Harlan, McKinney, Rich, Funk, Duncan, Thomas Triumph

by Darlene Miller | Photos by Rocky Ragusa

Hard work, perseverance, and a little luck helped end the long winner’s circle drought for El Paso’s Joe Harlan as he took the Late Model feature win at Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night. Mike McKinney, Richie Rich, Andrew Funk, and Mason Duncan captured the other features.

jul09-lmHarlan had not won a feature at FALS since June 18, 2011, and would not let this win get away from him. He started on the pole next to Steve Thorsten in the 30-lap feature and the pair battled back and forth for the first few laps before current points leader Kevin Weaver began to flex his muscle and enter the fray. Three caution flags flew before nine laps had passed with the last flag claiming Weaver as he pulled off to the infield with mechanical issues. Fairbury’s McKay Wenger and Scott Bull soon began to challenge Harlan and Thorsten for that top spot. Wenger, who started ninth, was on the high side with 19 laps left and in second place and closing in fast on Harlan. Thorsten had dropped to fourth. The pair of Harlan and Wenger began to reach lap traffic and Wenger grabbed the lead with 14 trips to go. Wenger’s lead would not last as, with nine laps to go, he suffered problems and pulled to the infield. Harlan assumed the lead again but soon faced a tough challenge from Pontiac’s Derek Chandler running on the top side. Harlan fought him off and won by two car lengths. Chandler followed with Bull, Mike Spatola, and Thorsten in the top five. Dan Flessner, Nick Kurtz, Allen Murray, Jay Morris, and John Gardner Jr. made up the second five. “We had luck on our side tonight. It feels like the first time since I have been here, (winner’s circle),” said Harlan. Harlan along with Bull and Thorsten won the heats and Spatola topped the clock at 12.638 seconds. Spatola was also the hard charger starting 19th to finish in the fourth spot.

jul09-mdMike McKinney won his second Modified feature of the weekend by holding off Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm and Pontiac’s Jay Ledford. McKinney, who started on the pole in the 20-lap feature, took the early lead but could not pull away from the challengers. A few yellow flags flew but McKinney was able to hold off Dehm by a car length for the win. Ledford placed third followed by Jeff Curl and Nick Clubb. Steven Brooks led the second group of five across the line with Jeffrey Ledford, Travis Kohler, Nick Lueth, and Dustin Mounce in tow. “I never thought we could do this (win) my dad and I,” said McKinney who has ten wins on the season overall and five at FALS. Heat winners were Dehm and McKinney, who also qualified first with 14.021 seconds.

jul09-spIn the Sportsman race, Pontiac’s Richie Rich started on the pole but at first could not get away from the pack as four caution flags flew early in the 15-lap feature. With six laps to go, problems began to slow up Rich but not enough for the current points leader to take the win over Lake Nichoalds by four car lengths. “It feels good to be back in victory lane” said Rich. Taking third was Richard Craven with Bryant Frechette, Troy Medley, Steve Mattingly, Anthony Craven, Tim Dick, Brandon Pralle, and Amber Crouch completing the top 10. Rich and Nichoalds won heats and Rich posted fast time with 14.432 seconds.

jul09-ssDwight’s Andrew Funk won his 18th feature of the season overall and fifth at FALS in the 15-lap Street Stock feature. Funk started on the pole and faced small challenges from Kyle Miner early in the race and A.J. Meiferdt later on but held off the pack to win by seven car lengths. “This has been a dream season so far,” said Funk. Meiferdt was second followed by 15th starter Don Hilleary, Eric Gaus, Al Gray, Chad Rockefeller, Curtis Radke, Ryan Anderson, Peter Odell, and Mitch Hahn. Funk, Miner, and Radke were heat winners and Meiferdt was fastest in qualifying with 15.557 seconds. Dwight’s Rick Thomas won his 64th career checkered flag in the Street Stock make-up feature from the May 28th rainout. Hilleary, Hahn, Odell, and Funk completed the top five.

