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.

Lanigan, Zeigler Play Starring Roles In Heat Action on Opening Night of Prairie Dirt Classic

by Kevin Kovac

Two of the country’s hottest Dirt Late Model drivers – one an accomplished veteran superstar, the other a young up-and-comer who burst onto the national scene in the last week – played starring roles in the heat-race action that opened the 25th annual Prairie Dirt Classic weekend Friday night at Fairbury American Legion Speedway.

Three-time World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., authored the most dominating performance while 21-year-old Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., pulled off the most stunning victory during the evening’s six 15-lap heat races that set the bulk of the field for Saturday night’s 100-lap, $25,000-to-win WoO LMS finale. Also capturing heat victories in front of a big crowd at the quarter-mile oval were defending PDC champion Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., and Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill. All six heat winners will redraw on Saturday night for starting positions in the first three rows of the Prairie Dirt Classic.

Coming off his WoO LMS-leading 10th victory of 2014 on Thursday night at Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway, Lanigan, 42, ran away with Friday’s sixth heat race. He burst from the third starting spot to the lead in short order and cruised to a final victory margin of 2.894 seconds – a full straightaway – over Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill. Lanigan’s run came one year after he struggled mightily at Fairbury. He failed to qualify through a heat race last year and was lapped twice during the feature, absorbing one of his worst outings of the 2013 season. “I was kind of dreading coming here after last year,” said Lanigan, who holds a commanding lead in the WoO LMS points standings. “But our (self-designed Club 29) car has been so good this year, I didn’t feel so bad about it. When you’ve got a car that’s as unbelievable as ours has been, you don’t mind going anywhere.”

Zeigler, meanwhile, proved his breakout showing last week on the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals – back-to-back wins at Brushcreek Motorsports Complex in Peebles, Ohio, and Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park – was no fluke with an electric run to the checkered flag in Friday night’s fifth heat. Making his first-ever start at Fairbury, the young Keystone State racer charged forward from the sixth starting spot to pass Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., for the lead on lap 13 and then held off the Dirt Late Model superstar’s final-circuit challenge. “It felt pretty good to do that,” Zeigler said of the slider he pulled to surge by Owens. “I hope I did it clean. I had my (crew) man Darrell on the back straightaway giving me signals telling me to go for the slide job. I knew when Darrell gave me the signal, it was time to go.” Zeigler was almost at a loss for words after his latest success at an unfamiliar track. “I stated sixth in the heat race and we were able to pass (Rick) Eckert, (Tim) McCreadie, Brady Smith, Jimmy Owens,” said Zeigler, who drove a family-owned Longhorn Chassis car. “I was just ecstatic as we were rolling through there. I didn’t even think what was happening, was happening. I was just sort of like, ‘Holy crap!’ I was just so excited.”

A banner field of 60 cars was signed in for Friday’s action. Babb was the overall fastest qualifier in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials, turning a lap of 12.388 second in Group 1 of the split session.

Lap by Lap Race Updates

Friedman Bull’s Way to Front

by Rocky Ragusa

Driving a Longhorn Chassis, Daren Friedman overtook Joe Harlan with two laps remaining to win the 30 lap, UMP Late Model feature Saturday night at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Infrequent visitor, Shawn Toczek led the field to the green flag, leading the first lap. Derek Chandler made it three wide on the back stretch to take command on the second lap. Toczek, along with Daren Friedman stayed in contention for the lead, as Chandler moved his line to the top groove of the track and set a blistering pace. On the 11th lap, Joe Harlan worked his way by Toczek to take second, with Kevin Weaver and Friedman in pursuit. Chandler encountered slower traffic, allowing Harlan to close the margin. Harlan moved to the front on lap 14 and a caution flag came out one lap later. On the restart, Harlan led as Chandler began to lose positions on the track. Weaver, Friedman, and Mike Spatola moved ahead to challenge Harlan for the lead. Friedman moved his car to the top and took over the second position, setting his sights on Harlan. A caution fell with five laps to go. On the restart Harlan led Friedman, Weaver, Spatola, and Dan Flessner. As Friedman exited turn four with two laps to go, his momentum allowed him to take the lead and the win. “Thanks to the guys at Longhorn, they have been helpful. We have figured some things on our own. Hopefully, this will be a rolling factor into next week. Thanks to Joe for racing me clean. This was for Mark Schahrer. It has been a year today. I think he was watching over us,” commented Friedman. Completing the top ten were Harlan, Weaver, Spatola, Toczek, Flessner, Chandler, Eric Vaughan, Jay Morris, and Don Hilleary. Toczek took fast time honors at a 12.700 and won the first heat race. Chandler and Friedman also won heat races. Spatola was the race's hard charger.

