Kevin Weaver, McKay Wenger, AJ Meiferdt, and Steve Mattingly were officially recognized as the 2018 Fairbury American Legion Speedway track champions on Saturday night. Feature race wins went to Mike Spatola, Mike McKinney, Rick Thomas, Mattingly, and Cody Wisher.
A field of 19 Late Models took part in the night’s featured division with Kevin Weaver turning a lap of 12.881 for fast time. Scott Schmitt and Mike Spatola were the heat race winners. Schmitt put his car on the top to take the lead at the start with Spatola hot on his heels. On the fourth lap, Schmitt went to the bottom of the track and enabled Spatola to pull alongside of him. Spatola took over the lead and checked out on his competition for his sixth win of the season. Weaver was second, with the remainder of the top ten consisting of Donny Walden, 13th starter Dan Flessner, Jay Morris, Greg Wagner, Curtis Radke, Glen Thompson, Lyle Zanker Jr., and Jeff Curl. “I got a shock when Schmitt gave me the top,” Spatola said. “I thought the track would be top dominate and he moved down. I didn’t want to get next to him because I didn’t know when he would go back to the top, but it worked out in our favor.”
37 Modified teams looked to tune up for next Saturday's $10,000 to win special. Allen Weisser earned fast time with a 13.932. Weisser, Josh Allen, Mike McKinney, and Mike Chasteen Jr. won their respective heat races. Two semi-features were held as Matt Mitchell and Alan Stipp took wins and advanced to the 20-lap feature. Going down the frontstretch, McKinney pulled beside race leader Weisser. As the two drivers entered turn one, Weisser did a slide job on McKinney. McKinney came back at Weisser as the two exited turn two for his own slide job. McKinney was able to make it stick for the lead. Weisser never trailed McKinney by more than five car lengths but had to contend with McKay Wenger. McKinney completed his weekend sweep with his seventh Fairbury win and 20th overall. Weisser held on for second over Wenger, with Donovan Lodge, Nick Allen, 12th starter Curt Spalding, Dylan Woodling, Allen, Chasteen Jr., and Dan Rork rounding out the top ten. “I can’t lie that I was pretty nervous before the race, “McKinney said. “I knew Allen would be on the bottom and my choice was to get to the top. I don’t think I lifted for the entire race.”
18 strong Street Stock drivers were on hand for their 15-lap race. Tanner Sullivan clipped a lap of 16.774 for quick time honors. Heat race wins went to Rick Thomas and Justin Van Drunen. Thomas put his car on the bottom of the track for the lead as fifth starter AJ Meiferdt worked his way to Thomas’s bumper with eight laps to go. With the aid of slower cars, Thomas was able to fend off the challenge from Meiferdt taking his second win of the year and close in on the all-time win record held by Kevin Weaver. Rookie wheelman Van Drunen took third, with Sullivan, Michael Clark, Nick Seplak, Megan Erwin, Doug Berbaum, Michael Schomas, and Darrin Kohler completing the top ten.
14 Sportsman drivers made qualifying efforts for their 15-lap race. First year driver Mikey Ledford set the pace with a 14.898. Steve Mattingly and Brandon Pralle won heat races. Mattingly finished the year as he started taking his eighth win of the year. After a caution with four laps to go, Pralle looked to take the top position but Mattingly was able to take a five car length win. Pralle was followed closely by Ron Wilkes, Amber Crouch, Ledford, Dustin Mounce, Jim Farley, Matt Ramer, Richie Rich, and Valerie Hurt. “I have to thank my dad and Terry Worth for their help all year,” spoke Mattingly. “This has been an unbelievable year for our team.”
Cody Wisher clocked a 15.770 in Hobby-Modified qualifying as 15 drivers looked to be first in their feature race. Wisher and Darren Kerrins took heat race wins. Modified driver Tommy Duncan decided to reward crew member Cody Wisher for all his hard work throughout the year. Wisher got behind the wheel of Mason Duncan’s proven winning car. Wisher put on a dominating performance leading all 12 laps to take the win. Kankakee I-Mod champion Chris Tippit gave Wisher a brief battle for the lead but settled for second. Brian Ray was third, with hard charging Kerrins taking fourth, followed by Mike Petersen, Macy Vaughan, TJ Bolen, Jason Brandt, Makinzi Semmens, and Cathy Crego. “I had a lot to live up to,” commented Wisher. “Mason has a good car. This is my first ever race in a Modified and the first time I have raced at Fairbury. I have to thank Tommy and Mason for giving me this opportunity.”
