by Rocky Ragusa
Street Stock drivers were featured in the first special event of the year Saturday night at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Pete Odell (Street Stock), Ryan Unzicker (Late Model), Mike McKinney (Modified), and Brandon Pralle (Sportsman) came home with the hardware.
The 9th Annual Earl J. Hubert Memorial drew 23 of the finest Street Stock drivers in the area for their 43-lap, $2,000 to win showdown. Matt Hammond took fast time honors with a 15.639. Hammond, Michael Clark, and Jeremy Nichols won their respective heat races. Before the feature, the top two finishers in each heat race ran a trophy dash to determine the first six starting spots for their feature race, which Hammond was able to win. Nichols out powered Hammond at the start of the race with Jason Maier, Joe Brown, and Clark following. Nichols set a blistering pace running the top side of the track and moved by slower cars by the fourth lap. Starting in eighth position, AJ Meiferdt moved into fourth by the ninth lap. Nichols held a straightaway lead over his competitors but disaster fell on Nichols on the 13th lap as he spun out on the frontstretch drawing a caution, and as a result had to go to the rear of the field. Brown took over the first position and on the restart Meiferdt got by Hammond for second.
After a caution on the next lap, Brown and Meiferdt put the gloves on in a battle for first. Pete Odell made his presence known running the bottom of the track and soon found himself in the third spot. With Meiferdt and Brown on the top, Odell was able to move into first place on the 25th lap and extended his lead. Maier got by Brown for third and offered a brief challenge to Meiferdt as Nick Macklin moved into fifth. Caution fell with four laps to go and gave the defending Hubert race winner Meiferdt an opportunity to overtake Odell. With a go for broke attitude, Meiferdt tried the top and bottom groove but Odell was able to withstand Meiferdt’s challenge and take a popular win among his fellow drivers and fans. Meiferdt, Jason Maier, Macklin, Matt Maier, Jerrad Krick, Brown, Don Hilleary, Darrell Dick, and Nichols rounded out the top ten. Taking his first ever feature win at FALS, Odell spoke following his win. “I started in the middle of the pack and was racing Tanner Sullivan for position. After the first caution I didn’t think I was going to be able to go anywhere. All of a sudden everyone was going back and I kept telling myself to hold your line, stay calm, and don’t drive over your head. I did just that. This is an awesome feeling. I want to thank my dad, the Hubert family, and Fairbury for putting this race on.”
Last week’s Late Model winner Mike Spatola was the fast qualifier of the 19 cars on hand for their 30-lap race. Spatola and Scott Schmitt picked up heat race wins. After a caution on the opening lap, Schmitt, Spatola, and Jason Feger engaged in a spirited race for the top position. Fourth starter Ryan Unzicker soon joined in and was able to take over first place on the eighth lap with Spatola, Kevin Weaver, Feger, and Allen Weisser in the top five. Following cautions on lap nine and ten, Unzicker vaulted to a ten-car-length lead as Weaver looked to take second from Spatola. At the halfway mark of the race Unzicker and Spatola were able to distance themselves from the competition. Weisser was on the move and got by Weaver for third. In the closing laps, Unzicker had some anxious moments with five cars in front of him in their own race for position. Spatola was able to close back to Unzicker but the defending track champion treaded his way by and took the win. Spatola held off Weisser for second with Feger, Bob Gardner, Weaver, Derek Chandler, Collin Alexander, Jeff Curl, and Glen Thompson in the top ten. “I had to work for that win,” explained Unzicker. “We had a heck of a track tonight. My car was good on the bottom. Once I caught up to the lapped traffic Dan Rork was telling me that Spatola was gaining on me. I went to the top and the car worked good up there.”
McKay Wenger turned back 19 other Modified drivers in time trials with a lap of 14.163. Last week’s winner Mike McKinney and Allen Weisser picked up heat race wins. Four caution flags waved during the first 10 laps of the 20-lap race. After the final caution, McKinney walked the dog over his competitors and pulled away for an easy win. Weisser, Steven Brooks, Wenger, Jim Farris Jr., Allan Stipp, Jared Spalding, Dave Lija, Nick Clubb, and Justin Gregory rounded out the top ten. “There were some good cars here tonight, “commented McKinney. “I am sure the fans miss me running the top side but it just goes to show you how good this race car is to run on the top or bottom.”
For the 15-lap Sportsman race, Steve Mattingly was the night’s fast qualifier with a time of 15.271. Mattingly and Brandon Pralle were the heat race victors. Taking last week off to attend a prom, Pralle wasted little time in getting back into the groove. After two early cautions, Pralle pulled away from the field to register his first win of the year. Richard Craven held off Mattingly for second, with Amber Crouch, Matt Ramer, Anthony Craven, Michael Ledford, Tyler Roth, Valerie Hurt, and Eric Saltzman finishing in the top ten positions. “Thanks to Fairbury for giving us an amazing track tonight,” said Pralle. “I also want to thank Roger Friedman for the tremendous horsepower.”