Spatola, Unzicker, Nichoalds, Brown, Brandt victorious on Fan Appreciation Night

by Darlene Miller

Three drivers took their first trip into the 2017 winner’s circle at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway during Fan Appreciation Night on Saturday. Mike Spatola (Late Model), Ryan Unzicker (Modified), and Joe Brown (Street Stock) brought home the victories. Lake Nichoalds won his third feature in the Sportsman division. Unzicker has been to the circle this season with his Late Model.

jun03-lmManhattan’s Spatola started second in the Late Model feature next to Tonica’s Scott Schmitt. The pair quickly grabbed their lanes and Spatola, riding the high side, took the lead over Schmitt. Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver took the second spot with 21 laps to go in the 30-lap feature. Caution flags flew a couple of times bunching the field. The pack shook out with six laps to go as Spatola, Schmitt, and Weaver established the top three spots. Schmitt drove tough and tried to sneak in low to challenge Spatola but to no avail as Spatola crossed the line first. “We are getting better every night. I am getting more and more confident and it feels great to get a win,” said Spatola. Unzicker, doing double duty, finished fourth in front of Fairbury’s Scott Bull. Taylor Scheffler led the second five with Mike Glasscock, Dan Flessner, Steve Thorsten, and Ron Donaldson following. Spatola and Schmitt won the heats and Schmitt also had fast time with a lap of 13.129 seconds. 

jun03-mdIn the 20-lap Modified feature, El Paso’s Unzicker and Jeffrey Ledford of Pontiac led the 22-car field to the green flag. Ledford quickly took the lead riding the cushion closely followed by Jimmy Dehm and Unzicker. Ledford continued his lead during the cautions as the group behind were running three wide several times trying to close in. Another caution flew for debris in turn three with five circuits to go and, on the restart, Unzicker was soon in the lead and was able to fend off Ledford by two car lengths for the win. “This car was a rocket ship tonight,” he said. Steven Brooks was third while hard-charging Jeff Curl, who started 12th, and Dehm completed the
top five. Jason Hastings, Mike McKinney, Nick Clubb, Nick Lueth and Rich Dawson completed the top 10. Heat winners were Clubb, Ledford, and Unzicker. Brooks was the fast qualifier with 14.249-second trip.

jun03-spOnarga’s Nichoalds won his caution-free Sportsman race starting from the third spot. Pole-sitter Richard Craven and Nichoalds battled the entire time and won by a half car length over Craven in the 12-car field. “Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t like running the bottom, but tonight it was good,” Nichoalds said. Bryant Frechette, Amber Crouch, Brandon Pralle, Dustin Mounce, Tim Dick, Scott Williams, Steve Mattingly, and Matt Ramer finished third through 10th. Craven and Frechette were heat winners and Craven, with a trip of 14.805 seconds, was top qualifier.

jun03-ssBrown of Wilmington won a caution-plagued Street Stock race for the first time at FALS in 10 years. “It feels good to be back on my 22nd wedding anniversary,” said Brown. AJ Meiferdt was next and had Lukes Gash, Darrell Dick, Peter Odell, Curtis Radke, Mounce, Andy Thompson, Justin Hamm, and Michael Schomas in tow. Brown
and Rick Thomas were heat winners and Gash was fastest in qualifying at 15.698 seconds.

jun03-hmEast Peoria's Jason Brandt started second in the 12-lap Hobby Mod feature and went on to collect his second win of the season. Albie Perez, Mike Petersen, Thad Gee, Macy Vaughan, Brendan Patterson, and Haley Jones followed. Peterson won the heat race.

Thorson Takes FALS Last Lap Thriller

by POWRi & Rocky Ragusa | Results

jun01-NMGAfter a relatively quiet start to POWRi Illinois SPEED Week for Tanner Thorson, the driver returned to victory lane with the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League for his first 2017 win, this time for night number two of POWRi Illinois SPEED Week at Fairbury American Legion Speedway. The Minden, Nevada native started fifth and quickly worked his way towards the front, battling early on with Auckland, New Zealand’s Michael Pickens, POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League Rookie of the Year candidate, Zeb Wise, and Keith Kunz Motorsports teammate Rico Abreu.

After an early race yellow, Thorson capitalized on the slowdown to snag the lead from Pickens, however Thorson’s early race lead was short lived as Zeb Wise took the lead the following lap, holding on just long enough before swapping positions with Abreu. Setting a blistering pace, Abreu led Wise and Thorson for the next 13 laps until Wise brought out the red after catching the turn two wall and taking a tumble while running second.

