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Results | Points | Story & Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

Varsitee Screenprinting and Aftershock Decals and Designs presented Saturday’s FALS Cup and Alkota racing program at the Fairbury Speedway. Six divisions were in action on the ¼ mile dirt oval as fans witnessed one of the best Late Model races of the season. Mike Spatola (Late Model), Kelly Kovski (Modified), Ian Keller (Stock Car), Steve Mattingly (Sportsman), Rick Thomas (Hobby Modified), and Eric Rebholz (Vintage) received all the accolades in victory lane.

spatola lmIn the 30-lap Late Model feature, Mike Spatola and Kevin Weaver staged a battle of epic proportions. The two gladiators went back and forth for the lead and never established a clear-cut favorite until the final lap. Spatola was on the outside and Weaver on the inside as the two exited turn four. Spatola carried enough momentum to edge Weaver at the line to win by a half-car length. “The old man still has it in him. That is why he's one of the best at Fairbury,” Spatola said. “I thought we were pretty good early in the race. I couldn’t find a good line in turns 3 and 4. That caution came out and my crew told me to get to the bottom. I tried it, but the car was too tight.” A dejected Weaver had to settle for second, with Mike Provenzano and Jake Little following. Tom Thoennes, Scott Schmitt, Jay Sparks, Torin Mettille, Logan Moody, and Glen Thompson completed the top ten. Spatola led the way in time trials with a lap of 12.767 seconds as 15 cars made qualifying runs. Spatola and Moody claimed heat race wins.

kovski mdAn infrequent guest to Fairbury, Kelly Kovski made short order of leader Jared Thomas to take the lead after a lap 12 caution for early leader Michael Ledford. Once in front, Kovski turned up the wick and was able to record his first career Fairbury win. “I have been coming here for a long time,” the Springfield resident spoke. “To finally get my first Fairbury win is awesome.” Thomas had to hold off Alan Stipp for second. Austin Friedman was fourth, with 12th starter Bob Pohlman, Caden McWhorter, Matt Fabrizius, Mark Rhoades, Braiden Bohlmann, and Joshua Hotsinpiller rounding out the top ten. Friedman took fast time honors with a time of 14.045 seconds as 20 cars made qualifying attempts. Friedman and Ledford were the heat race winners.

keller scPoints leader Ian Keller had to contend with Megan Erwin and six caution periods in the first six laps during the 15-lap Stock Car race. After the final yellow flag, Keller kicked it into high gear and pulled away from the field winning by over a straightaway for his fourth Fairbury win of the year. “How about that FALS cushion!” Keller spoke. “We did a little something different to the car and it all worked out.” Erwin took second, Tim Loomis finished in third, followed by last year’s track champion Adam Williams. The remainder of the top ten saw Don Hilleary, Devin Hoskins, 16th starter Jace Gall, Derrick Weiand, Brice Slavens, and Dalton Mickle. In qualifying, Cody Clubb went under the clock with a lap of 15.534 seconds for quick time as 17 cars made qualifying attempts. Two heat races saw Erwin and Keller taking the wins.

mattingly spKnocking on the door all season, Steve Mattingly was able halt the win streak of Tommy Duncan in the CR Towing Sportsman division. Starting in the fourth position, Mattingly took the lead on the second lap. Riding the high side of the speed plant, the Chenoa racer pulled away from all comers in the 15-lap race. “It has been a long time,” an elated Mattingly said. “We have been chasing Tommy all year. The car has been getting faster and trying different stuff. Tonight, it paid off.” Tyler Roth edged Duncan at the line for second. 10th starter Josh Hetherington and Makinzi Semmens followed. The rest of the top ten saw Roy Magee, Aaron Reid, Landen Miller, Victor Strong, and Jim Farley finish in that order. Strong posted a lap time of 15.366 seconds for fast time as 12 cars made qualifying attempts. Strong and Roth picked up heat race wins.

thomas hmWinning in a Modified, Sportsman, Stock Car, and now a Hobby Modified, Rick Thomas had to survive a rash of cautions, and Trevor Ringle, to pick up the win in the 12-lap feature. “I decided at 6:00 this morning that I was going to race,” Thomas said. “I have to thank RJ Gall and his sons for helping me get the car ready.” Kirby McCormick finished third followed by early race leader Scott McDonald and Jake Green. Clay Wisher, Luke Gebhardt, Josh Robb, Mike Petersen, and Scott Brown completed the top ten. McCormick turned a lap at 15.492 seconds for quick time with 24 cars on hand. Robb, Petersen, and Payton Semmens grabbed heat race wins.

rebholz vtThe Vintage Racing of Illinois series brought 18 cars for their special event. Jerry Vance in a 1963 Impala won the first heat. Kelly Christmas took the second heat driving a 1970 Nova. The third heat race had Andy Thompson in his 1968 Plymouth taking the victory. Eric Rebholz, wheeling a 1970 Camaro, came out on top in the 15-lap feature. Kraig Hughes, Thompson, Austin Lipe, and Tyler Sebby followed. “I had to lock the car down on the bottom,” spoke Rebholz. “Last year I was leading the race and had a flat tire. We got some redemption tonight.”

