Curl returning to Fairbury American Legion Speedway as majority owner and promoter of hometown track

Fairbury resident strikes deal to take over operation of quarter-mile oval

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Matt Curl will return to Fairbury American Legion Speedway as the majority owner and promoter of his hometown track after finalizing a deal with Fairbury's American Legion John Joda Post 54 that has long owned and operated the quarter-mile oval, Curl and Legion officials announced jointly on Tuesday.

It's a dream come true for Curl, a 42-year-old native and current resident of Fairbury who grew up attending races at the track, worked as a race-day official in various capacities and served as FALS's race director from the fall of 2012 until the end of the 2017 season. He left Fairbury to become the series director of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series in 2018 but reluctantly will depart that position in the future after having a golden opportunity materialize at the speedway he loves so much.

"The opportunity that the World Racing Group and (president) Tom (Deery) gave me this year with the World of Outlaws was fantastic," Curl said. "I felt like I could be in that job for the rest of my career if it wasn't for the, maybe, one thing that excited me more: purchasing and promoting my hometown track. You're not purchasing a declining facility and business. You're investing in something that has an upswing to it, a track that's one of the best in the country and now has one of the biggest events in Dirt Late Model racing in the Prairie Dirt Classic.

"I couldn't be more thrilled to have this chance to run a racetrack that means the world to me. It was simply an opportunity that I couldn't pass up."

Curl negotiated an agreement with the leaders of the Fairbury American Legion Post to purchase the majority share of the assets of the speedway, which famously sits on 34 acres of land right in the middle of the idyllic Midwestern town of Fairbury. The American Legion will remain a minority shareholder in Curl's new ownership LLC, allowing Curl to keep the American Legion in the track's title and the Legion Post to continue centering scholarship, veteran and member-outreach programs through the speedway.

With Curl’s acquisition of the speedway, the Fairbury Fair Corporation, which has managed the speedway and the fair for the past 81 years for the legion post, will now be able to concentrate solely on the Fairbury Fair, which celebrated its 142nd annual edition in August. The Fairbury Fair will continue to operate with the full support and help of Curl and his staff. "I'd like to truly thank the Fairbury Fairboard for their hard work and dedication in the continued success of the speedway and the fair," Curl said. “They have a lot to be proud of throughout all the years.”

"The Fairbury American Legion Post wanted to get out of the promotional business for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the speedway had become bigger business in recent years and needed more management and time than the Post and its members could provide," Curl said. "I've lived in Fairbury and been around the speedway all my life, so for me to know the speedway, know the sponsors, know the people, know our community, it's a perfect fit for me to come in as an owner and promoter of the track.

"I'm excited about the future, to be able to put all my energy and resources into it. Our vision is to keep weekly racing at the highest level at Fairbury American Legion Speedway and to continue the strength of the Prairie Dirt Classic. And we are also fully committed to hosting the Fairbury Fair — one of the longest-standing fairs in the state of Illinois — by continuing to give it a home."

Curl plans to continue FALS's successful weekly Saturday night racing programs in 2019 with DIRTcar-sanctioned Super Late Models and UMP Modifieds headlining the action. He will release a full schedule and other 2019 details in the near future, but he expects to open the campaign in mid-April. He already has the 30th annual edition of the wildly-popular World of Outlaws-sanctioned Prairie Dirt Classic scheduled for July 26-27, 2019, with the 100-lapper's first-place prize currently sitting at $30,000.

"There won't be many changes because Fairbury already has some of the best racing and some of the best facilities," said Curl, who will speak more about his new venture when he attends the 2018 Fairbury American Legion Speedway awards banquet this Saturday night. "I don't want to change it. I want it to be Fairbury. I want it to be racing in a small town. I want all the things that have been done there in recent years to continue, just with the assurance that local racing and the PDC will be there for the community for a long time to come.

"I think more than anything, we just want to keep Fairbury, Fairbury, and let everyone know that we're gonna work hard to make sure weekly racing continues on at Fairbury for our community. I just feel so blessed to have the opportunity to do it."

