Spatola, Wallace, Albus, Sauder, McKenrick grab checkers as Champions were Crowned

by Rocky Ragusa

The track champions for the 2016 season were introduced to the crowd Saturday night along with the top ten in each of the four divisions. Kevin Weaver picked up his third Late Model track title, Richie Rich captured his second straight Sportsman championship, while A.J. Meiferdt (Street Stock), and Mike McKinney (Modified) both claimed their first track titles.

aug27-lmManhattan’s Mike Spatola got by Kevin Weaver with three laps to go and took his fourth win in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Rusty Schlenk also snuck by Weaver but ran out of time to make a bid for the lead as he settled for second. Weaver, Jay Morris, Joe Harlan, Mike Mullvain, Steve Thorsten, Jason Wagner, 16th starter Snooky Dehm, and Jon Small finished in the top ten as attrition took its toll on the 18 car field. Spatola set quick time at a 13.165. Harlan and Weaver won the heat races.

aug27-mdFormer NASCAR star, Kenny Wallace has been on a hot streak this past week. Wallace took the $1,000 to win race at Lincoln beating Mike Harrison in a photo finish on Thursday, dethroning perennial Kankakee favorite Mike McKinney for another grand on Friday, and tuned up for next week’s $10,000 to win show at FALS by winning his first ever feature at Fairbury in the 20-lap Modified race. Wallace moved to the lead on lap 12 after McKinney’s car lost a driveshaft. Wallace had to hold off a determined bid by Lance Dehm in the final laps until Dehm jumped the cushion with two laps to go. Wallace, always an exuberant person, spoke after the win, “This whole weekend has been inspired by the late Bryan Clauson. I know his family pretty well. When we left his celebration of life in Kokomo, Indiana, Quality Aviation one of my sponsors told me, “Herman, go park it. That’s a lot of pressure. To park it three straight nights in a row, is the first time this has ever happened to me. Thanks to my crew and all the fans for showing up. I will be back next week for the $10,000 to win race.” Ray Bollinger, Dehm, 16th starter Mike Learman, Jeff Curl, Vince Cooper, Tommy Duncan, Travis Kohler, Nick Clubb, and Nick Lueth rounded out the top ten. McKinney was the fastest qualifier of the 34 drivers on hand at a 14.047. Steven Brooks, Curl, McKinney, and Wallace won heat races. Dave Dulceak and Kevin Weaver won the semi features.

aug27-sp13 drivers were on hand in the Sportsman class. Bryant Frechette and Scott Williams took heat race wins. Lake Nichoalds took the lead from Scott Williams on the eighth lap and looked to be on his way to another win in the 15-lap race. On the restart after a lap 13 caution, Nichoalds car stalled at the exit of turn two bringing out a caution and ending his night. Brian Albus inherited the lead and took his second win of the season. “Lake was going to be hard to beat,” said Albus, who started 11th. “I didn’t think I could catch him and I was fine with finishing second. It’s too bad his night ended like that.” Frechette, Amber Crouch, Brandon Pralle, Eric Saltzman, Anthony Craven, Tyler Roth, Nichoalds, Blake Reid, and Williams completed the top ten.

aug27-ssStarting the season as he began it, Barry Sauder of Creve Coeur was the class of the field in the 15-lap Street Stock race. Taking the lead from A.J. Meiferdt on the third lap, Sauder sped away for his second win of the year. Meiferdt was the main competition for Sauder but dropped out with two laps to go due to mechanical problems. “Thanks to my dad and Mike Chasteen Jr. for their help tonight,” spoke Sauder. “I have taken a few weeks off to help Mike with his car. It feels good to get back behind the wheel. That was an exciting race.” Trailing Sauder to the line were Rick Thomas, Peter Odell, Don Hilleary, 20th starter Joel Funk, Mitch Hahn, Josh Hetherington, Kaleb Wood, Andy Thompson, and Robert Cottom. Hahn, Meiferdt, and Sauder won heat races for the 23 Street Stock drivers.

aug27-hmThe Hobby Mod class had a season high 14 entrants. Josh McKenrick and Mason Duncan scored wins in their heat races. McKenrick of Bellevue took the lead from Jason Brandt with two laps to go and won his first ever race at Fairbury. “After Peoria rained out tonight, we decided to come here. This is my first time racing here. What an awesome night,” said an excited McKenrick. Brandt, Tim McGuire, Thad Gee, Steven Ranfroe, Makinzi Semmens, Scott Brown, Mike Petersen, Duncan, and Brendan Patterson completed the top ten.

