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Mike Spatola

Mike Spatola

Mike McKinney

Mike McKinney

Tommy Duncan

Tommy Duncan

Jim Ransom

Jim Ransom

Mason Duncan

Mason Duncan

Results | Story and Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

The Fairbury Speedway returned to action on Saturday night with a FALS Cup weekly program. Mike Spatola (Late Model), Mike McKinney (Modified), Tommy Duncan (Sportsman), Jim Ransom (Stock Car), and Mason Duncan (Hobby-Modified) each carried the checkered flag in their respective classes.

spatola lmWith a weekend off from the World of Outlaws, Carpentersville’s Dennis Erb Jr. made the trek to Fairbury, setting fast time at 12.905 seconds over 23 other Late Models, and winning his heat race. Taylor Scheffler and Mike Spatola were the other heat race winners, while Dale Markham advanced to the 30-lap feature by winning the semi-feature. Starting on the inside front row, Erb quickly jumped out into the lead as Scheffler and Spatola raced for second. Hugging the bottom of the track, Erb held a ten- car length lead over Scheffler, Spatola, track points leader Ryan Unzicker, and Allen Weisser. After a caution on lap 10, the battle for second was intense as Spatola, Unzicker, and Scott Schmitt exchanged the position lap after lap. Two straight lap 19 cautions had Spatola on Erb’s bumper for the restart. Spatola was able to make the top side work and took the lead on lap 21. Erb came back to take the lead on lap 27, but a determined Spatola reclaimed the lead on the next lap and pulled away for his third win at Fairbury. “Dennis is the best Illinois driver to run the bottom,” Spatola said. “I knew that at some point I was going to try and figure out how to get him on the top.” Erb took second, as Unzicker, Donny Walden, 13th starter Jason Feger, McKay Wenger, Weisser, Jay Sparks, Derek Chandler, and Rich Bell completed the top ten.

mckinney mdIt was another night of fierce competition in the Modified division between Allen Weisser and Mike McKinney. Each took their respective heat race wins and Weisser captured quick time at 13.964 seconds. Four cautions and a red flag kept any rhythm from developing through the first five laps. The bottom of the track was the preferred line during the race as Weisser led McKinney, Missouri’s Rick Stevenson, who also won a heat race, Jeffrey Ledford, and Nick Clubb. Ledford went to the top, moving into third, and gave McKinney a race for second before falling back. A rising star in the Modified, Michael Ledford was shuffled back to 10th before charging back to fifth on the eighth lap. Threading their way through lapped traffic, McKinney was able to sneak by Weisser with seven laps to go and take his fifth win. “I have a ton of respect for Allen. We have been battling each other all season,” an exhausted McKinney spoke. “We got behind the slower cars and I was able to get by him. Sometimes it pays to be running in second.” Track points leader Weisser took the second position, with Jeffrey Ledford, Stevenson, Michael Ledford, Clubb, Rich Dawson, Billy Puckett, Steve Jones, and Eric Vaughan in the first 10 positions.

duncan spThe CR Towing Sportsman class was scheduled for a 15-lap race. 11 drivers signed in with Michael Ledford touring the track at 14.654 seconds for fast time. Two heat races saw Ledford and Amber Crouch coming out on top. On the opening lap, Ledford, Crouch, and Lyndon Whitfill went three wide looking to take the lead. Track points leader Tommy Duncan found an opening and took command. Looking for his first track championship, Duncan led all the way for his sixth win of the year. “We have the car back to where it was at the start of the year and have been making the smart choices,” Duncan said. Following Duncan to the stripe were Ledford, Steve Mattingly, Whitfill, Matt Ramer, Val Hurt, Brendan Ramer, Crouch, Blake Reid, and Dan Coit.

ransom scMatt Hammond paced the 18 Stock Cars with a time of 15.624 seconds. Indiana’s Jim Ransom and Matt Shannon won heat races. Debuting a new car, Ransom went to the lead at the beginning of the 15-lap race. Holding off a brief challenge from track points leader Nick Seplak, and surviving several cautions, Ransom was able to take his first Fairbury feature win. “I have to thank my car owner, Mike Allsop, and the crew for their hard work,” Ransom spoke. “I was getting nervous with those cautions, but the car was working good.”

duncan hmSetting fast time at 15.006 seconds and winning his heat race, Mason Duncan continued his dominance in the Hobby-Modified division. Making quick work of the competition, Duncan was able to outdistance his foes and pick up his seventh win. “The car has been absolutely perfect all season long,” Duncan said. “I can’t thank my crew and sponsors for all they have done.” Thad Gee, Troy Ricketts, Macy Vaughan, heat race winner Darren Kerrins, Devin Burton, Tyler Sebby, Makinzi Semmens, Jake Green, and Darren Christensen rounded out the top ten.



