Poel, Craven take Memorial Races

by Darlene Miller

Jacob Poel, Scott Bull, Richard Craven, and Jason Maier were all winners as the American Modified Series made its second stop of a three-day Memorial race weekend at Fairbury American Legion Speedway Saturday night. The track honored some of their own with memorial races.

The Gary Cook Jr. inaugural modified race honored the four-time champ at the speedway who lost his battle to cancer last year. Pontiac’s Jay Ledford led the field to the green flag and quickly established the lead. However, the field was not going to let him run away as Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm took over the lead with 22 laps to go in the feature. Dehm began to feel pressure from Matt Mevert, who grabbed the lead near the halfway point. The duo ran door to door and Poel began his move to the top. Poel got around Dehm to take second and put pressure on Mevert. As the pair were heading out of turn two, Mevert bobbled on the high side and Poel took the lead and never looked back for his second win in as many nights. He won Friday night’s race at Farmer City.

“I am so blessed to be here and what a race,” said Poel. “I knew Mevert slipped on the cushion and I got around him.” Ledford brought home second followed by Steven Brooks, Jeff Leka, and Dehm. Dehm, Mevert, Poel, and Ledford were heat winners. Poel brought home $2,064 for the win. Semi's went to Jim Farris and Mike McKinney.

Craven won the memorial sportsman race that honored former FALS champ Gary Eden and racer Curt Piercy. Craven took an early lead in the 15-lap feature over last week’s winner Jeffrey Ledford and Richie Rich. Ledford took back the lead with five laps to go but saw his night come to a screeching halt as he hit the cushion and went up the turn four wall.

He came back on the track but collected Rich and Dustin Mounce. All three were OK but done for the evening. On the restart, Craven again took the lead but Amber Crouch, who graduated from high school the night before, came close to Craven several times. She just could not get around him and finished second. Tim Dick, Paul Graf, and Jim Bailey rounded out the top five. Craven, Ledford, and Rich were heat winners.

“I just lost my uncle this past Tuesday and it means a lot to me to win this race,” an emotional Craven said. “My uncle was a big part of my racing and I raced against Curt Piercy for a long time.”

Bull weaved his way in and out of the traffic and held off Daren Friedman by a car length to win the 30-lap late model feature. “I am starting to figure out my car,” said Bull. “Lap traffic made it a little hairy.” Friedman, Scott Schmitt, Derek Chandler, and Jay Morris rounded out the top five. Heat wins went to Bull, Friedman, and Morris.

The final feature of the night went to Jason Maier, who won his first feature of the season at FALS. Lukes Gash and Rick Thomas were the early frontrunners but a caution flag bunched the field and they made it four wide on the restart. Maier wrestled the lead away and held on to win by a car length over Thomas. Brandon Kessinger, Gash, and Eric Gaus completed the top five.

“The track was very slick and I was on pins and needles,” said Maier. Gash and Kessinger were heat winners.

Bull, Ledford’s, and Gash outlast cautions for wins

by Darlene Miller

The color yellow is an eye catcher whether it is for flowers or for the sun. On Saturday at Fairbury American Legion Speedway, it seemed to be the color of the constant flags flying through the features. Scott Bull, Jay Ledford, Jeffrey Ledford, and Lukes Gash were able to weather the storm of cautions and come away with feature wins.

In the 30-lap late model feature, Jay Morris took an early lead over Bull and with six laps in the books the first caution flag flew for debris. One lap later, debris in turns three and four brought out another flag. Bull of Fairbury grabbed the lead from Morris and pulled to a slight advantage that also included El Paso’s Joe Harlan in the battle. Another caution flag flew with 20 laps to go and then another one four laps later. In between that time, Fairbury’s McKay Wenger put on a charge getting around Morris and Harlan for the second spot. Wenger was reeling in Bull when his car began to run into problems and he had to pull off with six laps to go. Wenger’s trouble brought out another caution. Bull held off the other challenges and won by six car lengths for his second win on the season.