With the 142nd annual Fairbury Fair in town, it can only mean that the racing season is coming to a close at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Saturday was the final night for drivers to accumulate points in their respective classes. AJ Meiferdt wrapped up his third title in the Street Stocks, Steve Mattingly took his first championship in the Sportsman division, McKay Wenger won a long overdue Modified title, and Kevin Weaver scored his fifth championship in the Late Models. Feature wins went to Meiferdt, Mattingly, Mike McKinney, and Mike Spatola.
With 16 Late Models on hand for their 30 lap race, Kevin Weaver led in qualifying at a 12.983. Heat race wins went to Dan Flessner and Jay Morris. Flessner, running the top side, quickly took the lead. Bill Hough, Morris, Jay Sparks, and Jeff Curl kept the fans entertained as the foursome ran every inch of the speedway for the second spot. After the track was cleared for a caution on lap seven, Flessner took a five-car-length lead with Sparks, Morris, Curl, and Mike Spatola following. On the restart after a caution on lap 17, Morris overtook Sparks for second. Morris dove under Flessner as the two entered turn three. The two drivers made contact with Flessner spinning out. Morris went to the rear for causing the caution, after apologizing to Flessner. Flessner led Sparks, Curl, Spatola, and Weaver on the restart. Curl went to the middle and overtook Sparks, as Spatola was racing relentlessly on the top side. Curl and Spatola, racing side by side, kept Flessner within striking distance as the laps began to wind down. Flessner had been running the bottom in turns three and four, but changed it up for several laps as he went to the top in an effort to put some distance between himself and his pursuers. Spatola had the speed down the stretch, but Curl kept pace in the turns. Spatola had been racing the top side the entire race, but changed his line by going to the bottom in turns three and four. Curl stuck with Spatola, and while exiting turn four with eight laps to go had enough room to squeeze by him. Curl closed in on Flessner as both threaded their way on the bottom in turns three and four. On the white flag lap, Curl found enough room to pull alongside Flessner as the two entered turns three and four. While racing side by side, contact was made and Flessner spun out. Curl slowed enough for Spatola to pull ahead and beat Curl by a bumper at the finish. Weaver, Sparks, Donny Walden, Bryan Clendenen, Jay Brendle, 16th starter Curtis Radke, Jimmy Miller, and Ron Donaldson completed the top ten. “There was no way I wasn’t going to do anything but bang that cushion” spoke Spatola. “Our car was terrible tonight. We needed luck and we got it tonight.”
McKay Wenger tripped the clock at a 14.341 to pace the 19 Modified drivers on hand for their 20 lap race. Scott Heeren and Mike McKinney earned heat race wins. McKinney put his #96 machine on the bottom at the start with Wenger on the top side, followed by Nick Lueth, Jason Hastings, and Heeren in a tight battle for third. After a lap two caution, McKinney had a brief challenge from Wenger before opening up a straightaway lead at the halfway mark. On the restart following a lap 11 caution, McKinney wasted little time and pulled away from the field. Hastings offered a challenge to Wenger as Dan Rork, Lueth, Donovan Lodge, and Jeff Curl had a race for fourth. McKinney took his sixth win of the year as Wenger claimed second. Curl got by Hastings on the final lap for third, with Lodge, Rork, Lueth, 16th starter Justin Gregory, Nick Clubb, and Heeren completing the top ten. Claiming his 18th overall win of the year, McKinney commented in victory lane. “The track was awesome tonight. Chad and his crew did a tremendous job. That was the most fun I have had racing here all year.”
