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Pierce, Madden, Gustin, Thornton Score Prairie Dirt Showdown Wins

Bobby Pierce

Bobby Pierce

Chris Madden

Chris Madden

Ryan Gustin

Ryan Gustin

Ricky Thornton Jr.

Ricky Thornton Jr.

Ethan Dotson

Ethan Dotson

Trent Young

Trent Young

Mike Harrison

Mike Harrison

Michael Ledford

Michael Ledford

Dotson, Young, Harrison, Ledford Take Modified Wins During Opening Night of Prairie Dirt Classic

Results | Story by Mike Warren | Pictures by Rocky Ragusa, Brian Walker, Allyson Bane

Four drivers took a step toward Fairbury Speedway’s history books Friday night. Bobby Pierce, Chris Madden, Ryan Gustin, and Ricky Thornton Jr. earned $5,000 World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Prairie Dirt Showdown wins, and locked themselves into the first two rows of Saturday’s Prairie Dirt Classic. Twelve other drivers also punched their tickets into the 100-lap finale, while more than 40 others will try and earn the final spots in Saturday’s Feature through Last Chance Showdown’s and the Prairie Dirt Shootout.

Showdown 1

pierce lmSeries points leader Bobby Pierce’s momentum continued Friday at Fairbury, needing only four corners to take the lead in the first Prairie Dirt Showdown. The Oakwood, IL driver, who started third, snuck past both Simpson Performance Products Quick Time Award winner Brandon Overton and defending Series champion Dennis Erb Jr. to lead Lap 1. From there, the “Smooth Operator” went untouched to earn the $5,000 prize. Pierce, who’s never won the 100-lap finale, said he’s relieved he’s starting up front, knowing the difficulty of winning the Prairie Dirt Classic. “We always struggle starting up front in the PDC,” Pierce said. “Every year, it’s either driver error or something goes wrong. It feels awesome to start up front. We don’t have to scratch and claw our way through the field like we normally do. “It feels awesome. We got a lot of momentum. Fairbury’s treated me very well lately, so hopefully, we can get the job done tomorrow.” Erb finished second and joins Pierce in the redraw. Mike Harrison finished third, and Josh Rice grabbed the final transfer spot.

Showdown 2

madden lmLike Pierce, Chris Madden led every lap of his Prairie Dirt Showdown. However, the Gray Court, SC driver, had to ace several restarts during the 25-lap event. “Smokey” pulled away from the field each time, turning away potential challenges from Brian Shirley and Tanner English to earn his first Showdown victory. Madden said he’s thrilled to be in the top two rows for Saturday’s Feature and looks forward to the long-distance race with $50,000 on the line. “I think we’re pretty balanced,” Madden said. “It would take us four or five circuits to get going, so those restarts kind of hurt me there. We would build a lead and then have a caution. I think we got a pretty good hot rod right here, so maybe we can get it done in a hundred circuits tomorrow.” Shirley crossed the second, while four-time Series champion Brandon Sheppard finished third after starting ninth. English finished fourth, earning the Showdown’s final transfer spot.

Showdown 3

gustin lmMyles Moos seemed destined to score his first Prairie Dirt Showdown victory. But a caution on the final lap for Garret Alberson changed everything. Bad luck hit the Lincoln, IL driver on the green-white-checkered restart as his right rear wheel fell off the car, ending his chances at the $5,000 prize. That handed the lead to McKay Wenger, from Fairbury, IL, who battled with Moweaqua, IL driver Shannon Babb when the race resumed. But, like Moos, things turned sour for Wenger. Matt Mickelson spun in front of the flag stand as the two Prairie State drivers battled for the lead. That’s when Wenger realized he had a right rear flat tire, relinquishing the lead to Babb and moving Ryan Gustin into second. The two drivers thundered into Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap, with the “Reaper” nosing ahead down the backstretch as Babb lost momentum. That was all Gustin needed as he earned his second Prairie Dirt Showdown victory. “I knew we were pretty there good early,” Gustin said. “We were running the bottom and the top; it didn’t really matter. I hate that for Myles and McKay, but that’s how it goes. “This one is here for my guys. They’ve been working their ass off, and they have this thing pretty good. Hopefully, we can be here again Saturday.” Wil Herrington snuck by Babb to finish second, relegating the Illinois driver to third. Cade Dillard rounded out the top four.

Showdown 4

thornton lmA last lap slide-job earned Ricky Thornton Jr. his first taste of Fairbury Speedway glory in Friday’s final Prairie Dirt Showdown. Hudson O’Neal pulled away from the field until he jumped the cushion in Turn 3, allowing Thornton to close in the final 10 laps. The two Martinsville, IN drivers, fought wheel to wheel on the final lap as Thornton slid in front of O’Neal’s Rocket Chassis in Turn 2 to take the lead. O’Neal made one last gasp in Turn 4, sliding in front of Thornton. But Thornton’s momentum on the crossover carried him down the front stretch, reaching the checkered flag first. It’s Thornton’s first Prairie Dirt Showdown win, as he puts himself in position for another potential $50,000 victory. “With about 10 to go, I watched [O’Neal] about flip in Turn 3,” Thornton said. “I figured if I slowed down and saved my left rear for the end, I could try to make a run at him. Really, I didn’t think I was going to get to him, but he really struggled to get by that one lap car. “Everything just worked out for us. It was elbows up, but it was pretty fun. I feel like I always suck here early in the night, and tonight we kind of turned it around. It was a really good night for us.” O’Neal settled for second, while Chris Ferguson and Mike Mataragas grabbed the final two transfer spots.