“We started pushing at the end but held on,” said a happy Bull, who was also top qualifier with a 12.938. Bringing home second was Morris, followed by Harlan, Dan Flessner, and Daren Friedman. Allen Murray, Bill Hough, Steve Thorsten, Snooky Dehm, and Glen Thompson made up the second five. Bull and Morris were heat winners.

Jay Ledford of Pontiac and Saunemin’s Jeb Friedman led the modified drivers to the 20-lap green flag feature. Friedman took the lead early when the first caution flag flew for a crash in turn two. Ledford grabbed the lead two laps later but two more cautions kept the field from getting some laps in.

Jacob Poel of Spring Lake, Mich., took the lead from Ledford. Another caution flag with 10 laps to go flew and Ledford and Poel began to race for the lead when another caution came out one circuit later. With six to go, Poel assumed the top spot followed by Ledford, Jared Cagley, Lance Dehm, and Cory Schwengel. A caution flag flew when the leader Poel spun in turn three and Dehm had a flat tire with five to go. Cagley moved into second with four laps to go after starting 14th. Jeff Curl was in third but Ledford held off the challengers for his first win this season.

“This win is pretty sweet, going back and forth was a lot of fun,” said Ledford. Cagley was second, third went to Curl, as Schwengel and Dave Porth followed. The second five were Jim Farris, Tommy Duncan, Friedman, Kevin Hastings, and Dan Rork. Ledford had fast time with a 13.809. Heat winners were Ledford, Poel, and Friedman.

The sportsman race ran ahead of the modified and saw Ledford’s son, Jeffrey, bring home his third win in a row. Flanagan’s Dustin Mounce took the early lead on the high side over the young Ledford. The first caution flew three laps into the 15-lap feature for a spin in turn two. Two more cautions flew before another lap was counted. Ledford took the lead with 10 to go. Richard Craven and Richie Rich got around Mounce for the second and third position. Caution flags flew again with five and four laps to go. Ledford held on to the lead to win by one car length over Craven.

“I was worried about Richard and Richie,” Ledford said. “I knew they were coming underneath but we pulled it off.” Rich, Craven, Paul Graf, and Tim Bohm finished in the top five. Ledford had fast time with a 14.495. Ledford and Mounce were heat winners.

The street stock 15-lap feature started the caution-filled action for the night with two restart yellow flags before Lukes Gash was able to take the lead over Rick Thomas. Two more caution flags flew again before three laps were in the book. Another caution flew for a wreck with eight laps to go. Gash, who started third, and Thomas battled for the lead and Gash won by two car lengths.

“I can only imagine what was going on behind me,” Gash said after winning his second race in a row. “I am glad I was out front.” Thomas, Eric Gaus, Nick Clubb, and Matt Maier completed the top five. Gash had fast time with a 15.540. Thomas and Jason Maier won the heat races.

Determined Pierce Continues Hot Streak at Fairbury

by Rocky Ragusa

Living up to his motto, “Refuse to Lose”, second generation driver Bobby Pierce continued his hot streak by picking up the featured, Sunoco ALMS Late Model win, sponsored by Central Illinois Buildings at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway.