Mason Duncan won the Hobby Mod feature from the pole after he won the heat race. Mike Petersen, Tim McGuire, Macy Vaughan, and Makinzi Semmens followed Duncan to the checkers.

Craven Takes Checkers in Sportsman Topless Race

by Rocky Ragusa

Five classes of racing action took place at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday night with the Sportsman class featured in a 20-lap, $500 to win Topless Special sponsored by CR Towing and Recovery of Joliet. Richard Craven took the win, while Kevin Weaver, Mike McKinney, Andrew Funk, and Mason Duncan also visited victory lane.

jul02-SPThe Sportsman class took to the speedway as the cars ran without tops and spoilers were optional. Points leader Richie Rich set fast time at a 14.379. Lake Nichoalds and Richard Craven were the heat race victors. As Craven led the first lap, a caution fell on the field. The restart had Craven running the bottom, Nichoalds on the topside, followed by Steve Mattingly, Rich, and Brian Albus. Nichoalds pressured Craven repeatedly for the lead as Mattingly trailed closely. After two cautions, Nichoalds pulled alongside of Craven with nine laps to go but Nichoalds was caught in the Fairbury cushion, giving Craven some breathing room. Mattingly was able to move into second with seven laps remaining. After two cautions, Nichoalds snuck by Mattingly to retake second. Nichoalds looked to take the lead from Craven after a caution on lap 15 but Craven stood his ground. Suddenly with two laps left Nichoalds had a left rear tire go flat to end his bid. Craven was able to score his third win of the year and 30th career feature win at Fairbury. “The car felt awesome all night,” commented Craven. Mattingly, Rod Rusher (started 14th), Rich, Troy Medley, Bryant Frechette, Amber Crouch, Nichoalds, Brandon Pralle, and Eric Saltzman rounded out the top ten.

jul02-LMIn the Late Model division, Kevin Weaver was the night’s fast qualifier with a 12.587. Weaver and Mike Spatola won heat races. Spatola held a small advantage over Weaver with McKay Wenger, Scott Bull, and Joe Harlan following. After a caution on lap nine, Spatola and Weaver continued their duel. Weaver, running the bottom, was able to lead on the 11th lap but Spatola came back to lead the following circuit. Bull, driving a smooth and consistent race, closed up on the two front runners. Bull overtook Spatola for second on lap 16 but Weaver was able to use slower traffic to distance himself from the competition. On the white flag lap, Spatola slammed the front stretch wall to end his night. With one lap to go, Weaver stuck his car to the bottom and turned back Bull for the win. “The car was good on the bottom and I felt it was the faster way around,” said Weaver. Don Hammer, Harlan, Boom Briggs, Jay Sparks (started 15th), Jay Morris, Steve Thorsten, Kolby Vandenbergh, and Glen Thompson completed the top ten.

jul02-MDJay Ledford was the fast qualifier at a 13.855 for the 20-lap Modified race. Ledford, Lance Dehm, and Jacob Poel were heat race winners. Ledford led the field at the start with Poel, Jeffrey Ledford, Dehm, and Nick Lueth following. Two cautions came out on the second lap. With the track cleared, Ledford was hounded by Poel for the lead, with Jeffrey Ledford, Dehm, Lueth, and Mike McKinney fighting for third position. As Poel looked to take the lead a caution came out on the fourth lap. Jeffrey Ledford, running the top groove of the track, was able to run down the leader and take second on lap 10. After a caution on the 12th lap, Jeffrey Ledford overtook his dad Jay for the lead. The Fairbury cushion bit Jeffrey in turn two causing an accident and ended the young Ledford’s bid for a feature win. The restart had Jay Ledford leading McKinney, Lueth, Collin Thirlby, and Poel. McKinney tried a slide job on Ledford in turn three and exiting turn four and was able to take the lead with five laps to go. Ledford made several attempts to retake the lead but McKinney was too strong on this night. “The top was awesome for us tonight,” an excited McKinney spoke. "This is a testament to what my dad and I are doing. We are a low budget team competing with these guys and having a lot of fun.” Ledford settled for second followed by Lueth, Thirlby, Poel, Travis Kohler, Matt Maier, Nick Clubb, Dustin Mounce (started 16th), and Chris Gaither.