Billy Drake

Billy Drake

Mike McKinney

Mike McKinney

Tommy Duncan

Tommy Duncan

Matthew Hammond

Matthew Hammond

Mason Duncan

Mason Duncan

Results | Story and Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

A FALS Cup weekly racing program was held on Saturday night. With three weeks remaining in track points, drivers are scrambling to position themselves to finish in the top ten. Carrying the checkered flag in the five classes were Billy Drake (Late Model), Mike McKinney (Modified), Tommy Duncan (Sportsman), Matt Hammond (Stock Car), and Mason Duncan (Hobby-Modified).

drake lmDerek Chandler toured the track at 13.230 seconds for fast time in Late Model time trials. With 32 cars on hand, four heat races were held. Taking the wins were Drake, Scott Schmitt, Kevin Weaver, and Allen Murray. Jay Morris and Jeff Curl advanced to the 30-lap feature by winning their respective semi features. Starting on the inside of the front row, Drake took the lead at the start with Schmitt, Weaver, Ryan Unzicker, and Australian Kye Blight following. Drake, hugging the bottom groove, wasted little time in pulling away from the field, opening up a straightaway lead. As Drake was working the slower traffic in the closing laps, Unzicker moved into the second position. Unzicker was able to close in on Drake, but the laps ran out and Drake picked up a popular victory. “I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that Unzicker was behind me,” said Drake. “I didn’t know how big of a lead I had.” Points leader Unzicker took second, with Weaver, Schmitt, and Mike Mataragas completing the first five. Blight headed the second five followed by Mike Spatola, Chandler, McKay Wenger, and Morris.

mckinney md27 Modified drivers took time trials for their 25-lap race. Points leader Allen Weisser clipped a lap of 13.920 seconds for fast time. Weisser, Mike McKinney, and Jay Ledford were the heat race winners. Michael Clark was the semi feature winner. While last week’s Prairie Dirt Classic is in the running for national Late Model race of the year, the Modified race will be one to consider as Fairbury’s race of the year. McKinney won the drag race into turn one as Weisser stuck his car on the bottom. Weisser pulled alongside of McKinney, but McKinney carried the momentum on the straights to edge ahead of Weisser. Weisser moved by McKinney for the lead on the sixth lap. A caution fell on lap seven, and on the restart, Dan Rork made a banzai move to take second, but McKinney stood his ground and battled back to reclaim the position. McKinney, banging the wall, was able to move by Weisser for the lead on the 12th lap. Both drivers executed slide jobs to perfection in hopes of taking the FALS Cup trophy. Weisser moved back to the front on lap 21. With the race for the lead capturing the attention of the fans, Michael Ledford began to make his presence felt. Running in fourth, Ledford capitalized on Steven Brooks’s misfortune and took over the third spot. With four cautions in the final seven laps, everyone in attendance anticipated a dramatic finish. Weisser led McKinney with two laps to go, following a caution. On the restart, Weisser slowed with a flat right front tire and McKinney moving back into the lead. McKinney was able to pick up his fourth win of the year. “I felt like I was racing for second a little bit,” an excited McKinney spoke. “The car came to life or I woke up and got back on the wheel.” Ledford had an early career best second, followed by first-year Modified driver AJ Meiferdt, who started 14th, Jim Farris, and Rork. Kyle Hammer, Nick Clubb, Nick Allen, Alan Stipp, and Clark completed the top ten.