Mike Spatola

Mike Spatola

Michael Ledford

Michael Ledford

Tim Loomis

Tim Loomis

Tommy Duncan

Tommy Duncan

Brian Deavers

Brian Deavers

Results | Story & Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

After last week’s Prairie Dirt Classic that saw entertainment and racing for four days, the track returned Saturday night with a FALS Cup/Alkota night of racing. Billed as the “PDC Hangover”, the night was presented by Tool’s Auto Sales and Hotrod Septic Treatment.

spatola lmThe Late Models were featured in a 30-lap race. Jake Little got the jump on fellow front row starter Mike Spatola for the lead. Little could pull away from Spatola on the straights, but Spatola quickly caught Little in the turns. As Little began to work his way past slower traffic, Spatola made the pass for the lead as the duo exited turn four. Wasting little time, Spatola held a five-second lead as an intense battle took place behind him. Little, Myles Moos, Mike Mataragas, Jordan Bauer, and Mike Provenzano raced the top, middle, and bottom of the track looking for an advantage. A caution fell on the track with one lap to go giving the field one last chance to move to the front. Spatola motored ahead and claimed his second Fairbury win of the year. “It has been a frustrating year,” said Spatola. “We haven’t gotten the wins we like. It’s never fun when you get into turn three and you don’t hear a slider coming. You kind of think you have it won. Stuff happens and it worked out.” Moos took second as Mataragas, Bauer, and Provenzano followed. 13th starter Derek Chandler earned a hard fought sixth. Little fell to seventh. Titus Sneed, Kevin Weaver, and Logan Moody rounded out the top ten. Spatola paced the 19 cars in attendance during qualifying with a lap of 12.845 seconds. Spatola and Little took the heat race wins.

ledford mdAfter a yellow flag on the first lap of the Modified race, Michael Ledford motored past Allen Weisser into the lead. Looking to wrap up his second Modified track title, Ledford ran the ragged edge on his way to his fourth Fairbury win. “Hats off to the track prep crew,” Ledford said. “It was a fun track. I got the lead on the top but felt more comfortable running the bottom. I knew if I didn’t jump it on those restarts, I could stay ahead of Weisser.” Steven Brooks overtook Weisser with seven laps to go and finished second. Weisser took third. Alan Stipp quietly finished in fourth. Austin Friedman, Ethan Weber, Lyndon Whitfill, Jim Farris, 16th starter Jimmy Diabo, and Bob Pohlman Jr. completed the top ten. 17 cars were on hand for their 25-lap race. Brooks earned fast time honors with a lap of 13.917 seconds. Weisser and Ledford were the heat race winners.

loomis scThere were 15 strong competitors, including five of the top 25 in the latest DIRTcar Stock Car national point standings, in attendance for the 15-lap feature race. Points leader Ian Keller toured the ¼ dirt oval at a time of 15.594 seconds for quick time. Two heat races saw Keller and Cody Clubb leading the way. Keller led the early stages of the race, but Megan Erwin was following closely. After a caution on the fourth lap, Erwin was able to pull alongside Keller in a race for the lead. On the sixth lap, the pair exited turn four side-by-side. Contact was made resulting in enough damage to end both of their nights. Keller’s son Braiden inherited the lead as Clubb and Tim Loomis followed waiting for the first-year driver to make a mistake. The three warriors were able to race three-wide in the final laps. Loomis edged ahead for the lead with two laps remaining and held off Clubb by a car length for his first ever win at Fairbury. “Toward the end of the race, everyone was piling on the bottom,” Loomis said. “I thought there was still something on the high side of 1-2, so I went for it.” Braiden Keller finished in third. Devin Hoskins took fourth and Brandon Tracy was fifth. 14th starter Randy Schoener led the second five across the line, followed by Jeremy Spoonmore, Ryen Johnson, Derrick Weiand, and Jace Gall.

duncan spTommy Duncan has been the class of the field in the CR Towing Sportsman division this season. Duncan won his seventh consecutive race by a straightaway. “I was burning up,” an exhausted Duncan said. “The car is really good now. We are on top of our game, and I can’t thank all my sponsors and the fans enough for their support.” Landen Miller held off 9th starter Jim Farley for second. Tyler Roth came home in fourth, followed by Victor Strong, Makinzi Semmens, Doug Carls, and Aaron Reid. Steve Mattingly, who was running second to Duncan early, saw smoke begin to bellow from the rear of his car and finished ninth, while Eric Saltzman was tenth. A time of 15.011 seconds gave Landen Miller fast time as 14 cars made qualifying attempts. Duncan and Mattingly took the heat race wins.

deavers hmThe Hobby-Modified class continues to grow as 20 drivers were on hand for their 12-lap feature race. Brian Deavers has been on a tear this year and led green to checkers to score his fifth win of the season. “This car has been a rocket all year,” Deavers spoke. “We put a lot of maintenance in our program and are always trying something different.” Chad Ziegler worked his way to the front but had to settle for second. Peter Argianas finished third, followed by Luke Gebhardt, Scott Williams, Trevor Ringle, Jake Green, Reid Gall, Payton Semmens, and 18th starter Scott Brown. Deavers had a lap at 14.985 seconds for quick time in qualifying. Deavers and Gebhardt won their respective heat races.