Gardner Takes ALMS Win; Weaver Makes History

by Rocky Ragusa

The Fairbury American Legion Speedway held six feature races Saturday night. Bob Gardner from East Peoria took the $2,000 to win American Late Model Series special to open the racing program, and Gibson City chauffeur Kevin Weaver took the nightcap Late Model race, becoming the all-time winningest FALS driver.

aug13-lm22 Late Model drivers took to the track for qualifying and Bob Gardner turned in fast time at a 13.433. Scott Schmitt, Derek Chandler, and John Gardner Jr. won heat races. Chandler led early in the race as Schmitt, Mike Spatola, Gardner Jr., and Gardner fought for position. After a caution on the eighth lap, Gardner moved into second and closed the margin on Chandler. Caution again fell on the 12th lap. Schmitt moved to the topside of the track on the restart and edged ahead of Gardner and Chandler for the lead. Treacherous track conditions resulted in drivers trying various lines to avoid the ruts created due to the rain the area had received the previous night. After Weaver tagged the wall and left debris on the speedway for a caution on lap 15, Gardner caught a break on the restart. Gardner was able to overtake Schmitt on the 19th lap and pulled out to a straightaway lead in the waning laps. Schmitt, Chandler, Rich Bell, and Spatola fought tooth and nail for track position. Bell took over second with three laps to go but the laps ran out as Gardner registered his first ALMS win and first ever at Fairbury. “This is a huge win,” spoke Gardner. “We got this car two weeks before the Summer Nationals. We had a decent tour. We knew if we kept getting top three's and qualifying well, the wins would come.” Bell, Spatola, Schmitt, Chandler, Jay Morris, Joe Harlan, ALMS points leader Rusty Schlenk, 21st starter Jay Sparks, and Gardner Jr. completed the top ten. Weaver has a 43-point cushion heading into the final night for track points.

aug13-ss22 Street Stock drivers were on hand for a $500 to win special, sponsored by Tools Auto Sales. Darrell Dick, who last week took the LaSalle Speedway title, turned in fast time with a 15.488. Chad Rockefeller, UMP national points leader Andrew Funk, and FALS points leader A.J. Meiferdt won heat races. Funk took a commanding lead in the 20-lap race as Rockefeller, Meiferdt, Rick Thomas, and Don Hilleary followed. Meiferdt moved into second at the halfway mark and briefly challenged Funk for the lead. Funk was able open a straightaway lead in the closing laps and scored his seventh win at FALS. Funk spoke following his win. “It’s been a heck of a year. I knew the bottom was there and the middle came in a little. I thought it would slick off and enough moisture came up to make it a fast track.” Meiferdt, Thomas, Dick, Hilleary, Rockefeller, Josh Hetherington, Peter Odell, 19th starter Chris Dick, and Curtis Radke followed. Meiferdt has wrapped up the track championship with an insurmountable 129-point lead entering the final points night.

aug13-mdMaking a switch to an Impressive Chassis about a month ago, Lance Dehm and his crew had to deal with getting accustomed to the new car. FALS points leader Mike McKinney was the fast qualifier at a 14.177 over 20 other drivers. McKinney, Dehm, and Jay Ledford won the night’s heat races. Dehm took the lead at the start of the 20-lap race, tackling the high side, and reminding fans that he is one of Fairbury’s most dominate drivers on the FALS cushion. Ledford, McKinney, and Levi Kissinger sometimes ran three-wide for position behind Dehm, hoping to track him down. Ledford and McKinney broke away from the rest of the field as they waged their own battle for position and the track title. On lap 15, Ledford made contact with a slower car, tagging the wall, and bringing his night to an end. After the caution and the track was clear, Dehm changed his line to racing the top in turns 1-2 and bottom in 3-4, but McKinney stayed right on Dehm’s heels. With two laps to go, McKinney jumped the cushion, cutting a tire down, to bring out a caution. As the field went back green, Vince Cooper gave Dehm his best shot, but Dehm hung on for his first FALS win since August 9, 2014. An excited Dehm spoke following his win, “After not winning last year, I wasn’t sure if we would get back here. We had a good night. Thanks to Matt Rhyne, the motor was awesome.” Following Dehm to the stripe were Cooper, Kissinger, Jeff Curl, Nick Lueth, Dale Lueth, Brandon Maciejewski, Jared Cagley, 19th starter Jeffrey Ledford, and Nick Clubb. Only 17 points separate McKinney and Ledford as they head into the final night for points.