AJ Meiferdt’s time of a 15.841 earned fast time over 11 other Street Stock drivers. Nick Seplak and Rick Thomas took heat race wins. Thomas led Meiferdt, Seplak, Eric Legner, and Pete Odell on the start. Thomas and Meiferdt quickly put some distance on themselves from the field and set the stage for a showdown. Meiferdt, running the outside line, pulled alongside of Thomas before taking the front position on lap seven. Meiferdt could never shake Thomas off his bumper though as Thomas let Meiferdt know he was still within range. On the final lap, Thomas laid the bumper to Meiferdt several times, but Meiferdt was able to hang on for his fourth win. Seplak, Legner, 11th starter Matt Ramer, Odell, Andy Thompson, Kevin Anderson, and Josh Hetherington rounded out the field. “I would have done the same thing to Rick,” said Meiferdt. “That is why we gave each other the thumbs up. We race each other like that. I don’t blame him for trying. I was taking his line away.”
Amber Crouch turned back 12 other competitors in qualifying at a 15.596 for the CR Towing and Recovery Sportsman race. Heat race wins went to Steve Mattingly and Brandon Pralle. Earlier in the day, Pralle made the trip to Springfield to qualify for the Sportsman Nationals where he finished third in his heat race. Mattingly took the lead at the start with Pralle, Richard Craven, Tyler Roth, and Crouch in pursuit. On lap seven, Pralle spun in turn three for a caution flag and went to the rear of the field. The restart had Mattingly contending with Craven as Dustin Mounce put his car on the top side in third. Mounce’s night quickly came to an end as his car began to bellow smoke and ended his night on the ninth lap. After the track was cleared, Mattingly and Craven ran the bottom, with Crouch, Pralle, and Matt Ramer racing three wide for third place. Craven stayed glued to Mattingly’s bumper waiting to capitalize on a mistake by Mattingly. Mattingly was able to fend off Craven and took his seventh win of the year. Craven took second, with 12th starter Ramer in third, followed by Crouch, Pralle, Roth, Mikey Ledford, Valerie Hurt, Anthony Craven, and Mounce.
With big money on the line, the Fairbury American Legion Speedway drew 72 cars for the fourth annual FALS Frenzy on Saturday night. Shannon Babb (Late Model), Mike Harrison (Modified), and Brandon Pralle (Sportsman) took the feature wins in their respective classes.
The MARS and ALMS Late Model Series co-sanctioned the $10,000 to win main event. Shannon Babb (12.878) and Tanner English (12.927) led in group qualifying. Babb, English, Frank Heckenast Jr., and Ryan Unzicker were heat race winners, while Bob Gardner and Scott Schmitt won semi-features. In the 50-lap grind, renewing their Summer Nationals battle, Babb took control of the race on lap 26 and held off Brian Shirley for the win. English led the field to the green with Babb, Shirley, Heckenast, and Michael Kloos trailing. Shirley got by Babb for second on the eighth lap and ran side by side with English before taking the top position on lap 16. Shirley, running the bottom, led a tight formation with English, Babb, Kloos, and Heckenast in pursuit. On the restart after the yellow flag waved on the 23rd lap, Babb started on the outside of the double file restart. To his advantage, Babb pulled alongside of Shirley and moved into the lead on the 26th lap. Babb was able to drive a smooth line over the course of the race, as Shirley had to contend with Brandon Sheppard. Sheppard was able to pull alongside of Shirley, but Shirley’s speed down the stretch proved to be too much for Sheppard to overcome. Babb led a tight field to the checkered flag and took his second Fairbury win of the year. “The track was in excellent shape tonight,” Babb said. “I knew Shirley has been good here. On that restart on lap 23, my car came to life. I had been on the bottom, but starting on the outside played into my favor.” Shirley settled for the runner-up spot, followed by Sheppard, Heckenast Jr., English, Allen Weisser, Gordy Gundaker, Tim Manville, Kloos, and Kevin Weaver.