McKinney Wheels Cushion To Win $5,000 Summit Modified Nationals Thriller

Results | Story by Mike Warren | Pictures by Jacy Norgaard & Rocky Ragusa

sheppard lmBrandon Sheppard knew less than 10 laps into Saturday’s Prairie Dirt Classic his ability to read Fairbury’s surface would pay off well. And pay off big.

As the New Berlin, IL driver saw a cushion building on the track’s high banks, he felt right at home.

The reigning World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series champion used his experience at the Illinois track to quickly take the lead—one he wouldn’t relinquish en route to his third Prairie Dirt Classic win, along with a $100,000 overall payday.

While he never relinquished the lead, “Rocket Shepp” didn’t go unchallenged. Fellow Illinois competitor Bobby Pierce chased Sheppard for more than 20 laps, trying to slide past the former champion and grab his first win in the prestigious event.

As Pierce gained momentum, heartbreak struck the Oakwood, IL driver. A brake issue sidelined Pierce to a 19th-place finish.

From there, Sheppard cruised to victory despite surviving several late-race restarts. He was grateful to lead all 100 laps as he dealt with changing track conditions throughout the race.

“With all that track prep and stuff, and the way that they did it, I felt like the cushion would be there,” Sheppard said. “The bottom was still pretty hard. It was wet down there, but I didn’t feel like it was going to keep up with the cushion if I could run it right.

“It was definitely tricky. It was rough around there after they tilled it, like a rut all the way around about a car lane off the top. It was tricky, and the transition from blowing the cushion over top of that, it was definitely tricky. I was about to turn over a couple of times, I thought, but it paid off, it was a crazy race, and we were very fortunate to lead all of the laps.”

Sheppard’s third Prairie Dirt Classic win earned him and Rocket1 Racing $100,000 after he grabbed the $50,000 check for the win and the $500 bonus per lap led – which for him was all 100.

He also adds his name to a list of Illinois legends who have won the event three times. Sheppard joins Shannon Babb and Bob Pierce as the only Prairie State drivers to win the event more than twice.

“It honestly means the world to me to win this race,” Sheppard said. “This place is like home for me. All the fans, and the people, and the atmosphere is electric. They’ve taken me in like it’s home, and it’s two hours away from the house, but it’s definitely turned into my favorite track.”

Sheppard’s Prairie Dirt Classic win is his 80th career World of Outlaws CASE Late Model victory—and third of the 2022 season.

marlar lmMike Marlar crossed the line second, his fifth straight top five in World of Outlaws competition.

The 2018 Series champion felt he was close to grabbing the win but didn’t have enough to get by Sheppard.

“Coming into this weekend, we had a little bit of a streak there, but I was like, ‘Dude, there’s 81 cars at this little bullring, and that’s asking a lot to come out of here with a good finish,’” Marlar said. “Not only did we have a good finish, we had a shot lots of times at [Sheppard], he just didn’t do anything wrong, and I needed just a little bit to pass him, but we were really close.”

Tanner English, the World of Outlaws Rookie of the race, crossed the line third for his second podium finish of the season.

The Benton, KY driver was resilient after dropping back to 10th in the first 50 laps.

“I fell back to about 10th there early on, and I just kind of waited around and just tried to hit my marks and go where they weren’t, and the car kept getting better,” English said. “I kind of stalled out there with about 50 to go, and we just kind of rolled there and caught people when they made mistakes.”

English moved into second in the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models points standings and now leads in the race for Rookie of the Year—two points ahead of Max Blair, who finished eighth.

Tyler Erb finished fourth after hovering in the top five for most of the race. The New Waverly, TX driver stated he was happy with his performance overall.

“I didn’t want to kill my stuff at the drop of the green, so I just tried to maintain as long as I could,” Erb said. “When Bobby [Pierce] passed me, it was kind of the sign that I needed to move up and maintain his pace. He got to [Sheppard] really quick, and I was like, man, if there’s still 70 laps left, or 40 or whatever, if I could just ride with him until the last 20 or 30, I could give myself a chance.”

Ryan Gustin rounded out the top five. The Marshalltown, IA driver used a different line than he’s used to, as he rolled the bottom patiently throughout the race.