jul02-SSAl Gray was the fastest qualifier among the 18 Street Stock drivers on hand for their 15-lap race with a time of 15.656 seconds. Gray and A.J. Meiferdt won heat races. Gray led the first lap in the feature before surrendering the lead to Meiferdt, with Rick Thomas, Peter Odell, and Andrew Funk in a tight battle for third. Two cautions fell on lap four, including one for Gray. On the restart, Meiferdt led Funk, but Thomas dropped out with mechanical issues. Funk ran side by side with Meiferdt for the lead before taking over on lap eight. Funk was able to extend his lead to ten car lengths as the checkered flag waved giving him his fourth win of the season. “It was easy on the bottom and I knew I had to run hard,” spoke Funk. “The track was tacky and the car stuck.” Meiferdt, Eric Gaus, Curtis Radke, Darrell Dick (started 14th), Josh Hetherington, Valerie Hurt, Gray, Don Hilleary, and Ryan Anderson completed the top ten.

jul02-HMMason Duncan and Tim Mullins won heat races for the 12-lap Hobby Mod race. Duncan led at the start with Tim McGuire and Mike Petersen in a spirited duel for second followed by Mullins and Macy Vaughan. Duncan had a comfortable lead on the field before Petersen overtook McGuire for second and narrowed Duncan’s lead. Petersen was able to take the lead on the 10th circuit but Petersen and Duncan got together and Petersen’s bid for the win came to an end. McGuire moved into the lead as four cars remained on the lead lap. McGuire led the field and Duncan wasted little time to take second. As the leaders rounded turn four on the final lap Duncan was able to edge ahead of McGuire in an exciting finish. “That was an interesting race,” Duncan said. “I want to apologize to Tim for getting into him.” Completing the top ten were Mullins, Vaughan, Brendan Patterson, Gregg Pierce, Makinzi Semmens, Petersen, Brandon Post, and Jason Brandt.

Sheppard Earns Hard Fought Summer Nationals Win; Kinder Claims Modified Nationals Victory

by Darlene Miller | Photos by Rocky Ragusa

It was a perfect night for racing as the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model tour came blazing into the Fairbury American Legion Speedway on Saturday. The capacity crowd was not let down as Brandon Sheppard outlasted Billy Moyer in a fight to the finish to win the featured event. Chad Kinder and Andrew Funk were also feature winners on the night.

LM-jun25The “Moweaqua Missile” Shannon Babb set the fastest qualifying time while being the first qualifying Late Model of the night with a blistering time of 12.651 seconds. Fan favorites Sheppard, of New Berlin, and Billy Moyer from Batesville, Ark., brought the crowd to its feet as they took the green flag for the 50-lap, $10,000 top prize main event. The pair were even for the first two laps with Sheppard edging Moyer at the third lap. Moyer grabbed the lead and, with seven laps in, the lead group began facing lap traffic. With 11 laps in the book, Moyer and Sheppard were joined by hard chargers Babb and Jimmy Mars. Babb got around Sheppard with 17 laps gone and Mars, running low, got around the high-flying Sheppard. A yellow flag flew with 30 laps to go as the top four were Moyer, Babb, Mars, and Sheppard. Two laps later, Summer Nationals current points leader Bobby Pierce pulled to the infield to change a tire and rejoined the field at the back. Sheppard made another challenge to the top spot as he and Moyer were even one lap past the halfway point, but Moyer held him off and regained the advantage. Moyer then began to face a strong challenge from Babb, who eventually took the lead. A caution flag flew with 14 circuits to go for debris and Babb pulled off into the infield in turn two, seeing his night come to an end and a 20th place finish. Sheppard wrestled back the top spot with nine to go and won by three car lengths over Moyer for his 11th career Summer Nationals win. “It was tough competition tonight,” said an excited Sheppard. “I knew I had to go when I got to the top spot. I had to get up on the wheel and hit my marks. This is the best win yet.” Moyer took second followed by Mars, Michael Kloos, and El Paso’s Joe Harlan in the top five. Ryan Unzicker (who started 20th) led the second five to the line with Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver, Pierce, Manhattan’s Mike Spatola, and Pontiac’s Derek Chandler chasing. Heat winners were Babb, Sheppard, Bob Gardner, and Moyer. Chandler won the semi feature.