Steven Brooks paced Modified time trials with a lap of 14.151 over 24 other drivers seeking the $2,000 payday. Mike Harrison, Allen Weisser, and 2018 Modified track champion McKay Wenger took heat race wins. In the 30-lap main, Harrison took the lead on the green flag with Weisser, Wenger, Jeffrey Ledford, and Mike McKinney following. Wenger, running the bottom of the track, overtook Weisser for second on lap four. Ledford pressured Wenger and Weisser, running the top side, and finally made his move for second at the halfway mark. Slower traffic came into play during the middle stages of the race. As Harrison was overtaking slower cars, Ledford was able to close in. Harrison threaded his way by the lapped cars, but Ledford was slowed by the cars in their own battle. McKinney, after a poor qualifying performance and heat race, began to make his presence known. He got by Ledford for second with ten laps left but trailed Harrison by a straightaway. McKinney, who ranks second to Harrison in the race for the national championship, drove his heart out and closed up on Harrison. A caution flag waved with four laps to go giving McKinney the opportunity he needed. Harrison and McKinney, both running the top, looked to have a classic finish. The Fairbury cushion can sometimes be unforgiving to a driver. Harrison and McKinney both saw their momentum slowed as the topside would slow their progress. On the final lap, McKinney tried a slide job but Harrison was able fend him off and take his fourth FALS win of the year in five starts. Harrison, who travels three hours from Highland for the bigger paying specials, has an incredible 14 career feature wins (ranking ninth all-time) at Fairbury. “Last night at Granite City we crashed out," Harrison commented in victory lane. "My team busted their tails all night and day to get the car ready. It takes all of us to make this happen. Fairbury is one of my favorite tracks. Anytime I get the chance, I will be here.” McKinney, Ledford, Wenger, Mike Chasteen Jr., Donovan Lodge, Weisser, Brooks, Dan Rork, and Logan Rogers rounded out the top ten.
A field of 12 CR Towing and Recovery Sportsman drivers looked to take the $400 first place money in their 15-lap race. Amber Crouch was the night’s fast qualifier at a 15.020. Points leader Steve Mattingly won the first heat race, while Brandon Pralle took the second heat. In the feature race, Pralle took the lead at the start and went flag-to-flag, picking up his third win of the season and halting Mattingly’s three race win streak. Richard Craven rallied late in the race to take second, followed by Crouch, Mattingly, Mikey Ledford, Matt Ramer, Valerie Hurt, Eric Saltzman, Tyler Roth, and Robert Saltzman. “We took the car apart after the last race and started completely over,” said Pralle. “Hopefully we have some things figured out.” With his win, Pralle trails Mattingly by 51 points with one night of points racing remaining.
The CR Towing and Recovery Sportsman class took center stage with the running of the Eden-Piercy Memorial Saturday night at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Chenoa’s Steve Mattingly took the exciting race, with Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver (Late Model), Pontiac’s Jeffrey Ledford (Modified), Crown Point, Indiana's Kyle Anderson (Street Stock), and Bloomington’s Thad Gee (Hobby-Modified) taking feature wins.
19 drivers vied for the $1100 to win Eden-Piercy race for the Sportsman drivers. Amber Crouch turned a 15.048 to lead the way in qualifying. Crouch, Steve Mattingly, and Dennis Vandermeersch took wins in their respective heat races, while Brandon Pralle was the trophy dash winner. Crouch led the field to the green and stuck her car to the bottom groove, while Mattingly ran the top, followed closely by Pralle, Vandermeersch, and Richard Craven. Crouch, Mattingly, and Pralle went three wide for the lead into turn one, with Mattingly moving to the point on lap seven. Crouch stuck with Mattingly and Craven followed. A caution fell on the 13th circuit and ended Crouch’s night along with contender Mikey Ledford. The races' restart had Mattingly, Craven, and Pralle pull away from the remaining cars. Richard Craven, running the bottom, got by Mattingly on the 18th lap and looked to add another Eden-Piercy trophy to his collection. After a caution with six laps to go, it was a drag race on the restart. Craven led before Mattingly moved back into the lead with four laps to go. Mattingly opened his lead and continued his magical season winning the biggest race of the year for the Sportsman class. Richard Craven, Pralle, 12th starter Anthony Craven, Bryant Frechette, Valerie Hurt, Tim Bedinger, Ken Kelley, Eric Saltzman, and Scott Williams took the top ten positions. “I think the tire might have come in on that last restart,” said Mattingly. “I had to do something. I just put the car back on the top side and it all worked out.”
