Albus Prevails in Photo Finish to Win Eden-Piercy Memorial

by Darlene Miller

Track officials tried to combat oppressively high temperatures by starting races one hour later, but there was still plenty of heat with some photo finishes at Fairbury American Legion Speedway Saturday night. Along with the later start, officials also eliminated qualifying runs, with racers drawing numbers for their heat race positions and then using the passing points format during the heats to set the feature lineups.

may28-spFans of the Sportsman class were treated to two close features, one a makeup of the Eden-Piercy Memorial from the May 28th rainout. In the regular night feature, Lake Nichoalds and Steve Mattingly led the field to the green flag. Mattingly took an early lead in the 15-lap feature. A caution came out with just two laps in as current points leader Richie Rich pulled off into the infield. Another caution flew with 10 laps to go and at that time Nichoalds and Mattingly were still even. Late in the race Nichoalds began putting distance between himself and Mattingly, who eventually brought out a final caution as he stopped in turn one. This proved beneficial to Bryant Frechette in the second spot who put the challenge to Nichoalds in the final laps but lost by inches. “I usually run the top line but it felt good on the bottom. I knew he (Frechette) was coming,” said Nichoalds. Rounding out the top ten were Brandon Pralle, Scott Williams, 11th starter Eric Legner, Tyler Roth, Anthony Craven, Blake Reid, Eric Saltzman, and Mattingly. Nichoalds and Rich were heat winners. Brian Albus captured the top prize of $500 in the highly contested Eden-Piercy Memorial 20-lap race by holding off a tough Nichoalds in a photo finish. “I got to thank my crew. It was my best race of the year,” said Albus. Frechette, Rich, Legner, Williams, Pralle, Craven, Amber Crouch, Reid, and Mattingly rounded out the field. Heat winners were Albus and Frechette.

jul23-lmFairbury’s Scott Bull and Jay Morris led the Late Model field to the green flag in the 30-lap feature that saw tight racing until the final laps. Bull quickly grabbed the lead on the first lap but with five laps under their belts, Morris claimed the lead and began pulling away. Current points leader Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver broke and pulled into the infield with 21 laps to go. Mike Spatola and Gordy Gundaker were soon on Morris’ rear bumper with 11 to go. Lapped traffic slowed the trio down and Spatola took advantage on the top side to take the lead over Morris with eight to go. Gundaker dropped back and Tonica’s Scott Schmitt made a charge to take the third spot. The field slowed with six laps to go with Morris in the lead. With the restart, Spatola took the lead in turn two over Morris and held on to win by four car lengths. “We needed this (win) because we had hit a rough patch and I was not on top of my game. I have finally got it back together,” said Spatola. Tenth starter Steve Thorsten was fourth followed by Joe Harlan, Bull, Mike Mullvain, Cole Swibold, Snooky Dehm, and Alan Stipp. Bull and Morris were heat winners.

jul23-mdIn the 20-lap Modified feature, Pontiac’s Jeffrey Ledford was the class of the field as he won by seven car lengths over polesitter Steven Brooks. “It has not been our summer, but we keep on digging. It was the longest 20 laps ever” said Ledford about the caution-free race. Kelly Kovski, Lance Dehm, Tommy Duncan, Nick Lueth, Jeff Leka, Brandon Roberts, Nick Clubb, and Kevin Weaver rounded out the top ten. Heat winners were Duncan, Jeffrey Ledford, and Lueth.

jul23-ssDwight’s Andrew Funk took his 20th feature win overall and sixth at FALS in the Street Stock division. It was not easy for Funk as he had to hold off A.J. Meiferdt and Rick Thomas at the beginning and a hard charging Don Hilleary at the end of the race. “The car was real tight and this is a tough track to win at.” said Funk. He also won the heat race. Hilleary moved up from his seventh starting position to bring home second followed by Darrell Dick, Kyle Anderson, Valerie Hurt, Mieferdt, Thomas, Ed Janke, Curtis Radke, and Josh Hetherington.

Mike Petersen captured the Hobby Mod feature win from his pole starting spot. Mason Duncan, Tim McGuire, Macy Vaughan, Brendan Patterson, Makinzi Semmens, and Thad Gee rounded out the field. Petersen took the heat race victory.

Daum Wins Midget Thriller, Weaver Prevails for 66th FALS Win

by Rocky Ragusa

jul16-mgAfter a two-year wait due to Mother Nature, the Lucas Oil POWRi National Midget Series finally took to the Fairbury American Legion Speedway Saturday night. The series drew 22 drivers from eight states. Three heat races were held in which the winner of the 30-lap feature race would take home a $3,000 top prize. Minden, Nevada’s Tanner Thorson, Pocahonta’s Zach Daum, and Lemoore, California’s Carson Macedo would take their respective heat wins.

