by Darlene Miller | Photos by Rocky Ragusa
Hard work, perseverance, and a little luck helped end the long winner’s circle drought for El Paso’s Joe Harlan as he took the Late Model feature win at Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night. Mike McKinney, Richie Rich, Andrew Funk, and Mason Duncan captured the other features.
Harlan had not won a feature at FALS since June 18, 2011, and would not let this win get away from him. He started on the pole next to Steve Thorsten in the 30-lap feature and the pair battled back and forth for the first few laps before current points leader Kevin Weaver began to flex his muscle and enter the fray. Three caution flags flew before nine laps had passed with the last flag claiming Weaver as he pulled off to the infield with mechanical issues. Fairbury’s McKay Wenger and Scott Bull soon began to challenge Harlan and Thorsten for that top spot. Wenger, who started ninth, was on the high side with 19 laps left and in second place and closing in fast on Harlan. Thorsten had dropped to fourth. The pair of Harlan and Wenger began to reach lap traffic and Wenger grabbed the lead with 14 trips to go. Wenger’s lead would not last as, with nine laps to go, he suffered problems and pulled to the infield. Harlan assumed the lead again but soon faced a tough challenge from Pontiac’s Derek Chandler running on the top side. Harlan fought him off and won by two car lengths. Chandler followed with Bull, Mike Spatola, and Thorsten in the top five. Dan Flessner, Nick Kurtz, Allen Murray, Jay Morris, and John Gardner Jr. made up the second five. “We had luck on our side tonight. It feels like the first time since I have been here, (winner’s circle),” said Harlan. Harlan along with Bull and Thorsten won the heats and Spatola topped the clock at 12.638 seconds. Spatola was also the hard charger starting 19th to finish in the fourth spot.
Mike McKinney won his second Modified feature of the weekend by holding off Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm and Pontiac’s Jay Ledford. McKinney, who started on the pole in the 20-lap feature, took the early lead but could not pull away from the challengers. A few yellow flags flew but McKinney was able to hold off Dehm by a car length for the win. Ledford placed third followed by Jeff Curl and Nick Clubb. Steven Brooks led the second group of five across the line with Jeffrey Ledford, Travis Kohler, Nick Lueth, and Dustin Mounce in tow. “I never thought we could do this (win) my dad and I,” said McKinney who has ten wins on the season overall and five at FALS. Heat winners were Dehm and McKinney, who also qualified first with 14.021 seconds.
In the Sportsman race, Pontiac’s Richie Rich started on the pole but at first could not get away from the pack as four caution flags flew early in the 15-lap feature. With six laps to go, problems began to slow up Rich but not enough for the current points leader to take the win over Lake Nichoalds by four car lengths. “It feels good to be back in victory lane” said Rich. Taking third was Richard Craven with Bryant Frechette, Troy Medley, Steve Mattingly, Anthony Craven, Tim Dick, Brandon Pralle, and Amber Crouch completing the top 10. Rich and Nichoalds won heats and Rich posted fast time with 14.432 seconds.
Dwight’s Andrew Funk won his 18th feature of the season overall and fifth at FALS in the 15-lap Street Stock feature. Funk started on the pole and faced small challenges from Kyle Miner early in the race and A.J. Meiferdt later on but held off the pack to win by seven car lengths. “This has been a dream season so far,” said Funk. Meiferdt was second followed by 15th starter Don Hilleary, Eric Gaus, Al Gray, Chad Rockefeller, Curtis Radke, Ryan Anderson, Peter Odell, and Mitch Hahn. Funk, Miner, and Radke were heat winners and Meiferdt was fastest in qualifying with 15.557 seconds. Dwight’s Rick Thomas won his 64th career checkered flag in the Street Stock make-up feature from the May 28th rainout. Hilleary, Hahn, Odell, and Funk completed the top five.
Mason Duncan won the Hobby Mod feature from the pole after he won the heat race. Mike Petersen, Tim McGuire, Macy Vaughan, and Makinzi Semmens followed Duncan to the checkers.