18 Late Model drivers took time trial runs for their 30 lap feature. Mike Spatola turned a lap of 12.863 for quick time. The two heat race wins went to Kevin Weaver and Jay Morris. Five cautions plagued the first 15 laps as Weaver led Spatola, Mike Provenzano, Scott Schmitt, and Morris. Following a lap 15 caution, Provenzano, in second, gave Weaver a challenge for the lead, but Weaver held his ground and pulled away. Spatola moved back to second with nine laps left and closed the gap on Weaver. Weaver, on the top, was pounding the cushion and banging the wall with Spatola waiting to capitalize on a mistake by Weaver. The current points leader Weaver was not to be denied and ended his drought with his second win of the year. Completing the top ten were Spatola, Provenzano, Morris, Schmitt, Joseph Hughs, Dan Flessner, Curtis Radke, Mitch Hahn, and Glen Thompson. “We brought our Bob Pierce car back out,” Weaver said. “I raced it in a couple of Summer National races and it felt comfortable. We tried some things on it that I use in the Longhorn car and it seemed to work.”
Points leader McKay Wenger paced 17 other Modified competitors in qualifying at a 14.088. Wenger and Jeffrey Ledford took heat race wins. At the drop of the green flag, Ledford put his car on the top side of the track with Wenger, Dan Rork, Mark Grosvenor, and Nick Clubb looking to keep pace with Ledford. Caution fell on lap six and eight. On the restart, Wenger, who had been running the bottom, changed lanes to the top. Rork, running the bottom, offered a challenge to Wenger for second, but Wenger was able withstand the pressure. With Ledford safely in command, the yellow flag waved with two laps to go. Wenger went back to the bottom on the restart, but Ledford’s car proved to be too strong as he picked up his second Fairbury win of the year. Wenger took second, while Mike Learman got by Rork on the last lap for third. The rest of the top ten went to Jim Farris Jr., Clubb, Grosvenor, Kevin Morrow, Alan Stipp, and Joey Iliff. “This week we dropped the rearend and went through everything,” Ledford spoke. “It paid off. I could drive the car anywhere on the track.”
Rick Thomas circled the track in 15.782 seconds to lead the 13 Street Stock drivers on hand for their 15 lap race. Heat race wins went to Kyle Anderson and Matt Hammond. Anderson took the lead as Tanner Sullivan, Cody Clubb, Thomas, and Hammond had a heated battle for second. After a lap four caution, Anderson was able to put some distance on the field while Sullivan and Thomas raced for second. Clubb came into play the final five laps and took third from Thomas with three laps to go. Clubb got by Sullivan for second on the white flag lap, but Anderson was safely in charge to earn his first career win at Fairbury. Clubb, Sullivan, Thomas, Nick Seplak, Ryan Anderson, Hammond, Kory Kohler, Kevin Anderson, and Josh Hetherington rounded out the top ten. As an enthusiastic team celebrated, Anderson commented in the winner’s circle. “We have waited five years for this moment. This is the best track and the toughest drivers to race against."
11 Hobby-Modified drivers were in attendance for their 12 lap race. Mike Petersen was the fast qualifier at a 15.645. Travis Roe and Makinzi Semmens won their respective heat races. Roe led the field to the green flag with Petersen, Macy Vaughan, Gee, and Darren Kerrins following. As Petersen and Vaughan raced for second, Gee soon joined in the hunt. Gee was able to take second on the fourth lap. On lap five, Roe was overtaking a slower car and contact resulted in Roe’s machine heading to the pit area. The restart had Petersen and Gee leading the field. Gee was able to take the front position, open a straightaway lead, and take his first ever Fairbury feature win. Jason Brandt, Kerrins, Vaughan, TJ Bolen, Semmens, Cathy Crego, Petersen, and Roe completed the field. “This is big. I announced that this would be my last season”, said Gee. “It is amazing to finally get to victory lane after the rough year we have had.”
