Davenport Wins PDC Thriller with Last Lap Pass of Erb; Nicely Rolls to Modified Nationals Victory

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by Joshua Joiner, WoO LMS PR | Modified Nationals PR

Jonathan Davenport added another victory to his amazing 2015 campaign and added another chapter to the growing FALS legend in Saturday night's 26th annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac.

In another thrilling Prairie Dirt Classic A-Main at Fairbury American Legion Speedway, Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., advanced from his eighth starting spot and outdueled sixth-starting Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., in an epic back-and-forth battle through the second half of the 100-lap race before using a dramatic final-lap pass to score a $26,000 victory in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series event.

"You couldn't write this in a book any better," said Davenport, whose first WoO LMS triumph of the season gave him his 14 overall victory of 2015 and his fourth payday of $20,000 or more. "This is an awesome place. The facility, the staff, the fans, the way the racetrack races, man this place is awesome."

Fairbury's quarter-mile oval has indeed built a reputation of awe-inspiring racing, especially during the Prairie Dirt Classic. Sanctioned by the WoO LMS for the third consecutive season, the blockbuster event produced its third straight dramatic finish on Saturday in a race that featured eight official lead changes among three drivers.

In true FALS fashion, the event saw close action and building drama through the entire distance before ultimately being decided on the final lap. With a strong run exiting turn two, Davenport cut under Erb down the back straightaway, drove hard into turn three and muscled his way ahead through the final corner. Davenport edged away down the homestretch to a lead of 0.361 seconds as he took the checkered in his K&L Rumley Enterprises Longhorn Chassis.

Erb settled for second in his Black Diamond Chassis, while the Rocket Chassis driven by Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., narrowly edged 16th-starting Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who was fourth in the Rocket Chassis house car. Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., rounded out the top five in his Capital Race Car.

The race's early portions were controlled by polesitter Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. Moyer, a five-time Prairie Dirt Classic winner, held a slight advantage over second-starting Mason Ziegler of Chalk Hill, Pa., through the first 20 laps before Erb took second and began challenging Moyer.

After a lengthy side-by-side battle, Erb cleared Moyer for the lead on lap 31 and held the spot until a resurgent Moyer swept passed on lap 50. But Moyer's second stint out front was much shorter than his first. He jumped the cushion on lap 52, handing the lead back to Erb.

The veteran Moyer ultimately saw his hopes of a sixth PDC victory dissipate entirely when he jumped cushion again on lap 56, tagged the wall and came to stop.

With Moyer out of the race, the remaining distance was left to Erb and Davenport to sort out. Picking up the pace against Fairbury's rugged cushion, Davenport stuck with the low-running Erb following the lap-56 restart before charging ahead on lap 65.

Erb recovered quickly, however, and pulled back out front on lap 66. The two leaders raced neck-and-neck through the next 20 laps before Davenport picked up his pace to make a serious bid for the lead.

Davenport used a slidejob through turns one and two on lap 91 to again get by Erb and had opened a slight lead until jumping the cushion on lap 94. Erb took advantage and charged back out front.

The race's final caution with 96 laps complete gave Davenport a chance to regroup for a late-race charge. He took advantage of the opportunity, using a lap-98 slidejob to pull ahead. But Erb crossed over and immediately pulled back out front.

Finally, as the leaders made their final circuit, Davenport charged off of the top of turn two, crossed over to the low groove as Erb drifted high and made contact with Erb as he raced ahead in the final corner.

Davenport certainly didn't hold back with the victory on the line, but he said some close calls with Erb during their back-and-forth battle led him to be extra aggressive in making the winning pass.

"Just like my mom always told me," Davenport said, "you gotta treat everybody else the way they treat you, and that's the way I done him."

Erb, however, wasn't pleased with the final-lap run-in.

"I think we had the best race car here tonight because nobody could run with us once we stayed green," Erb said. "He just got lucky there on the last caution and made a banzai move. I think we'd been alright if we'd had more laps because we were able to pull away the longer we went."

Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., was sixth at the finish after briefly racing into the top five from his 15th starting spot. After starting from the tail of the field in his backup car, Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas, survived an early spin and recovered to finish seventh.

Tim McCreadie, the Watertown, N.Y., driver who held off Owens to win last year's Prairie Dirt Classic in dramatic fashion, ended up eighth in this year's event after a tangle with ninth-finishing Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., dropped both drivers out of the top five late in race.

Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., rounded out the race's top 10 finishers. He was also involved in a late-race tangle that left WoO LMS points leader Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., with a flat tire.