duncan sp15 CR Towing Sportsman drivers looked to earn fast time for their 15-lap race. Points leader Tommy Duncan had a lap of 14.657 seconds to lead the way. Duncan and Steve Mattingly picked up the heat race wins. Starting on the outside of the front row, Mattingly was able to take the lead with Duncan following. Contact on the eighth lap between Mattingly and Duncan resulted in Mattingly being sent to the back of the field. The restart had Duncan leading Michael Ledford, Anthony Craven, Blake Reid, and Lyndon Whitfill. Duncan was able to open a large lead until he encountered slower traffic. Ledford gave it his all to take the lead, but Duncan stood firm as he claimed his fifth win and stretched out his lead in the battle for the track championship. “We have put a lot of work into getting the car back to where it was at the beginning of the year,” Duncan said. “I was worried when they prepped the track, but the car worked well.” Ledford, Craven, Whitfill, Mattingly, Reid, Rick Roedel, Brian Albus, Connor Klay, and Matt Ramer completed the top ten.

hammond scWith a time of 15.568 seconds, Matt Hammond picked up fast time honors for the 19 Stock Cars on hand. Two heat races were held with Michael Schomas and Peter Argianas taking the wins. Following an early race battle for the lead with Schomas, Hammond was able to pull away for his third win of the year. Schomas turned in a strong effort with a second, and 12th starter Don Hilleary was third. Darrell Dick, Pete Odell, Jeff Hartzell, Cody Clubb, points leader Nick Seplak, Aragianas, and Eric Boudreau rounded out the top ten. “I knew that starting up front would be huge,” spoke Hammond. “We hit it dead on with the setup.”

duncan hmThe Hobby-Modified division drew 12 entries for their 12-lap race. A time of 15.128 seconds earned Mason Duncan fast time honors. Duncan and Jake Green were the heat race winners. Duncan continued his dominance of the class by going flag-to-flag for his sixth win of the year. Thad Gee and Jason Brandt battled throughout the race for second before Gee edged ahead in the closing laps. Makinzi Semmens took fourth and Green finished fifth. Roy Magee, Macy Vaughan, Austin Lipe, Cathy Crego, and Payton Semmens rounded out the top ten. “My crew gave me an awesome car,’ Duncan said. “ Everything just fell into place.”


by WoO

pdc logoAfter 30 successful years of the Prairie Dirt Classic (PDC), Fairbury Speedway and the World of Outlaws are proud to announce the renewed partnership with the Bank of Pontiac to continue the tradition into the foreseeable future. One of the nation’s most premiere dirt Late Model events, the 2020 race will be held on July 31st and August 1st and pay out $2000 to start and an impressive $50,000 to win.

This announcement comes as new track owner Matt Curl reaches the midway point in his first season as track owner, proving that the historic race track is in good hands and will continue to succeed well into the future.

First run on September 5, 1990, the PDC has become one of the most popular dirt Late Model races in the country. This year’s event pulled in a star-studded, 72-car field, making it the most competitive battle in its 30-year history, with record crowds.


Brandon Sheppard

Brandon Sheppard

Nick Hoffman

Nick Hoffman

Allen Weisser

Allen Weisser

2019 Champion Hoffman Rolls To Flag-To-Flag Victory in Modified Nationals Finale

Results | Story by WoO | Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

pdcAs that familiar #32 Rocket Chassis led the field across the start/finish line to the white flag, many people standing in the Fairbury Speedway grandstands on Saturday night thought Bobby Pierce was finally going to get his first Prairie Dirt Classic victory after so many tries at his home state’s biggest Dirt Late Model race. But, as has been the case so many times already this season with the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series, Brandon Sheppard was not going to be denied.

Pierce had led every lap since he took the lead from Sheppard in traffic on lap 26. But after driving the entire race without power steering, Pierce’s arms were giving out with just four corners to go.

Sheppard got a great run out of turn two on lap 99, riding the big cushion that caked the outside wall. Once he got to the mid-point of the backstretch, Sheppard knew it was time for his one last-ditch effort. He drove his Rocket Chassis house car deep into turn three with plenty of speed to get back up the banking and slid up in front of Pierce.

With little time to react, Pierce mashed the throttle and leaned hard on the cushion in an effort to turn his steering-stiff machine back down underneath Sheppard to counter the slide-job. But the crossover attempt was unsuccessful, and Pierce soon found himself in the rear-end of Sheppard’s Rocket Chassis house car, bouncing off the turn four wall.