“We’ve been doing some different things to the car where it’s a lot easier to driver here lately,” Gustin said. “You don’t have to go up there and live and die by the cushion. I just tried to be patient there. I kind of wanted to go hard at the beginning to make sure I didn’t get put a lap down or anything like that.

“The track went through a lot of different changes tonight, and it kind went the bottom, middle, top, diamond line, slider line, it was all over the place, which makes for good racing for sure.”

Brandon Sheppard felt at home at Fairbury Speedway, scoring another Prairie Dirt Classic win. His experience at the track paid off well and paid off big.

“It’s always racy, and my car’s really good here, and I have a good feel of this place,” Sheppard said. “It’s been good to me for sure.”

McKinney Wheels Cushion To Win $5,000 Summit Modified Nationals Thriller

Results | Story by Jordan DeLucia | Pictures by Jacy Norgaard & Rocky Ragusa

mckinney mdFrom Summit Modified races, the FALS Super Nationals, to the FALS Cup points championship, Mike McKinney had won just about every marquee DIRTcar UMP Modified race on the Fairbury Speedway schedule, except one. The Prairie Dirt Classic had evaded his grasp throughout his career, but now, it’s finally his.

“I wanted it more than anybody here, I can promise you that,” McKinney said. “It doesn’t matter who we beat, I just wanted to win this race. I’m glad it’s on our list now.”

Though his determination seemed unmatched, McKinney was forced to fend-off another driver with equal drive to win Saturday night – the newly crowned five-time DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champion, Nick Hoffman.

he two waged a war of epic proportions throughout the final 15 laps of the 40-lap main event, swapping the lead twice in that span and bringing the crowd to the feet as they zoomed around the quarter-mile oval.

In the end, Hoffman came up just one spot short. For the second time this season, McKinney had gotten the best of the winningest Summit Modified driver.

“Mike just hit six perfect laps to beat me,” Hoffman said. “He did a great job.”

Their lane choices acted as weapons in their bullring battle for $5,000 – McKinney firing on the high side, right against the wall, while Hoffman swung down low, hugging the extreme bottom lane.

Hoffman had to drive from 11th on the starting grid after a rough Qualifying result on Friday set him back in his Showdown Feature. But with 15-to-go, Hoffman had just made the pass for second and was coming after leader McKinney.

Caution was displayed just two laps later, erasing McKinney’s half-second lead and putting Hoffman right on his bumper for the restart. The green dropped and Hoffman immediately challenged McKinney to his inside, taking the lead for the first time on Lap 28.

“Up until about 15-to-go, I thought I was gonna finish fifth in that race,” Hoffman said. “I just couldn’t get breaks and didn’t feel great in the car either. But some lanes opened-up and I was able to get to the lead.”

mckinney hoffman mdHoffman led through Lap 34, when the caution was displayed for the final time. Though Hoffman got a great jump on the restart, McKinney hit his marks on the cushion, reeling the leader in and making the pass back for the lead with four-to-go.

“The harder I was running, the better it actually got,” McKinney said. “We had that last restart with six-to-go, and it took me a couple laps to get into a rhythm and get wound-up. Finally, I was able to shoot the gun and drive back by [Hoffman].”

Hoffman gave it everything he had on the bottom in the final laps to close on McKinney, but it proved fruitless. McKinney rounded Turn 4 for the final time and beat Hoffman to the line by .361 seconds to score a dramatic victory in the 32nd annual Prairie Dirt Classic.

“Getting out of the car and seeing all those people, it’s exactly what I thought it would be,” McKinney said. “It feels damn good.”

Though Mike got the biggest slice of Victory Lane glory, his father and crew chief David shared a part in the shining moment as well. The two took on a brand-new gameplan and joined the new Longhorn Chassis Modified program for the start of the 2021 season, putting in a ton of time and energy into learning how to master the new car. Though it wasn’t easy at first, David has helped accelerate Mike’s learning curve with the setup help, and together, they’ve finally bagged one of Fairbury’s most prestigious events.

“Sometimes I nail it and he can drive it with one hand,” David said. “Sometimes I miss it and he says, ‘I’ll make up for it.’

“How good is it for father and son to spend time together and race. I wouldn’t do it with anybody else, and he’s the same way.”

Though it doesn’t happen often in Summit Modified competition, Hoffman conceded to McKinney for the second time this season. He was bested by McKinney a few weeks earlier at Shadyhill Speedway in Indiana, and this time around, just didn’t feel as comfortable as he normally does out front at Fairbury.

“I just felt terrible everywhere in Turns 3-4,” Hoffman said. “I ran the bottom most of the race, but I tried the middle with a couple guys and just couldn’t make any speed off of 4. Normally, I feel like I get from Turn 4 to the flag stand better than anybody. I just didn’t feel that way tonight.”

Outside of the top-two, Tyler Nicely came home third after running up front all night. Six-time Summit Modified champ Mike Harrison came all the way out of a Last Chance Showdown event (17th on the Feature starting grid) to finish fourth, while Allen Weisser charged from 14th to round-out the top-five.