Preliminary action for the event was held on Friday, with Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., topping 64 qualifiers during time trials. Heat races were won by Junghans, Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., Erb, Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., and Billy Moyer.

Saturday's action also featured the 30-lap Prairie Dirt Classic Shootout non-qualifiers race. Hometown driver Mckay Wenger scored the $1,500 victory with a last-lap pass of Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill.

Tyler Nicely powered to victory in a flawless feature performance to win the final night of the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals and secure second place in the championship.

Nicely, of Owensboro, Ky., was smooth in every corner on the quarter-mile dirt oval while the field behind him was two- and three-wide trying to run him down in the 30-lap, $2,000-to-win season finale. The victory was Nicely’s first win of the 2015 tour, finally putting him over the top after he turned in four second-place finishes during the month-long season that ran primarily in conjunction with the DIRTcar Summer Nationals.

“I just kept hitting my marks right around the bottom so nobody could sneak underneath me,” Nicely said. “I knew if I didn’t make any mistakes I had a good enough hot rod. It’s huge, I’ve been wanting to win in Illinois, and Fairbury is the best track in America in my opinion. It’s awesome, and the fans make it even better. You just feel welcome here.”

There were 47 DIRTcar UMP Modifieds in competition at Fairbury, which also ran the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Prairie Dirt Classic, for a combined total of 106 cars in the pits on Saturday night. The event was delayed about an hour by rain that fell during the Last Chance Showdown.

Heat race winners included Lance Dehm, Curt Spaulding, Brandon Roberts and Tyler Nicely.

Mike Harrison earned the overall DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified championship with nine victories in 13 starts. Unfortunately in Saturday night’s finale, Harrison started 15th and was on the move when he was involved in a scary-looking crash on the frontstretch, leaving him with a 23rd-place finish.

Junghans, Bloomquist, Erb, Zeigler, Moyer Jr., Moyer capture PDC heat wins, Weaver triumphs in #FALS Draw, Harrison picks up ninth Modified Nationals win

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by Joshua Joiner, WoO LMS PR | Modified Nationals PR

Scott Bloomquist's long-awaited return to Fairbury American Legion Speedway got off to a stellar start during Friday's preliminary action for the 26th annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac.

Racing at the popular quarter-mile oval for the first time in more than 13 years, Bloomquist, 51, of Mooresburg, Tenn., was among the top qualifiers for the blockbuster two-day event and won the second of six 15-lap heat races to claim a spot in the Top Six Redraw for Saturday's 100-lap, $26,000-to-win A-Main.

"It's good to be back," said Bloomquist, whose last visit to Fairbury was for a DIRTcar UMP Summernationals event in 2002. "We hadn't been up here in a long time. We took this weekend off last year because we hardly ever get a chance to take off. By popular demand, we had so many requests for us to come up here that we decided to get up here."

Bloomquist will be joined in the Redraw on Saturday by fellow heat winners Chase Junghans, Dennis Erb Jr., Mason Zeigler, Billy Moyer Jr. and Billy Moyer as they all look to take the pole position for the Prairie Dirt Classic finale.

Friday's action was also memorable for the impressive performance by home-state driver Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, who set fast time in qualifying and later finished second in the first heat race to earn the seventh starting spot for Saturday's A-Main.

The 52-year-old Fairbury fan-favorite closed out the PDC preliminary night action by leading every lap of the 25-lap #FALS Draw Shootout to score a $5,000 unsanctioned victory.

Weaver's flag-to-flag victory - which ranks as his richest payday of the 2015 season - won't factor into his starting position for Saturday's PDC A-Main, but it gave the veteran racer plenty of confidence as he sizes up the task before him on Saturday.

"Coming here and having fast time against the competition we had tonight, that's real good for us and gives us a boost going into tomorrow night," said Weaver, whose #FALS Draw Shootout victory came over Brandon Sheppard and WoO LMS points leader Shane Clanton. "We would've liked to have won the heat, but we were close. We're still starting seventh, so that's not all that bad.

"I feel like we have a pretty good hot rod. We were kind of relying on the cushion a little bit (in the Shootout), but if I needed to come off of it, I felt like I could've and still been fast. I felt like the car is capable of running down there in the slick a little bit and we can be pretty good wherever we need to run tomorrow."

The #FALS Draw Shootout was a unique addition to this year's PDC weekend. The invitational race featured an 18-car field, with a mix of drivers from the national level, some based in Illinois and a handful of Fairbury regulars. Each of Friday's six heat race winners were also locked into the race. The lineup for the event was determined by a unique format that had drivers draw a starting position, then give that spot to another driver.