In the 20 lap UMP Modified feature, Jeff Curl and Jay Ledford paced the field, with Curl leading the first lap. Ledford came back on the next lap, to emerge as the new race leader, with Steven Brooks, Jimmy Dehm, Mike McKinney, and Lance Dehm in a tight pack. Ledford, running the top, and Curl sticking his guns on the bottom, set a rapid pace in the race. Brooks, trailing by five car lengths, had to contend with Jimmy Dehm and Lance Dehm, as McKinney faded from the top five. Curl showed the nose of his machine to Ledford several times, but Ledford was able to turn back the challenge. On the 10th lap, Curl pulled ahead of Ledford to take the lead and pull to a ten car length lead. Dan Rork and Cory Schwengel tangled on the 14th lap to bring out a caution flag. On the restart, Curl led Ledford, Brooks, and Lance Dehm. As Curl pulled away from his competitors, Dehm overtook Brooks and Ledford for second place. Dehm made a dauntless effort to track down Curl, but Curl held on for his first FALS win of the year. “It’s good to be back home, after traveling up and down the highways. We have learned a lot about this race car. We had carburetor problems and Roger Friedman got us going. We had a good effort in the Summit Modified Nationals and are leading the American Modified points, but there is nothing better than winning at home,” spoke Curl. Rounding out the top ten were Lance Dehm, Brooks, Ledford, Jimmy Dehm, McKinney, Jeb Friedman, Cullen Breeden, Dave Porth, and Chris Gaither. Kevin Hastings finished 11th and was the hard charger winner. Brooks was the fast qualifier at a 13.764. Jimmy Dehm, Curl, and Ledford took heat wins, while Jamie Kuntz was the semi feature victor.

Eric Gaus took the lead in the 15 lap UMP Street Stock contest. Outside front row starter Jason Maier came back to claim the lead on lap three and wasted no time in building a ten car length lead. With Maier comfortably in the lead, Gaus had to contend with Brandon Kessinger, Terry Miller, Darrell Dick, and A.J. Meiferdt. Caution fell on the ninth lap, as Nick Clubb stopped on the track with a flat tire. On the restart, Kessinger looked to take the lead, but Maier was able to hang on. With the top two locked in a race for first, Miller and Meiferdt soon joined in the shootout. In the waning laps, Maier put some distance between himself and the competitors and picked up his second FALS win of the year. “It’s been a good week with two firsts and a second place. Thanks to all my sponsors. The track was great,” said a jubilant Maier. Kessinger, Miller, Meiferdt, Dick, Darrin Kohler, Matt Maier, Gaus, Justin Nelson, and Rick Thomas completed the top ten. Meiferdt won the hard charger of the race. Gaus was the night’s fast qualifier at a 15.436. Gaus and Maier took heat wins.

The UMP Sportsman division ran two feature races, with the second race from the June 21 rain out. Jeffrey Ledford held a slight lead over Richie Rich in the first 15 lap race. Cautions set the tone for both Sportsman races as five fell in the first race, keeping drivers from establishing any type of rhythm. After the last caution on lap nine, Rich opened up his lead as Ledford had to contend with Dustin Mounce. Rich went the rest of the way to pick up his second win of the season. “Roger Friedman has helped me a lot this year. We have finally got the car figured out,” said Rich. Following Rich to the line were Ledford, Mounce, Richard Craven, Matt Mills, Scott Hatzer, Tyler Roth, Rod Rusher, Anthony Craven, and Eric Legner. Rusher won the hard charger award. Ledford set the pace in time trials at a 14.445. Ledford and Rich won heat races.

In the second race, three cautions fell on the second lap. Jeffrey Ledford dropped out with mechanical problems, while a six car pileup on the front stretch eliminated several contenders. After the cleanup, five cars remained on the track. Richard Craven led Richie Rich, Anthony Craven, Jim Bailey, and Eric Legner. Craven held a ten car length led as Rich’s car wasn’t hitting on all cylinders. Anthony Craven was able to take over second, but with eight laps to go Craven got loose and fell back to fourth. Rich moved back to second place and had to contend with Bailey. With two laps to go, Bailey took over second, but Craven had checked out on the contenders and won his third race of the year. “After the first race, I didn’t think I would ever win another race. My crew went to work, changed a few things, and it was on a rail,” said Craven. Bailey, Rich, Anthony Craven, Legner, Tyler Roth, Matt Mills, Amber Crouch, Paul Graf, and Dustin Mounce completed the top ten.