FAIRBURY, Ill. — With Father’s Day looming — his first as a father — Shannon Babb figured dad needed a little racing time after the flurry of his new daughter’s delivery by his wife Emalie on Friday morning.
So the 41-year-old driver from Moweaqua, Ill., a four-time UMP DIRTcar Summernationals champion, began plotting his sooner-than-expected return to the Summernationals.
“I told (Emalie), I said, 'Hey,' all of our family was there, everybody was up there (at the hospital), and I said, 'Hey, do you mind if we get out and get some fresh air?' I took her brothers and we came up here to Fairbury,” Babb recounted with a laugh. “I told her we’d be home at midnight.”
The good news? Babb raised some funds for the diaper fund of 7-pound, 8-ounce Finnlee Jo Babb, rallying from the 12th starting spot at Fairbury American Legion Speedway for a $10,000 victory, his 88th career win on the grueling summer tour in a 50-lapper that barely finished ahead of approaching rain.
“She’ll be tickled to see that we brought home the trophy,” Babb said of Emalie. And what about Finnlee? “She brought me some pretty good luck.”
Babb’s victory came in a don’t-look-away feature with four leaders and plenty of position-swapping action up front on the quarter-mile oval. After he reached the lead on lap 28 after Scott Schmitt got caught up behind the slower car of Bob Gardner, the high-running Babb fended off repeated low-groove challenges by Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill.
Unzicker settled for second while polesitter Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., who led the first 13 laps before giving up the lead to his Hall of Fame father, recovered to finish third after falling as far back as fifth. Series points leader Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., was fourth and Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., rounded out the top five.
The elder Moyer wasn’t around at the finish when mechanical problems forced him out on the 23rd lap, handing the lead to Schmitt, who led five circuits but dropped from contention after contact with Pierce in turn two on the 37th lap.
While Babb started outside the sixth row, he worked his way into the top five before the halfway point while living and dying on Fairbury’s tricky cushion that was right up against the wall.
“The track started out a little bit drier than normal, but the cushion was right at the top,” Babb said. “Early in the heats, the bottom was good. You know, Fairbury is always pretty even (between the top and bottom grooves), but once the bottom slowed down, the top got going. I had nothing to lose. I started 12th and I had to make it happen, so I got up there and got 'er done.”
Things were especially hairy for Babb amid traffic before a lap-46 caution that appeared after the leader made contact with Steve Thorsten exiting turn two, forcing Thorsten’s car to slow. With a restart, Babb got a reprieve from the challenges of Unzicker and Pierce and wrapped up his victory in the final four laps.
“I needed those guys to zig-zag at the right time,” Babb said of the lapped traffic. “There was a lot of action going on … I don’t know how it happened, but we kept out in front of them. There was a lot of strong cars. Schmitt was really good, and Unzicker was really good. You never can tell. Fairbury always produces a heckuva a race — and there’s another one.”
Unzicker made most of his progress in the low groove, but he found himself moving a little higher on the track when the tire barrier’s were restored to their original positions during cautions.
“I knew once I see 'em pushing them tires out that I needed to start finding a different line and rolling the middle and just keep my momentum up,” Unzicker said. “I wish I could’ve played the Shannon line. For years, I’ve wanted to (run) the Shannon line. He’s so good at that line in particular here. I was just trying to make something work where he wasn’t. The bottom kind of gave up there, so I was just trying the middle.”
The younger Moyer nearly became a spectator after falling back — “It was wild, man, them guys were on it. We had a pretty good seat” — but he was able to fight back past Pierce in the waning laps. He decided after the race he was running too hard while battling his father early in the 50-lapper.
“I should’ve slowed down and just got behind him and run around the bottom instead of burning my stuff up like a goofball. All in all it was a wild race, I know that,” he said. “Running the top three at Fairbury means a lot to me.”
Notes: Babb is one victory behind Billy Moyer in their years-long battle of being the winningest Summernationals driver in history. Moyer has 89 victories. … Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Ill., started outside the front row and was running among the leaders when he broke a right-rear shock on the 20th lap. … The series returned to action after a pair of rainouts at Spoon River and Tri-City Speedways. ... Fairbury hosted the series for the 26th time. ... The night's racing was sponsored by Lynn Chevrolet Buick.
Preliminary results and notes:
Working the middle groove in the closing laps, fourth-starting Billy Drake went around Mike Provenzano and race-long leader Mike Glasscock to win the B-main. He transferred to the main event along with Glasscock, who led until exiting turn four on the final lap. Provenzano ended up third and failed to transfer in a race slowed by first-lap cautions for a called-back start and Allen Murray's turn-two spin after a scuffle back in the pack.
