Sheppard scores ALMS win, Harrison picks up Modified Nationals Victory

by Rocky Ragusa

Six feature races were held Saturday night at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway, highlighted by the American Late Model Series and the Summit Modified Nationals races.

Brandon Sheppard overtook Bobby Pierce on lap 17 and pulled away for the $2,000 to win American Late Model Series win. “The car was real good tonight. My grandpa made some changes and they seemed to help. I could race anywhere on the track, “said Sheppard. Pierce, Ryan Unzicker, Scott Bull, Scott Schmitt, Daren Friedman, Jay Sparks, Dan Flessner, Kevin Weaver, and Jay Morris took the top ten positions. In group qualifying, Friedman (12.621) and Bull (12.677) led each group. Pierce and Bull took heat wins.

In the $1,500 to win Summit Modified Nationals race originally scheduled for June 21, series champion Mike Harrison dominated the 30 lap race and took his seventh win on the tour. Completing the top ten were: Jeff Leka, Lance Dehm, Jay Ledford, Levi Kissinger, Mike McKinney, Dave Porth, Cory Schwengel, Jeb Friedman, and Jared Cagley. “Fairbury has a tough group of drivers. It’s always hard to get a win here," spoke Harrison.

Lance Dehm used slower traffic to his advantage in the regular Modified race. Dehm was behind race leader Mike Harrison when they came upon traffic with four laps to go in the 20 lap feature. Harrison, with nowhere to go, slowed and Dehm found a hole to squeeze by for the lead. Dehm pulled away and scored his fourth win of the year. A jubilant Dehm commented in victory lane, “I had to get up on the wheel. The horseshoe fits now and I’m ready to leave it there. I know lapped traffic played into it. I thought that was the only opportunity and you know what, win or wear it. I haven’t been this excited in a long time. It was a heck of a run.” Harrison, Jeb Friedman, Jeff Curl, Steven Brooks, Jay Ledford, Levi Kissinger, Jeff Leka, Mike McKinney, and Jared Cagley completed the top ten. Friedman took fast time honors at a 13.818. Friedman, Ledford, and Dehm won heat races.

The Street Stock class held two features including their June 21 make up race. In the regularly scheduled race, following a caution on the 13th lap, Matt Maier raced side by side for the lead with Rick Thomas. Maier was able to pull to a slight advantage and nip Thomas at the line for his second win of the year. “Those late race cautions killed me. I had harder tires on than Rick. He could run the bottom better,” said Maier. Jason Maier, Brandon Kessinger, Calvin Coleman, Andrew Funk, Terry Miller, Darrell Dick, Nick Clubb, and Eric Gaus completed the top ten. Coleman was the race’s fast qualifier at a 15.409. Jason Maier and Kessinger took heat race wins.

After a crash eliminated point contenders Jeffrey Ledford and Richard Craven and caused damage to Richie Rich’s car, Dustin Mounce running on the ragged edge took his first feature win of the season. A somber Mounce spoke following the win. “It’s awesome to get the win; unfortunately I do need to apologize. I did get loose coming off of the corner. It’s the last thing I wanted to do is tear anyone up. I apologize to all the drivers and fans. The high side was very hard to run tonight. I’m happy to get the win but it’s not the way I wanted to get it.” The remainder of the top ten were: Paul Graf, Rod Rusher, Scott Hatzer, Tyler Roth, Matt Mills, Anthony Craven, Eric Legner, Bryant Frechette, and Richie Rich. Ledford was the night’s fast qualifier at a 14.287 and was a heat race winner along with Mounce.

In the Street Stock make up race, Don Hilleary lived up to his nickname, “the Highside Hillbilly”. Starting in the fourth position, Hilleary moved by Lukes Gash on the second lap and used the top side to his advantage. Hilleary pulled away from the field to pick up his first win of the year. “We have been struggling this year after having a dominating season last year. We finally got it back to where it’s right,” spoke Hilleary. Thomas, Clubb, Funk, A.J. Meiferdt, Matt Maier, Jason Maier, Kessinger, Gaus, and Nathan Lyday rounded out the top ten.

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.