Harrison Cruises to Third Consecutive Casey's Modified Nationals Win

Modified Results | Late Model Results

by Rocky Ragusa

When the Fairbury American Legion Speedway puts big money on the line for the Modified division, expect Highland’s Mike Harrison to make the trip. Harrison continued his dominance by winning the sixth annual Casey’s Modified Nationals on Saturday night. Fowler’s Michael Long took the Mullins Race Engines Non-Qualifiers Shootout, and Frankfort’s Frank Heckenast Jr. won the Late Model feature.

sep1-md62 Modified teams representing 10 states took part in qualifying for the American Modified Series sanctioned $10,000 to win special. Kyle Strickler toured the track at 13.795 seconds, while Kenny Wallace clipped a time of 13.747 seconds to lead their respective qualifying groups. Wallace, Mike Harrison, Nick Allen, Strickler, Tait Davenport, and Mike McKinney earned heat race wins. Ryan Unzicker, Rich Dawson, track champion McKay Wenger, and current AMS points leader Trent Young advanced to the 50-lap feature by winning the B-Mains. Outside front row starter Harrison got the jump on Davenport to take the lead at the start, with fourth starter Strickler moving into second. Both drivers pulled away from the field until Wallace and McKinney made contact in turn four on lap eight for a caution. On the restart, calamity broke out as Jeff Curl, Young, Allen Weisser, Unzicker, and Devin Dixon piled up in turn one to bring out the red flag. Unzicker was the only one able to continue in the race. When the field went back to green, Strickler pulled alongside of Harrison several times but Harrison proved to be too strong for his competition. Harrison opened a 10-car length lead and never let up as he worked through the lapped traffic.

sep1-md2At the checkered flag, Harrison picked up his third consecutive Casey’s Modified Nationals win and fourth overall. “You have to qualify these races good to start up front, but I have proved you can start in the back and win,” said Harrison. “I would rather start up front so I can take care of my equipment. Kyle (Strickler) told me he had to drive hard tonight, but he made me drive hard.” Following Harrison and Strickler to the line were a hard charging Unzicker, Derek Losh, Tyler Nicely, Mark Anderson, Wallace, Wenger, 20th starter Lucas Lee, and Jeff Leka. Michael Long withstood a brief challenge from NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Justin Haley leading flag to flag in the Mullins Race Engines Shootout for non-qualifiers, collecting a $500 payday. Haley, Dean Hoffman, Chris Smith, Bob Pohlman Jr., Trey Harris, Bradley Jameson, Jeffrey Ledford, Marty Lindeman, and Logan Rogers completed the top ten.

sep1-lm$3,000 was on the line for the Late Model drivers in their 40-lap race. Mike Spatola was the fast qualifier at a 12.419 for the 23 cars on hand. Frank Heckenast Jr., Tim Manville, and Donny Walden posted heat race wins. Heckenast and Manville raced for the lead at the start before Heckenast took over and opened up a straightaway lead. While Heckenast was opening his lead, Manville had to contend with Walden. Walden was able to pull alongside Manville in the turns, but Manville had the power down the straights. While working the slower cars, Unzicker overtook Walden for third and closed in on Manville. Unzicker’s bid soon ended as he stalled on the track and was forced to drop out with engine problems. On the restart, Manville slowed and caused a seven-car pileup, as Jay Morris was the only car to fall out. Manville had to go to the track’s pit area for repairs and went to the tail of the field. Spatola moved into the second position on the restart. Spatola made several bids for the lead in the closing laps, but Heckenast was able to hold off his cousin for his second career victory at FALS. “I know Mike (Spatola) is real good here but we had a good car too,” Heckenast said. “Fairbury is a difficult track. I love coming here and hopefully I will be here more next year.” Allen Weisser was third, Scott Schmitt fourth, followed by Bob Gardner, a heavily damaged Walden slipped to sixth, Jay Sparks, Jeff Curl, Derek Chandler, and Manville.

Harrison Claims $1O,OOO Victory in the Casey’s Modified Nationals

by AMS

caseys-mod-nationals-logoThe Summit Racing Equipment American Modified Series competed at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night for the 6th Annual Casey’s General Store Modified Nationals. Mike Harrison from Highland, IL would continue his weekend dominance in his Impressive Chassis #24H entry and collect the $10,000 payday.

