by Rocky Ragusa
When the Fairbury American Legion Speedway puts big money on the line for the Modified division, expect Highland’s Mike Harrison to make the trip. Harrison continued his dominance by winning the sixth annual Casey’s Modified Nationals on Saturday night. Fowler’s Michael Long took the Mullins Race Engines Non-Qualifiers Shootout, and Frankfort’s Frank Heckenast Jr. won the Late Model feature.
62 Modified teams representing 10 states took part in qualifying for the American Modified Series sanctioned $10,000 to win special. Kyle Strickler toured the track at 13.795 seconds, while Kenny Wallace clipped a time of 13.747 seconds to lead their respective qualifying groups. Wallace, Mike Harrison, Nick Allen, Strickler, Tait Davenport, and Mike McKinney earned heat race wins. Ryan Unzicker, Rich Dawson, track champion McKay Wenger, and current AMS points leader Trent Young advanced to the 50-lap feature by winning the B-Mains. Outside front row starter Harrison got the jump on Davenport to take the lead at the start, with fourth starter Strickler moving into second. Both drivers pulled away from the field until Wallace and McKinney made contact in turn four on lap eight for a caution. On the restart, calamity broke out as Jeff Curl, Young, Allen Weisser, Unzicker, and Devin Dixon piled up in turn one to bring out the red flag. Unzicker was the only one able to continue in the race. When the field went back to green, Strickler pulled alongside of Harrison several times but Harrison proved to be too strong for his competition. Harrison opened a 10-car length lead and never let up as he worked through the lapped traffic.
At the checkered flag, Harrison picked up his third consecutive Casey’s Modified Nationals win and fourth overall. “You have to qualify these races good to start up front, but I have proved you can start in the back and win,” said Harrison. “I would rather start up front so I can take care of my equipment. Kyle (Strickler) told me he had to drive hard tonight, but he made me drive hard.” Following Harrison and Strickler to the line were a hard charging Unzicker, Derek Losh, Tyler Nicely, Mark Anderson, Wallace, Wenger, 20th starter Lucas Lee, and Jeff Leka. Michael Long withstood a brief challenge from NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Justin Haley leading flag to flag in the Mullins Race Engines Shootout for non-qualifiers, collecting a $500 payday. Haley, Dean Hoffman, Chris Smith, Bob Pohlman Jr., Trey Harris, Bradley Jameson, Jeffrey Ledford, Marty Lindeman, and Logan Rogers completed the top ten.
$3,000 was on the line for the Late Model drivers in their 40-lap race. Mike Spatola was the fast qualifier at a 12.419 for the 23 cars on hand. Frank Heckenast Jr., Tim Manville, and Donny Walden posted heat race wins. Heckenast and Manville raced for the lead at the start before Heckenast took over and opened up a straightaway lead. While Heckenast was opening his lead, Manville had to contend with Walden. Walden was able to pull alongside Manville in the turns, but Manville had the power down the straights. While working the slower cars, Unzicker overtook Walden for third and closed in on Manville. Unzicker’s bid soon ended as he stalled on the track and was forced to drop out with engine problems. On the restart, Manville slowed and caused a seven-car pileup, as Jay Morris was the only car to fall out. Manville had to go to the track’s pit area for repairs and went to the tail of the field. Spatola moved into the second position on the restart. Spatola made several bids for the lead in the closing laps, but Heckenast was able to hold off his cousin for his second career victory at FALS. “I know Mike (Spatola) is real good here but we had a good car too,” Heckenast said. “Fairbury is a difficult track. I love coming here and hopefully I will be here more next year.” Allen Weisser was third, Scott Schmitt fourth, followed by Bob Gardner, a heavily damaged Walden slipped to sixth, Jay Sparks, Jeff Curl, Derek Chandler, and Manville.
by Rocky Ragusa
Kevin Weaver, McKay Wenger, AJ Meiferdt, and Steve Mattingly were officially recognized as the 2018 Fairbury American Legion Speedway track champions on Saturday night. Feature race wins went to Mike Spatola, Mike McKinney, Rick Thomas, Mattingly, and Cody Wisher.
A field of 19 Late Models took part in the night’s featured division with Kevin Weaver turning a lap of 12.881 for fast time. Scott Schmitt and Mike Spatola were the heat race winners. Schmitt put his car on the top to take the lead at the start with Spatola hot on his heels. On the fourth lap, Schmitt went to the bottom of the track and enabled Spatola to pull alongside of him. Spatola took over the lead and checked out on his competition for his sixth win of the season. Weaver was second, with the remainder of the top ten consisting of Donny Walden, 13th starter Dan Flessner, Jay Morris, Greg Wagner, Curtis Radke, Glen Thompson, Lyle Zanker Jr., and Jeff Curl. “I got a shock when Schmitt gave me the top,” Spatola said. “I thought the track would be top dominate and he moved down. I didn’t want to get next to him because I didn’t know when he would go back to the top, but it worked out in our favor.”
37 Modified teams looked to tune up for next Saturday's $10,000 to win special. Allen Weisser earned fast time with a 13.932. Weisser, Josh Allen, Mike McKinney, and Mike Chasteen Jr. won their respective heat races. Two semi-features were held as Matt Mitchell and Alan Stipp took wins and advanced to the 20-lap feature. Going down the frontstretch, McKinney pulled beside race leader Weisser. As the two drivers entered turn one, Weisser did a slide job on McKinney. McKinney came back at Weisser as the two exited turn two for his own slide job. McKinney was able to make it stick for the lead. Weisser never trailed McKinney by more than five car lengths but had to contend with McKay Wenger. McKinney completed his weekend sweep with his seventh Fairbury win and 20th overall. Weisser held on for second over Wenger, with Donovan Lodge, Nick Allen, 12th starter Curt Spalding, Dylan Woodling, Allen, Chasteen Jr., and Dan Rork rounding out the top ten. “I can’t lie that I was pretty nervous before the race, “McKinney said. “I knew Allen would be on the bottom and my choice was to get to the top. I don’t think I lifted for the entire race.”