Sheppard Banks $100,000 PDC Win

Story & Picture by Rocky Ragusa

Under ideal weather conditions and a standing-room-only crowd, race teams and fans gathered at the Fairbury Speedway Saturday night for the 32nd Annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by the Bank of Pontiac and the Illinois State Rifle Association. The winner would earn a check for $50,000. As a bonus, the speedway gave a driver $500 for every lap led.

Three 20-lap last chance races were held for the World of Outlaws Late Models with two drivers making the cut for the PDC. In the first race, Chris Ferguson edged Ryan Gustin by one car length for the victory. McKay Wenger took the win in the second race with Johnny Scott in second. 2015 PDC winner Jonathan Davenport took a 10-car length win in the third last chance showdown over Ashton Winger to make the show. The winner of the 25-lap Prairie Dirt Shootout non-qualifier race would have the option of taking the first prize of $2,500 or start in the rear of the PDC. Chris Simpson got by race leader Mason Zeigler with five laps to go for the win. 2016 PDC winner Josh Richards overtook Zeigler for second. Simpson elected to take a spot in the main event and forfeited the check.

sheppard pierce lmFour-time WoO champion Brandon Sheppard used his past experience at Fairbury to his advantage. Sheppard took the lead on the opening lap and never looked back leading all 100 laps around the ¼ mile dirt track. He took home $100,000 with his third PDC victory. Mike Marlar was able to keep pace with Sheppard but couldn’t make the pass for the lead. Bobby Pierce, who started in the 16th position, charged to the front and made several attempts to take the top spot, but he pulled to the infield with brake failure and was finished for the night. “It honestly means the world to me to win this race,” Sheppard commented. “This place is like home for me. All the fans and the atmosphere are electric. They have taken me in like it’s home. Fairbury is two hours away from my home, but it’s definitely turned into my favorite track.”

The Modifieds had two 15-lap last chance races that would see the top two finishers moving to the featured race. After a lap 11 caution, Curt Spalding and Mike Harrison raced side by side for the lead. Harrison went on to take the win over Spalding in the first race. The second race saw Steven Brooks hold off Ethan Dotson to earn his place in the main race. The 40-lap, $5,000 to win Summit Modified Nationals race came down to longtime rivals on the track. Mike McKinney, in a race that has long eluded him, battled with five-time Summer Nationals champion Nick Hoffman. The two titans swapped the lead several times over the final 15 laps. After a yellow flag with six laps to go, McKinney, riding the FALS cushion, made the pass for the win as the capacity crowd gave the “Magic Man” a standing ovation. “Getting out of the car and seeing all those people, it’s exactly what I thought it would be,” McKinney said. “I wanted it more than anybody here, I can promise you that. It doesn’t matter who we beat. I just wanted to win the race.” Hoffman, who started 11th, finished a car length behind with Tyler Nicely in third. Mike Harrison, Allen Weisser, Chase Holland, Josh Harris, Kyle Steffens, Jason Hughes, and Trevor Neville completed the top ten.

In Friday’s preliminary action, a new event record of 81 Late Model drivers went under the clock in qualifying. Ashton Winger led group A with a lap of 12.952 seconds. Current World of Outlaws points leader Dennis Erb Jr.’s time of 13.397 seconds led group B.

There were four 25-lap, $3,000 to win Showdown features. The top four finishers from each race would advance to Saturday’s Prairie Dirt Classic. In the first race, Garrett Smith took advantage of Winger’s power steering failure and held off Garrett Alberson to take the win. Tyler Bruening finished in third and Jimmy Owens was fourth. After battling for the lead with McKay Wenger for the first 10 laps, Brandon Sheppard took command of the second showdown and won going away. Jason Feger, who started 11th, finished second, followed by Kyle Bronson and Gordy Gundaker. Mike Marlar edged Tanner English to win the third race. Ricky Thornton Jr. took third and Shane Clanton was fourth. Defending PDC winner Kyle Larson won by a comfortable margin in the fourth showdown. Tyler Erb finished in second, Josh Rice was third, and 19th starter Bobby Pierce weaved his way through traffic to finish in fourth.

62 Summit Modified Nationals drivers made qualifying attempts. Frank Marshall crossed the line with a time of 13.859 seconds to lead group A. Michael Long laid down a lap at 13.902 seconds in leading group B qualifiers. Four $500 to win, 20-lap showdown features would see the top four finishers move on to Saturday’s main event. In dominating fashion, Marshall went wire-to-wire for the win in the opening race. Chase Holland, Josh Harris, and Chase Allen followed. Keeping race long leader Brian Shaw within his sights, Mike McKinney made a dramatic last lap pass for the win in the second showdown. Nick Hoffman finished in third and Levi Kissinger was fourth. Long turned back a bid for the lead from Austin Holcombe in the closing laps to win the third race. Kyle Steffens was third and Allen Weisser finished fourth. Tyler Nicely half-tracked the field to win the fourth showdown. Danny Schwartz edged Ethan Weber by a ½ car length to take second and Jason Hughes took fourth.

Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith

Brandon Sheppard

Brandon Sheppard

Mike Marlar

Mike Marlar

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

Frank Marshall

Frank Marshall

Mike McKinney

Mike McKinney

Michael Long

Michael Long

Tyler Nicely

Tyler Nicely

Marshall, McKinney, Long, Nicely Prevail in Summit Modified Nationals Prelims

Results | Story by Mike Warren | Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

Four drivers are one step closer to etching their name into history at Fairbury Speedway.

Garrett Smith, Brandon Sheppard, Mike Marlar and Kyle Larson each scored a World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Prairie Dirt Showdown win, which locked them into the first two rows of Saturday’s Prairie Dirt Classic.

Twelve other drivers punched their tickets into the 100-lap, $50,000-to-win Feature, as the top four in each Showdown transferred to Saturday’s finale. The remaining drivers – more than 60 total – will battle in Last Chance Showdowns and the Prairie Dirt Shootout on Saturday to round out the rest of the field of the crown jewel.

Showdown 1

smith lmGarrett Smith saw an opportunity Friday night he couldn’t pass up. The Eatonton, GA driver was running second to Ashton Winger when he made his move on the final lap of his 25-lap CASE Construction Equipment Showdown.

Smith swung his Rocket Chassis to the bottom of Turns 1 and 2, sliding in front of Winger and pulling away on the backstretch. He went unchallenged in the final two corners en route to a $3,000 payday and a starting spot in the first two rows of the Prairie Dirt Classic.

Minutes after the race was over, the winning moment for Smith hadn’t set in just yet.

“[Fairbury] has always been a track on my bucket list,” Smith said. “I’ve played it a lot on iRacing. That’s the best I got on this place, but it’s even better than I thought it was.

“I still really don’t know what happened; it happened so quick. I saw a gap, and I knew I had to fill it if I wanted to win.”

Garrett Alberson crossed the line second, 2021 Series Rookie of the Year Tyler Bruening finished third, and Jimmy Owens grabbed the final transfer spot.

Ashton Winger, who led the first 24 laps, finished seventh after losing power steering with five laps left.

Showdown 2

sheppard lmReigning World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series champion Brandon Sheppard showed patience in his CASE Construction Equipment Showdown victory.

The New Berlin, IL driver bided his time in the first 10 laps before sliding under Mckay Wenger in Turns 3 and 4 to take the lead—one he wouldn’t relinquish.

Sheppard stated the race played out exactly how he hoped.

“Once I got my rhythm going, and I got my line figured out where I needed to be, and where I was making speed and where I wasn’t, then I could pressure him a little bit,” Sheppard said.

“I started seeing him messing up a bit, so I showed him the nose in the middle there. Then, he really started messing up and let me get a good enough run to slide him, and that’s what we needed.”

Jason Feger from Bloomington, IL, finished second, Kyle Bronson was third, and Wenger held on for fourth.

Showdown 3

marlar lmA former Series champion and current Series rookie waged war in an epic battle in the third CASE Construction Equipment showdown.

However, a late race caution changed the Benton, KY driver’s fortunes, as Marlar powered past him on the outside to score the $3,000 triumph.

The Winfield, TN driver stated he felt English may have had the better car but was still good enough to win after 25 laps.

“Tanner’s car was a little bit faster, and I couldn’t really hold him off,” Marlar said. “I was moving around quite a bit. He was about to get me low, and I moved low, and then he rolled me in the middle.

“Luckily, that caution came out, and I kind of got out there and packed up the crumbs in the middle of the racetrack. It got me just enough grip to get around him, and it worked out in our favor and set us up good for the big show [Saturday].”

English settled for second, followed by Ricky Thornton Jr and Series points leader Dennis Erb Jr.

Showdown 4

larson lmKyle Larson picked up where he left off a year ago at Fairbury, dominating the final CASE Construction Equipment Late Model showdown Friday night.

Despite leading all 25 laps, the Elk Grove, CA driver stated he wasn’t perfect throughout the race.

“You never really know how you are out in the lead until you see somebody,” Larson said. “But I never saw anyone, so I felt like I had to be decent. I feel like I was getting around the cushion better than I thought I would. I started making some mistakes around traffic, and about that time, it started taking rubber, so I just inched my way down the track.”

While the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion was out front, all eyes were on Oakwood, IL driver Bobby Pierce who grabbed the final transfer spot after starting deep in the field.

The “Smooth Operator” had problems with his car in Qualifying, forcing him to start toward the back of his Showdown.

“I was on the move,” Pierce said. “We went with all the right decisions, and the car was really good. If that rubber didn’t come, I think we could’ve gotten to second, and you know, hopefully, we’re that good [Saturday].

