by Rocky Ragusa
(5/18/13) It was another typical Saturday night of racing action at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. A large crowd witnessed plenty of door handle to door handle, three and four wide racing.
The featured event of the night was a 30-lap, $2,000 to win, UMP vs. ALMS series race. 41 drivers from seven states vied for a starting position in the main event. Two time track champion Eric Smith set quick time at a 12.740. Shannon Babb, Kevin Weaver, Smith, and Brian Shirley took heat race wins, while Scott Schmitt and Torin Mettille advanced to the feature by winning the semi features.
Babb and Weaver took the green flag from starter Jim Whittington and fourth starting Shirley took a brief lead, before Weaver took over on lap two. After cautions on lap two and three Babb used the top groove to take second from Shirley, as Weaver opened up a five car length lead. On lap seven, Shirley went to the top of the track to get by Babb and closed up to Weaver, with Babb on Shirley’s bumper. The following lap, Shirley tried to take the top spot, but Weaver held on. 19th starter, Brandon Sheppard, quickly moved into the top five and battled with Scott Bull for the fourth position. As the top three drivers were able to run three wide for first place, Bull and Sheppard closed the margin on the front threesome. Weaver stuck to the bottom of the track, while Babb, who moved into second, and Shirley, tried the top and middle to take the lead. Shirley came back to take second back, but in the closing laps, jumped the cushion, allowing Babb to take second back. Weaver and Babb ran side by side for several laps, before Weaver was able to hold on at the checkered for his first win of the 2013 season. Babb took second, over defending track champion Scott Bull, Donny Walden, Shirley, Steve Sheppard Jr., Ryan Unzicker, Smith, Daren Friedman, and Brandon Sheppard. Brandon Sheppard was the race’s hard charger.
A surprising Chris Gaither took his first ever quick time at a 14.530 over 30 other UMP Modified drivers. Jeff Leka, Jamie Lomax, Justin Delong, and Jeff Curl won heat races, with Phil Line taking the semi feature. Pole sitter Curl jumped out to a 10 car length lead over Leka, Delong, and Lomax. Dave Porth, who started 12th, quickly moved into 7th, and joined Joel Funk and Travis Kohler in a race for fifth. Bad luck struck Porth on lap eight, as he brought out a caution for spinning out in turn four. With the track cleared, Curl, again opened up a 10 car length lead, while Delong used the double file restart to his advantage and took second from Leka. At the halfway mark, Curl held a straight away lead over Delong and Leka. 16th starter, Tommy Duncan, was running in fifth, and racing with Funk for track position. Duncan, looked to be the fastest car on the track in the closing laps, soon got by Funk and Leka. Duncan, with eight laps to go, got by Delong for second, with Leka following. With five laps left, Curl had a straight away lead and could have been on a Sunday drive. Leka tried several times to reclaim second, but Duncan was able to hold on. When the checkered flag fell in the 20-lap race, Curl picked up his second straight win. Duncan, Leka, Lomax, Delong, Line, Cody Bauman, Lance Dehm, Funk, and Steven Brooks completed the top ten. Duncan won the race’s hard charger award.
Tim Bohm and Paul Graf won their respective heat races for the 15-lap, UMP Sportsman race. 19 cars started the race. Bohm took the early lead, with Graf, Richie Rich, and Jimmy Dehm trailing. Graf, Rich, and Dehm tried different lines in a seesaw battle for second, which enabled Bohm to put some breathing room between the field and himself. Dehm got by Graf and closed