Tait Davenport from Benton, KY would lead the field to green to begin the 50-lap A-Main event with Mike Harrison alongside. Harrison would waste zero time and claim the top spot as the duo would exit turn two of the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Kyle Strickler would quickly move from his fourth starting position to the runner-up spot as he and Harrison would begin to pull away from the field. The event’s first caution would fly on lap 8 for the 96m machine of Mike McKinney after contact with the outside retaining wall in turn four. The restart would see Harrison and Strickler quickly pull away once again; however, the event’s final caution would fly one lap later for a mutli-car accident involving Allen Weisser, series points leader Trent Young, Devin Dixon, Jeff Curl, and Ryan Unzicker. On the next restart, Strickler would challenge Harrison for the lead; however, Harrison would fend off all challenges from Strickler to maintain the top spot. Harrison would masterfully navigate lap traffic throughout the event and would never truly be challenged by the competition. Harrison would lead all 50 laps en route to his third consecutive Casey’s Modified Nationals victory and collect the huge $10,000 payday. Kyle Strickler would claim the runner-up position and Ryan Unzicker would complete the podium finishers. Derek Losh would settle for fourth position and Tyler Nicely would round out the top five.

The remainder of the top ten at the completion of the Summit Racing Equipment A-Main would be Mark Anderson, Kenny Wallace, McKay Wenger, 20th starter Lucas Lee, and Jeff Leka. Michael Long would claim the $500 victory in the Mullins Race Engines Shootout for non-qualifiers.

Spatola, McKinney, Thomas, Mattingly, Wisher grab checkers as Champions were Crowned

Late Model Results | Modified Results | Street Stock Results | Sportsman Results | Hobby Mod Results

by Rocky Ragusa

Kevin Weaver, McKay Wenger, AJ Meiferdt, and Steve Mattingly were officially recognized as the 2018 Fairbury American Legion Speedway track champions on Saturday night. Feature race wins went to Mike Spatola, Mike McKinney, Rick Thomas, Mattingly, and Cody Wisher.

aug25-lmA field of 19 Late Models took part in the night’s featured division with Kevin Weaver turning a lap of 12.881 for fast time. Scott Schmitt and Mike Spatola were the heat race winners. Schmitt put his car on the top to take the lead at the start with Spatola hot on his heels. On the fourth lap, Schmitt went to the bottom of the track and enabled Spatola to pull alongside of him. Spatola took over the lead and checked out on his competition for his sixth win of the season. Weaver was second, with the remainder of the top ten consisting of Donny Walden, 13th starter Dan Flessner, Jay Morris, Greg Wagner, Curtis Radke, Glen Thompson, Lyle Zanker Jr., and Jeff Curl. “I got a shock when Schmitt gave me the top,” Spatola said. “I thought the track would be top dominate and he moved down. I didn’t want to get next to him because I didn’t know when he would go back to the top, but it worked out in our favor.”

aug25-md37 Modified teams looked to tune up for next Saturday's $10,000 to win special. Allen Weisser earned fast time with a 13.932. Weisser, Josh Allen, Mike McKinney, and Mike Chasteen Jr. won their respective heat races. Two semi-features were held as Matt Mitchell and Alan Stipp took wins and advanced to the 20-lap feature. Going down the frontstretch, McKinney pulled beside race leader Weisser. As the two drivers entered turn one, Weisser did a slide job on McKinney. McKinney came back at Weisser as the two exited turn two for his own slide job. McKinney was able to make it stick for the lead. Weisser never trailed McKinney by more than five car lengths but had to contend with McKay Wenger. McKinney completed his weekend sweep with his seventh Fairbury win and 20th overall. Weisser held on for second over Wenger, with Donovan Lodge, Nick Allen, 12th starter Curt Spalding, Dylan Woodling, Allen, Chasteen Jr., and Dan Rork rounding out the top ten. “I can’t lie that I was pretty nervous before the race, “McKinney said. “I knew Allen would be on the bottom and my choice was to get to the top. I don’t think I lifted for the entire race.”