Outside front row starter, Dennis Erb Jr., held an early lead in the 30-lap, $2,000 to win race, with Joe Harlan challenging Erb, followed by Scott Schmitt, Bobby Pierce, and Jay Morris. After a lap eight caution, Erb stuck his guns to the bottom, building a ten car length lead, with Harlan on the topside, and Pierce slipping by Schmitt for third. Erb held a straight away lead over the field, as Harlan, Pierce, Schmitt, and McKay Wenger ran in a tight formation for second. When the track went green following a caution on the 14th lap, Pierce used the double file restart to his advantage. Starting on the bottom, Pierce stuck his nose under Erb’s car and tried for the lead, but out of nowhere came Kevin Weaver to get by both contenders for a brief lead. With ten laps to go, Pierce moved to the top of the track. On the next circuit, Pierce shot by Weaver and Erb to take the lead. Pierce pulled away from the field to notch his 10th win of the year and seventh in the last month. Joined by his family and crew in victory lane, a jubilant Pierce spoke, “It’s kind of hard when you see that cushion up there and you are trying to run the bottom. You know the cushion is there. Fairbury always has a good cushion to run on. It’s the fear of whether you want to get up there and run it.” Weaver, Erb, Harlan, Daren Friedman, Wenger, Scott Bull, Brandon Thirlby, Derek Chandler, and Steve Thorsten completed the top ten. Bull was the race’s hard charger. Pierce was the night’s fast qualifier at a 12.964. Schmitt, Erb, and Harlan took heat wins.

As the field of UMP Modified drivers took the green flag, a ten car pile-up on the back stretch brought out the red flag and eliminated five cars from competition. Following the cleanup, Lance Dehm led the field with Jay Ledford, Nick Wallrich, Steven Brooks, and Jeb Friedman. After a lap three caution, Dehm set a torrid pace as Ledford and Brooks had an intense battle for second. Behind the top three, Friedman, Cullen Breeden, Wallrich, and Cory Schwengel ran in a tight quarters until Schwengel spun out in turn two for a caution on lap six. On the restart, Dehm pulled away, as Ledford had to contend with Brooks. Following the top three, Friedman had to deal with a couple of young lions as Breeden and Jeffrey Ledford looked to improve their position on the speedway. Dehm left the field after a caution on lap 11, as Friedman looked to wrestle second from Jay Ledford. Both cars went at it, “tooth and nail”, as Ledford held a slight advantage over Friedman. At the finish of the 20-lap race, Dehm had a straight away lead, with Ledford holding off a determined Friedman. The remainder of the top ten were: Mike McKinney, Brooks, Jim Farris, Kevin Hastings, Jeffrey Ledford, Breeden, and Schwengel. Dehm was the fast qualifier of the 21 cars in attendance at a 14.003. Hastings was the hard charger winner. Dehm, Wallrich, and Friedman won heat races.

Lukes Gash used his front row starting position to his advantage, taking the lead in the 15-lap, UMP Street Stock race. Brandon Kessinger and A.J. Meiferdt ran in single file as Jeff Semmens and Lon Franks ran side by side for fourth. The race had two early cautions for minor spin outs. On the restart Gash and Kessinger broke away from the competition, as Meiferdt, Franks, Semmens, and Lee Hall battled door handle to door handle for third. 

By the halfway mark, Gash had a half a straight away lead. Hall broke away to put his bumper on the Kessinger car. Rick Thomas, after starting deep in the field, soon found himself in fourth. A caution came out with three laps to go as Thomas got an assisted spin. The cars went single file on the restart and Gash built a five car length lead, which he maintained to the end. Gash was able to take his first ever feature win at the American Legion Speedway. “We won the Hubert Memorial at Kankakee last year, but it is really special to be in victory lane here at Fairbury. I can’t thank my family, crew, and sponsors for all their support”, commented Gash. Kessinger, Hall, Thomas, Matt Maier, Darrell Dick, Semmens, Meiferdt, Justin Nelson, and Eric Gaus rounded out the top ten. Maier took the hard charger honors. Kessinger was fast qualifier for the night at a 15.798. Kessinger and Gash were the heat race winners.