MD-jun25The DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals 25-lap, $1,500 to win race began the night of features. Front row starters Kinder and Mike Harrison soon moved away from the group and began to set a fast pace. The pair swapped the lead multiple times early but with 14 laps to go, Brent Mullins got around Harrison for the second spot. However, Mullins soon ran into trouble as spring problems made his car hard to handle and he dropped back in the field. NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier soon found himself sitting in the second spot and began to challenge Kinder. A couple of caution flags flew as Mullins was off the pace and pulled off with eight to go. Kinder and Allgaier battled for the top spot and Kinder held off Allgaier by a clip for his second Summit Nationals win in a row at FALS. The Newton native, Kinder said, “I knew it was going to be a tough night and tough out there. Sometimes you gotta be lucky and we will take it.” Harrison was third followed by Pontiac’s Jeffrey Ledford and Jacob Poel. Tyler Nicely was sixth with Chatsworth’s Lance Dehm, Pontiac’s Jay Ledford, Nick Hoffman, and Ray Walsh in tow. Heat winners were Kinder, Jeffrey Ledford, Mullins, and Harrison. The semi feature went to Mike McKinney. Kinder had fast qualifying time with a 13.757 second trip.


Dwight’s Funk brought home the Street Stock 15-lap feature. Funk quickly took the lead from polesitter Steve Mattingly. Dwight’s Rick Thomas moved to second and began to challenge Funk. A trio of caution flags flew as several drivers had problems on the track. Once the green flag flew, Funk established himself as the driver to beat and won by five car lengths over Thomas. “I was working hard and have decided to go all out this year,” Funk said. “It was a great win.” Peter Odell was third followed by Kyle Miner and 17th starter Kaleb Wood. The second five were Al Gray, Don Hilleary, Mattingly, Kyle Anderson, and Terry Miller. Funk, Mattingly, and A.J. Meiferdt were heat winners and Dennis Wernle was the semi feature winner. Mattingly had fast time at 16.062 seconds.

Weaver Garners $2,OOO Allen Memorial for Fourth Time

by Rocky Ragusa

The Fairbury American Legion Speedway played host to the 20th Annual “Pappy and Bob Allen Memorial" race on Saturday. The race honors the legacy of a father and son that shared the love of motorsports in Illinois through their parts business and owning race cars with a variety of drivers. Taking wins were Kevin Weaver, Mike McKinney, A.J. Meiferdt, Richard Craven, Graham Jackson, and Ryan Hamilton.

Weaver took the lead at the start of the 30-lap Late Model race with Mike Mataragas, Jay Morris, Mike Glasscock, and Derek Chandler following. On the restart after a caution on lap eight, Weaver, running the bottom, led while Mataragas, Morris, and Chandler raced side by side for second. Caution dropped on the field on lap 16. Weaver opened up his lead on the restart over Mataragas. Chandler tried to take over third from Morris but the treacherous Fairbury cushion caused Chandler to fall back several spots. Morris tried several times to take over second but was the victim of the cushion causing damage to his car and ending his night. With seven laps left, a red flag came out due to all emergency vehicles being called to a structure fire outside of Fairbury. There was a 25-minute delay as an ambulance was called in from Pontiac. When the cars went back to green, Weaver was able to go uncontested in recording his fourth Allen Memorial trophy. “It’s awesome to win this race. I knew Pappy and Bob when I first got into racing,” said Weaver. “After the delay, I was worried about how the tires would respond.” Mataragas was second, followed by Kolby Vandenbergh, Mike Glasscock, and Scott Bull (hard charger, started 13th). Weaver, Morris, and Mataragas took heat wins, while Bill Hough was the semi-feature winner. Weaver had the fastest time in qualifying at 12.997 seconds.