During his lustrous racing career, Donnie Moran established himself as one of the premier Late Model drivers in the country. A winner of four World 100s, Dirt Track World Championships, the Eldora Million, and a former STARS champion, Moran of Dresden, Ohio, was inducted into the Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2002. Saturday night at Fairbury American Legion Speedway, his son Devin added to the family legacy by pocketing $32,700 for winning the 29th annual Prairie Dirt Classic, presented by the Bank of Pontiac.
A standing-room-only crowd saw 29 of the finest Dirt Late Model pilots in the country line up for their chance to hoist the PDC trophy and be declared the winner of the richest paying Dirt Late Model race in Illinois. Chris Simpson led at the start before Brandon Sheppard took over on lap 20. Chris Madden and Moran followed and pulled away from the field. Moran overtook Madden for second and soon took the lead from Sheppard for the lead on lap 42. Madden got by Sheppard for second and challenged Moran for the lead, but the bottom-riding Moran was able to withstand the pressure. Sheppard slipped past Madden for second and caught Moran, as he battled through lapped traffic. Sheppard was able to lead the 72nd lap, but Moran regained the position on the following circuit. Sheppard moved into the lead on lap 78, but Moran came back again one lap later to take command. Moran, with a fast hot rod and lapped cars, was able to distance himself from Sheppard and cash the big check.“This race track and town are incredible,” a joyful Moran said. “This is our second time we have raced here and we won it. It will be hard to defend the win, but we will be back.” Outlaws points leader Mike Marlar overtook Sheppard for second in the closing laps, with Madden and Billy Drake running next. Shannon Babb led the second five home with Brian Shirley, Ryan Unzicker, Dennis Erb Jr., and Shane Clanton following.
The Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals championship was also decided as Highland’s Mike Harrison won Saturday’s $5,000 to win feature and another $5,000 for picking up his sixth title. Allen Weisser and Danny Schwartz brought the 27-car field to the green flag for the 40-lap race. Schwartz went into the lead as Jacob Hawkins followed. Hawkins repeatedly challenged Schwartz for the lead before taking over on lap 15. A caution fell on lap 25 and Hawkins’ night came to an end as he went to the pit area. Schwartz moved back into the lead with Harrison in second. Harrison moved by Schwartz for the lead as Mike McKinney’s bid for the title ended when he spun out. Harrison went unchallenged the remainder of the race, taking the win and locking up the championship. Kyle Strickler passed Schwartz on the last lap for second, with Weisser and Derek Losh in the top five. Kenny Wallace, Chris Arnold, Tait Davenport, Lucas Lee, and McKay Wenger rounded out the top 10.
Racing action started on Friday evening as 61 Craftsman World of Outlaws Late Model competitors representing 21 states took time trials. Bobby Pierce led the first group of qualifiers with a lap of 13.188 seconds, while Moran paced group two with a time of 13.427. Each driver was awarded $200 for their efforts. Four 25-lap, $2,500-to-win Showdown races were held with the top four finishers advancing to Saturday’s main event. Simpson, Sheppard, Moran and Babb won their respective races. A 25-lap, $2,000-to-win non-qualifiers race was held Saturday. The winner had the option of taking the money and loading up their car or forfeiting the check to start at the rear of the field. Pierce started 16th in the 19-car field. After a caution on the 23rd lap, Pierce shot by race leader Jason Feger to claim the win. Pierce elected to give up the money and start in the feature race. Three semi-features saw Gordy Gundaker, Billy Moyer, and Tyler Erb winning their respective races and moving on to the big show.
The Summit Modified Nationals saw Harrison and McKinney enter the weekend with McKinney holding a four-point lead for the championship. Davenport clocked a time of 13.885 seconds to lead the first group of qualifiers, while Schwartz led group two with a lap of 14.105. Four 20-lap, $500-to-win Showdown races also took place on Friday. Davenport, Arnold, Harrison, and Hawkins were the victors of their respective races. Harrison’s win tied him with McKinney for the points lead as McKinney finished fifth in his race and would have to run a semi on Saturday. Saturday gave the remainder of the drivers not locked into the main race another chance to earn their way in. Jeff Leka, Steven Brooks, and McKinney were the winners of their respective semi-features.
