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.
Fans 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.
Fairbury’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.
In 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.
Dwight’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.