by Rocky Ragusa
The Third Annual Willard Bess Memorial race for the Central Illinois Mini Sprint Series highlighted the racing action on Saturday night at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Also, an anonymous person helped to raise the purse for the Modified class and the Street Stock division.
16 Mini Sprints took part in the Bess Memorial race with the winner receiving $1,000. Lewistown's Brent Burrows and Dan Fitzgerald of Indianapolis, IN won their heat races. Fourth starting Devin Feger of Groveland wasted little time as the green flag waved for the 20-lap race. Feger charged to the front and was never headed. By the end of the race, Feger held over a half-track lead over his nearest competitor as he picked up his third consecutive CIMS victory. “I have to thank my crew for their hard work tonight. We struggled in the heat race, but turned it around for the feature,” spoke Feger. Fitzgerald, Burrows, eighth starter Brad Strunk, Austin Archdale, Andrew Funk, Robby McQuinn, Brad Funk, Dave Baugh, and Billy Brickley were the top ten finishers.
Mike Spatola and Kevin Weaver took heat race wins setting the front row for the 30-lap Late Model feature. Weaver and Spatola ran side by side before Spatola was able to set the pace. The leaders set a rapid pace and began working the slower traffic by lap seven. After a lap ten caution, Spatola running the top, had a battle with Weaver. Weaver was able to lead the 16th lap, but lost it as he encountered lapped cars. After cautions on lap 19 and 20, Spatola led Weaver, Morris, Scott Schmitt, and McKay Wenger. Weaver changed his line to the top trying to close up on Spatola, but Spatola proved to be the strongest car on this night as he took his third win of the year. Weaver settled for second as Schmitt made a last lap pass for third. Jay Morris, Joe Harlan, Wenger, Scott Bull, Steve Thorsten, Bob Gardner, and 17th starter Jeff LeSage rounded out the top ten. “The car has been working great,” commented Spatola. “Kevin was good on the bottom. I thought the top was going to be dominate. He kept pressuring me and had me worried. We were able to pull away and get it done.” Morris was the fast qualifier of the 18 cars on hand at a 13.163.
An unnamed fan gave the winner of the Modified race an opportunity to race for $1,200. With the increase, instead of the normal 20-lap race, drivers ran a 25-lap show. Jay Ledford turned back 24 other drivers in time trials with a lap of 14.149. Ledford, Lance Dehm, and Mike McKinney were heat race victors. Jeff Curl took the semi feature win. Steven Brooks and Ledford raced for second, while Dehm was battling Mark Grosvenor for fourth with Brian Lynn following, gave McKinney a little breathing room as he pulled away from the field. McKinney ran the Fairbury cushion to perfection as he held a straightaway lead by the time a caution fell on lap 15. As the track went to clean and green, McKinney wasted little time leading Grosvenor, Brooks, Ledford, and Dehm. The quartet tried different lines with Grosvenor on the topside, Brooks, Ledford, and Dehm at the bottom looking to close the margin on McKinney. With six laps to go, Dehm moved to the top and took the second position. Dehm was able to cut into McKinney’s lead but time ran out as McKinney claimed his seventh Fairbury win, and moved into the points lead. “Thanks to the individual that raised the purse,” an excited McKinney spoke. “It’s awesome to race for some big money. I have to thank my dad. He bust his butt every week getting the car ready and all I have to do is drive.” Dehm, Brooks, Grosvenor, Jay Ledford, Jeffrey Ledford, Brandon Maciejewski, 16th starter Jeff Curl, Brian Lynn, and Nick Clubb completed the top ten.
The Sportsman race was scheduled for a 15-lap feature. Due to the number of cautions and a time limit, only 11 laps were completed. Scott Williams led at the start with Lake Nichoalds and Richie Rich in pursuit, followed by Bryant Frechette and Amber Crouch. After two cautions, Nichoalds worked his way by Williams on the backstretch to take the lead on the third lap. Nichoalds survived the caution periods and held a healthy margin over the field as early contenders Rich and Steve Mattingly were eliminated. On the white flag lap with Nichoalds leading Frechette and Williams in a tight pack, Frechette was able to muscle his way by Nichoalds in turns three and four to lead the way to the finish and score his first career win. “Lake left me a lane open and I was able to take advantage of it,” spoke Frechette. Nichoalds, Williams, Crouch, 11th starter Troy Medley, Brian Albus, Rod Rusher, Brandon Pralle, Blake Reid, and Mattingly rounded out the top ten. Rich and Williams won their heat races. Nichoalds took fast time honors at a 14.472.
A.J. Meiferdt was the fast qualifier among the 13 Street Stocks on hand with a 15.771. Mieferdt and Kyle Anderson took the heat race wins. Meiferdt, the class points leader, took the lead with Anderson, Rick Thomas, Josh Hetherington, and Ryan Anderson following. After a lap four caution, Thomas moved to the top side of the track and got by Anderson for second. Thomas was able to close up on Meiferdt and challenge for the lead but a caution fell on lap eight. On the restart, Meiferdt opened up his lead to three-car-lengths as Thomas battled with Anderson, with Kaleb Wood and Don Hilleary trailing. After another caution with five laps to go, Wood got by Thomas for second and was on the pedal as he trailed Meiferdt by a car length at the checkered flag. Meiferdt took his third win and added $500 to his pocket. “Honestly, the car wasn’t that good tonight. I had to hold it against the tires,” said Meiferdt. “I heard Kaleb on the outside as we headed to the checkers. I did what I had to do.” Wood, who started eighth, Thomas, Kyle Anderson, Hilleary, Hetherington, Valerie Hurt, Curtis Radke, Ryan Anderson, and Robert Turner completed the top ten.