Inheriting the second position, Thorson had six laps remaining to tackle Abreu for the lead. Patiently waiting until the last lap, Thorson had fans on the edge of their seats waiting to see if he would try to make a move going into turn one or wait until the last corner. Heading down the backstretch, it was apparent that Thorson had saved his best move for last as he dove to the bottom of turns three and four, sliding Abreu for the lead. Trying to return the slide job, Abreu made contact with Pickens, causing Abreu to fall back to fourth, while Thorson went on to win the Mesilla Valley Transportation feature event. Pickens took second, while Spencer Bayston quietly took third, rebounding after a hard flip at the Dirt Oval at Route 66 the previous night.

“My guys just gave me a badass car,” said Tanner Thorson. “It started to lay rubber right there and my car was able to hang on the best. I was just waiting for the last lap to see if I could get a run there on Rico. I’d lose it here and there, but we were able to stay there on the last lap and go for it. To be able to win tonight is very rewarding.”

“Our car was just better there on the long run,” commented Michael Pickens. “It started to lay rubber there and then we got really good. We struggled early and just didn’t have enough speed, but we were there at the end.”

“It was a tough night last night, but we had a good racecar last night and another good car tonight,” Spencer Bayston stated. “It built some rubber there and I was a lot better in the long run, but when we got that caution there on the restart, I wasn’t as strong as I needed to be.”

jun01-SPRAfter a lengthy absence, Sprint Cars returned to the Fairbury American Legion Speedway with the Lucas Oil POWRi WAR Sprint Car Series. After a caution with four laps to go in the 25-lap race, Mario Clouser trailed Kevin Thomas Jr. On the last lap, Clouser had a good run heading down the backstretch as he looked for the lead. Clouser made contact with Thomas Jr. Third running Korey Weyant proved to be in the right spot at the right time and led the final 100 yards for the $2,000 win. Slater Helt, Joe B. Miller, Bret Tripplett, Andy Baugh, Logan Faucon, Dustin Smith, Steve Thomas, Thomas Jr., and Clouser completed the top ten. Mitch Wissmiller and Smith took heat race wins.

jun01-D2MGMitchell Davis led flag to flag in the 25-lap POWRi Division II Midget race for his first win of the year. Aaron Schuck started 10th and rallied for second. Following the duo were Brent Burrows, Shane Morgan, Andy Baugh, Josh Thomas, Andy Malpocker, Broc Hunnell, Johnny Murdock, and Brandon Smith. Morgan and Davis won heat races.

jun01-MDThe night’s racing action ended with a 25-lap Modified feature. Ray Bollinger, the current UMP national points leader, led flag to flag in winning the $1,000 top prize. For Bollinger, it was his first ever win at Fairbury. Allen Weisser made several attempts to take the lead but fell short and settled for second. Kenny Wallace, Mike McKinney, Danny Schwartz, Jeff Curl, Tommy Duncan, Nick Clubb, Jeffrey Ledford, and Chad Rockefeller completed the top ten. Ledford set fast time at a 14.473. Bollinger, McKinney, and Wallace won heat races.

McKinney, Drake, Moos, Crouch, Meiferdt score Memorial Day Roundup Victories

by Rocky Ragusa

122 race cars took part in the racing action Saturday night as the Fairbury American Legion Speedway played host to the Memorial Day Weekend Roundup which saw increased purses in each class. Feature race winners were Mike McKinney (Modified), Billy Drake (Late Model), Myles Moos (Pro Late Model), Amber Crouch (Sportsman), and AJ Meiferdt (Street Stock).

may27-mdThe American Modified Series returned to FALS for the first of two appearances this season with 37 cars in attendance. Defending track champion Mike McKinney took fast time with a 14.093. Chris Arnold, Josh Harris, McKinney, and Trent Young were the heat race winners. TD Burger and Jeffrey Ledford transferred to the main race by winning the two semi-features. Following a caution period, McKinney using the top groove, overtook Jeff Leka to take the lead. McKinney was able to fend off all challengers for his first win of the season and a $2,000 payday. “It has been a tough opening for us after tearing up the car at Farmer City,” commented McKinney. “It is an honor to race with Jeff Leka and I have a ton of respect for him. He drove an interesting line, running the middle groove. There wasn’t a lot of room at the top or bottom, but I was finally able to get by him on that restart.” Jeff Curl rallied late to take second over Steven Brooks, with Leka, Danny Schwartz, Harris, Tyler Nicely, Jeffrey Ledford, Gabe Menser, and Mike Harrison rounding out the top ten. Jimmy Dehm finished 11th after starting 23rd to pick up the race’s hard charger honors.

