FAIRBURY, Ill. (July 24) — With an assist from Jonathan Davenport, Kevin Weaver sent his legion of home-track supporters home happy from Friday's Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac qualifying night at Fairbury American Legion Speedway.
After setting the overall fastest time for the PDC during qualifying and finishing second in a heat race, Gibson City, Ill.’s Weaver capped the evening with a $5,000 victory in the inaugural 25-lap #FALS Draw event — an 18-car special that he started from the outside pole because Blairsville, Ga.’s Davenport gave him the spot in the affair’s unique draw for position.
Weaver, 52, took full advantage of the prime starting slot, tossing his Pierce Race Car around the top of the quarter-mile oval to lead the entire 25-lapper. He outgunned polesitter Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., who was given the number one spot by his Capital Race Cars teammate Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., at the initial green and kept the World of Outlaws Late Model Series points leader at bay late in the distance to reach the checkered flag first.
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., slipped past Clanton with three laps remaining and finished second in the caution-free race, 0.840 of a second behind Weaver. Clanton settled for third, followed by the eighth-starting Davenport and sixth-starter Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Texas.
Weaver's flag-to-flag victory — his richest payday of a 2015 season that has seen him five UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned weekly features, including four at Fairbury to put him atop the points race — won't factor into his starting position for Saturday night’s $26,000-to-wn PDC A-Main. But it gave the veteran racer plenty of confidence as he sizes up the task before him on Saturday.
"Coming here and having fast time against the competition we had tonight, that's real good for us and gives us a boost going into tomorrow night," said Weaver, who will start seventh in the 100-lap PDC headliner. "We would've liked to have won the heat, but we were close. We're still starting seventh, so that's not all that bad.
"I feel like we have a pretty good hot rod. We were kind of relying on the cushion a little bit (in the Shootout), but if I needed to come off of it I felt like I could've and still been fast. I felt like the car is capable of running down there in the slick a little bit and we can be pretty good wherever we need to run tomorrow."
The #FALS Draw Shootout was a crowd-pleasing addition to this year's PDC weekend. The race featured an 18-car field with a mix of drivers from the national level, some based in Illinois and a handful of Fairbury regulars. Each of Friday's six heat race winners were among those locked into the race, and the lineup for the event was determined by a novel format that had drivers draw a starting position and then give that spot to another driver.
Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., ended up having the race’s 18th starting spot bestowed upon him by Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., and only managed to climb up to 12th place by the the finish, but that was good enough to earn him a $500 hard-charger bonus. A $1,000 hard-charger bonus went to Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., who advanced from the 14th starting spot to finish seventh.
Earlier in the program, Bloomquist's long-awaited return to Fairbury got off to a stellar start during the preliminary action.
Racing at the popular quarter-mile oval for the first time in more than 13 years, Bloomquist, 51, was among the top qualifiers for the blockbuster two-day event and won the second of six 15-lap heat races to claim a spot in the top-six redraw for Saturday's 100-lapper.
"It's good to be back," said Bloomquist, whose last visit to Fairbury was for a DIRTcar UMP Summernationals event in 2002. "We hadn't been up here in a long time. We took this weekend off last year because we hardly ever get a chance to take off. By popular demand, we had so many requests for us to come up here that we decided to get up here."
Bloomquist will be joined in the redraw on Saturday by fellow heat winners Junghans, Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., Zeigler, Moyer Jr. and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., as they all look to take the pole position for the Prairie Dirt Classic finale.
Continuing his improved performance this summer, outdueled Weaver in an early back-and-forth battle in the first PDC heat race before a lap-three caution put him out front for a restart. He held on from there to win by 0.296 seconds. Weaver settled for second while WoO Rookie of the Year competitor Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., edged Morgan Bagley of Tyler, Texas, in a photo finish for the third and final transfer spot.
Bloomquist's Heat 2 victory was anything but easy thanks to constant pressure from fellow Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series regular Davenport. After advancing from his sixth starting spot Davenport made multiple bids to take the lead late in the race with looks both high and low, but Bloomquist turned back each challenge in winning by 0.253 seconds. Sheppard was third.
Erb took advantage of Watertown, N.Y., driver Tim McCreadie's bout with the cushion to retake the lead on lap 11 of the third heat race and pulled to a lead of 1.731 seconds by the finish. McCreadie, who outdueled both Erb and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., to take the lead early in the race, recovered to finish second, while Owens held off Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., to take third and also A-Main transfer.
Heat 4 featured a bit of drama on lap five when Zeigler drove hard into turn three at the same time leader Clanton was moving lower on the track. The two cars made contact and both turned sideways before straightening and continuing running. Zeigler corrected quicker than Clanton and was able to pull ahead on the following lap.
Clanton took a few looks to the outside of Zeigler through the second half of the race, but Zeigler pulled away late to win by 1.303 seconds. Clanton was second with sixth-starting Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., third.
Moyer Jr. turned back challenges from a pair of WoO regulars in winning Heat 4. Fifth-starting Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., and Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., made bids for the lead, but Moyer Jr. moved up the track just in time to stymie Heckenast's high-side charge and then moved back down to the track's low groove to hold off Frank in the closing laps. Moyer Jr. crossed the finish line 0.808 seconds ahead of Frank, who narrowly edged Heckenast for second.