aug13-sp13 Sportsman drivers took time trials with second generation driver Scott Williams leading the way at a 14.649. Williams and Lake Nichoalds were the heat race winners. Williams took the lead at the start as Richie Rich and Nichoalds pressured him. Following a caution on the fourth lap, Rich moved to the outside and overtook Williams for the lead. Rich, Williams, and Nichoalds pulled away from their competitors and set the stage for an exciting finish. Nichoalds drove a smooth race, overtaking Williams just past the halfway mark. With three laps remaining, Nichoalds overtook Rich and scored his fourth win of the year. “It was nice to see our class race more than two laps without a yellow flag,” commented Nichoalds. “Thanks to my crew, sponsors, and fans. I couldn’t do it without your support.” Nichoalds trails Rich by 66 points with one points night remaining. Rich, Williams, 10th starter Anthony Craven, Rod Rusher, Amber Crouch, Bryant Frechette, Tyler Roth, Brandon Pralle, and Brian Albus rounded out the top ten.

aug13-hmThad Gee, who won the heat race, led the 12-lap Hobby Mod feature early, with Petersen, Jason Brandt, Brandon Post, and Mike McGuire following. After a caution on the third lap, Petersen moved to the point, with Gee and Brandt pulling away. Brandt took the second position and challenged Petersen lap after lap for the lead, before taking over after the white flag was waved. Brandt led the final 50 yards to take his first win of the year. “It’s been a tough year for us. We got a couple of heat wins, but couldn’t hang on for a feature. The car worked great tonight,” Brandt said. Petersen, Gee, McGuire, Post, Brendan Patterson, Makinzi Semmens, Macy Vaughan, and Emily Bohm rounded out the field.

may28-lmThe night ended with a rescheduled Late Model race from May 28th. Kevin Weaver was able to lead all the way in claiming his seventh win and 67th career FALS victory, making him the winningest driver in the history of Fairbury, surpassing Roger Long. “The car ran good. The track was sketchy, but it’s not anything I haven't ran before,” said Weaver. “It’s awesome to get the win and the record. I can say I got it for at least awhile.” Mike Spatola held off a hard charging Derek Chandler for second, followed by Joe Harlan, Bob Gardner, Scott Bull, McKay Wenger, Jay Morris, Glen Thompson, and Snooky Dehm.

Feger Rolls to Bess Memorial Victory

by Rocky Ragusa

The Third Annual Willard Bess Memorial race for the Central Illinois Mini Sprint Series highlighted the racing action on Saturday night at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Also, an anonymous person helped to raise the purse for the Modified class and the Street Stock division.

aug6-ms16 Mini Sprints took part in the Bess Memorial race with the winner receiving $1,000. Lewistown's Brent Burrows and Dan Fitzgerald of Indianapolis, IN won their heat races. Fourth starting Devin Feger of Groveland wasted little time as the green flag waved for the 20-lap race. Feger charged to the front and was never headed. By the end of the race, Feger held over a half-track lead over his nearest competitor as he picked up his third consecutive CIMS victory. “I have to thank my crew for their hard work tonight. We struggled in the heat race, but turned it around for the feature,” spoke Feger. Fitzgerald, Burrows, eighth starter Brad Strunk, Austin Archdale, Andrew Funk, Robby McQuinn, Brad Funk, Dave Baugh, and Billy Brickley were the top ten finishers.

aug6-lmMike Spatola and Kevin Weaver took heat race wins setting the front row for the 30-lap Late Model feature. Weaver and Spatola ran side by side before Spatola was able to set the pace. The leaders set a rapid pace and began working the slower traffic by lap seven. After a lap ten caution, Spatola running the top, had a battle with Weaver. Weaver was able to lead the 16th lap, but lost it as he encountered lapped cars. After cautions on lap 19 and 20, Spatola led Weaver, Morris, Scott Schmitt, and McKay Wenger. Weaver changed his line to the top trying to close up on Spatola, but Spatola proved to be the strongest car on this night as he took his third win of the year. Weaver settled for second as Schmitt made a last lap pass for third. Jay Morris, Joe Harlan, Wenger, Scott Bull, Steve Thorsten, Bob Gardner, and 17th starter Jeff LeSage rounded out the top ten. “The car has been working great,” commented Spatola. “Kevin was good on the bottom. I thought the top was going to be dominate. He kept pressuring me and had me worried. We were able to pull away and get it done.” Morris was the fast qualifier of the 18 cars on hand at a 13.163.