may27-lm22 I Beam Late Models time trialed as Billy Drake was fast qualifier at a 12.691. Jason Feger, Scott Schmitt, and Mike Spatola took heat wins. Drake had a race long battle in the 30-lap, $2,000 to win race. With 13 laps remaining, Drake ran into trouble overtaking a slower car. With little room, Drake got into the Terry Starks machine, causing minor damage to his car. Drake held his position after the caution and took his first win of the year in his new MB Custom car. “The car has been good, but we are just learning what it needs,” said Drake. “We had that deal with the lap car and it smashed the nose in a little. We were able to nurse it home and had enough. I know those guys behind me were breathing down my neck, but it all worked out.”  Scott Bull looked to have the fastest car in the end but settled for second, followed by Michael Kloos, 15th starter Ryan Unzicker, Feger, Spatola, Derek Chandler, Schmitt, Jay Morris, and Derrick Ramey.

may27-plmMaking their first appearance to the track this season, 31 Tribley Body Werx/Shocker Race Car Pro Late Models were on hand to battle for a $1,000 to win feature event. Myles Moos, Torin Mettille, and AJ May won heat races. Kevin Weaver was the semi-feature victor. Moos withstood challenges from Mettile and Matt Taylor early in the race. With six laps to go, Taylor and Mettille were overtaking a slower car. Taylor hit the backstretch wall and flipped, while Mettille also made contact with the wall. Both cars had significate damage and their nights came to an end. On the restart, May tried the top and bottom groove to take the lead from Moos, but Moos was able to hang on for the win. “The car has been awesome to lead the whole race,” an excited Moos spoke. “We have had a tough couple of weeks and it feels really good to get this win at Fairbury.” May, Allen Weisser, 16th starter Kevin Weaver, Jake Little, Mike Spatola, Guy Taylor, Tommy Sheppard Jr., Evan Fink, and Jeremy McLaughlin took the top ten positions.

may27-sp10 CR Towing Sportsman took the green flag in their 15-lap feature race. Many people felt Amber Crouch was lucky in winning her first feature several weeks ago. Crouch had the mindset to prove her doubters wrong in the $500 to win special. Crouch began her night by winning the lone heat race. In the feature, Crouch took the lead at the start with Lake Nichoalds running on her heels. Nichoalds made several bids to overtake Crouch, but on this night Crouch prevailed in winning a hard fought race.  “Our first win, we did get lucky, and I felt bad about what happened to Lake. A win is a win though. Tonight I came out here and proved myself,” Crouch said. Scott Williams got by Nichoalds in the closing laps for second, with 10th starter Steven Mattingly, Dustin Mounce, Rick Thomas, Tyler Roth, Brandon Pralle, Eric Legner, and Anthony Craven rounding out the field.

may27-ss22 Tool’s Auto Sales Street Stocks took times with Matt Hammond leading the way with a 15.264. Kyle Anderson, Luke Gash, and A.J. Meiferdt won heat races. Early race leader Gash brought out the caution with a cut tire with nine laps remaining in the 15-lap, $400 to win race. Meiferdt saw an opening on the restart as Rick Thomas looked to stop Meiferdt’s two race win streak. Meiferdt was able make it three feature wins in a row and extend his lead in the track points. “I wanted to get to the outside, but Rick was there,” spoke Meiferdt. “I saw a hole open up and it worked out.” Thomas, Pete Odell, Joe Brown, Justin Hamm, Kyle Anderson, Valerie Hurt, 20th starter Don Hilleary, Kyle Miner, and Curtis Radke completed the top ten.

