by Rocky Ragusa
The track champions for the 2016 season were introduced to the crowd Saturday night along with the top ten in each of the four divisions. Kevin Weaver picked up his third Late Model track title, Richie Rich captured his second straight Sportsman championship, while A.J. Meiferdt (Street Stock), and Mike McKinney (Modified) both claimed their first track titles.
Manhattan’s Mike Spatola got by Kevin Weaver with three laps to go and took his fourth win in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Rusty Schlenk also snuck by Weaver but ran out of time to make a bid for the lead as he settled for second. Weaver, Jay Morris, Joe Harlan, Mike Mullvain, Steve Thorsten, Jason Wagner, 16th starter Snooky Dehm, and Jon Small finished in the top ten as attrition took its toll on the 18 car field. Spatola set quick time at a 13.165. Harlan and Weaver won the heat races.
Former NASCAR star, Kenny Wallace has been on a hot streak this past week. Wallace took the $1,000 to win race at Lincoln beating Mike Harrison in a photo finish on Thursday, dethroning perennial Kankakee favorite Mike McKinney for another grand on Friday, and tuned up for next week’s $10,000 to win show at FALS by winning his first ever feature at Fairbury in the 20-lap Modified race. Wallace moved to the lead on lap 12 after McKinney’s car lost a driveshaft. Wallace had to hold off a determined bid by Lance Dehm in the final laps until Dehm jumped the cushion with two laps to go. Wallace, always an exuberant person, spoke after the win, “This whole weekend has been inspired by the late Bryan Clauson. I know his family pretty well. When we left his celebration of life in Kokomo, Indiana, Quality Aviation one of my sponsors told me, “Herman, go park it. That’s a lot of pressure. To park it three straight nights in a row, is the first time this has ever happened to me. Thanks to my crew and all the fans for showing up. I will be back next week for the $10,000 to win race.” Ray Bollinger, Dehm, 16th starter Mike Learman, Jeff Curl, Vince Cooper, Tommy Duncan, Travis Kohler, Nick Clubb, and Nick Lueth rounded out the top ten. McKinney was the fastest qualifier of the 34 drivers on hand at a 14.047. Steven Brooks, Curl, McKinney, and Wallace won heat races. Dave Dulceak and Kevin Weaver won the semi features.
13 drivers were on hand in the Sportsman class. Bryant Frechette and Scott Williams took heat race wins. Lake Nichoalds took the lead from Scott Williams on the eighth lap and looked to be on his way to another win in the 15-lap race. On the restart after a lap 13 caution, Nichoalds car stalled at the exit of turn two bringing out a caution and ending his night. Brian Albus inherited the lead and took his second win of the season. “Lake was going to be hard to beat,” said Albus, who started 11th. “I didn’t think I could catch him and I was fine with finishing second. It’s too bad his night ended like that.” Frechette, Amber Crouch, Brandon Pralle, Eric Saltzman, Anthony Craven, Tyler Roth, Nichoalds, Blake Reid, and Williams completed the top ten.
Starting the season as he began it, Barry Sauder of Creve Coeur was the class of the field in the 15-lap Street Stock race. Taking the lead from A.J. Meiferdt on the third lap, Sauder sped away for his second win of the year. Meiferdt was the main competition for Sauder but dropped out with two laps to go due to mechanical problems. “Thanks to my dad and Mike Chasteen Jr. for their help tonight,” spoke Sauder. “I have taken a few weeks off to help Mike with his car. It feels good to get back behind the wheel. That was an exciting race.” Trailing Sauder to the line were Rick Thomas, Peter Odell, Don Hilleary, 20th starter Joel Funk, Mitch Hahn, Josh Hetherington, Kaleb Wood, Andy Thompson, and Robert Cottom. Hahn, Meiferdt, and Sauder won heat races for the 23 Street Stock drivers.
The Hobby Mod class had a season high 14 entrants. Josh McKenrick and Mason Duncan scored wins in their heat races. McKenrick of Bellevue took the lead from Jason Brandt with two laps to go and won his first ever race at Fairbury. “After Peoria rained out tonight, we decided to come here. This is my first time racing here. What an awesome night,” said an excited McKenrick. Brandt, Tim McGuire, Thad Gee, Steven Ranfroe, Makinzi Semmens, Scott Brown, Mike Petersen, Duncan, and Brendan Patterson completed the top ten.