Moran scores biggest win of career with Prairie Dirt Classic victory
The World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series headlined one of the most prestigious races in the country; the 29th annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac. The fast quarter-mile of Fairbury American Legion Speedway (IL), located northeast of Bloomington in Fairbury, IL on Friday-Saturday, July 27-28th served as hosts as the 100-lap main paying $30,000 to win would see a rising star emerge victorious with his first major victory of his career. The 2017 Outlaws Rookie of the Year, 23-year-old Devin Moran passed defending series champion and defending race winner, Brandon Sheppard for the final time with 21 laps to go to secure the big payday.
“Once we moved up to the top, I really found something there and the car was just so phenomenal. It’s incredible what we can do with such a little team that we have. Everyone on this team have come together and to be able to do what we’re doing is so unbelievable.” The 23-year-old rising star stated standing next to his #9 Tommy Pope Construction / Rocket XR1 Chassis / Clements Racing Engines entry. “It’s by far the biggest one, this tops them all. It’s just incredible what we’ve done, and I can’t thank God enough for blessing us with the capabilities to come out here and race let alone win.” The Dresden, OH driver, who garnered a total of $33,200 for his efforts, added.
Chris Simpson and Sheppard would bring the star-studded 29-car field to the green flag to begin the century grind. Simpson would race out to the lead early while the rest of the field settled in behind him. After following Simpson around the fast quarter-mile, Sheppard made his move to take over the top spot and he brought Chris Madden, who started fifth and Moran, who started third, with him. The trio would then pull away from the rest of the pack with Moran getting by Madden for second. On lap 42, Moran took the lead for the first time and led the field to the halfway point.
Madden would slip past Sheppard for second and began to challenge Moran for the race lead. Sheppard would regain the runner-up spot and quickly caught Moran who was mired in traffic. On what would be the final restart after a caution, coming on lap 69, Sheppard immediately began pressuring the race leader. On lap 72, Sheppard would steal the lead away only to lose it a lap later.
Sheppard tried one more time on lap 78 and again was scored as the leader only to again lose it right back the very next lap to Moran for what turned out to be the final time. Moran would put plenty of real estate and lapped traffic between himself and Sheppard to seal the victory, the biggest of his career.
“Man, I got nervous there on that last restart. Every time we restarted, that top just kept getting faster and faster. I could tell why once we moved up there and it was way better for us. (Crew Chief and brother) Wylie (Moran) just kept pulling the sticks apart so I just kept running up high and it worked out for us.” explained the Buckeye State driver. “This is so cool. We just kept fine tuning little things all weekend long and it was just really good. When we can do that, I’m happy.” Moran ended.
Current points leader, Mike Marlar, who started 14th, passed Sheppard with two laps to go to claim the runner-up position. “We had a really good race car and it was a really good race track tonight. It was so congested early, but once it cleared out, I was able to get to the front." Stated the 40-year-old driver who was able to gain some points to add to his lead in the standings in his #157 Delk Equipment Sales / Rocket XR1 Chassis / Cornett Racing Engines machine. “Also, congratulations to Devin (Moran) and his team. He’s been doing an awesome job and I’m real proud of him. If we would’ve had a caution there we might’ve had a shot. But, we had to really work to get by Brandon (Sheppard) for second, so we’ll take it and we know we did the best we can.” Added the Winfield, TN pilot.
Rounding out the podium was Sheppard who led on four different occasions for 25 total laps before finishing in third in his #1 Seubert Calf Ranches / Rocket XR1 Chassis / Durham Racing Engines entry. “We were really good the whole race, but Devin (Moran) was just a little bit better tonight. I got a little bit free when we got to the lapped traffic and that’s where we needed to be a bit better.” Explained the 25-year-old from New Berlin, IL. “It’s typical Fairbury though. There’s three grooves of racing and when you get to them. They’re all over the place and they’re fighting for position too. We’re thankful to be in the top three though.” Sheppard remarked.