As announcer Mike Norris put it, there were more sliders than you get at White Castle in the Modified feature. Jay Ledford took the lead as Mike McKinney wrestled second from Nick Clubb. On the restart after two cautions came out on lap three, Ledford and McKinney went toe to toe exchanging slide jobs, bringing the race fans to their feet. Neither driver was able to get a clear cut advantage until McKinney seemed to shoot out of a cannon exiting turn four and pulled to a 10 car length lead with nine laps to go. McKinney was able to stretch his margin in the closing laps to secure the win. “I hope the fans got their money’s worth,” an exhausted McKinney spoke. “That was the most intense race that I have ever been in. I have a ton of respect for Jay and I hope that I earned his respect. It was a lot of fun racing with Jay.” Ledford, Jeff Curl, Steven Brooks, and Clubb completed the top five. Ledford was the night’s fast qualifier at 14.005 seconds and also won his heat race. Other heat winners were Clubb and McKinney.

The KidModz Series made its annual visit to FALS and found five drivers entered. Despite a caution flag with three laps remaining, Ryan Hamilton went uncontested to claim the 10-lap race for young drivers. Following Hamilton to the line were Dominic Mertzke, Michael Ledford, Blake Bailey, and Zach Sasser. Hamilton took the heat race win.

In the 12-lap Hobby Mod feature, front row starters Graham Jackson and Mike Petersen raced side by side for the first four laps before Jackson took over the lead. After a caution on lap six, Jackson led Petersen with Tim McGuire trying to hold off Mason Duncan and Jason Brandt. A caution fell two laps later. On the restart, Jackson held a five car length lead early, but Petersen and McGuire steadily pulled back on Jackson’s bumper. A caution with one lap to go gave Petersen and McGuire the opportunity to overtake Jackson. Jackson got a jump over the duo at the start and was able to hang on for an exciting win. Petersen, McGuire, Brandt, and Macy Vaughan completed the top five. Ten cars entered the Hobby Mod class as that class continues to grow. Jackson and Petersen won heat races.

It’s not over until it’s over proved to be true in the 15-lap Sportsman feature. Lake Nichoalds led the 14-car field to the green flag. Nichoalds took the lead with Richard Craven, Brian Albus, Steve Mattingly, and Amber Crouch in tow. When the field went back green after a lap four caution, Albus took over second from Craven but Craven came back three laps later to retake the position. A caution fell with two laps remaining had Nichoalds leading Craven and Albus. As the leaders were taking the white flag, Nichoalds got loose in turn four allowing Craven and Albus to get by. Craven was able to pick up his second win of the year. “Outside of the late cautions, it was a good race," said Craven. Albus, Nichoalds, Mattingly, and Anthony Craven comprised the top five. Nichoalds and Mattingly won heat races. Nichoalds took quick time honors with a 14.799 second lap.

A.J. Meiferdt and his team did some fine tuning on his motor and the chassis this week. It paid off as Meiferdt was rewarded with the win in the 15-lap Street Stock race. Andrew Funk pressured Meiferdt throughout the race until Meiferdt put some distance between himself and Funk. After a caution with two laps to go, Funk went to the top of the track but Meiferdt prevailed for the win. "I kept the car against the tires on the inside. Thanks to Calvin Coleman, we threw the kitchen sink at the car last night", said Meiferdt. “We put the car on the T1 chassis dyno and along with the motor, it worked out.” Funk was second, followed by Kyle Miner, Peter Odell, and Don Hilleary. Meiferdt and Funk won heat races. Shawn Ziemer was the fastest qualifier at 16.154 seconds.