“We did exactly what we needed to do after our issue, so it’s all good.”

Tyler Erb crossed the line behind Larson, Josh Rice was third, and Pierce finished fourth.

Marshall, McKinney, Long, Nicely Prevail in Summit Modified Nationals Prelims

Results | Story by Jordan DeLucia | Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

Sixty-two answered the bell, and sixteen are now locked-in to the main event. The DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals portion of the 32nd Prairie Dirt Classic kicked off Friday night at Fairbury Speedway and contested four individual 20-lap Showdown Features, taking the top-four finishers from each into Saturday’s 40-lap, $5,000-to-win main event.

Any other driver not yet qualified for the Modified Prairie Dirt Classic Feature will compete in one of two Last Chance Showdown events on Saturday evening, from which the top-two finishers will transfer into the main event, followed by four provisional starters to make up the remainder of the 24-car field.

Showdown 1

marshall mdIn similar fashion to his Friday night victory in 2021, Frank Marshall bagged the win in the first Showdown Feature of the evening.

In short, Marshall was dominant, winning the caution-free 20-lapper unchallenged in nine minutes and fifteen seconds. He took off at the drop of the green and crossed the stripe with a gap of nearly eight seconds over runner-up Chase Holland.

Marshall, of Valparaiso, IN, put on a clinic in traffic, whizzing past the slower cars in multiple lanes at a blazing pace.

“I may have taken a few less chances had I known I had that lead,” Marshall said. “I didn’t realize I had that lead until I got back to the trailer; I thought that was Curt Spalding right next to me at the finish line, I thought I beat him by half a car.”

In his eyes, a smooth and hammer-down racetrack was just what he was looking for to bag his second career Summit Modified Feature win and get into the redraw on Saturday.

“We got a perfect racetrack as the first race out, smooth and tacky, a little bit slick at first then it tacked-up,” Marshall said. “Soft tires worked out nice, and everything fell into place.”

Showdown 2

mckinney mdIn what was the most action-packed Modified Showdown of the night, Mike McKinney emerged victorious after putting a last-lap pass on Brian Shaw in Turn 4 to seal the win.

McKinney trailed Shaw for 19 laps around the quarter-mile of Fairbury, digging harder each lap to try and find a way around the #1s.

“Dad said we had some room, so just started searching around trying to find a line to get by him,” McKinney said. “I knew that getting under him or above him on entry wasn’t going to be the ticket, so I started opening-up my entry super high into Turn 3. I’d enter on the top and turn it down the hill to try and beat him down the straightaway.”

A few laps of the new strategy, and McKinney found himself on the rear bumper of Shaw. He got a big run out of Turn 4 coming to the white flag and threw it into Turn 1 under Shaw. With the #96M right at his door panel, Shaw slid up the track in Turns 1-2, creating the lane McKinney needed to get by.

McKinney, of Plainfield, IL, kept it low in Turns 3-4 and held off Shaw for his 15th career Summit Modified Feature win, and first-ever in the Prairie Dirt Classic.

“That was definitely the hardest I’ve ever worked for $500, but it was awesome to win in front of these fans and have ‘em all cheer when I got out,” McKinney said. “This is a race I want really bad. We’ve accomplished a lot here, and this is the last thing on my list.”

Showdown 3

long mdThough he’s competed at Fairbury several times in the past, Friday was his first PDC appearance – one which he won right up on the well-noted Fairbury cushion. But it took getting past Allen Weisser in the opening laps, which he did on Lap 4 with a great run off the top of Turn 4.

“Once we got rolling, the car was good and the tires got warmed-up a little bit,” Long said. “Got my momentum going, was able to get back to the lead and held on for the rest.”

Long, of Fowler, IL, led the rest of the way to collect his sixth career Summit Modified Feature win.

Showdown 4

nicely mdHe missed Prairie Dirt Showdown Victory Lane last year by one spot. This year, Tyler Nicely was not going to be denied.

Now professionally reunited with his previous car builder Nick Hoffman of Elite Chassis, Nicely piloted his #25 to Fairbury Victory Lane Friday night with authority, leading all 20 laps en route to his fourth career Summit Modifieds Feature win.

“Ever since I got back in this Elite [Chassis] car, it fits me and I’m a lot more comfortable,” Nicely said. “I knew tonight we needed a good Qualifying effort, and that put us up front. We’ll get to that redraw tomorrow and hopefully we’ll be on that stage by the end of the night.”

Nicely, the 2015 PDC finale winner from Owensboro, KY, hasn’t seen PDC Victory Lane since 2019 when he won a Showdown. Friday’s Feature showed what he and the car have can do, which he’ll use again Saturday in pursuit of a $5,000 check.

