Curl Continues Story Book Season with Modified Nationals Win

by Rocky Ragusa & Korey Rich

The UMP Modified class held their biggest event in the history of the Fairbury American Legion Speedway Saturday night. 52 modified teams vied for 26 starting positions as Casey’s General Store presented the first annual Modified Nationals sanctioned by the American Modified Series.

Lance Dehm bested a stout field in modified qualifying at a 13.985. Six heat races were held with the top three transferring to the 40 lap, $5,000 to win show. In the first heat race Lance Dehm had a healthy lead until the rear end went out in his car and was done for the night. Levi Kissinger took the win over Ricky Tinch and Devin Wright. Heat two had Jay Ledford leading Jacob Poel and Trent Young to the checkered flag. Jeff Curl took the third heat over Jeb Friedman and Jeff Leka. Advancing from heat four, Chad Kinder led Jim Farris and Dan Rork. Matt Mevert won heat race five over Kasey Schrock and Cullen Breeden. The final heat saw Steven Brooks taking the win over T.D. Burger and Donovan Lodge. Two semi features were held, taking the top two to the 40 lap feature. Mike McKinney led Ryan Tomas in semi race one, while Brian Lynn took the second race over Dave Porth. Track provisionals went to Tommy Duncan and Jared Cagley, and the A.M.S. gave two provisionals to points leader Bryan Barber and Josh Ferguson.

26 cars lined up for the Casey’s Modified Nationals. Chad Kinder took the lead at the start with Matt Mevert taking second from Levi Kissinger. Kinder went to the top side as Mevert applied pressure to Kinder for the lead. Kissinger had Steven Brooks to contend with for third with Jim Farris, Jay Ledford, Jeff Curl, Kasey Schrock, Jacob Poel, and T.D. Burger following. After a caution on lap two, Kinder led Mevert by two car lengths, with Brooks taking over in the third position. On lap five, race leader Kinder slowed in turn two to bring out the caution and end his night. The restart had Mevert in the lead with Brooks and Farris in the hunt. As Brooks was going for the lead on lap six, Brooks stalled in turn four, to bring out the caution and dash his hopes for the night.

Three Champions Claim Features at FALS

by Darlene Miller

Four champions were crowned at Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night as the points season came to an end. All four leaders heading into the evening’s action held on to their position. The crowd had to wait for the final feature to see what was the closest finish of the night. Scott Bull and Kevin Weaver brought the crowd to its feet with a down-to-the-wire finish. Bull held off Weaver by a nose for the feature win and his second straight late model championship.

Heat winners Jay Morris and Mike Spatola led the field to the starting flag and battled for the lead over the first five laps. Hard charging on the high side was Daren Friedman, putting pressure on the pair. Friedman took a slight lead before a caution flag flew on the eighth lap. Morris grabbed the lead back on the restart. Bull was moving in closer from his ninth starting spot and Weaver from his 11th starting place. Weaver took the command point with 16 circuits remaining, but Bull was quickly on his tail and the pair moved away from the field. Weaver and Bull were side by side with two laps to go but a lap traffic car forced Weaver to move up to the top and Bull took the low side around the car. Bull got in front for good and won the race by a nose. “It was a close finish,” Bull said. “I knew he knew I was getting close to him.” Joe Harlan was third followed by Spatola and Torin Mettille. Friedman led the second five and was followed by Frank Heckenast, Jr. Tom Thoennes, Donny Walden and Steve Thorsten. Heat winners were Morris and Spatola and the hard charger was Thoennes.

In the first feature race of the night, Rick Thomas of Dwight held off his competitors to capture the street stock title. Thomas took the early lead from the front row but the caution flag flew for a wreck in turn 2 on the third lap. The field was bunched up but Thomas was on the gas and stretched his lead out to a four-car advantage. The race was then red flagged with two laps to go as Mike Stirewalt’s car caught on fire coming out of turn four. Thomas and pole sitter Matt Maier were door to door but Thomas held off to win by one car length. “Cool, that’s what I needed,” Thomas said after being told this was the final points race. “I could not do it without everyone helping me.” Maier brought home second followed by Terry Miller, Lee Hall and Joel Funk. Justin Nelson led the second five that included Andrew Funk, Nick Clubb, Paul Westermeyer and A.J. Meiferdt. Heat race winners were Maier and Thomas. Westermeyer was also the hard charger of the race having moved up 10 spots.

Dehm Scores Topless 2O Win; Friedman, McKinney also Victorious on Fair Night

Jimmy Dehm won for the seventh time this season as the sportsman drivers battled for $450 in the Topless 20. Richard Craven was second, Dustin Mounce came in third, Scott Hatzer took fourth and Rick Thomas was fifth. Completing the top 10 were Troy Dodson, Paul Graf, Jeffrey Ledford, Ryan Huddleston and Matt Mills. Heat winners were Dehm, Bailey and Mounce. Dehm also won the Fast Five Dash after starting fifth. Ledford was the hard charger for moving up eight spots from his 16th starting position.