At the start of the feature, Thorson took the lead with Daum in second. Thorson, the current series points leader, and Daum, a two-time national champion, had the fans on their feet exchanging slide jobs and changing the lead lap after lap. On the 18th lap, Thorson was trying to put a slower car a lap down. Thorson got into the back of the car, flipping several times, and collected Macedo and Justin Peck. Macedo was the only driver to continue in the race. Daum resumed as the race leader, stretching his lead, only to be foiled by two cautions in the closing laps. A caution fell on the last lap. On the restart, with Daum safely in command, Garrett Aitken was racing with Spencer Bayston for second. Bayston shot by Aitken and held on for the runner up position. Daum recorded his 15th career POWRi feature win and spoke in victory lane. “This place is awesome. I have been looking forward to racing here since they put it on the schedule. The track is real racy. Tanner and I slid each other countless times and we had a lot of fun. We raced each other clean, hard, and with respect.” Bayston, Aitken, Macedo, Jake Neuman, Brayton Lynch, Holly Shelton, Kyle Schuett, Dalton Camfield, and Daniel Robinson completed the top ten.

jul16-lmGibson City’s Kevin Weaver bested 22 other Late Model drivers in qualifying at a 12.953. Weaver, Mike Spatola, and McKay Wenger took heat race wins. Wenger and Weaver raced side by side at the start of the 30-lap, $2,000 to win race, with Weaver leading the first three laps before Wenger led the next two. Three straight cautions came out. Wenger was able to open up a five-car-length lead as Weaver had to contend with Frank Heckenast Jr. Behind the trio, Spatola was followed by Tanner English in a race for fifth with Scott Bull and Dan Flessner. After cautions on lap 19 and 20, Wenger, Weaver, and Heckenast separated themselves from the field. On the 24th lap, as Wenger was exiting turn two, he jumped the cushion allowing Weaver to move to the lead. A caution fell as the leaders crossed the line but an error in scoring allowed Weaver to maintain his lead. Weaver moved to the top side of the track in the closing laps and was able to pick up the win and is now tied with Roger Long with 66 career FALS feature wins. “It’s amazing how things changed those last laps,” said Weaver. “McKay bobbled and I was able to take advantage of it.” Wenger, Heckenast Jr., Bull, English, Spatola, Flessner, Scott Schmitt, Joe Harlan, and 21st starter Eric Smith completed the top ten.

jul16-mdPlainfield’s Mike McKinney continued his recent dominance in the Modified class. McKinney set fast time at a 14.233, won his heat race, and took the $1,000 to win, 25-lap feature, although he did get a scare. McKinney raced out to a commanding lead at the start of the feature with Brian Lynn, Steven Brooks, Jeff Curl, and Jay Ledford trailing. Caution came out on lap five as Nick Clubb, who was the other heat race winner, cut a tire and hit the backstretch wall. After another caution on lap six, McKinney led as Ledford moved into third. McKinney held a straightaway lead by the 10th lap while the battle for second found Curl moving into second, followed by Ledford, Lynn, and Brooks. Curl drove a smooth, methodical pace as he pulled away from his competitors and began to close the margin on McKinney for the final ten laps. Curl was able to get under McKinney several times in the closing laps but McKinney had too much in the end and won his third straight feature by a car length. An exhausted McKinney commented following the race. “It wasn’t as dominate as before, but it looks like Curl is back. That is good to see. Our car is bad fast. It’s been an unbelievable year.” Track points leader Ledford was third, followed by Brooks, Lynn, Tommy Duncan, Lukes Gash, 14th starter Lance Dehm, Michael Thayer, and Bobby Stremme.

Harlan, McKinney, Rich, Funk, Duncan, Thomas Triumph

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.

jul09-lmHarlan 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.

jul09-mdMike 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.

jul09-spIn 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.

jul09-ssDwight’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.

Craven Takes Checkers in Sportsman Topless Race

by Rocky Ragusa

Five classes of racing action took place at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night with the Sportsman class featured in a 20-lap, $500 to win Topless Special sponsored by CR Towing and Recovery of Joliet. Richard Craven took the win, while Kevin Weaver, Mike McKinney, Andrew Funk, and Mason Duncan also visited victory lane.

