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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.


Mike Spatola

Mike Spatola

Allen Weisser

Allen Weisser

Justin VanDrunen

Justin VanDrunen

Michael Ledford

Michael Ledford

Mason Duncan

Mason Duncan

Results | Story and Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

The Fairbury Speedway hosted a weekly FALS Cup program on Saturday night. Mike Spatola (Late Model), Allen Weisser (Modified), Justin VanDrunen (Stock Car), Michael Ledford (Sportsman), and Mason Duncan (Hobby-Modified) bested the competition in their respective classes.

spatola lmThe Late Model division saw 20 drivers make qualifying runs for their 30-lap, $2,500 to win race. Manhattan’s Mike Spatola blistered the ¼ mile dirt oval with a fast time of 12.768 seconds. Spatola and Scott Schmitt were the heat race winners. Spatola jumped out to the lead at the start, as Schmitt, Kevin Weaver, Ryan Unzicker, and Rich Bell vied for second. The yellow flag fell on the sixth lap, and on the restart, Spatola wasted little time in opening a ten-car-length lead. Schmitt had his hands full as Weaver looked to move into second. Weaver saw his opportunity on lap 12 as Schmitt’s car got into the crumbs in turn one allowing Weaver to take second. After a lap 16 caution, Weaver offered Spatola a brief challenge for the lead, but Spatola was able to hold a ten-car-length lead over Weaver and take his second FALS Cup trophy of the season. “It’s a lot of work keeping these cars on the racetrack,” Spatola said. “Me and my crew all have day jobs and then spend three to four hours a night in the shop. We all have families and kids. It can be tough. So, I thank my guys for their commitment.” With his win, Spatola trimmed Unzicker’s lead in the battle for the track title to eight points. Weaver took second, with Schmitt earning a hard fought third over Bell and Donny Walden. The remainder of the top ten were Jason Feger, Unzicker, McKay Wenger, Derek Chandler, and Paul Stubber.

weisser mdMaking the long haul from Brighton, Jacob Rexing was the fast qualifier at 13.952 seconds, as 18 drivers went through the chute. Allen Weisser and Jeff Leka took heat race wins. On race day, the Weisser team changed the engine out of one car and put it into his other car. The difference worked as Weisser, losing a heartbreaker the previous week, dominated the 25-lap race from green to checkered. For Weisser, it was his fifth feature win of the year at Fairbury. Trailing Weisser to the line were Steven Brooks, Ryan Thomas, Dan Rork, Nick Clubb, Rexing, 18th starter Alan Stipp, Matthew Mitchell, Jeffrey Ledford, and Eric Vaughan.

vandrunen scPoints leader Nick Seplak set the pace in Stock Car qualifying at 15.811 seconds with 18 cars in attendance for their 15-lap feature. Pete Odell and Justin VanDrunen earned heat race wins. VanDrunen took the top spot at the start as Odell hounded the leader throughout the race. Odell was able to take the lead on lap 13, but VanDrunen reclaimed the lead on the next lap and took his first career Fairbury win in a hard-fought battle. “This has been a dream come true to get this win,” VanDrunen said. “I can’t thank my dad, sponsors, and fans enough for their support.” Odell settled for second, as Tanner Sullivan, Seplak, Robert Cottom, Zach Zuberbier, Michael Schomas, Eric Boudreau, Cody Clubb, and Josh Hetherington completed the top ten.

ledford spEight CR Towing Sportsman drivers took time trials for their 15-lap race. 14.867 seconds earned fast time for Tommy Duncan. Duncan was also the heat race winner. Duncan and Michael Ledford ran side by side for the lead at the start. The 14-year-old wheelman ran the top side like a grizzled pro, maintaining a five-car-length lead over points leader Duncan. For Ledford, it was his second win of the year. “I knew that starting second that I wanted to be on the topside at the start,” stated Ledford. “It was a little treacherous, but we held on for the win.” Duncan, Lyndon Whitfill, Amber Crouch, Matt Ramer, Blake Reid, Alex Wilson, and Steve Mattingly completed the finish.

duncan hm16 Hobby-Modified drivers qualified for their 12-lap race. Mason Duncan sizzled the track at 14.897 seconds to claim quick time honors. Two heat races saw Duncan and Macy Vaughan taking the wins. Duncan continued to be the class of the field in leading all the way for his fifth win. “We work on this car day in and day out. I can’t thank my dad enough for all that he does,” Duncan said. “We had a fast track and a fast car.” Jason Brandt, Troy Ricketts, Thad Gee, Austin Lipe, Makinzi Semmens, Chris Burton, Darren Christensen, Derrick DeFord, and Payton Semmens completed the top ten.


