by Darlene Miller
A full moon and more than 100 drivers led to some exciting heat and feature races on Saturday night at Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Highlighting the evening’s events was Lake Nichoalds with his victory in the Eden-Piercy Memorial Sportsman feature. Also taking the checkered flag were Mike Spatola (Late Model), Steven Brooks (Modified), and AJ Meiferdt (Street Stock).
The big race of the night was the Sportsman feature named after Gary Eden and Curt Piercy, two drivers who were past champions at FALS. Eden captured the 1983 Six-Cylinder title while the 1992 Street Stock title went to Piercy. Flanagan’s Eden, 54, passed away in 2006 after fighting cancer. Piercy of Normal died at 41 in 2004 in a plane crash.
Nichoalds of Onarga has been on a roll this season and added the 25-lap, $1,000 feature to his tally. “We were very fortunate to win. We have had a good year,” Nichoalds said after winning his seventh FALS feature. Monticello’s Tim Dick and Nichoalds led the field to the green flag, but a caution flag flew before a lap was completed. The field was slowed and when the flag flew again, Dick rode the bottom and Nichoalds ran up top and the two pulled ahead of the field. The pair ran close together until, with seven laps to go, Nichoalds established the lead. However, Nichoalds did not get far because hard-charger Steve Mattingly (who started eighth), Brandon Pralle and Dick began to close the gap. Then, with two laps to go, Nichoalds finally blew off the competition and won by 10 car lengths. Mattingly came in second with Dick taking third. Pralle and Richard Craven followed. Bryant Frechette led the second five with Amber Crouch, Dustin Mounce, Rick Roedel, and Patrick Hawkins in tow. Nichoalds won the dash and a heat race. Dick won the other heat race and was top qualifier with a lap of 14.514 seconds.
Spatola of Manhattan started on the pole of the 30-lap Late Model feature and went on to score his second win of the season by holding off El Paso’s Ryan Unzicker, Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver, and Fairbury’s Scott Bull at the line. With 20 laps down, Spatola and the group were lapping the field and 12 of the 20 starting cars were already down a lap. “We’ve been struggling a bit and tonight we tried some more stuff,” said Spatola. “I just kept digging and came home with this win.” Dan Flessner of Roberts was fifth and Ken Rumble, Jay Sparks, Mike Mataragas, Steve Thorsten, and hard-charger Mark Rose (started 19th) rounded out the top 10. Heat wins went to Mataragus, Spatola, and Unzicker. Torin Mettille won the semi-feature while Flessner topped the charts by turning a 13.067-second circuit in prelims.
In the 20-lap Modified feature, Plainfield’s Mike McKinney took the quick lead on the high side but would see his night end with a flat tire with 14 laps to go. With McKinney pulling off the track the caution flag flew and a new group of racers fought for the lead. Steven Brooks, Jeffrey Ledford, and newcomer to the track Brian Wolfmeier were now fighting for the lead. The group ran almost flawless laps, but they just missed catching Brooks at the line. “That was a good win. I hated to see McKinney get a flat,” said Brooks. Wolfmeier was next and Bob Pohlman Jr., Ledford, Jeff Curl (in a backup car) followed. Nick Clubb led the second group with Donovan Lodge, Jason Hastings, 17th starter Jimmy Dehm, and Travis Kohler following. Brooks, McKinney, Pohlman Jr., and Wolfmeier brought home heat wins, while Dehm won the semi-feature. Brooks had top hot lap time of 14.110 seconds.
Meiferdt of Coal City took off in the 15-lap Street Stock feature and moved quickly away from Rick Thomas of Dwight and Chebanse's Lukes Gash. A couple of caution flags flew slowing the field and allowing Gash and competitors Ian Keller and Curtis Radke to join in the battle for the top spot. With the group breathing down his neck, Meiferdt held on by a half car length. “I thought I heard them coming. I knew I had to stay smooth and keep it cool tonight,” said Meiferdt, the current points leader, on his seventh win of the FALS schedule. Gash took second followed by Keller, Radke, Thomas, and Jim Ransom in the top five. 17th starter Peter Odell, Joe Brown, Michael Schomas, and Kyle Anderson completed the top 10. Meiferdt, Keller, and Thomas were heat winners. Meiferdt had the fast time with a 15.380-second trip.
Fifth starter Brendan Patterson of Spring Bay picked up the Hobby-Mod feature win. He was followed by Graham Jackson, Makinzi Semmens, and Macy Vaughan. Mike Petersen and Thad Gee won the heat races.