jul02-SPThe Sportsman class took to the speedway as the cars ran without tops and spoilers were optional. Points leader Richie Rich set fast time at a 14.379. Lake Nichoalds and Richard Craven were the heat race victors. As Craven led the first lap, a caution fell on the field. The restart had Craven running the bottom, Nichoalds on the topside, followed by Steve Mattingly, Rich, and Brian Albus. Nichoalds pressured Craven repeatedly for the lead as Mattingly trailed closely. After two cautions, Nichoalds pulled alongside of Craven with nine laps to go but Nichoalds was caught in the Fairbury cushion, giving Craven some breathing room. Mattingly was able to move into second with seven laps remaining. After two cautions, Nichoalds snuck by Mattingly to retake second. Nichoalds looked to take the lead from Craven after a caution on lap 15 but Craven stood his ground. Suddenly with two laps left Nichoalds had a left rear tire go flat to end his bid. Craven was able to score his third win of the year and 30th career feature win at Fairbury. “The car felt awesome all night,” commented Craven. Mattingly, Rod Rusher (started 14th), Rich, Troy Medley, Bryant Frechette, Amber Crouch, Nichoalds, Brandon Pralle, and Eric Saltzman rounded out the top ten.

jul02-LMIn the Late Model division, Kevin Weaver was the night’s fast qualifier with a 12.587. Weaver and Mike Spatola won heat races. Spatola held a small advantage over Weaver with McKay Wenger, Scott Bull, and Joe Harlan following. After a caution on lap nine, Spatola and Weaver continued their duel. Weaver, running the bottom, was able to lead on the 11th lap but Spatola came back to lead the following circuit. Bull, driving a smooth and consistent race, closed up on the two front runners. Bull overtook Spatola for second on lap 16 but Weaver was able to use slower traffic to distance himself from the competition. On the white flag lap, Spatola slammed the front stretch wall to end his night. With one lap to go, Weaver stuck his car to the bottom and turned back Bull for the win. “The car was good on the bottom and I felt it was the faster way around,” said Weaver. Don Hammer, Harlan, Boom Briggs, Jay Sparks (started 15th), Jay Morris, Steve Thorsten, Kolby Vandenbergh, and Glen Thompson completed the top ten.

jul02-MDJay Ledford was the fast qualifier at a 13.855 for the 20-lap Modified race. Ledford, Lance Dehm, and Jacob Poel were heat race winners. Ledford led the field at the start with Poel, Jeffrey Ledford, Dehm, and Nick Lueth following. Two cautions came out on the second lap. With the track cleared, Ledford was hounded by Poel for the lead, with Jeffrey Ledford, Dehm, Lueth, and Mike McKinney fighting for third position. As Poel looked to take the lead a caution came out on the fourth lap. Jeffrey Ledford, running the top groove of the track, was able to run down the leader and take second on lap 10. After a caution on the 12th lap, Jeffrey Ledford overtook his dad Jay for the lead. The Fairbury cushion bit Jeffrey in turn two causing an accident and ended the young Ledford’s bid for a feature win. The restart had Jay Ledford leading McKinney, Lueth, Collin Thirlby, and Poel. McKinney tried a slide job on Ledford in turn three and exiting turn four and was able to take the lead with five laps to go. Ledford made several attempts to retake the lead but McKinney was too strong on this night. “The top was awesome for us tonight,” an excited McKinney spoke. "This is a testament to what my dad and I are doing. We are a low budget team competing with these guys and having a lot of fun.” Ledford settled for second followed by Lueth, Thirlby, Poel, Travis Kohler, Matt Maier, Nick Clubb, Dustin Mounce (started 16th), and Chris Gaither.

jul02-SSAl Gray was the fastest qualifier among the 18 Street Stock drivers on hand for their 15-lap race with a time of 15.656 seconds. Gray and A.J. Meiferdt won heat races. Gray led the first lap in the feature before surrendering the lead to Meiferdt, with Rick Thomas, Peter Odell, and Andrew Funk in a tight battle for third. Two cautions fell on lap four, including one for Gray. On the restart, Meiferdt led Funk, but Thomas dropped out with mechanical issues. Funk ran side by side with Meiferdt for the lead before taking over on lap eight. Funk was able to extend his lead to ten car lengths as the checkered flag waved giving him his fourth win of the season. “It was easy on the bottom and I knew I had to run hard,” spoke Funk. “The track was tacky and the car stuck.” Meiferdt, Eric Gaus, Curtis Radke, Darrell Dick (started 14th), Josh Hetherington, Valerie Hurt, Gray, Don Hilleary, and Ryan Anderson completed the top ten.

jul02-HMMason Duncan and Tim Mullins won heat races for the 12-lap Hobby Mod race. Duncan led at the start with Tim McGuire and Mike Petersen in a spirited duel for second followed by Mullins and Macy Vaughan. Duncan had a comfortable lead on the field before Petersen overtook McGuire for second and narrowed Duncan’s lead. Petersen was able to take the lead on the 10th circuit but Petersen and Duncan got together and Petersen’s bid for the win came to an end. McGuire moved into the lead as four cars remained on the lead lap. McGuire led the field and Duncan wasted little time to take second. As the leaders rounded turn four on the final lap Duncan was able to edge ahead of McGuire in an exciting finish. “That was an interesting race,” Duncan said. “I want to apologize to Tim for getting into him.” Completing the top ten were Mullins, Vaughan, Brendan Patterson, Gregg Pierce, Makinzi Semmens, Petersen, Brandon Post, and Jason Brandt.

