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.
With 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.”
McKay 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.”
AJ 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.”
Amber 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.