Cagley, Kevin Hastings (hard charger), Alex Graf, and Curt Rhodes. Rork was the fast qualifier at a 13.782. Jimmy Dehm and Friedman took heat wins.

In the 30-lap UMP Late Model feature, McKay Wenger looked to make it two wins for the weekend. On the start Wenger quickly moved into the lead as Daren Friedman, Joe Harlan, Jay Morris, and Dan Flessner followed. Wenger set a tremendous pace and began to lap slower cars by the eighth lap. The traffic allowed Friedman and Harlan to edge closer to Wenger. Harlan showed the side of his car to Friedman for several laps, briefly taking over second. Some of the lapped cars were in a race of their own and on the 15th lap the leaders had to use caution in working their way by them. Harlan got by Wenger for the lead on lap 16, but the next lap Wenger moved into the front and wasn’t going to be denied on this night. A season of frustration ended with Wenger taking a popular win in front of his hometown fans. “After the heat race I told the crew the car was even better tonight than it was last night. Sometimes with the late model it’s easy to dial yourself out but then it’s just as easy to get back into the ballgame,” said Wenger. Friedman, Harlan, Jay Sparks, Flessner, Scott Bull (hard charger), Mike Mullvain, Steve Thorsten, Torin Mettille, and Eric Vaughan rounded out the top ten. Friedman was the event’s fast qualifier at a 12.707. Friedman and Wenger took the heat race wins.

McCreadie Captures Thrilling Prairie Dirt Classic

by Kevin Kovac

Tim McCreadie had high praise for Fairbury American Legion Speedway after emerging victorious in Saturday night’s epic 25th annual Prairie Dirt Classic.

“They said they do it right here and they’re right — they did it right tonight,” raved McCreadie, who earned $25,650 for capturing a thrilling 100-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series event that featured eight lead changes among four drivers and countless twists and turns. “This is an awesome racetrack, and that race was a lot of fun.”

Charging forward from the 17th starting spot, McCreadie, 40, of Watertown, N.Y., overtook defending PDC champion Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., for the lead on lap 76 but was far from home free. He swapped the top spot four times with the 40-year-old Babb before gaining command for good on lap 95.

Of course, on an unforgettable night at a quarter-mile oval dubbed ‘America’s Dirt Track,’ the final lead change didn’t mean the race was over. McCreadie gave himself an undeniably anxious moment on lap 98 when brushed the outside wall in turn two, allowing Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., who had just passed Babb for second on a lap-96 restart, to mount a last-ditch bid for victory.

Owens, 42, surged to the outside of McCreadie entering turn three, nearly nosed ahead to lead lap 99 with a crossover move off turn four and appeared primed to slide by McCreadie through turns one and two, but the former WoO champion wasn’t going to be denied. McCreadie absolutely rocketed off the outside off turn two — squeezing the scant space between Owens and the wall — vaulted ahead down the backstretch and beat Owens back to the finish line by 0.691 of a second.

Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., finished third after overtaking both WoO points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Babb following the lap-96 caution flag. The 21-year-old driver started from the pole position and led laps 1-29 but had to rally after losing his rhythm and falling as far back as eighth place midway through the 100-lapper.

Babb, who started second and led four times for a race-high 44 laps, slipped to fourth at the finish. Lanigan, who started third and led lap laps 41-54, completed the top five.

Leka & Brooks Take PDC Modified Wins

by Darlene Miller

Buffalo’s Jeff Leka led on lap one and never looked back as he took Saturday's 30-lap, $2,500 modified feature. “Our guys worked hard on the car and it showed tonight,” said Leka. Jacob Poel finished second followed by Friday night’s feature winner Steven Brooks, Matt Mevert, and Dave Porth. Jeff Curl led the second five, which included Jim Farris, Donovan Lodge, Jay Ledford, and Jimmy Dehm. Ledford was the hard charger after driving his son’s car. Ledford’s racer was heavily damaged in a turn-two incident in which he rolled it 1 1/2 times.

Steven Brooks held off Jeff Curl to win the 25-lap feature in the modified class Friday. Brooks took advantage of a mishap between race leaders to gain the advantage, and then held off the challenges from Curl. Mike McKinney took the lead at the start but dealt with Lance Dehm throughout the early part of the race. Dehm made a move to get into the lead and McKinney opted to change grooves at the same time. The result was a collision on the turn that took both drivers out of the race. “It’s like a dream come true,” Brooks said of winning.

Moyer Picks Up UMP Summer Nationals Win

by Kevin Kovac

Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., tacked one more UMP DIRTcar Summernationals triumph on his ledger Friday night, claiming the held-over non-point 50-lap feature at Fairbury American Legion Speedway. The $10,000 victory in a race postponed by rain on June 21 put a cherry on top of a spectacular summer surge for the 56-year-old Moyer, who won his last five Hell Tour starts of 2014. It was his series-best seventh win in just 12 Summernationals appearances this season.