Sheppard Earns Hard Fought Summer Nationals Win; Kinder Claims Modified Nationals Victory

by Darlene Miller | Photos by Rocky Ragusa

It was a perfect night for racing as the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model tour came blazing into the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday. The capacity crowd was not let down as Brandon Sheppard outlasted Billy Moyer in a fight to the finish to win the featured event. Chad Kinder and Andrew Funk were also feature winners on the night.

LM-jun25The “Moweaqua Missile” Shannon Babb set the fastest qualifying time while being the first qualifying Late Model of the night with a blistering time of 12.651 seconds. Fan favorites Sheppard, of New Berlin, and Billy Moyer from Batesville, Ark., brought the crowd to its feet as they took the green flag for the 50-lap, $10,000 top prize main event. The pair were even for the first two laps with Sheppard edging Moyer at the third lap. Moyer grabbed the lead and, with seven laps in, the lead group began facing lap traffic. With 11 laps in the book, Moyer and Sheppard were joined by hard chargers Babb and Jimmy Mars. Babb got around Sheppard with 17 laps gone and Mars, running low, got around the high-flying Sheppard. A yellow flag flew with 30 laps to go as the top four were Moyer, Babb, Mars, and Sheppard. Two laps later, Summer Nationals current points leader Bobby Pierce pulled to the infield to change a tire and rejoined the field at the back. Sheppard made another challenge to the top spot as he and Moyer were even one lap past the halfway point, but Moyer held him off and regained the advantage. Moyer then began to face a strong challenge from Babb, who eventually took the lead. A caution flag flew with 14 circuits to go for debris and Babb pulled off into the infield in turn two, seeing his night come to an end and a 20th place finish. Sheppard wrestled back the top spot with nine to go and won by three car lengths over Moyer for his 11th career Summer Nationals win. “It was tough competition tonight,” said an excited Sheppard. “I knew I had to go when I got to the top spot. I had to get up on the wheel and hit my marks. This is the best win yet.” Moyer took second followed by Mars, Michael Kloos, and El Paso’s Joe Harlan in the top five. Ryan Unzicker (who started 20th) led the second five to the line with Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver, Pierce, Manhattan’s Mike Spatola, and Pontiac’s Derek Chandler chasing. Heat winners were Babb, Sheppard, Bob Gardner, and Moyer. Chandler won the semi feature.

MD-jun25The DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals 25-lap, $1,500 to win race began the night of features. Front row starters Kinder and Mike Harrison soon moved away from the group and began to set a fast pace. The pair swapped the lead multiple times early but with 14 laps to go, Brent Mullins got around Harrison for the second spot. However, Mullins soon ran into trouble as spring problems made his car hard to handle and he dropped back in the field. NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier soon found himself sitting in the second spot and began to challenge Kinder. A couple of caution flags flew as Mullins was off the pace and pulled off with eight to go. Kinder and Allgaier battled for the top spot and Kinder held off Allgaier by a clip for his second Summit Nationals win in a row at FALS. The Newton native, Kinder said, “I knew it was going to be a tough night and tough out there. Sometimes you gotta be lucky and we will take it.” Harrison was third followed by Pontiac’s Jeffrey Ledford and Jacob Poel. Tyler Nicely was sixth with Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm, Pontiac’s Jay Ledford, Nick Hoffman, and Ray Walsh in tow. Heat winners were Kinder, Jeffrey Ledford, Mullins, and Harrison. The semi feature went to Mike McKinney. Kinder had fast qualifying time with a 13.757 second trip.


Dwight’s Funk brought home the Street Stock 15-lap feature. Funk quickly took the lead from polesitter Steve Mattingly. Dwight’s Rick Thomas moved to second and began to challenge Funk. A trio of caution flags flew as several drivers had problems on the track. Once the green flag flew, Funk established himself as the driver to beat and won by five car lengths over Thomas. “I was working hard and have decided to go all out this year,” Funk said. “It was a great win.” Peter Odell was third followed by Kyle Miner and 17th starter Kaleb Wood. The second five were Al Gray, Don Hilleary, Mattingly, Kyle Anderson, and Terry Miller. Funk, Mattingly, and A.J. Meiferdt were heat winners and Dennis Wernle was the semi feature winner. Mattingly had fast time at 16.062 seconds.