aug6-mdAn unnamed fan gave the winner of the Modified race an opportunity to race for $1,200. With the increase, instead of the normal 20-lap race, drivers ran a 25-lap show. Jay Ledford turned back 24 other drivers in time trials with a lap of 14.149. Ledford, Lance Dehm, and Mike McKinney were heat race victors. Jeff Curl took the semi feature win. Steven Brooks and Ledford raced for second, while Dehm was battling Mark Grosvenor for fourth with Brian Lynn following, gave McKinney a little breathing room as he pulled away from the field. McKinney ran the Fairbury cushion to perfection as he held a straightaway lead by the time a caution fell on lap 15. As the track went to clean and green, McKinney wasted little time leading Grosvenor, Brooks, Ledford, and Dehm. The quartet tried different lines with Grosvenor on the topside, Brooks, Ledford, and Dehm at the bottom looking to close the margin on McKinney. With six laps to go, Dehm moved to the top and took the second position. Dehm was able to cut into McKinney’s lead but time ran out as McKinney claimed his seventh Fairbury win, and moved into the points lead. “Thanks to the individual that raised the purse,” an excited McKinney spoke. “It’s awesome to race for some big money. I have to thank my dad. He bust his butt every week getting the car ready and all I have to do is drive.” Dehm, Brooks, Grosvenor, Jay Ledford, Jeffrey Ledford, Brandon Maciejewski, 16th starter Jeff Curl, Brian Lynn, and Nick Clubb completed the top ten.

aug6-spThe Sportsman race was scheduled for a 15-lap feature. Due to the number of cautions and a time limit, only 11 laps were completed. Scott Williams led at the start with Lake Nichoalds and Richie Rich in pursuit, followed by Bryant Frechette and Amber Crouch. After two cautions, Nichoalds worked his way by Williams on the backstretch to take the lead on the third lap. Nichoalds survived the caution periods and held a healthy margin over the field as early contenders Rich and Steve Mattingly were eliminated. On the white flag lap with Nichoalds leading Frechette and Williams in a tight pack, Frechette was able to muscle his way by Nichoalds in turns three and four to lead the way to the finish and score his first career win. “Lake left me a lane open and I was able to take advantage of it,” spoke Frechette. Nichoalds, Williams, Crouch, 11th starter Troy Medley, Brian Albus, Rod Rusher, Brandon Pralle, Blake Reid, and Mattingly rounded out the top ten. Rich and Williams won their heat races. Nichoalds took fast time honors at a 14.472.

aug6-ssA.J. Meiferdt was the fast qualifier among the 13 Street Stocks on hand with a 15.771. Mieferdt and Kyle Anderson took the heat race wins. Meiferdt, the class points leader, took the lead with Anderson, Rick Thomas, Josh Hetherington, and Ryan Anderson following. After a lap four caution, Thomas moved to the top side of the track and got by Anderson for second. Thomas was able to close up on Meiferdt and challenge for the lead but a caution fell on lap eight. On the restart, Meiferdt opened up his lead to three-car-lengths as Thomas battled with Anderson, with Kaleb Wood and Don Hilleary trailing. After another caution with five laps to go, Wood got by Thomas for second and was on the pedal as he trailed Meiferdt by a car length at the checkered flag. Meiferdt took his third win and added $500 to his pocket. “Honestly, the car wasn’t that good tonight. I had to hold it against the tires,” said Meiferdt. “I heard Kaleb on the outside as we headed to the checkers. I did what I had to do.” Wood, who started eighth, Thomas, Kyle Anderson, Hilleary, Hetherington, Valerie Hurt, Curtis Radke, Ryan Anderson, and Robert Turner completed the top ten.