Ryan Unzicker

Ryan Unzicker

Michael Ledford

Michael Ledford

Ian Keller

Ian Keller

Tommy Duncan

Tommy Duncan

Brian Deavers

Brian Deavers

Unzicker, Ledford, Keller, Deavers Also Victorious in FALS Cup Action

Results | Points | Story & Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

The annual Eden-Piercy Memorial race for the CR Towing Sportsman division headlined the racing program Saturday night at the Fairbury Speedway. Presented by Holt Supply Company, the ¼ dirt track featured five classes of racing. Tommy Duncan (CR Towing Sportsman), Ryan Unzicker (Late Model), Michael Ledford (Modified), Ian Keller (Stock Car), and Brian Deavers (Hobby-Modified) carried home the hardware on an action-packed night.

duncan spLed by Steve Mattingly and Landen Miller, 15 drivers took the green flag for the $1,000 to win, 25-lap Sportsman race. Mattingly took the lead on the start as Tommy Duncan got by Miller for second. Duncan made several attempts to overtake Mattingly for the lead before the Metamora hot shoe moved to the front on the fourth lap. The trio pulled away from the competition, sometimes going three-wide for the lead. By the 15th lap, Duncan had put some space between him as Mattingly and Miller continued to race for second. Duncan, running the bottom, pulled away in the final laps and had over a five-second lead as the checkered flag waved. Winning his sixth consecutive race, Duncan commented in victory lane. “It has been a really good year. I just can’t believe the year that we are having. My crew worked hard and made the car flawless.” Miller took second, followed by Mattingly, Jim Farley, and Wes Odell. Josh Hetherington finished in sixth, with 12th starter Makinzi Semmens, Dylan Naeger, Eric Saltzman, and Tyler Roth completing the top ten. Mattingly was the winner of the first heat race and also set fast time with a lap of 14.492 seconds. Miller claimed the second heat race.

unzicker lmA field of 23 Late Model drivers lined up for their 30-lap, $2,500 to win race. Kevin Weaver led the first two laps before McKay Wenger took over for three laps. Weaver led with Wenger, Jason Feger, Ryan Unzicker, and Tommy Sheppard Jr. in the thick of the battle. Unzicker found a little moisture at the bottom of the track giving him the grip he needed to take the lead from Weaver on lap 14. Unzicker had a 1.5 second lead over the field and took his third FALS Cup win as the track reached its halfway point of the season. “I am a little out of breath. It was an up on the wheel type of deal,” Unzicker said. “The track was a complete 180 from last week. Slick is fast and it makes for better racing.” Feger took second, 9th starter Sheppard Jr. finished in third. The rest of the top ten had Weaver, Mike Mataragas, Wenger, Jay Sparks, Bob Gardner, Mike Provenzano, and Mike Spatola. Weaver set quick time at 12.498 seconds and was the first heat race winner. Wenger and Feger were also winners in their respective heat races.

ledford mdAfter a stirring battle with Austin Friedman, Michael Ledford had to survive several late race cautions, and Matt Fabrizius, in winning his third Modified race at Fairbury. Ledford and Friedman exchanged slide jobs before 9th starting Alan Stipp moved into second. It was heartbreak hotel for Stipp as his tire went flat with seven laps remaining. Fabrizius was able to cut into Ledford’s lead, but the Pontiac racer was not to be denied. “That was a fun race with Austin,” Ledford spoke. “Him, Duncan, and Whitfill keep getting better each week. I knew if I pressured Austin and showed him the nose of my car maybe he would mess up.” Fabrizius, a veteran driver from the Sycamore Speedway, served notice as a driver to contend with as he took second. Friedman, Adam Pockrus, Lyndon Whitfill, Eric Vaughan, 18th starter Jim Farris Jr., Jimmy Diabo, Jason Brandt, and Shawn Scripter completed the top ten. Friedman was the fast qualifier with a time of 13.636 seconds as 19 drivers were on hand. Friedman and Whitfill were the heat race winners.

keller scIan Keller survived several caution periods and went uncontested in taking his third Stock Car feature win of the year. “Fairbury is top notch,” Keller said. “My crew bust their butts until 3:00 a.m. this morning trying to get this car dialed in.” Tanner Sullivan took second, Jordan Smith finished in third, and Kyle Anderson was fourth. The rest of the top ten had Megan Erwin, Jesse Simmons, Jerrad Krick, 15th starter Matt Maier, Don Hilleary, and Dustin Pruitt. Keller paced the 19 drivers on hand in qualifying with a time of 15.006 seconds. Keller and Megan Erwin were heat race winners.

deavers hmThe night’s program ended with a 12-lap Hobby-Modified race. In a heated duel for the lead, Brian Deavers got by last week’s winner Kirby McCormick on the third lap and went on to win his fourth race of the year. Ryan Kohler had his best run to date and finished in second. Clay Wisher, Scott McDonald, Reid Gall, Scott Williams, Brendan Decker, McCormick, Jake Green, and Kellen Arnold rounded out the top ten. A time of 15.099 seconds gave Deavers fast time honors. McCormick and Green were the heat race winners.

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