“Brandon did everything right,” Pierce said. “That’s when I had to make a ‘get up on the wheel’ move. But by then, my arms were Jell-O and I just couldn’t do it, so I tried to do it with the gas pedal to get the car sideways and go down the hill.”

Sheppard drove off of turn four and across the stripe to an incredible sea of applause and cheers from fans, mostly stunned at what they had just seen. Sheppard had done the unthinkable – steal the lead in the final corners to win his second Prairie Dirt Classic.

“After that caution with 11 laps to go, I just kept going harder and harder each lap,” Sheppard said. “And then I saw five-to-go and I just let it all hang out. It all worked out for us.”

“I figured, nine times out of ten, the guy would have crossed me back over and beat me to the line,” he continued. “Luckily, the track was slick enough that I was able to death-slid across it, and we were able to stay in front of him.”

The restart with 11 laps remaining set 2018 PDC runner-up Mike Marlar and Sheppard on the rear bumper of Pierce, applying more pressure than they ever had on the leader. But Pierce opened up a gap that Sheppard was forced to close in the final circuits in order to have a shot at the leader. By the white flag, he had done exactly that, using a line he found earlier in the race.

“Bobby was cutting the corner off getting in, like I was doing earlier in the race,” Sheppard said. “Then, I started entering in right against it, and that was what let me get enough momentum to get next to him down the back straightaway.”

Upon Sheppard’s arrival in Victory Lane, Pierce walked over to the Rocket1 celebration before Sheppard emerged from his car to shake hands with the team and Brandon’s father, Steve. A true display of sportsmanship between the two Illinois-natives, despite the beating-and-banging in the final laps, goes to show just how much respect is shared for each other’s driving tactics.

“Yes, I had to lift. But Brandon threw a perfectly executed slider. The only thing is, if I had a car that was working properly, it would have been one hell of a drag race to the finish,” Pierce said.

Overall, another tough break greeted the “Smooth Operator” with an unfriendly smile on Saturday night, considerably impairing his ability to handle the car around the quarter-mile of Fairbury. Pierce said the problem with his power steering components actually began after his win in Friday night’s second Showdown qualifier, and despite tedious efforts by his crew to repair the system, those issues remained in the big show.

Pierce said he was able to muscle through for most of the race, but never expected to lead the field around for as long as he did.

“On lap zero, I was thinking, ‘okay, how many laps am I going to make it before I pull in?’” Pierce said. “Ever since I pulled out of the pit area, I didn’t have, or had very little, power steering. After we made about eight laps, I had almost none.”

“At times, I had two hands on top of the steering wheel just to turn it back left so I didn’t hit the wall coming out of the corner,” Pierce added.

All things considered, a solid podium finish for the three-time DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model champion ties his best finish in the Prairie Dirt Classic, which he scored in the event’s very first year under World of Outlaws sanctioning – 2013. Pierce was understandably disappointed with a third-place, but held his head high to admire his great achievement against a record-breaking 72-car field.

Amidst all of the Sheppard-Pierce commotion, Mike Marlar slipped under the radar, and Pierce in the final corner, to claim the runner-up spot. After battling it out with Sheppard for over half of the race, Marlar said he anticipated Sheppard’s slide-job in the final corner and braced himself to take the extreme bottom lane in an effort to get by both drivers. He was only able to swipe away the spot from Pierce, but was happy with another runner-up finish in the PDC for the second year in-a-row on a track surface that he always enjoys competing on.

“The whole track was just super racy,” Marlar said. “We started off in the middle for a few laps, then it moved to the bottom and back to the cushion, then back to the bottom… It was just really racy, as it always is here. It was awesome, fun getting to race here.”