Steven Mattingly

Steven Mattingly

Ryan Unzicker

Ryan Unzicker

Mike McKinney

Mike McKinney

Peter Odell

Peter Odell

Mason Duncan

Mason Duncan

Results | Story and Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

After thunderstorms cancelled last week’s racing action at the Fairbury Speedway, the track resumed Saturday night with a FALS Cup weekly program. Ryan Unzicker (Late Model), Mike McKinney (Modified), Steve Mattingly (Sportsman), Pete Odell (Stock Car), and Mason Duncan (Hobby-Modified) claimed feature wins.

mattingly spThe annual Eden-Piercy Memorial race for the Sportsman class had 19 cars on hand for their 25-lap, $1,550 to win special. Fairbury’s Tyler Roth toured the speed plant at 14.560 seconds for quick time. Wes Odell and Steve Mattingly took heat race wins. A trophy dash was held for the six fastest qualifiers and Rick Roedel took the win. Odell led the first three laps before surrendering it to Mattingly with Michael Ledford following. Cautions plagued the early going keeping the cars in tight formation. Mattingly, running the top side to perfection, kept a five-car-length lead over Ledford, with Odell, Tommy Duncan, and Dustin Mounce trailing. Following a caution on lap 18, Ledford made an attempt for the lead, but mechanical failure ended his bid as he struck the wall on the next lap. Mattingly stretched his lead in the final laps and was able to claim his second straight win of the year, two consecutive Eden-Piercy trophies, and with lap money, $1,600 richer. “It was pretty easy driving,” Mattingly said. “There were a couple of times I messed up on the top. I got a little nervous but calmed back down. The car got junked at the first race of the year. Brian Dunn reclipped it and I have to give him a lot of credit.” The rest of the top ten went to Odell, Duncan, Mounce, 16th starter Dennis Vandermeersch, Roedel, Blake Reid, Brian Albus, Matt Ramer, and Scott Williams.

unzicker lmEl Paso’s Ryan Unzicker secured fast time honors with a lap of 12.984 seconds as 25 Late Model drivers made qualifying attempts for their 30-lap feature. Allen Weisser, Ohio’s Kody Evans, and Billy Drake took heat race wins, while Bill Hough was the semi-feature winner. Polesitter Weisser took the lead on the start with Drake, Evans, Unzicker, and Dan Flessner following. Unzicker picked cars off working his way to the front. On the 16th lap, Unzicker did a slide job on Weisser to move to the lead. Unzicker was able to open up his lead before encountering slower cars. Weisser was able to close in on Unzicker and took the lead on lap 24 before Unzicker reclaimed the top spot. Unzicker, with a fast cat, stretched his lead in the waning laps to pick up his second win of the year. “We started off the first five races finishing in the top three and then we struggled a bit,” Unzicker said. “Now we got our groove back.” Weisser took second, with Drake, Evans, McKay Wenger, Flessner, Kevin Weaver, Mike Spatola, Scott Schmitt, and Mike Mataragas completing the top ten.

mckinney mdPontiac’s Jeffrey Ledford turned the track at 13.774 seconds with 27 Modified cars in attendance for their 25-lap race. Ledford, Allen Weisser, and Mike McKinney won heat races, with Kenny Carlson taking the semi-feature. Starting on the outside front row, Weisser led McKinney, Jim Farris, Ledford, and Steven Brooks on a lightning fast track. After a caution on lap three, McKinney got by Weisser to lead a lap before Weisser moved back to the front. Weisser had a ten-car-length lead over McKinney before a yellow flag was waved on the 10th lap. McKinney was able to stay within striking distance of Weisser before things got hairy with a lap to go. As the pair approached a slower car, McKinney found the momentum running the top to get by Weisser as the two drivers made contact exiting turn four with the checkered flag in sight. McKinney, in dramatic fashion, edged Weisser for his third feature win. “I have a lot of respect for Allen. We go hard and race hard,” explained McKinney. “After they prepped the track, I was expecting it to be flooded and we were wide open. I had a groove up top. Allen was rolling the middle and we had a heck of a run.” Weisser settled for being the bridesmaid on this night, while Ledford, Brooks, Farris, Nick Neville, Alan Stipp, Nick Clubb, Mark Grosvenor, and Trevor Neville rounded out the top ten.

odell scA time of 15.604 seconds earned Streator’s Pete Odell fast time over 14 other Stock Car drivers for their 15-lap show. Points leader Nick Seplak and Tanner Sullivan were the heat race victors. Starting fourth, Odell charged to the front on the second lap. Odell, running the bottom, ran a silky smooth line. Never threatened, Odell took his first win of the year. “I didn’t know what the track would be like after the track was prepped,” Odell said. “I thought it would be slicker than it was. We took a guess on the setup and it worked out. Ever since I started racing on dirt my Dad has been along for the ride helping to make the car fast. Thanks Dad.” Zach Zuberbier, Seplak, Justin VanDrunen, Michael Schomas, Sullivan, Eric Boudreau, Josh Hetherington, Justin Thomas, and Kraig Hughes completed the top ten.

duncan hmMetamora’s Mason Duncan completed the trifecta, setting fast time (15.044), winning his heat race, and dominating the 12-lap Hobby-Modified race for his fourth win of the year. ‘It has been a tough two weeks with getting my Dad’s car and mind back together,” Duncan said. “It’s good to be back in victory lane.” Chris Burton, Macy Vaughan, Jason Brandt, Thad Gee (heat two winner), Darren Christensen, Austin Lipe, Troy Ricketts, Darren Kerrins, and Makinzi Semmens rounded out the top ten.


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