Dotson, Young, Harrison, Ledford Take Modified Showdown Wins During Opening Night of Prairie Dirt Classic

Results | Story by Nick Graziano

The DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals opened the 33rd Prairie Dirt Classic with four edge-of-your seat Showdown Features. Sixty-three of the best Modified drivers gathered at Fairbury Speedway Friday night to set the stage for the Series’ 2023 season finale on Saturday. Mike Harrison took the early advantage in the night, scoring overall Quick Time. He and the rest of the field were then split into four 20-lap, $500-to-win, Showdown Features. The top four from each transferred to Saturday’s 40-lap, $5,000-to-win, Feature, and the top two go to the redraw. In Saturday’s redraw will be Ethan Dotson, Trent Young, Mike Harrison, Michael Ledford, Mason Duncan, Nick Allen, Charlie Mefford and Drake Troutman.

Showdown 1

dotson mdEthan Dotson, of Bakersfield, CA, took advantage of his pole position, launching ahead of the 16-car field. Behind him, Michael Long and Frank Marshall warred for second. Long stole second on the first lap, but Marshall stayed tight to his bumper and reclaimed second on Lap 3. The first yellow flag of the night flew on Lap 5 for Dalton Lane slowing on track. When the race resumed, Dotson rocketed ahead of the field once again while Long had an issue and fell. Mason Duncan, who initially started 10th, had maneuvered his way to fourth on Lap 2 and then snuck into second after Long faded. Marshall held third, but after suffering his own issue, Kissinger found his way into the podium spot. However, on a restart with eight laps to go, Kissinger bobbled through the first corner and allowed Josh Harris to slide into third. Four laps later, McKenzie threw his car under Harris and officially took third with three laps to go. Dotson sailed to the victory, leading all 20 laps with Duncan second, McKenzie third and Harris fourth. “I felt really good,” Dotson said. “I hadn’t been in a [Modified] in a while. I was super excited to race it and get to work with Cameron this weekend… Hopefully we can get it done tomorrow.”

Showdown 2

young mdWhen Showdown #2 commenced, Trent Young, of Crofton, KY, took the early lead from pole position as chaos ensued behind him. Austin Friedman and Brian Shaw dueled side-by-side in the opening lap before Friedman got the advantage. After Shaw lost second, he fell again the next lap with Nick Allen passing him for third. The first caution of the race fell on Lap 7 for a car slowing on track. When the race resumed, Young and Friedman distanced themselves from the field, leaving Allen to try and fend off a hard charging Tyler Nicely – crowned the 2023 DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals Friday afternoon. Nicely took third on Lap 8 and then passed Friedman for second on Lap 9. Young was next. Each lap, Nicely inched closer and closer to Young’s rear bumper. With eight laps to go, Nicely dove under Young into Turn 1. However, Young had the better run around the outside and powered ahead of Nicely down the backstretch. They repeated their dance for another lap before the third caution of the race. This one for Nicely, who spun in Turn 1. With the 2023 champion no longer breathing down his, Young cruised to the win. Allen finished second, Mike Chasteen finished third and Caden McWhorter in finished fourth. “I really didn’t expect it to chop up tonight,” Young said. “In Qualifying and everything it was smooth. We haven’t seen a track where the Late Models dug it out a lot more than I expected. But Fairbury is awesome no matter what the conditions are. You don’t get to come here very many times a year, so pretty excited to be in Victory Lane.”

Showdown 3

harrison mdSix-time DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champion Mike Harrison, of Highland, IL, entered the night looking to pave a path to his third Prairie Dirt Classic triumph. He started off on the right foot scoring Quick Time and then continued that momentum into a Showdown win. For most of the race, it looked to be an easy win for the veteran, pulling ahead of the field with no competition behind him. But when the caution fell a lap before the checkered flag, everything changed. Charlie Mefford brought fans to the edge of their seat by sneaking around Harrison to steal the lead on the restart with Ryan Unzicker looking to follow in his footsteps. Under pressure, Harrison kept the throttle to the floor and powered around the outside of Mefford to reclaim the lead and steal back the win. Mefford had to settle for second with Unzicker third and Kyle Steffens fourth. “It’s pretty rough down there on the bottom, you know, it’s nobody’s fault, just circumstances from the weather we had last night,” Harrison said. “I was just trying to stay out of that wet stuff but I know on those restarts everyone wants to go gung ho. So, I’m trying to tip toe on the edge of the ruts and just caught one wrong and it sent me sideways and then it was full send mode after that.”

Showdown 4

ledford mdMichael Ledford, 18, of Pontiac, IL, is a step closer to trying to be the youngest Prairie Dirt Classic victor after winning Showdown #4 Friday night. Will Krup started pole for the final Showdown of the night but wasted the opportunity after spinning in front of the field in the first corner. That handed the front row to Ledford and Drake Troutman. When the race resumed, Ledford and Troutman ran wheel-to-wheel, lap after lap. Neither giving an inch. However, Ledford was able to prevail on Lap 4, officially taking the lead. Once out front, he found another gear. Ledford pulled away to a three second victory over Troutman in second and Matt Fabrizius in third. Krup raced his way back through the field to finish fourth and score the final transfer spot. “Fun race with Troutman there in the first few laps,” Ledford said. “There was just so much traction there on the bottom and I was able to get by him. So, glad to get the win.”


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