Moyer also added to his already impressive win totals in Summernationals competition at Fairbury (seven victories since his first at the quarter-mile oval in 1994) and on the alltime Hell Tour checkered flag list, which he now tops with 89 career wins. “We always like coming up through here and running,” said Moyer, whose last Summernationals score at Fairbury came in 2009. “(This area has) great dirt, great fans. It makes it fun to come up here.”

Righting an evening that began in frustrating fashion wen he qualified poorly and failed to transfer to Saturday night’s $25,000-to-win Prairie Dirt Classic headliner through a heat, Moyer marched forward from the seventh starting spot in the Summernationals A-Main to grab the lead from Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., on lap 18. He never relinquished the top spot as he turned back several bids from Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., over the race’s second half. “We finally got it better here by main event time and that’s when it counted tonight anyway,” Moyer said of his Longhorn Chassis car. “We’ve got a long way to go tomorrow night (to contend in the 100-lap PDC) though.”

Unzicker, 33, settled for a second-place finish, 1.049 seconds behind Moyer. It was his eighth runner-up performance without a victory on the 2014 Summernationals. Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., finished a distant third after starting 11th. The 17-year-old sensation reached third place with a low-side pass of York, Pa.’s Rick Eckert on lap 35 but never had a shot at the leaders because the race ran caution-free after a lap-one slowdown Eckert, who started from the outside pole in the Rocket Chassis house car, dropped to fourth in the final rundown while Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., placed fifth after surviving a spin on the inside of turn two in the midst of the lap-one tangle. Smith, who started third, did not have to restart at the rear of the field because his car never stopped moving in the incident. Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., who clinched his fourth Summernationals title on July 19 at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio, advanced from the 15th starting spot to finish seventh.

Lanigan, Zeigler Play Starring Roles In Heat Action on Opening Night of Prairie Dirt Classic

by Kevin Kovac

Two of the country’s hottest Dirt Late Model drivers – one an accomplished veteran superstar, the other a young up-and-comer who burst onto the national scene in the last week – played starring roles in the heat-race action that opened the 25th annual Prairie Dirt Classic weekend Friday night at Fairbury American Legion Speedway.

Three-time World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., authored the most dominating performance while 21-year-old Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., pulled off the most stunning victory during the evening’s six 15-lap heat races that set the bulk of the field for Saturday night’s 100-lap, $25,000-to-win WoO LMS finale. Also capturing heat victories in front of a big crowd at the quarter-mile oval were defending PDC champion Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., and Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill. All six heat winners will redraw on Saturday night for starting positions in the first three rows of the Prairie Dirt Classic.

Coming off his WoO LMS-leading 10th victory of 2014 on Thursday night at Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway, Lanigan, 42, ran away with Friday’s sixth heat race. He burst from the third starting spot to the lead in short order and cruised to a final victory margin of 2.894 seconds – a full straightaway – over Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill. Lanigan’s run came one year after he struggled mightily at Fairbury. He failed to qualify through a heat race last year and was lapped twice during the feature, absorbing one of his worst outings of the 2013 season. “I was kind of dreading coming here after last year,” said Lanigan, who holds a commanding lead in the WoO LMS points standings. “But our (self-designed Club 29) car has been so good this year, I didn’t feel so bad about it. When you’ve got a car that’s as unbelievable as ours has been, you don’t mind going anywhere.”

Zeigler, meanwhile, proved his breakout showing last week on the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals – back-to-back wins at Brushcreek Motorsports Complex in Peebles, Ohio, and Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park – was no fluke with an electric run to the checkered flag in Friday night’s fifth heat. Making his first-ever start at Fairbury, the young Keystone State racer charged forward from the sixth starting spot to pass Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., for the lead on lap 13 and then held off the Dirt Late Model superstar’s final-circuit challenge. “It felt pretty good to do that,” Zeigler said of the slider he pulled to surge by Owens. “I hope I did it clean. I had my (crew) man Darrell on the back straightaway giving me signals telling me to go for the slide job. I knew when Darrell gave me the signal, it was time to go.” Zeigler was almost at a loss for words after his latest success at an unfamiliar track. “I stated sixth in the heat race and we were able to pass (Rick) Eckert, (Tim) McCreadie, Brady Smith, Jimmy Owens,” said Zeigler, who drove a family-owned Longhorn Chassis car. “I was just ecstatic as we were rolling through there. I didn’t even think what was happening, was happening. I was just sort of like, ‘Holy crap!’ I was just so excited.”

A banner field of 60 cars was signed in for Friday’s action. Babb was the overall fastest qualifier in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials, turning a lap of 12.388 second in Group 1 of the split session.

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