Jeffrey Ledford had to contend with the father and son team of Richard and Anthony Craven in the 15-lap, UMP Sportsman event. Richard Craven led the opening laps with Ledford, Anthony Craven, Dustin Mounce, and Tim Bohm trailing. Following a lap three caution, Ledford found himself sandwiched between both Cravens as they battled for the front position. Ledford moved to the top side of the track after a caution on the sixth circuit to lead Richard Craven, as Mounce pressured Anthony Craven for third. Ledford extended his lead in the closing laps. Mounce looked to move up in the running order and tried valiantly to get by both Craven’s, but the laps ran out and Ledford made his way to the winner’s circle for the second straight week. “I have to thank my crew for all their hard work. With three cars, it can be trying. Thanks to all my sponsors and family, I couldn’t do it without them,” said Ledford. Anthony Craven, Richard Craven, Richie Rich, Mounce, Rick Thomas, Bohm, Amber Crouch, Bryant Frechette, and Matt Mills took the top ten positions. Rich earned the hard charger honors. Ledford posted quick time for the race at a 14.922. Anthony Craven and Ledford were the heat race winners.

Bull, Dehm, Ledford, and Thomas Capture Wins

by Darlene Miller

Starting first proved to be a big advantage for three feature winners in Saturday night’s racing at Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Although they won their races they had to hold off stiff competition from the other drivers that were ready to take them on.

Fairbury’s Scott Bull began his feature from the pole position in the Late Model race but quickly realized he faced other drivers breathing down his neck from Fairbury’s McKay Wenger and Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver. A caution flag came out with 23 laps to go in the 30-lap feature for debris in turns 3 and 4, another one came out again on the restart, but that did not deter Bull. Riding the high side, Bull continued to hold off the pair but soon found more competition coming from Daren Friedman and Torin Mettille who worked their way up to fourth and fifth. Eight laps remained in the race when the caution flag flew again for a crash in turn three which gathered up Friedman and Mettille. In turn four on the final lap, Wenger tried to slide around in front of Bull but the defending FALS champion held him off for his first win of the season. “It was a real close race tonight. We have a new car and we are working it out,” said Bull.

Rounding out the top ten were Wenger, Weaver, Dan Flessner, Scott Schmitt, hard charger Jay Sparks, Jay Morris, Joe Harlan, Tom Smith, and Bill Hough. Heat winners were Bull, Wenger, and Mettille.

The first night of racing with a new car was not good for Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm as he failed to finish that Modified feature. That was not to be the case for this second race as Dehm found himself on the pole for the 20-lap feature. Defending champ Jeff Curl and Josh Ferguson found themselves to be tough for Dehm at the start of the race. With just five laps in, Jacob Poel who started sixth put himself in the second spot. Caution flags slowed the field and Poel was now nipping at the heels of Dehm but Dehm was able to hold on for the victory. “It’s been a tough year so far; we are trying stuff early and it had not been working so far. This was a great start for the rest of the season,” said Dehm.

Second went to Poel, followed by Curl, Ferguson, Jim Farris, Jay Ledford, Jeb Friedman, Dan Rork, Tommy Duncan, and Jared Cagley. Heat winners were Dehm, Curl, and Dave Porth.

Pontiac’s Jeffrey Ledford found himself on the pole for the start of the 15-lap Sportsman race. After finishing second the first race of the season to Richard Craven, Ledford had to hold off R. Craven for his first feature win of the season (and second at FALS). Anthony Craven led a few early laps in the feature but with six laps to go he spun in turn two and the 15-year-old Ledford was now on top of the leaderboard. He won by three car lengths over R. Craven. “We have had our ups and downs, but we got lucky,” said Ledford. Flanagan’s Dustin Mounce finished third followed by Tyler Roth, Paul Graf, Chris Anderson, A. Craven, Eric Legner, Michael Maestes, and Matt Mills. Ledford and Mounce were heat winners.

In the first feature race of the evening, Pontiac’s Jeff Semmens led the Street Stock drivers to the green flag. Semmens soon found himself in a battle with second place starter, Dwight’s Rick Thomas. The pair put on a good show, going neck and neck at different times during the race. Thomas took the lead and held on with 8 to go for the win. Brandon Kessinger was third followed by Matt Maier, Darrell Dick, A.J. Meiferdt, Jason Maier, Nick Clubb, Justin Nelson, and Don Hilleary. Thomas and Semmens were heat winners. “We put on a good show,” said Thomas. “He (Semmens) was there, then he wasn’t, then he was, but it worked out.”