MODIFIEDS

by Rocky Ragusa

pdc mdLast Chance Showdowns began the Saturday program. The top two finishers from each race moved onto the night’s feature. In the Modifieds, Chris Arnold led flag to flag over Chris Smith in the first race, while Jacob Steinkoenig charged to the win in the second, as Michael Ledford executed a slide job on the last lap to also move on. 24 Modified drivers took the green flag and Nick Hoffman showed why he was deserving of his championship. In “Elite” fashion, which is the name of the car he builds, Hoffman roared out to a 10-car length lead. Tyler Nicely, Allen Weisser, Curt Spalding, Jeffrey Ledford, and Mike Harrison raced for the second position in hopes of tracking Hoffman down. After a caution on lap 11 and 15, Weisser moved into second as Harrison began to turn up the wick. Running in fourth, Harrison pounded the cushion unmercifully as he tried to overtake Nicely. Hoffman strutted his stuff in the closing stages of the race, while Weisser stood in second. Harrison, always a contender for the win, saw his hopes vanish on the 31st lap. Harrison hit the wall in turn one and caused the wheel to break. As the six time champion exited his car, fans stood and applauded his efforts to get to the front. Two cautions fell with nine and seven laps left, but Hoffman was not to be denied in winning his 13th Summit Racing Equipment feature race. Weisser padded his wallet with a second-place finish, series runner-up Nicely took third, followed by Ledford and Will Krup. Danny Schwartz headed the second five, with Spalding, Tommy Sheppard Jr., 22nd starter Mike Chasteen Jr., and Nick Clubb.


Brandon Sheppard

Brandon Sheppard

Bobby Pierce

Bobby Pierce

Chris Ferguson

Chris Ferguson

Shane Clanton

Shane Clanton

Results | Story by WoO | Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

The most prestigious Dirt Late Model race in the great state of Illinois kicked off on Friday night with a record-setting number of “The Most Powerful Late Models on the Planet” in the Fairbury Speedway pit area. 72 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models saddled up to compete in four very entertaining Prairie Dirt Shootouts that set the first 8 rows of Saturday’s 30th annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac.

SHOWDOWN #1
lm showdown1Just a short time after setting quick time in Qualifying, besting the other 71 drivers in the Fairbury pit area, New Berlin, Illinois’ own Brandon Sheppard once again put Rocket1 Racing’s prowess on display for the thousands of Prairie Dirt Classic fans watching in the standing-room-only grandstands and online at DIRTVision.com. Leading all 25 laps and going virtually unchallenged throughout the entire night, “The Rocket Shepp” picked up $2,500 and the third Prairie Dirt Showdown win of his career. He has now won a Showdown in each year since the most recent event format change that introduced them in 2017.

With 15 laps in the books, it looked as though it may have been an all-Outlaw top-five, with four of the top five spots occupied by full-time World of Outlaws drivers. Sheppard had led since the drop of the green with Chase Junghans and rookie Cade Dillard following close behind, Darrell Lanigan riding back in fourth and Dennis Erb Jr. battling it out with Chris Simpson and Ricky Thornton Jr. for fifth. Unfortunately for Dillard, he slowed on the backstretch and ended up pulling off the track in a puff of smoke on lap 16.

This opened the door for Boom Briggs, who seemingly came out of nowhere on the lap 16 restart. From his 11th-place starting spot, Briggs steadily worked his way to ninth before the yellow came out. When the field came back to green, Boom got the jump and went from ninth to fifth in less than one lap. He went on to pass two more cars to claim his starting spot in Saturday’s 100-lap finale.

An even better run came in the same race for the driver out of Carpentersville, Illinois, Dennis Erb Jr. He came from the outside of Boom Briggs in row 6 and passed five cars in less than one lap on the restart to go from seventh to second and put himself in Saturday’s redraw.

SHOWDOWN #2
lm showdown2A second driver from The Land of Lincoln picked up the win in Showdown #2 – none other than Oakwood, Illinois’ own Bobby Pierce. Riding the big #FALS cushion on the topside of the quarter-mile like he’s done so many times before, the “Smooth Operator” led all 25 laps and scored the first Prairie Dirt Showdown win of his career.

“It went a lot smoother than about all of the other times I’ve been here for this race,” Pierce said in Victory Lane.

That statement sheds a bit of light on last year’s Prairie Dirt Classic, when Pierce set fast time over 60 other drivers but failed to transfer (or finish) out of his Showdown. This set him up for one of the greatest charges to the front (and the win) ever seen at Fairbury in the Prairie Dirt Shootout, but with the Showdown win this year, Pierce is just glad he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this time around.

“This race has become one of the toughest races to win, by far,” he said. “With the amount of cars here and the competition, if you can start up front, that’s 50 percent of the race, I think.”

“Last year’s [Prairie Dirt Shootout] was something else. That was cool, but I’d really rather not have to do that again. Fortunately, here we are.”