Richards Blasts to Prairie Dirt Classic Win; Kissinger Nabs Modified Nationals Victory

by Darlene Miller | Photos by Rocky Ragusa

Josh Richards has developed a lot of success in his racing career, which has helped augment his nickname. On Saturday, the “Rocket Man” shot to his 11th victory of the season by taking the World of Outlaws Prairie Dirt Classic Late Model feature. Levi Kissinger celebrated his birthday by taking the $5,000 DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals race in a hard fought battle.

jul30-lm2Richards, of Shinnston, W.Va., claimed the $27,000 top prize in the Dirt Classic over a tough group of 28 other feature drivers. The packed crowd was on its feet as Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., grabbed the early lead over Manhattan’s Mike Spatola and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., in the 100-lap Late Model feature. Casebolt began to pull away as the drivers behind him were battling three and four wide for the second spot. Casebolt’s lead increased with 12 laps in and he looked like the driver to beat. A caution flag slowed the drivers with 60 laps to go. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and Richards were sitting in second and third and Oakwood’s Bobby Pierce had moved up to the fifth spot after starting 22nd. With a puff of smoke with 59 laps to go, Casebolt’s lead evaporated as he saw his race come to an end entering turn two. Richards found himself in the lead and being closely challenged by McCreadie, Pierce, Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, and Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga. Pierce’s night would end with 53 circuits to go as he stuck into the turn three cushion and found himself on his side, which brought out the red flag.

jul30-lmOn the restart, Richards jumped back to the lead with Clanton and McCreadie in tow. Two more caution flags flew with 45 and 30 laps to go and Erb was in third getting past McCreadie. Erb quickly put the challenge to Richards and briefly got around him in turn three but another caution flew with 25 to go. Erb was putting constant pressure on Richards over the final 10 circuits but at the checkered flag it was Richards winning by a car length. “Erb didn’t make it easy on me. I saw him coming and I didn’t know where to go,” Richards said after claiming his 69th career victory. “My car was awesome. I had to go up top, it was hard but a lot of fun. I have enjoyed every moment of it.” Erb, who won the “Dream” in Eldora this season, said, “It was a good battle. I had a good car and it was a heck of a race at the end.” “I had to do what I had to by running the top,” third-place finisher Clanton said. “It was treacherous but I held on.” O’Neal was fourth followed by Moweaqua’s Shannon Babb. Rick Eckert of York, Pa., led the second five with McCreadie, Brian Shirley of Chatham, Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., and Frankfort’s Frank Heckenast Jr. following. Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., last year’s PDC winner, finished 28th after he turned down $2,000 after winning the last chance Shootout race to start in the PDC feature. Friday night heat winners were Kolby Vandenbergh of Ashland, Casebolt, Clanton, Spatola, Pontiac’s Derek Chandler and McCreadie. The semi winners were Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., and Jake O’Neil of Vail, Az. Vandenbergh had the fast time in the first qualifying group at 12.932 seconds, but Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver had the fastest time overall of the 59 Late Models on hand with a 12.837 second lap.

jul30-mdBuffalo’s Jeff Leka took the lead in the 40-lap Modified feature after he and Kissinger swapped the lead early on. A caution flag slowed the quick pace with 29 laps to go and then another caution flew seven laps later. Leka was still showing the way but Kissinger and Josh Harris were nipping at his bumper. Kissinger, who came here from Mt. Vernon, Ind., finally got around Leka with 16 laps to go, pulling Harris and Brent Mullins with him. Kissinger and Harris were battling the rest of the way but Kissinger held on for the win. “I knew I was better and I went for broke for the win. My car got tight but I held on,” said Kissinger. Harris of Owensboro, Ky., came in second with Leka, Tyler Nicely of Owensboro, Ky., and Mullins of Mt. Olive completing the top five. Matt Cooper of McKenzie, Tenn., Highland’s Mike Harrison, Newton’s Chad Kinder, Mike McKinney of Plainfield, and Ray Bollinger of Kewanee made the second five. Heat wins went to Bollinger, Cory Daugherty of Blue Mound, Kissinger, Leka, Mullins, and Nicely. Semis were won by Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C., who also captured the Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals points championship, and Rodney Standerfer of Summerfield. The scrambles went to Brandon McDowell and Danny Schwartz. Leka had the fastest time in the first qualifying group and overall of the 56 Modifieds on hand at 13.697 seconds. Nicely was quickest in the second group at 13.934 seconds. Trent Young of Hopkinsville, Ky., came out on top of a wild AMS All-Star Shootout Friday night. The rescheduled race from the May 28th rainout paid $2,000 to win. Jeff Curl of Fairbury was second, Harris third, Cooper fourth, and Chatsworth's Lance Dehm completed the top five.