Daren Friedman closed the gap on points leader Scott Bull after winning the late model feature. Friedman overtook Joe Harlan for second place to put himself in position to make a run at Bull. Friedman was on the outside of the front row when he started the UMP Late Model feature. He was able to outlast the field and fend off all comers for his third victory of the season. Torin Mettille came in second and was followed by Bull, McKay Wenger and Eric Smith in the top five. Making up the second five were Dan Flessner, Steve Thorsten, Harlan and Jay Morris. Friedman and Wenger won heat races while Smith set the fast time at 12.94 seconds. Flessner moved up 10 spots from his starting position to earn hard-charger honors.

Mike McKinney scored his first modified feature win. Like Friedman in the late model, McKinney started in the front row and used that to his advantage. Steven Brooks came in second while current points leader Jeff Curl placed third. Jeb Friedman, who had the pole, and Jim Farris were also in the top five. Dave Porth led the second group. Following were Andrew Funk, Phil Line, Kevin Hastings and Joe Gillespie. McKinney, Friedman and Cory Schwengel were heat winners while Tommy Duncan took the semi-feature. Brooks was the hard-charger starting 14th and finishing second.

Sheppard, Curl, Miller Pick Up Wednesday Fair Wins

by Darlene Miller

Brandon Sheppard, who became the youngest UMP Summer Nationals champion this year, was able to get past Daren Friedman to claim the late model feature Wednesday on opening night of the Fairbury Fair. Friedman led most of the race but Sheppard was able to get an opening and got past the leader with two laps remaining to score his first-ever Fairbury win. After experiencing problems at FALS in previous appearances, Sheppard said, “It felt great … now I like Fairbury.” Friedman came in second and Jason Feger was third. Derek Chandler and McKay Wenger completed the top five while Donny Walden, Jay Sparks, Scott Bull, Ryan Unzicker and Torin Mettille rounded out the top 10. Winning heat races were Chandler, Wenger and Friedman. Brian Dunn won the semi-feature.

Jeff Curl may have secured his second consecutive points championship after claiming his sixth FALS victory in the modified feature. He led Lance Dehm by 59 points entering the evening’s action. Curl did not face much adversity after holding the lead for most of the race. Jeb Friedman came in second with Tommy Duncan, Jay Ledford and Nick Allen finishing in the top five. Kevin Hastings led the second group and was followed by Nick Wallrich, Jim Farris, Allen Weisser and Jared Cagley. Dehm finished 13th. Hastings was named the race’s hard charger. Duncan and Curl won heat races. “We’ve had an awesome year this year and it was nice to win on fair night,” Curl said.

Terry Miller of Lincoln took home the checkered flag in the street stock finale. Points leader Rick Thomas took second with Matt Maier coming in third. Finishing out the top 10 were Don Hilleary, Darrin Kohler, Brandon Kessinger, Alex Clubb, Justin Nelson, Calvin Coleman and Lee Hall. Hall was also the hard charger and Kessinger and Hilleary won heat races.

Shirley’s Gamble Pays Off for ALMS Win

by Rocky Ragusa

Brian Shirley’s gamble on a tire selection paid off as he captured the American Late Model Series $2,000 to win special at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway Saturday night.

Shirley took the lead at the start of the 30 lap feature with Jason Feger, Frank Heckenast Jr., Brandon Sheppard, and Kevin Weaver following. On the next lap, Feger slowed on the backstretch and pulled into the infield with a broken rear end on his car. On the restart, Shirley jumped out to a 10 car length lead over Heckenast, Sheppard, Weaver, and Joe Harlan. Caution came out on the fifth lap as Phil Ausra’s engine let go and sprinkled the track with debris. On the restart, the top four cars ran in single file formation as Harlan, Scott Bull, and Eric Smith went three wide for fifth while Daren Friedman kept the foursome in sight. Heckenast stuck the nose of his car under Shirley several times to take the lead but Shirley hung on to first. Shirley, Heckenast, and Sheppard in spite of the race for first, pulled away to a straight away lead over Weaver. The top side of the track proved to be dominate as the first three drivers set a torrid pace. With ten laps to go, slower traffic looked to become a factor. 

Shirley, with Heckenast and Sheppard stuck to his bumper, ran next to the wall dicing by the slower cars. Heckenast pulled alongside Shirley coming off of turn four for the lead but Shirley was able to hang on. With three laps remaining, Shirley tried to lap Glen Thompson, made contact, but Shirley got away and led the final laps for the win.

Heckenast, Sheppard, Weaver, Bull, Harlan, Brandon Thirlby, Ryan Unzicker, Smith, and Friedman rounded out the top ten. Unzicker was the race’s hard charger. Bull bested 25 other drivers in qualifying at a 12.995. Shirley, Heckenast, and Feger won heat races; while Unzicker took the semi. Taking his fourth win of the year, Shirley spoke following the win, “We gambled on tires. They had harder tires on than us. The left rear is about gone. It all paid off. We were able to get the jump on them at the start. I knew Frankie would be good with three hard tires on. We knew what we had to do. It was good enough to get the win. Thanks to Aaron and Albie for their hard work. The Pro Power motor ran great. Thanks to all the fans, you have great support here. Fairbury is a good place to race."