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.
by Rocky Ragusa
With big money on the line, the Fairbury American Legion Speedway drew 72 cars for the fourth annual FALS Frenzy on Saturday night. Shannon Babb (Late Model), Mike Harrison (Modified), and Brandon Pralle (Sportsman) took the feature wins in their respective classes.
The MARS and ALMS Late Model Series co-sanctioned the $10,000 to win main event. Shannon Babb (12.878) and Tanner English (12.927) led in group qualifying. Babb, English, Frank Heckenast Jr., and Ryan Unzicker were heat race winners, while Bob Gardner and Scott Schmitt won semi-features. In the 50-lap grind, renewing their Summer Nationals battle, Babb took control of the race on lap 26 and held off Brian Shirley for the win. English led the field to the green with Babb, Shirley, Heckenast, and Michael Kloos trailing. Shirley got by Babb for second on the eighth lap and ran side by side with English before taking the top position on lap 16. Shirley, running the bottom, led a tight formation with English, Babb, Kloos, and Heckenast in pursuit. On the restart after the yellow flag waved on the 23rd lap, Babb started on the outside of the double file restart. To his advantage, Babb pulled alongside of Shirley and moved into the lead on the 26th lap. Babb was able to drive a smooth line over the course of the race, as Shirley had to contend with Brandon Sheppard. Sheppard was able to pull alongside of Shirley, but Shirley’s speed down the stretch proved to be too much for Sheppard to overcome. Babb led a tight field to the checkered flag and took his second Fairbury win of the year. “The track was in excellent shape tonight,” Babb said. “I knew Shirley has been good here. On that restart on lap 23, my car came to life. I had been on the bottom, but starting on the outside played into my favor.” Shirley settled for the runner-up spot, followed by Sheppard, Heckenast Jr., English, Allen Weisser, Gordy Gundaker, Tim Manville, Kloos, and Kevin Weaver.
Steven Brooks paced Modified time trials with a lap of 14.151 over 24 other drivers seeking the $2,000 payday. Mike Harrison, Allen Weisser, and 2018 Modified track champion McKay Wenger took heat race wins. In the 30-lap main, Harrison took the lead on the green flag with Weisser, Wenger, Jeffrey Ledford, and Mike McKinney following. Wenger, running the bottom of the track, overtook Weisser for second on lap four. Ledford pressured Wenger and Weisser, running the top side, and finally made his move for second at the halfway mark. Slower traffic came into play during the middle stages of the race. As Harrison was overtaking slower cars, Ledford was able to close in. Harrison threaded his way by the lapped cars, but Ledford was slowed by the cars in their own battle. McKinney, after a poor qualifying performance and heat race, began to make his presence known. He got by Ledford for second with ten laps left but trailed Harrison by a straightaway. McKinney, who ranks second to Harrison in the race for the national championship, drove his heart out and closed up on Harrison. A caution flag waved with four laps to go giving McKinney the opportunity he needed. Harrison and McKinney, both running the top, looked to have a classic finish. The Fairbury cushion can sometimes be unforgiving to a driver. Harrison and McKinney both saw their momentum slowed as the topside would slow their progress. On the final lap, McKinney tried a slide job but Harrison was able fend him off and take his fourth FALS win of the year in five starts. Harrison, who travels three hours from Highland for the bigger paying specials, has an incredible 14 career feature wins (ranking ninth all-time) at Fairbury. “Last night at Granite City we crashed out," Harrison commented in victory lane. "My team busted their tails all night and day to get the car ready. It takes all of us to make this happen. Fairbury is one of my favorite tracks. Anytime I get the chance, I will be here.” McKinney, Ledford, Wenger, Mike Chasteen Jr., Donovan Lodge, Weisser, Brooks, Dan Rork, and Logan Rogers rounded out the top ten.
A field of 12 CR Towing and Recovery Sportsman drivers looked to take the $400 first place money in their 15-lap race. Amber Crouch was the night’s fast qualifier at a 15.020. Points leader Steve Mattingly won the first heat race, while Brandon Pralle took the second heat. In the feature race, Pralle took the lead at the start and went flag-to-flag, picking up his third win of the season and halting Mattingly’s three race win streak. Richard Craven rallied late in the race to take second, followed by Crouch, Mattingly, Mikey Ledford, Matt Ramer, Valerie Hurt, Eric Saltzman, Tyler Roth, and Robert Saltzman. “We took the car apart after the last race and started completely over,” said Pralle. “Hopefully we have some things figured out.” With his win, Pralle trails Mattingly by 51 points with one night of points racing remaining.
- Mattingly Picks Up Eden-Piercy Memorial Win
- Moran Cashes in on $3O,OOO Payday as he picks up his first PDC Victory; Harrison Scores Modified Nationals Win and Championship
- Simpson, Sheppard, Moran, Babb Capture Showdown Wins on Opening Night of PDC; Davenport, Arnold, Harrison, Hawkins Take Modified Nationals Victories
- Klaasmeyer Takes Last-Lap POWRi Thriller; Goldesberry Tops Strong Field of IRA/MOWA Sprints