(Rocky Ragusa Photos)
By Rocky Ragusa
Fairbury, Ill. (6/29/19) Despite unruly weather conditions at race time, mother nature played kind in the end, allowing the Fairbury Speedway to complete another Saturday night of racing. Dennis Erb Jr. (Late Model), Spencer Hughes (Modified), Tanner Sullivan (Street Stock), Steve Mattingly (Sportsman), and Mike Petersen (Hobby-Modified) were the big winners of their respected class.
With the World of Outlaw Late Model series having a rare Saturday off, several of the traveling stars checked in at Fairbury for the upcoming Prairie Dirt Classic. 24 Late Models were on hand for their 30 lap, $2500 to win race, Tonica’s Scott Schmitt clipped a lap at 13.267 for fast time. Two heat races saw Schmitt and Manitoba, Canada’s Ricky Weiss earning their way into the feature.
Early in the feature race, race leader Weiss, led Mike Spatola and Dennis Erb Jr. The trio, running bumper to bumper, distanced themselves from fourth place, Kevin Weaver and Ryan Unzicker, in fifth. On the 18th lap as Weiss approached lapped traffic, the leader went to the top of the track. Spatola was on the bottom and made contact with the slower car and Weiss got into both cars. Weaver had nowhere to go and was also involved. The wreck knocked out Weiss, Weaver, and Brandon Pralle. Spatola moved into the lead, with Erb, Chase Junghans, Unzicker, and Mike Glasscock following. After a caution on lap 22, Erb was able to pull alongside of Spatola for the lead. Both drivers ran side by side before Erb inched ahead on the white flag and hang on for the win.
“The car was working good on the bottom,” said Carpentersville, Erb. “Once I stuck my nose under Mike, he started driving me and I was able to sneak by.”
The rest of the top ten went to Spatola, Junghans, Unzicker, Donny Walden, Bill Hough (hard charger), Glasscock, Jeff Curl, Lyle Zanker, and Greg Wagner.
27 Modified drivers made qualifying runs for their 25 lap, $1500 to win race. Peoria’s Allen Weisser turned a lap at 14.642 for fast time. Making his first ever appearance to the track Meridan, Mississippi’s Spencer Hughes took the first heat race, Odell’s Jim Farris Sr. and Pontiac’s Jeffrey Ledford were the other heat winners.
Farris led the first lap before Hughes pulled ahead. Ledford got by Farris on the eighth lap and cut into Hughes lead. Mike McKinney quickly charged thru the field in and followed Ledford. Ledford got by Hughes to lead lap 12 before Hughes reclaimed the lead. Hughes began to distance himself from the field as Ledford had to content with McKinney. McKinney overtook Ledford on the 21st lap. McKinney tried several slide jobs in the closing laps, but Hughes was able to upset the Fairbury regulars and earned a FALS Cup trophy.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity for our team this week,” Hughes said. “We have been on the road all week. I can’t thank David Stremme for building an awesome racecar.”
McKinney, Ledford, Steven Brooks, Farris, Nick Clubb, Mark Grosvenor, Steve Jones (hard charger), and Travis Kohler completed the top ten.
Pontiac’s Tanner Sullivan and Bourbonnais’s Matt Hammond took heat race wins for the 15 lap, Street Stock race, as 20 entries were on hand. Sullivan was able to lead the distance and earn his first feature win of the year.
Becoming choked up in victory lane, Sullivan spoke,” This has been a tough year for our team. My high school wrestling coach always fight thru adversity. Tonight our team showed it.”
Two heats were held for the 13 Sportsman drivers in their 15 lap race. Chenoa’s Steven Mattingly and first year driver, Fairbury’s Lyndon Whitfill taking the wins.
Mattingly led early with Tommy Duncan, Whitfill, Anthony Craven, and Michael Ledford following. Ledford was on the move and soon overtook Duncan for second on the 11th lap. While running the top, Ledford tagged the wall, causing damage to his car, and ended his night. After the caution with two laps to go, Duncan challenged Mattingly for the lead. Duncan was able to lead the white flag lap, but as the two looked to take the checker flag, Mattingly on the bottom and Duncan on the top, the two drivers made contact at the finish line, sending Duncan’s car end over end. Mattingly took his first win of the year, while escaping injury, Duncan emerged dejected in third. Whitfill took second, Craven in fourth, followed by Blake Reid (hard charger), Dan Coit, Ledford, Amber Crouch, Matt Ramer, and Tyler Roth.
Metamora’s Mason Duncan earned fast time at a 17.207 for the 16 Hobby-Modified drivers. Dunacan and Crospey’s Mike Petersen won heat races.
Duncan looked to be on his way to another feature win until with four laps to go, his car suffered mechanical problems and his race came to an end. Petersen led the remaining four laps to take his first win of the year.
“It’s great to be back in victory lane,” spoke Petersen. “If the guy’s at Petersen’s can get me here, just think what they can do for your car.”
Thad Gee, Macy Vaughan, Troy Ricketts, Austin Lipe, Tyler Sebby, Graham Jackson, Makinzi Semmens, Brendan Ramer, and Duncan completed the top ten.
This Saturday night the POWRi National Midgets tour, along with the MOWA Winged Sprint Cars, will join the Late Models and Modified cars in another exciting night of racing action.