Spatola picks up $1,OOO Pro (Crate) Late Model Win during busy Saturday at FALS

by Darlene Miller

History came to life on a hot Saturday night as Fairbury American Legion Speedway played host to seven features and six different winners.

CLM-jun11Manhattan’s Mike Spatola also tried to make history by winning two of those features only to come up one spot short in the Late Model race. Spatola started out the night capturing the makeup $1,000 to win Pro (Crate) Late Model feature. Jose Parga, Dakota Ewing, Brandon Eskew, and Torin Mettille rounded out the top five. Spatola also was victorious in the regular show over Ewing, Eskew, Parga, and Tom Knippenberg. Spatola and Mettille were heat winners while Spatola set fast time at 14.404 seconds. “It was a one night deal. I had a good car and it worked out well,” said Spatola, who sits in second place in Late Model track points.

LM-jun11Fairbury’s McKay Wenger and Spatola led the field to the green flag in the Late Model feature. Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver split the pair rather quickly and took the top spot. He moved down to his familiar low side on the track. The cagey veteran, Weaver later had to move up to the top side to weave through traffic. He slammed the turn two wall with two laps to go in the 30-lap feature. Weaver, who was denied the night before while leading at Farmer City, was able to hold on and capture the win. The win ties Weaver with Dwight’s Rick Thomas with 63 feature wins as they both chase “The Racing Farmer” Roger Long (66) for the most career feature wins at FALS. “It was hot out there and there was a lot of tension. I knew I had to go up top if we were to get the win,” said Weaver. Spatola brought home a close second followed by Wenger, Scott Schmitt, Scott Bull, and Joe Harlan in the top five. Mike Provenzano led the second five and was followed by Kolby Vandenbergh, Dan Flessner, and Lyle Zanker Jr. Spatola and Wenger were heat winners and Schmitt had fast time with a fast lap of 13.643 seconds.

MD-jun11Pontiac’s Jay Ledford took another step toward capturing another Modified title after barely holding off Steven Brooks for the victory in the division's feature. The pair were fighting back and forth for the lead the entire race before Ledford was able to hold off Brooks by a car length at the line. “I had a good race car,” Ledford said. “I got into a rhythm after I finally got around Steven.” Mike McKinney, Vince Cooper, and Jeff Leka completed the top five. Lance Dehm, Nick Clubb, Nick Lueth, Tommy Duncan, and Joe Gillespie rounded out the top 10. Ledford and Brooks won their heats and Brooks set fast time with a time of 14.560 seconds.

SP-jun11Yellow was the color of the night in the Sportsman division as seven cautions flew in the 15-lap feature. Richie Rich and Brian Albus started on the front row but Richard Craven grabbed the lead with 12 laps to go over Rich and held on. “It is good to be back in the winner’s circle,” Craven said. Albus was third with Steve Mattingly and Anthony Craven (hard charger, started 11th) in the top five. The second five was comprised of Amber Crouch, Brandon Pralle, Scott Williams, Eric Saltzman, and Blake Reid. Albus and Rich were heat winners and Rich had a 14.919 second lap for quick time.

SS-jun11Dwight’s Andrew Funk won the Street Stock event by 10 car lengths over Peter Odell. Coming in third was Darrell Dick with A.J. Meiferdt, Curtis Radke, Tim Dick (hard charger, started 11th), Michael Schomas, Terry Miller, Don Hilleary, and Valerie Hurt in tow in the top 10. “It feels good to win tonight,” said Funk. Funk and Odell won their heats and Funk set quick time at 15.950 seconds.

Youngster Mason Duncan won the feature in the Hobby Mods. Tim McGuire, Gregg Pierce, Mike Petersen, and Macy Vaughan completed the top five. Jason Brandt was the heat race winner.