by Rocky Ragusa
With sweltering temperatures in the air, hot racing action was also found at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night. A regular race night in five classes saw Jeff Curl (Late Model), Allen Weisser (Modified), Jason Maier (Street Stock), Steve Mattingly (Sportsman), and Brendan Patterson (Hobby-Modified) making a trip to the winner's circle.
19 Late Models tuned up for next week’s big Summer Nationals race. Kevin Weaver was the night’s top qualifier at a 12.938. Allen Murray and Allen Weisser claimed heat race wins. In the 30 lap race, Weisser led the first lap. Following a caution on lap one, Weisser’s car bobbled enough for Scott Schmitt to move out front. Caution fell on lap three with Schmitt, Weisser, Jeff Curl, Weaver, and Steve Thorsten in the top five. Curl was on the move and took second on lap six. Schmitt slowed on the backstretch for a caution on lap eight giving Curl the lead. Thorsten, on the top side, got by the bottom running Curl to lead laps 12 and 13 but Curl retook the lead on lap 14. Curl was able to pull out to a ten-car-length lead as Thorsten made a determined bid to retake first. Behind the duo, Weaver, Weisser, and Myles Moos had their own race for the third position. Debris on the track brought out a caution on lap 19. Weaver saw an opening on the restart but got into the back of Thorsten, and Weisser was collected in the mayhem to end his night. The field went single file for the remaining 11 laps. Curl stuck to the bottom, led the wall banging Thorsten, with Moos, Weaver, and Bill Hough in tow. Thorsten and Moos went back and forth for second, exchanging several slide jobs, before Thorsten took second back with three to go. As the race for second was unraveling, Curl was able to jump out to a straightaway lead and the Late Model rookie captured his first ever Late Model trophy. An excited Curl commented following his win, “I am way ahead of where I thought I would be after eight nights in a Late Model. We have tried different things each week and I have to thank Mike Spatola and the Friedman’s for their advice. We had not planned to race the Late Model next week, but it looks like we will be here for the Summer National race.” Following Curl to the line were Thorsten, Moos, Weaver, 15th starter Hough, Collin Alexander, Cole Swibold, Curtis Radke, Austin McCarty, and Weisser.
With 12 Modified drivers on hand for their 20 lap race, Jeffrey Ledford paced the competition in qualifying with a 14.060. Ledford and Allen Weisser were the winners of their respective heat races. Weisser led the start followed by Ledford, McKay Wenger, Chevy Miller, and Alan Stipp. Weisser pulled out to a 10-car-length lead as Ledford and Wenger battled for second. Wenger moved by Ledford for second at the halfway mark and moved to the top side in an effort to run down Weisser. Weisser proved to be the dominate force on this night and earned his first ever win at Fairbury. “We have raced here a few times, had our share of bad luck, along with some seconds. It is nice to finally get a win here,” spoke Weisser. Wenger, Ledford, Stipp, Austin Lynn, Jay Ledford, Miller, Vince Cooper, Eric Vaughan, and Logan Rogers took the top ten positions.
Veteran wheelman Rick Thomas led in time trials at a 15.681 over 14 other Street Stock drivers. Heat races were won by Jason Maier and AJ Meiferdt. Meiferdt took the lead at the start of the 15 lap race with Jason Maier, Thomas, Matt Maier, and Cody Clubb in pursuit. After a lap five caution, Jason Maier, running the top side, overtook Meiferdt for the lead. Meiferdt held on to second as Thomas, Matt Maier, and Clubb followed. On the restart after a caution on lap eight, Matt Maier squeezed by Meiferdt for second while Jason checked out to a ten-car-length lead. In the closing laps, Meiferdt moved back into second as Jason Maier gained redemption from last week’s race and took the win. “I went to the high side of the track because AJ is always tough on the bottom,” Maier said. The rest of the top ten were Matt Maier, Thomas, Clubb, Al Gray, Nick Seplak, Justin Van Drunen, Andrew Alwood, and Michael Schomas.
Steve Mattingly set quick time at a 14.747 of the 11 CR Towing Sportsman drivers on hand for their 15 lap race. Mattingly and Amber Crouch took heat race wins. Mattingly led at the start, but a caution fell after the end of lap one as contender Bryant Frechette dropped out with mechanical problems. On the restart, Mattingly stuck his car to the top side, with Crouch and Brandon Pralle in a heated battle for second followed by Matt Ramer and Anthony Craven. Laps five and six had the yellow flag waving, but on the restart, Mattingly ran the top groove to perfection and extended his lead. Crouch and Pralle went tooth and nail for second, but both drivers had their night cut short as Pralle got into the backstretch wall and Crouch cut a tire down. For the final six circuits Mattingly was able to pull away from the field and take his fourth win of the season. With the absence of points leader Richard Craven, Mattingly took over in the standings for the track championship. “The top side was a little rough but we were able to make it work out for us,” commented Mattingly. Following Mattingly to the stripe were Ramer, Eric Saltzman, Tyler Roth, Michael Ledford, Valerie Hurt, Craven, Crouch, Pralle, and Robert Saltzman.
12 Hobby-Modified drivers looked to carry the checkered flag at the end of their night. Darren Kerrins was the fast qualifier at a 15.497, while Brendan Patterson and Makinzi Semmens won their respective heat races. Patterson took the lead at the start of the 12 lap feature, but due to numerous cautions and a time limit, the race was stopped at three laps. Taking his fourth win of the year, Patterson was happy, but dejected, "We had a good car but I wish we could have gotten all the race in.” Mike Petersen, Terry Bolen, Thad Gee, Kerrins, Semmens, Austin Lipe, TJ Bolen, Bryan Saner, and Travis Roe completed the top ten.