Chandler Nets Fairbury Season Opener

by Rocky Ragusa

Derek Chandler wrestled the lead away from Scott Bull with nine laps to go and pulled away from the field to claim the 30-lap, UMP Late Model feature as the Fairbury American Legion Speedway opened their 68th season.

Pole sitter Bull led the field to the green as Chandler followed. Chandler, running the top side of the track, used his momentum to take the point on the third circuit, but Bull came back to reclaim the lead on lap four. Bull was able to open a five car length lead over Chandler, but never was able to distance himself from the field.  Jay Morris charged by Joe Harlan and Daren Friedman to take third in the early portion, but the front two cars had a straight away lead over the competition. Chandler slowly etched his way back to Bull’s bumper and moved into the lead with ten laps to go. Following a caution with seven laps remaining, Chandler, Bull, and Morris went three wide into turn one for the lead. Chandler showed the power and pulled away to a ten car length lead, as Morris showed Bull the nose of his car. Bull was able to keep Morris at bay, but in the end, Chandler took his second straight season opening win at the American Legion track. Defending track champion, Bull took second, with Morris, Harlan, Friedman, Steve Thorsten, Dan Flessner, McKay Wenger, Torin Mettille, and Don Hilleary completing the top ten. Wenger set fast time at a 12.603. Bull and Chandler took heat race wins.

Indiana invader, Nick Allen took advantage of Jimmy Dehm’s miscue to take the lead on the second lap and pick up the win in the 20-lap, UMP Modified feature. Dehm took the lead at the start and opened up a five car length advantage over Allen, but on the second lap, Dehm looped his car in turn four. Jay Ledford with nowhere to go clipped Dehm and both cars were eliminated. On the restart, Allen vaulted to the lead, as Jeff Curl and Jim Farris raced for second. Farris got by Curl on the fourth lap and closed the distance on Allen. Farris kept Allen in his sights but could not mound a challenge for the lead. Allen took the win, with Farris, Curl, Derek Losh, Nick Wallrich, Devin Wright, Jared Cagley, Kevin Hastings, Tommy Duncan, and Nick Kurtz rounding out the top ten. Defending track champion Curl was the fast qualifier at a 13.976. Jay Ledford, Jimmy Dehm, and Allen won the heat races.

In a caution marred 15-lap, UMP Sportsman race, Richard Craven moved into the lead on lap four to pick up the feature win. Five caution periods plagued the early part of the race, as drivers had difficulty completing more than a lap. On the fifth attempt, Ledford running the high side of the track took the lead as Craven, Dustin Mounce, Paul Graf, and Tyler Roth followed. With smoke trailing from his car, Craven moved into the lead on lap four and kept Ledford to a car length advantage.

After two cautions on the ninth lap, the field went to a single file restart. Craven was able to pull away from Ledford and pick up the win. Mounce, Graf, Eric Legner, Chris Anderson, Anthony Craven, Ryan Moore, Tyler Roth, and Bryant Frechette took the top ten positions. Ledford won the fast time award with a 14.637. Richie Rich and Richard Craven took heat wins.

Controversy marred the 15-lap, UMP Street Stock contest.  After a lap 14 caution, Joel Funk led the field to the restart. Funk moved into command and looked to be on his way to the win. Track officials said Funk had jumped the restart and penalized him. Brandon Kessinger was scored the race winner, as Funk argued his point, but to no avail. In spite of the incident, Funk and Kessinger exchanged the lead throughout the race, with no clear cut winner until the checkered flag. Eric Gaus, Jason Maier, Darrell Dick, Nick Clubb, Lee Hall, Nathan Lyday, Justin Nelson, and Kevin Anderson rounding out the top ten. David Hurst was the night’s fast qualifier at a 15.596. Kessinger and Funk took the heat race wins.