Continuing his improved performance this summer, Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., outdueled Weaver in an early back-and-forth battle in the first PDC heat race before a lap-three caution put him out front for a restart. He held on from there to win by 0.296 seconds. Weaver settled for second while WoO LMS Rookie of the Year competitor Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., edged Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas, in a photo finish for the third and final transfer spot.

Bloomquist's Heat Two victory was anything but easy thanks to constant pressure from fellow Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series regular Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga. After advancing from his sixth starting spot, Davenport made multiple bids to take the lead late in the race with looks both high and low. But Bloomquist turned back each challenge in winning by 0.253 seconds. Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., was third.

Erb of Carpentersville, Ill., took advantage of Tim McCreadie's bout with the cushion to retake the lead on lap 11 of the third heat race and pulled to a lead of 1.731 seconds by the finish. McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who outdueled both Erb and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., to take the lead early in the race, recovered to finish second, while Owens held off Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., to take third and also A-Main transfer.

Heat Four featured a bit of drama on lap five when Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., drove hard into turn three at the same time leader Shane Clanton was moving lower on the track. The two cars made contact and both turned sideways before straightening and continuing running. Zeigler corrected quicker than Clanton and was able to pull ahead on the following lap.

Clanton took a few looks to the outside of Zeigler through the second half of the race, but Zeigler pulled away late to win by 1.303 seconds. Clanton was second with sixth-starting Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., third.

Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., turned back challenges from a pair of WoO LMS regulars in winning Heat Five, with both fifth-starting Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., and Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., making bids for the lead. But Moyer moved up the track just in time to stymie Heckenast's high-side charge, then moved back down to the track's low groove to hold off Frank in the closing laps. Moyer Jr. crossed the finish line 0.808 seconds ahead of Frank, who narrowly edged Heckenast for second.

Moyer Sr. scored the most convincing heat race victory, leading every lap of the sixth and final heat race to win by 1.902 seconds. Eric Smith of Bloomington, Ill., was a solid second, while Torin Mettille of Cullom, Ill., outdueled hometown driver Scott Bull and Kyle Hammer of Clinton, Ill., to claim third and also transfer to the A-Main.

A banner field of 64 Super Late Models entered the event, setting a new record high car count for a Late Model event in Illinois. Weaver topped time trials with his lap of 12.737 seconds in Group A. Clanton was fastest in Group B at 12.782 seconds.

Mike Harrison won for the ninth time in 12 races, exacting revenge on Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Friday night, as he celebrated his fourth DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals championship in the past five years.

Fairbury had been one of only three tracks where Harrison raced on this year’s tour but didn’t win, until he dominated on Friday to lead all 30 laps and capture the $2,000 checkered flag on a night when he was honored for winning the series crown.

“It’s never easy,” said Harrison, of Highland, Ill. “I just try to get out there and be as smooth as I can and keep the car as straight as I can. I try to focus on my laps and my line and not worry about anybody else.”

There were two cautions during the main event. Following the second restart, Jeff Curl hooked up his DIRTcar UMP Modified and charged through the field to finish second. Tyler Nicely, who is trying to hold onto second overall in the championship, finished third with David Stremme and Ray Bollinger rounding out the top five.

The DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals championship is decided by a driver’s best eight finishes over the course of the tour. Harrison became the first driver in the tour’s five-year history to post victories in every possible slot, and added to it with his ninth win on Friday night.

Heat race winners included Nicely, Patrick Lyon, Mike McKinney and Harrison.

26th Annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac Weekend Information

Anticipation is high for one of the top dirt late model races in the country as the 26th Annual Prairie Dirt Classic, presented by the Bank of Pontiac, will run the weekend of July 24th & 25th. The two day $26,000 to win World of Outlaws sanctioned event will play host to the top drivers in the country paying a strong $1,500 to start with a full payout of $89,000 for the 100 lap feature event. Fairbury officials are excited to announce the partnership with the Bank of Pontiac as title sponsor for the Prairie Dirt Classic weekend. The relationship between the Bank of Pontiac and the Fairbury Speedway will allow the PDC to reach a higher level for fans, drivers, and crews. Friday, July 24th will kick off Prairie Dirt Classic festivities with a meet and greet from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Bluestem Bank (branch of Bank of Pontiac) with defending PDC Champion Tim McCreadie along with local drivers Daren Friedman, Scott Bull, Derek Chandler, and McKay Wenger who will all be entered into the weekend’s events.

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.