Finish (top two transfer): Billy Drake, Mike Glasscock, Mike Provenzano, McKay Wenger, Timothy Culp, Joe Harlan, Brian Diveley, Joseph Hughes, Jay Morris, Kolby Vandenbergh, Allen Murray, Bob Gardner, Mark Voigt, Kyle Hammer, Torin Mettille, Jay Sparks.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Mike Glasscock, McKay Wenger
Row 2: Mike Provenzano, Billy Drake
Row 3: Brian Diveley, Joseph Hughes
Row 4: Timothy Culp, Kyle Hammer
Row 5: Bob Gardner, Joe Harlan
Row 6: Kolby Vandenbergh, Torin Mettille
Row 7: Allen Murray, Jay Sparks
Row 8: Mark Voigt, Jay Morris
Finish (top four transfer to B-main): Allen Murray, Jay Sparks, Mark Voigt, Jay Morris, Levi Kissinger, Larry Greer, Gordy Gundaker, Cole Swibold, Billy Hough, Mike Hammerle, John Hahler, Spencer Diercks, Tyler Erb, Snooky Dehm, Glen Thompson, Jim Moon.
In the redraw among heat winners, Billy Moyer Jr. drew the pole with Mike Spatola alongsider. Billy Moyer the elder starts third and Scott Schmitt starts fourth.
Following his son's lead of one prelim earlier, Billy Moyer jumped out early and cruised to victory in the final heat race. Third-starting Shannon Babb ran second until the final laps, when Michael Kloos got under him on the backstretch of the ninth circuit. Babb edge back ahead, but on the final lap, Kloos won the drag-race out of turn four by inches to finish second. Babb was third while sixth-starting Scott Bull secured the final transfer spot in the caution-free 10-lapper. Billy Drake was a distant fifth.
Finish (top four transfer): Billy Moyer, Michael Kloos, Shannon Babb, Scott Bull, Billy Drake, Kyle Hammer, Torin Mettille, Allen Murray, Larry Greer, Snooky Dehm, Jim Moon.
Outside front-row starter quickly pulled away from a lively battle for the lead an cruised to a 10-lap victory in a race where second was up for grabs until the crazy last lap between a pair of Iowans. Polesitter Spencer Diercks had his hands full early with fellow Iowan Chris Simpson (low) and Ryan Unzicker (high) in the early laps, and managed to hang on to the spot even as Simpson switch to the high side mid-race. Unzicker was hampered by brushing the backstretch wall early and eventually settled into the low groove, too. Simpson got under Diercks exiting turn four heading the white flag and made contact, sending Diercks around and leaving Simpson against the frontstretch wall. Unzicker benefitted to finish second with Daren Friedman and Steve Thorsten inheriting transfer spots for the final two green-flag laps.
Finish (top four transfer): Billy Moyer Jr., Ryan Unzicker, Daren Friedman, Steve Thorsten, Mike Provenzano, Timothy Culp, Kolby Vandenberch, Mark Voigt, Jay Morris, Billy Hough, Spencer Diercks, Chris Simpson.
Taking advantage of early leader Bobby Pierce's frequent scrapes with the outside wall, Scott Schmitt took command and raced to a 10-lap victory. Pierce stayed with Schmitt much of the way, but the winner edge ahead a bit more comfortable on the fifth lap. Kevin Weaver finished several lengths behind in third to transfer to the main along with seventh-starting Tim Manville in the caution-free affair. Eric Smith pulled out midway through the race with a flat tire.
Finish (top four transfer): Scott Schmitt, Bobby Pierce, Kevin Weaver, Tim Manville, McKay Wenger, Jay Sparks, Joe Harlan, Cole Swibold, Mike Hammerle, Glenn Thompson, Eric Smith.
Turning back an early low-groove challenge from third-starting Kent Robinson, polesitter Mike Spatola got rolling on the high side and raced to a 10-lap victory. Robinson grabbed the second spot with Jason Feger and Daniel Flessner getting the other two transfers to the main vent. Mike Glasscock edged Brian Diveley for fifth with a last-lap pass. Gordy Gundaker slowed with a broken driveshaft to draw a lap-five caution, coasting to the infield.
Finish (top four transfer): Mike Spatola, Kent Robinson, Jason Feger, Daniel Flessner, Mike Glasscock, Brian Diveley, Bob Gardner, Jay Sparks, Levi Kissinger, John Hahler, Gordy Gundaker. Scratched: Steve Pastva.
Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Ill., topped 47 entrants with a 12.957-second qualifying lap, the only driver to crack the 13-second barrier at the quarter-mile oval. Spatola will start on the pole of the first of four heat races.
Other heat race polesitters via group qualifying: Scott Schmitt of Tonica, Ill.; Spencer Diercks of Davenport, Iowa; and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark.
Diercks and his team will have some work to do, however, as he crunched the backstretch wall exiting turn two on his second qualifying lap, causing right-front damage that required a trip to the pits on a tow truck.
After six events of car counts in the 20s, series stalwart Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway drew a whopping 47 cars for the 50-lap, $10,000-to-win UMP DIRTcar Summernationals event sponsored by Lynn Chevrolet Buick.
The field includes series title contenders Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., and more than 30 Illinois entrants that will be split among four groups for time trials and heat races that will send four drivers apiece to the main event.
A series of consolation races eventually sends two drivers to the feature lineup with four provisional starting spots.
Four-time series champion Shannon Babb is competing the day after wife Emalie gave birth to daughter Finnlee Jo Babb, who was 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 19 inches long. Babb has hinted he doesn’t plan on following the entire tour after hauler problems forced him to miss the first race, but he’s fifth in points. … The series returns to action after a pair of rainouts at Spoon River and Tri-City Speedways. ... Fairbury hosts the series for the 26th time. ... Series winners at Fairbury in recent seasons: Billy Moyer, Ryan Unzicker, Brian Shirley, Rodney Melvin, Shannon Babb and Jimmy Mars. … The series has had six winners in six races and a seventh at Fairbury would match the 2008 season with seven winners over the first seven series events.
Time trials (unofficial)
(Group time trials; heats start straightup)
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 12.957
Kent Robinson (7r), Bloomington, Ind., 13.122
Daniel Flessner (9D), Roberts, Ill., 13.249
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 13.305
Brian Diveley (11D), Springfield, Ill., 13.450
Mike Glasscock (30), LeRoy, Ill., 13.504
Jay Sparks (7s), Metamora, Ill., 13.730
Levi Kissinger (8K), Mount Vernon, Ind., 13.890
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 13.905
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 14.104
John Hahler (124), New Florence, Mo., 14.794
Steve Pastva (77), Plano, Ill., no time
Scott Schmitt (10), Tonica, Ill., 12.957
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 13.010
Kevin Weaver (B12), Gibson City, Ill., 13.052
Joe Harlan (Z), El Paso, Ill., 13.230
McKay Wenger (42), Fairbury, Ill., 13.286
Eric Smith (9), Bloomington, Ill., 13.308
Tim Manville (33), Troy, Ill., 13.371
Joseph Hughes (7H), Springfield, Ill., 13.411
Tyler Erb (91), Magnolia, Texas, 13.4963
Glen Thompson (14), Buckingham, Ill., 13.612
Cole Swibold (98), Fairview, Ill., 14.368
Mike Hammerle (16H), St. Charles, Mo., 14.689
Spencer Diercks (29), Davenport, Iowa, 13.034
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 13.041
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 13.215
Mike Provenzano (27), Grand Ridge, Ill., 13.298
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 13.302
Steve Thorsten (7T), Milford, Ill., 13.392
Jay Morris (77m), Watseka, Ill., 13.532
Daren Friedman (89), Forrest, Ill., 13.768
Timothy Culp (c8), West Monroe, La., 13.794
Kolby Vandenberg (15), Ashland, Ill., 13.912
Mark Voigt (30), Marine, Ill., 13.961
Billy Hough (33), Thomasboro, Ill., 14.746
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 13.101
Michael Kloos (6k), Trenton, Ill., 13.358
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 13.374
Billy Drake (9), Bloomington, Ill., 13.453
Torin Mettille (116), Cullom, Ill., 13.520
Scott Bull (83), Fairbury, Ill., 13.705
Kyle Hammer (45), Clinton, Ill., 13.900
Snooky Dehm (2D), Chatsworth, Ill., 13.986
Allen Murray (2), San Antonio, Texas, 14.171
Larry Greer (9G), Bowling Green, Ky., 14.481
Jim Moon (1m), New Florence, Mo., 14.546
• Hot laps (street stocks, sportsman, modifieds, Late Models)
• Time trials (modifieds and Late Models)
• Heat races (modifieds, Late Models, street stocks)
• C-mains (modifieds, Late Models)
• Sportsman heats
• B-mains (street stocks, Late Models, modifieds)
• Features (Late Models, modifieds, street stocks, sportsman)