SHOWDOWN #3
lm showdown3In what was, no doubt, the most exciting Showdown finish of the evening, Mt. Holly, North Carolina’s own Chris Ferguson dug out the victory after an intense run to the checkereds with Mike Marlar and Brian Shirley.

Marlar led from the drop of the green, showing the way in the early stages ahead of Hudson O’Neal and Ferguson. Brian Shirley found his mojo on the topside and worked his way into the top three just after halfway. The big battle for the lead between Marlar, Ferguson and Shirley really began to heat up after a restart with seven laps to go, when Shirley made a great move on the top side around Ferguson for second and dove underneath Marlar for the lead into turn one with four laps remaining.

After Shirley completed the slidejob, Marlar crossed him over out of turn two as Ferguson dove to the inside, making it a three-wide battle for the lead down the backstretch and into turn three. Ferguson shot out of turn four like a cannonball and took the lead at the flag stand by inches, which he held and expanded through the next two circuits to pick up his very first career victory of any kind at Fairbury.

“I’m just so pumped to get a win here,” Ferguson said. “I can quit racing, ‘cause I won at Fairbury!”

“Shirley and I raced clean the whole race. I saw him peeking on the outside, so I made sure to give him room. When [Shirley and Marlar] kind-of slipped up there in [turns] one and two, I knew I had to be there to take advantage. So, we did what we did and got the win.”

Ferguson’s only been to Fairbury a handful of times, debuting in 2016. But when “Fergy” pulled his Sweet-Bloomquist Chassis #22 into Victory Lane on Friday night, the crowd erupted in a sea of applause and cheer, louder than any other heard that night. He’s one of the sport’s most popular drivers, and the number of fans he has in a state hundreds of miles away from his hometown is a testament to his appreciation of his supporters at the track and in the stands.

“If I didn’t have a home track in North Carolina, it’d be here at Fairbury, just because the people here treat me so well,” Ferguson said.

SHOWDOWN #4
lm showdown42015 Series Champion Shane Clanton has been on a roll as of late, picking up several top-five and podium finishes since his move to Skyline Motorsports last month. He continued that success on Friday night, winning his second Showdown qualifier in three years at Fairbury over Billy Drake and Ricky Weiss.

First, Clanton had to get by polesitter Ashton Winger. “The Georgia Bulldog” passed a few cars on the top side prior to a caution on lap 9 and decided to stick with it on the restart. This proved to be the decision that won the race, and he’ll now get an opportunity to start on the pole for tomorrow’s finale in the redraw.

“I knew I was good on the top, I just needed clean air,” Clanton said. “The exhaust from our cars helped to clean the middle groove off a little bit under caution and it gave me just enough to be tight enough across the middle and pull hard off the corner.”

“I’ve never started this far forward before,” Clanton added. “We’ve always run good, and even led this race before. Hopefully, we can capitalize on what we earned tonight and lead all 100 laps – that’d be phenomenal, but I hope we can just lead lap 100, because that’s what pays the money.”

QUALIFYING
2017 Prairie Dirt Classic winner Brandon Sheppard kicked things off in Group A Qualifying with a lap of 13.112, earning him his seventh PFC Brakes Fast Time Award of the season and 26th of his career. 2018 World of Outlaws Champion Mike Marlar laid down a lap of 13.267, good enough to take the top spot in Group B and fourth overall.


MODIFIEDS

Allen Weisser

Allen Weisser

Nick Hoffman

Nick Hoffman

Jeffrey Ledford

Jeffrey Ledford

Tyler Nicely

Tyler Nicely

Allen Weisser, pulling double duty, was the first Modified feature winner, followed by Curt Spalding, Levi Kissinger, and Alan Stipp. The series champion, Nick Hoffman, outdistanced Will Krup, Jeff Leka, and Steven Brooks in race two. Jeffrey Ledford was the third race winner over Mike McKinney, Rodney Standerfer, and Tommy Sheppard Jr. Tyler Nicely, Mike Harrison, Danny Schwartz, and Nick Clubb were the drivers in the final feature to head into the big race. Spalding (13.631) paced group one in qualifying, while track points leader Ledford bested group two with a lap of 13.900.


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