aug25-ss18 strong Street Stock drivers were on hand for their 15-lap race. Tanner Sullivan clipped a lap of 16.774 for quick time honors. Heat race wins went to Rick Thomas and Justin Van Drunen. Thomas put his car on the bottom of the track for the lead as fifth starter AJ Meiferdt worked his way to Thomas’s bumper with eight laps to go. With the aid of slower cars, Thomas was able to fend off the challenge from Meiferdt taking his second win of the year and close in on the all-time win record held by Kevin Weaver. Rookie wheelman Van Drunen took third, with Sullivan, Michael Clark, Nick Seplak, Megan Erwin, Doug Berbaum, Michael Schomas, and Darrin Kohler completing the top ten.

aug25-sp14 Sportsman drivers made qualifying efforts for their 15-lap race. First year driver Mikey Ledford set the pace with a 14.898. Steve Mattingly and Brandon Pralle won heat races. Mattingly finished the year as he started taking his eighth win of the year. After a caution with four laps to go, Pralle looked to take the top position but Mattingly was able to take a five car length win. Pralle was followed closely by Ron Wilkes, Amber Crouch, Ledford, Dustin Mounce, Jim Farley, Matt Ramer, Richie Rich, and Valerie Hurt. “I have to thank my dad and Terry Worth for their help all year,” spoke Mattingly. “This has been an unbelievable year for our team.”

aug25-hmCody Wisher clocked a 15.770 in Hobby-Modified qualifying as 15 drivers looked to be first in their feature race. Wisher and Darren Kerrins took heat race wins. Modified driver Tommy Duncan decided to reward crew member Cody Wisher for all his hard work throughout the year. Wisher got behind the wheel of Mason Duncan’s proven winning car. Wisher put on a dominating performance leading all 12 laps to take the win. Kankakee I-Mod champion Chris Tippit gave Wisher a brief battle for the lead but settled for second. Brian Ray was third, with hard charging Kerrins taking fourth, followed by Mike Petersen, Macy Vaughan, TJ Bolen, Jason Brandt, Makinzi Semmens, and Cathy Crego. “I had a lot to live up to,” commented Wisher. “Mason has a good car. This is my first ever race in a Modified and the first time I have raced at Fairbury. I have to thank Tommy and Mason for giving me this opportunity.”

Spatola, McKinney, Meiferdt, Mattingly Take Fair Night Wins; Weaver, Wenger, Meiferdt, Mattingly Clinch Track Championships

Late Model Results | Modified Results | Street Stock Results | Sportsman Results

by Rocky Ragusa

With the 142nd annual Fairbury Fair in town, it can only mean that the racing season is coming to a close at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Saturday was the final night for drivers to accumulate points in their respective classes. AJ Meiferdt wrapped up his third title in the Street Stocks, Steve Mattingly took his first championship in the Sportsman division, McKay Wenger won a long overdue Modified title, and Kevin Weaver scored his fifth championship in the Late Models. Feature wins went to Meiferdt, Mattingly, Mike McKinney, and Mike Spatola.

aug18-lmWith 16 Late Models on hand for their 30 lap race, Kevin Weaver led in qualifying at a 12.983. Heat race wins went to Dan Flessner and Jay Morris. Flessner, running the top side, quickly took the lead. Bill Hough, Morris, Jay Sparks, and Jeff Curl kept the fans entertained as the foursome ran every inch of the speedway for the second spot. After the track was cleared for a caution on lap seven, Flessner took a five-car-length lead with Sparks, Morris, Curl, and Mike Spatola following. On the restart after a caution on lap 17, Morris overtook Sparks for second. Morris dove under Flessner as the two entered turn three. The two drivers made contact with Flessner spinning out. Morris went to the rear for causing the caution, after apologizing to Flessner. Flessner led Sparks, Curl, Spatola, and Weaver on the restart. Curl went to the middle and overtook Sparks, as Spatola was racing relentlessly on the top side. Curl and Spatola, racing side by side, kept Flessner within striking distance as the laps began to wind down. Flessner had been running the bottom in turns three and four, but changed it up for several laps as he went to the top in an effort to put some distance between himself and his pursuers. Spatola had the speed down the stretch, but Curl kept pace in the turns. Spatola had been racing the top side the entire race, but changed his line by going to the bottom in turns three and four. Curl stuck with Spatola, and while exiting turn four with eight laps to go had enough room to squeeze by him. Curl closed in on Flessner as both threaded their way on the bottom in turns three and four. On the white flag lap, Curl found enough room to pull alongside Flessner as the two entered turns three and four. While racing side by side, contact was made and Flessner spun out. Curl slowed enough for Spatola to pull ahead and beat Curl by a bumper at the finish. Weaver, Sparks, Donny Walden, Bryan Clendenen, Jay Brendle, 16th starter Curtis Radke, Jimmy Miller, and Ron Donaldson completed the top ten. “There was no way I wasn’t going to do anything but bang that cushion” spoke Spatola. “Our car was terrible tonight. We needed luck and we got it tonight.”