Madden would finish in the fourth position ahead of Billy Drake who completed the top five with an Outlaws career high finish of a fifth. Three-time PDC winner, Shannon Babb was sixth as 2018 DIRTcar Summer Nationals Hell Tour Champion, Brian Shirley was seventh. 2017 FALS Super Late Model Track Champion, Ryan Unzicker was eighth as another former PDC winner, Dennis Erb Jr., from 20th and 2015 Series Champion, Shane Clanton, from 23rd, rounded out the top 10. Four-time Track Champion and current points leader, Kevin Weaver earned the KSE Hard-Charger award with his 25th to 11th place run.
Earlier in the weekend on Friday, July 27th, Bobby Pierce won his first PFC Brakes Fast Qualifier award of the season and second of his career with a 13.188. Simpson, Sheppard, Moran and Babb won the Showdown Qualifier Features. On Saturday, July 28th, Gordy Gundaker, three-time series champion, Billy Moyer and Tyler Erb won the Last Chance Showdowns. Pierce would pick up the victory in the Prairie Dirt Shootout and would then forgo the $2,000 payday that came with it for the 27th starting spot in the Prairie Dirt Classic.
Harrison Rewrites Summit Modified Nationals History with Sixth Championship
The 2018 Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals concluded on Saturday, July 28th as part of the 29th annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac. The fast quarter-mile of Fairbury American Legion Speedway (IL), located northeast of Bloomington in Fairbury, IL, was the site of a dramatic, history-making weekend for the UMP Modifieds. Coming into the weekend, Mike McKinney led five-time defending Tour Champion Mike Harrison by just four points in the chase for the Championship.
After Friday night’s action, McKinney and Harrison were tied for the points lead after Harrison won his seventh Summit Modified Nationals Feature of the season and 43rd of his career, while McKinney finished fifth in the same race. Harrison, the all-time career wins leader in the eight-year history of the Summit Modified Nationals, had to win the 40-lap, $5,000-to-win Feature to lock up his sixth title overall and second in a row.
“I usually don’t get nervous with these races, but tonight, for some reason, this one had me on my toes a little bit. I was really worried about this one,” offered the 40-year-old driver of the #24 Rinderer Farms / Impressive Race Cars / Bill Faust Racing Engines entry while being congratulated from fans, friends and fellow competitors.
“Hats off to Mike (McKinney). He had a helluva year. But to come here on the last night, having to win the big show to win the points, this one is definitely at the top of the list. I’ll remember this one for a long time,” he added.
The 200th all-time Summit Modified Nationals Feature in the Tour’s eight-year history would see Allen Weisser and Danny Schwartz bring the stellar 27-car field to the green flag. Schwartz beat the field to the first corner to take the early race lead, while the rest of the field jockeyed for position behind him. Jacob Hawkins, who started in fourth, quickly worked his way up to second and began his charge, directed at Schwartz. On lap 15, Hawkins drove by to take the point and lead the way.
Hawkins maintained the lead until lap 25, when the caution flag came out and the race leader went pit side with apparent damage. This handed the lead back to Schwartz, who now had Harrison on his back bumper. Lap 28 proved to be the most pivotal moment of the 2018 Summit Modified Nationals. Harrison took over the lead from Schwartz, and as that was happening, McKinney, who had climbed up into the top 10 from his 19th starting spot, spun in turn three. Harrison would not be challenged the rest of the way and went on to take the checkered flag first.
Kyle Strickler, who started 14th, passed Schwartz on the white flag lap to bring home the runner-up spot, while Schwartz settled for the final podium position in third. Weisser was fourth, and Derek Losh finished off the top five. 2012 Summit Modified Nationals Champion Kenny Wallace finished in sixth after starting 16th, while Chris Arnold, Tait Davenport, Lucas Lee and current FALS DIRTcar Modified points leader McKay Wenger completed the top 10.
The weekend of racing started on Friday as Davenport out-qualified the 61-car field with a 13.885-second lap. He also won a Qualifier Feature, as did Arnold, Harrison and Hawkins. On Saturday in the three Last Chance Showdowns, 2008 DIRTcar Modified National Champion Jeff Leka scored the win to transfer into the PDC, as did Steven Brooks and McKinney.