FAIRBURY, Ill. — On a chilly Saturday night in the Land of Lincoln, Bobby Pierce couldn’t rear back and tap into his wheelhouse, the cushion, for the duration of Fairbury Speedway’s 50-lap FALS Frenzy.
In order to notch a fourth special-event win of the season at the black dirt bullring, the Oakwood, Ill., driver had to navigate tricky conditions with a more careful approach. Pierce made it work nonetheless, as the Fairbury ace led the final 23 laps to pick up the $15,000 victory with the MARS Racing Series over polesitter Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill.
"That was a different Fairbury,” Pierce said to begin his victory lane interview. “The top didn’t have a cushion like it normally does. You have to kind of play with a tap here, a tap there (with the throttle), and try to have a good car to get off (the corner). Man, that bottom was tough. It had a slim puddle down there on both corners.
“One lap, a couple cars would hit it, and the bottom would get really slimy. I’d lose a lot of ground. The next lap it’d be really tacky. It was a tough racetrack to drive.”
Feger led the opening 27 laps, but finished 1.301 seconds off Pierce’s winning pace. Pierce’s fellow Illinois competitor paced the 21-car field around the bottom in the early going, but that strategy changed when Pierce wound his race machine up around the top of the close-quartered oval.
Feger, noticing Pierce in hot pursuit, moved off the bottom on lap four and proceeded to hold serve up front, even when the leaders worked into traffic on lap 11. Pierce showed Feger his nose twice on laps 13 and 16 amid slower traffic as the battle for the lead stayed within mere car lengths through lap 26.
As long as the feature stayed green — which it did Saturday in a caution-free, 13-minute main event — Pierce liked his chances. Pierce then sized up the run he needed to beat Feger back to the line to lead lap 28. On lap 29, Pierce cleared Feger for good.
“I know sometimes it’s better to be in that second-place spot, you know?” Pierce said. “Feger dipped down to the bottom (on lap 28), and that let me get a helluva run in turns three and four. The slider was a little hairy there with the lapped car being there, but we made it work.”
Pierce ditched the top groove on lap 35 when Feger, using the bottom, started closing back in to challenge for the lead. Feger said in his post-race interview a softer tire selection didn’t help his case during a feature that went nonstop.
“I think with no yellows and stuff –– I can’t believe tonight is two nights in a row with no yellows — he just got better off the corners than I did,” Feger said. “I was getting light off the corners there as my tire got hot. I don’t know if I would have had anything if not. Just a great weekend. I can’t thank everybody enough that helps me do this, and all the fans coming out that supports this place. Glad we could put on a show.”
Tanner English of Benton, Ky., also wished for a caution at some point during Saturday’s feature. The World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series regular instead settled for a third-place finish and, like Pierce, needed to adjust to the tricker track conditions.
“I needed (a caution) about halfway through,” English said. “I was saving my tire, and I needed to close the gap up where I could restart on the bottom and have a clean shot at them. They did a good job. They had 40s on, and I had 30s (tire compound). Just saved it too long, and then at the end, I could’ve slid (Feger), but too little, too late. It was a good run. We’ll take it.”
“As I said last night, you couldn’t really run that middle like you usually can,” English added. “Usually you can roll to the outside of somebody about a car width off of him and roll that middle, and be pretty gripped up and momentum around there. It just wasn’t there all weekend. I think it’s just cold temperatures made it a little weird. It was good. We’ll take it and go onto the next one.”
Pierce’s win Saturday marked his third of the year with the MARS Racing Series at Fairbury, adding to May 14’s $30,000 triumph and Sept. 3’s $10,000 victory. Pierce also snagged the Castrol FloRacing Night in America event on Sept. 13 at the bullring, which cashed out $22,022 for the victory.
Winning four of Fairbury’s five richest events of the season is a nice accomplishment for Pierce, who’s well aware of the void within that very body of work.
“This place has been so great to me this year. If we could only have this success at the Prairie Dirt Classic, we’d be golden,” Pierce said. “We’re really happy. The drive was worth it all the way back from North Carolina. Just a huge thank you to Fairbury again. … It was a great night.”