aug18-mdMcKay Wenger tripped the clock at a 14.341 to pace the 19 Modified drivers on hand for their 20 lap race. Scott Heeren and Mike McKinney earned heat race wins. McKinney put his #96 machine on the bottom at the start with Wenger on the top side, followed by Nick Lueth, Jason Hastings, and Heeren in a tight battle for third. After a lap two caution, McKinney had a brief challenge from Wenger before opening up a straightaway lead at the halfway mark. On the restart following a lap 11 caution, McKinney wasted little time and pulled away from the field. Hastings offered a challenge to Wenger as Dan Rork, Lueth, Donovan Lodge, and Jeff Curl had a race for fourth. McKinney took his sixth win of the year as Wenger claimed second. Curl got by Hastings on the final lap for third, with Lodge, Rork, Lueth, 16th starter Justin Gregory, Nick Clubb, and Heeren completing the top ten. Claiming his 18th overall win of the year, McKinney commented in victory lane. “The track was awesome tonight. Chad and his crew did a tremendous job. That was the most fun I have had racing here all year.”

aug18-ssAJ Meiferdt’s time of a 15.841 earned fast time over 11 other Street Stock drivers. Nick Seplak and Rick Thomas took heat race wins. Thomas led Meiferdt, Seplak, Eric Legner, and Pete Odell on the start. Thomas and Meiferdt quickly put some distance on themselves from the field and set the stage for a showdown. Meiferdt, running the outside line, pulled alongside of Thomas before taking the front position on lap seven. Meiferdt could never shake Thomas off his bumper though as Thomas let Meiferdt know he was still within range. On the final lap, Thomas laid the bumper to Meiferdt several times, but Meiferdt was able to hang on for his fourth win. Seplak, Legner, 11th starter Matt Ramer, Odell, Andy Thompson, Kevin Anderson, and Josh Hetherington rounded out the field. “I would have done the same thing to Rick,” said Meiferdt. “That is why we gave each other the thumbs up. We race each other like that. I don’t blame him for trying. I was taking his line away.”

aug18-spAmber Crouch turned back 12 other competitors in qualifying at a 15.596 for the CR Towing and Recovery Sportsman race. Heat race wins went to Steve Mattingly and Brandon Pralle. Earlier in the day, Pralle made the trip to Springfield to qualify for the Sportsman Nationals where he finished third in his heat race. Mattingly took the lead at the start with Pralle, Richard Craven, Tyler Roth, and Crouch in pursuit. On lap seven, Pralle spun in turn three for a caution flag and went to the rear of the field. The restart had Mattingly contending with Craven as Dustin Mounce put his car on the top side in third. Mounce’s night quickly came to an end as his car began to bellow smoke and ended his night on the ninth lap. After the track was cleared, Mattingly and Craven ran the bottom, with Crouch, Pralle, and Matt Ramer racing three wide for third place. Craven stayed glued to Mattingly’s bumper waiting to capitalize on a mistake by Mattingly. Mattingly was able to fend off Craven and took his seventh win of the year. Craven took second, with 12th starter Ramer in third, followed by Crouch, Pralle, Roth, Mikey Ledford, Valerie Hurt, Anthony Craven, and Mounce.