Erb holds off Junghans to capture Frenzy win

by Rocky Ragusa

Racing action for the FALS Frenzy special lived up to its name. After the track prep crew reworked the track before the feature events, race fans were treated to multi-groove racing on the quarter-mile dirt oval. Picking up the checkered flags were Dennis Erb Jr. (Late Model), Timothy Culp (Modified), and Lake Nichoalds (Sportsman).

may13-lmThe I Beam Sliding Doors Late Model race drew 54 drivers for the $10,000 to win, 50-lap race that was co-sanctioned by the MARS and ALMS Racing Series. Arkansas’s Billy Moyer Jr. led group one qualifiers at a 13.478 and Kentucky’s Darrell Lanigan was quickest in group two qualifying at a 14.132. Dennis Erb Jr., Jason Feger, Timothy Culp, Lanigan, Indiana’s Don O’Neal, and North Carolina pilot Chris Ferguson won heat races, while Mason Zeigler and Tanner English took the semi-features. Chase Junghans from Kansas took the lead at the start and was followed by O’Neal, Feger, Ryan Unzicker, and Erb. Junghans held a commanding 10-car-length lead and soon encountered slower cars.  O’Neal and Erb closed the margin on Junghans by the 20th circuit. The three drivers were racing three-wide for the lead, leaving race fans on their feet. Erb made his move for the lead just after a lap 24 caution period and was able to take over the point. Several cautions kept Erb in check as Junghans held off O’Neal for second. Erb was able to pull away from the field and withstand a late challenge from Junghans to pick up his first win at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway since 2010. “It feels good to come back to Fairbury and get a win”, stated Erb. “The car was working great. I just had to be patient working the slower cars.”  Junghans, Unzicker, O’Neal, Ferguson, 21st starter Earl Pearson Jr. (hard charger), Bobby Pierce, Mike Marlar, Moyer Jr., and Scott Bull completed the top ten.

may13-mdWith $2,000 awaiting the race winner, 27 Varsitee Screen Printing Modifieds looked to pick up the check. Kentucky’s Josh Harris turned in the quickest time in qualifying with a 14.104. Jeffrey Ledford, Louisiana's Timothy Culp, and Mike McKinney won their respective heat races, while Michigan’s Chad Bauer took the semi-feature. Ledford took an early lead in the 30-lap sprint, before surrendering the top spot to Culp on the third lap. Culp had to contend with Ledford and Harris as the trio went three-wide for the lead. After the track was cleared for a caution on the ninth lap, Culp opened up a straightaway lead, as Harris moved by Ledford for second. While Culp was walking away from his competition running the top side, several other drivers followed Culp to the top as well. McKinney was joined by Jimmy Dehm, while Ledford and Jeff Curl managed the bottom side. With 12 laps to go, Curl moved to second, followed by McKinney, Harris, Ledford, and Dehm. McKinney got by Curl for second after a caution with nine laps remaining. McKinney made a game effort to close up on Culp, but on this night Culp reigned supreme. Culp, a Late Model driver, was given the chance to wheel a car owned by Lucas Lee the previous night at Farmer City. “Last night at Farmer City, we struggled a little bit. We made a few changes to the car and it paid off”, Culp said. McKinney, 10th starter Dehm (hard charger), Curl, Harris, Lee, Ledford, Ashley Newman, Kenny Wallace, and Bauer rounded out the top ten.

Eleven CR Towing Sportsman drivers signed in for their $400 to win, 15-lap race. During practice, Timmy Dick was involved in a wreck that ended his night. Bryant Frechette took quick time honors at a 15.180 and won a heat race, along with Lake Nichoalds. Frechette led the first five laps before Nichoalds went to the top side of the track and took the lead. Nichoalds was able to extend his lead over the field as he picked up his second win of the season and redeem himself after last week’s race. “After last week, my crew was ready to kick my butt,” laughed Nichoalds. “It happens. I got back to the top and got back at it.” Richard Craven, Frechette, 8th starter Rick Thomas (hard charger), Tyler Roth, Dustin Mounce, Amber Crouch, Brandon Pralle, Steven Mattingly, and Anthony Craven completed the running order.

Perseverance Pays Off for Meiferdt with Spring Nationals Win

by Rocky Ragusa

120 race cars jammed the pit area Saturday night as the Fairbury American Legion Speedway played host to the Eighth Annual “DIRTcar Street Stock Spring Nationals, in Memory of Earl J. Hubert.” Visiting the winners circle were AJ Meiferdt (Street Stock), Ryan Unzicker (Late Model), Danny Schwartz (Modified), Amber Crouch (Sportsman), and Josh McKendrick (Hobby-Modified).

may06-ssJoe Brown was the fast qualifier over 48 other Tool’s Auto Sales Street Stock drivers. Brown, Dane Arvin, Jerrard Krick, AJ Meiferdt, and Jeremy Nichols won heat races. Justin Hamm and Jim Ransom won semi features. Arvin took an early lead in the 43-lap event with Nichols, Meiferdt, Krick, and Darrell Dick following. Meiferdt moved into the lead on lap 14 followed by Krick and Nichols. Although cautions were a problem during the course of the race, Meiferdt held a 10 car length lead by lap 25, with Nichols fighting an ill handling car but kept Meiferdt within distance. When the field went back to green after a lap 29 caution, Rick Thomas stuck his car in the middle groove to take the lead with Nichols and Meiferdt trailing. Nichols moved to the point with six laps remaining as the top three separated themselves from the field. Meiferdt pulled alongside of Nichols with three laps to go to reclaim the lead and become the eighth winner in the prestigious race. Winning over $2400, including lap money, Meiferdt commented in victory lane, “Perseverance was the name of the game. The cautions were killing me. I saw Nichols go by me on the high side and went back to work.” Nichols, Thomas, 18th starter Curtis Radke (hard charger), Brown, Mike Behm, Andy Thompson, Ransom, Krick, and Andrew Funk rounded out the top ten as only six cars were left on the track at the finish.


Hometown driver, McKay Wenger, set fast time at a 12.770 as 25 I Beam Sliding Doors Late Model drivers attempted to qualify for the 30-lap race. Heat races were won by Wenger, Kevin Weaver, and Ryan Unzicker. Wenger’s car bobbled at the start of the race allowing Unzicker to take a lead he never relinquished. Unzicker quickly pulled away from the competition as Scott Bull took over second. Bull worked through slower cars and made a valiant effort to close in on Unzicker just after the halfway mark. In the closing stages of the feature, Derek Chandler, sticking to the bottom of the track, took over second but Unzicker, a former UMP National Champion, was the class of the field and took the win. “This is our first win of the year and hopefully they keep coming. We have a pretty good car and we will just keep tweaking on it,” commented Unzicker. Chandler earned the race’s hard charger award with a second-place finish after starting 11th. He was followed by Weaver, Rusty Schlenk, Bull, Wenger, Daniel Flessner, Bob Gardner, Jason Wagner, and Mike Glasscock.

may06-md25 Varsitee Screen Printing Modified drivers made qualifying attempts with Jeffrey Ledford the quickest at a 13.986. Ledford, TD Burger, and Danny Schwartz were heat victors. When the field went back to green after a caution on the first lap, Ledford suddenly slowed in turn one and was collected by Nick Clubb, Vince Cooper, and Jimmy Dehm. On the restart, Burger, Schwartz, and Mike McKinney raced three wide for the lead before Schwartz laid claim to the top position. Schwartz held a straightaway lead by the sixth lap. After a caution on lap 13, McKinney made a brief charge for the lead but Schwartz had too strong of a car on this night. Burger stayed with McKinney but wasn’t able to make the pass. Schwartz, a second generation driver, was able to take his first Fairbury feature win. “This was the first night out on a new car for us. I am just glad to get this win,” Schwartz said. McKinney, Burger, Travis Kohler, Jeff Curl, Jimmy Dehm, 16th starter Alan Stipp (hard charger), Michael Mennel, Logan Rogers, and Eric Vaughan completed the top ten.

may06-sp14 CR Towing Sportsman lined up for their 15-lap feature after Scott Williams and Lake Nichoalds took their respective heat race wins. After contenders Williams and Steven Mattingly dropped out with mechanical problems, Nichoalds led with Anthony Craven, Rick Thomas, Tyler Roth, and Amber Crouch following. Craven made several attempts to take the lead, but Nichoalds was able to hold him off. Following a caution flag, drivers were told on their raceceiver that the race would end after the final restart. When the race went back to green, Craven got under Nichoalds to take the lead. As the drivers approached the final turn, Nichoalds jumped the cushion and Craven’s car got loose exiting turn four. Amber Crouch was able to capitalize and drove the final 50 yards to her first career win and became the first female to earn a feature win in the history of the track’s 71 years. An emotional Crouch spoke in victory lane, “It was a crazy race. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the hard work by my crew.” Thomas, Craven, 12th starter Bryant Frechette (hard charger), Dustin Mounce, Richard Craven, Nichoalds, Roth, Eric Legner, and Gregg Paul completed the top ten.

may06-hmRacing ended with a 10-lap Hobby Modified race. Josh McKenrick won the seven-car heat race and was able to run away from the field for the feature win. “We blew our motor at the first race of the year. We just got the motor back this week and the crew scrambled to get it back in,” spoke McKenrick. Mike Petersen and Albie Perez trailed at the line.