Babb Captures FALS Frenzy Victory; Harrison Rolls to Modified Win

Late Model Results | Modified Results | Sportsman Results

by Rocky Ragusa

With big money on the line, the Fairbury American Legion Speedway drew 72 cars for the fourth annual FALS Frenzy on Saturday night. Shannon Babb (Late Model), Mike Harrison (Modified), and Brandon Pralle (Sportsman) took the feature wins in their respective classes.

aug11-lmThe MARS and ALMS Late Model Series co-sanctioned the $10,000 to win main event. Shannon Babb (12.878) and Tanner English (12.927) led in group qualifying. Babb, English, Frank Heckenast Jr., and Ryan Unzicker were heat race winners, while Bob Gardner and Scott Schmitt won semi-features. In the 50-lap grind, renewing their Summer Nationals battle, Babb took control of the race on lap 26 and held off Brian Shirley for the win. English led the field to the green with Babb, Shirley, Heckenast, and Michael Kloos trailing. Shirley got by Babb for second on the eighth lap and ran side by side with English before taking the top position on lap 16. Shirley, running the bottom, led a tight formation with English, Babb, Kloos, and Heckenast in pursuit. On the restart after the yellow flag waved on the 23rd lap, Babb started on the outside of the double file restart. To his advantage, Babb pulled alongside of Shirley and moved into the lead on the 26th lap. Babb was able to drive a smooth line over the course of the race, as Shirley had to contend with Brandon Sheppard. Sheppard was able to pull alongside of Shirley, but Shirley’s speed down the stretch proved to be too much for Sheppard to overcome. Babb led a tight field to the checkered flag and took his second Fairbury win of the year. “The track was in excellent shape tonight,” Babb said. “I knew Shirley has been good here. On that restart on lap 23, my car came to life. I had been on the bottom, but starting on the outside played into my favor.” Shirley settled for the runner-up spot, followed by Sheppard, Heckenast Jr., English, Allen Weisser, Gordy Gundaker, Tim Manville, Kloos, and Kevin Weaver.

aug11-mdSteven Brooks paced Modified time trials with a lap of 14.151 over 24 other drivers seeking the $2,000 payday. Mike Harrison, Allen Weisser, and 2018 Modified track champion McKay Wenger took heat race wins. In the 30-lap main, Harrison took the lead on the green flag with Weisser, Wenger, Jeffrey Ledford, and Mike McKinney following. Wenger, running the bottom of the track, overtook Weisser for second on lap four. Ledford pressured Wenger and Weisser, running the top side, and finally made his move for second at the halfway mark. Slower traffic came into play during the middle stages of the race. As Harrison was overtaking slower cars, Ledford was able to close in. Harrison threaded his way by the lapped cars, but Ledford was slowed by the cars in their own battle. McKinney, after a poor qualifying performance and heat race, began to make his presence known. He got by Ledford for second with ten laps left but trailed Harrison by a straightaway. McKinney, who ranks second to Harrison in the race for the national championship, drove his heart out and closed up on Harrison. A caution flag waved with four laps to go giving McKinney the opportunity he needed. Harrison and McKinney, both running the top, looked to have a classic finish. The Fairbury cushion can sometimes be unforgiving to a driver. Harrison and McKinney both saw their momentum slowed as the topside would slow their progress. On the final lap, McKinney tried a slide job but Harrison was able fend him off and take his fourth FALS win of the year in five starts. Harrison, who travels three hours from Highland for the bigger paying specials, has an incredible 14 career feature wins (ranking ninth all-time) at Fairbury. “Last night at Granite City we crashed out," Harrison commented in victory lane. "My team busted their tails all night and day to get the car ready. It takes all of us to make this happen. Fairbury is one of my favorite tracks. Anytime I get the chance, I will be here.” McKinney, Ledford, Wenger, Mike Chasteen Jr., Donovan Lodge, Weisser, Brooks, Dan Rork, and Logan Rogers rounded out the top ten.

aug11-spA field of 12 CR Towing and Recovery Sportsman drivers looked to take the $400 first place money in their 15-lap race. Amber Crouch was the night’s fast qualifier at a 15.020. Points leader Steve Mattingly won the first heat race, while Brandon Pralle took the second heat. In the feature race, Pralle took the lead at the start and went flag-to-flag, picking up his third win of the season and halting Mattingly’s three race win streak. Richard Craven rallied late in the race to take second, followed by Crouch, Mattingly, Mikey Ledford, Matt Ramer, Valerie Hurt, Eric Saltzman, Tyler Roth, and Robert Saltzman. “We took the car apart after the last race and started completely over,” said Pralle. “Hopefully we have some things figured out.” With his win, Pralle trails Mattingly by 51 points with one night of points racing remaining.