Moyer Sr. scored the most convincing heat race victory, leading every lap of the sixth and final heat race to win by 1.902 seconds. Eric Smith of Bloomington, Ill., was a solid second, while Torin Mettille of Cullom, Ill., outdueled hometown driver Scott Bull and Kyle Hammer of Clinton, Ill., to claim the third and also transfer to the A-Main.
Saturday's PDC finale is scheduled to begin with hot laps at 5:45 p.m. Two WoO Last-Chance Showdowns will lead off the Late Model portion of the action, with the 30-lap Prairie Dirt Shootout for non-qualifiers and the 100-lap feature to follow. The slate also features the final round of the DIRTcar Summit Modified Nationals.
#FALS Draw finish (25 laps): 1. Kevin Weaver, 2. Brandon Sheppard, 3. Shane Clanton, 4. Jonathan Davenport, 5. Ryan Unzicker, 6. Billy Moyer, 7. Mason Zeigler, 8. Jason Feger, 9. Mckay Wenger, 10. Scott Bull, 11. Josh Richards, 12. Scott Bloomquist, 13. Chase Junghans, 14. Shannon Babb, 15. Jimmy Owens, 16. Dennis Erb Jr., 17. Daren Friedman, 18. Billy Moyer Jr.
Preliminary notes and results:
#FALS Draw lineup
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Kevin Weaver
Row 2: Daren Friedman, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Scott Bull, Ryan Unzicker
Row 4: Jason Feger, Jonathan Davenport
Row 5: Billy Moyer, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 6: Josh Richards, Mckay Wenger
Row 7: Jimmy Owens, Mason Zeigler
Row 8: Dennis Erb Jr., Chase Junghans
Row 9: Shannon Babb, Scott Bloomquist
The 18-car field for the special #FALS Draw event — a $5,000-to-win invitational that concludes the evening's action — is set after heat races. The participants are heat winners Chase Junghans, Scott Bloomquist, Dennis Erb Jr., Mason Zeigler, Billy Moyer Jr. and Billy Moyer; Shane Clantona and Josh Richards (WoO points); Kevin Weaver and Scott Bull (FALS points); Jonathan Davenport and Jimmy Owens (DirtonDirt.com Top 25 national drivers); Brandon Sheppard and Jason Feger (DoD Top 25 Illinois drivers); Mike Spatola (best FALS driver in Illini 100 finale); and Shannon Babb, Mckay Wenger and Ryan Unzicker (fan vote).
Starting spots are still to be determined in a unique draw in which drivers will pick spots and then be required to hand their positions over to another driver of their choice.
Billy Moyer dominated the action, cruising to a 1.902-second win over Eric Smith. Torin Mettille grabbed the final transfer spot. A tangle involving Michael Kloos and Kyle Hammer between turns one and two brought out a caution lap two, while teenager Josh Rice saw his Fairbury debut hampered by trouble that caused him to slow on lap seven while contending for the last transfer position.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Billy Moyer, Eric Smith, Torin Mettille, Scott Bull, Kyle Hammer, Steve Lance Jr., Bill Hough, Josh Rice, Michael Kloos, Jay Sparks,
Billy Moyer Jr. led the entire distance, turning back a late challenge from Chub Frank for the victory. Frank Heckenast Jr. finished third after swapping second place with Frank and finishing just a half car length behind the veteran. The race's first caution flag flew on the opening lap for Kolby Vanderbergh, who ended up spun betweent turns three and four. Another flew on lap four when Shannon Babb got too high between turns three and four and smacked the wall, forcing him to stop with damage in turn four.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Billy Moyer Jr., Chub Frank, Frank Heckenast Jr., Chris Simpson, Jimmy Mars, Kolby Vanderbergh, Eric Wells, Jay Morris, Jordan Yaggy, Snooky Dehm, Shannon Babb.
Mason Zeigler surprised Shane Clanton, passing the World of Outlaws points leader for the lead on lap six and pulling away to score a convincing victory. Clanton held off a late challenge from Josh Richards to place second, while Jason Feger missed transferring with a fourth-place run.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Mason Zeigler, Shane Clanton, Josh Richards, Jason Feger, Earl Pearson Jr., Mike Spatola, Daren Friedman, Mike Mataragas, John Gardner Jr., Bob Gardner.
Dennis Erb Jr. overtook Tim McCreadie for the top spot on lap 12 with an inside move and pulled away to the victory. McCreadie settled for second after leading laps 3-11 and Jimmy Owens placed third after leading laps 1-2. A caution flag flew moments after the race's start when Chad Hollenbeck twirled around between turns one and two; another was needed on lap one for Cole Swibold; and a third came out on lap for Levi Kissinger's spin in turn two.
Finish (top three transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Tim McCreadie, Jimmy Owens, Gregg Satterlee, Rick Eckert, Chad Hollenbeck, Daniel Flessner, Levi Kissinger, Mike Provenzano, Cole Swibold.
Scott Bloomquist passed Brandon Sheppard for the lead on lap three and never looked back en route to victory. Jonathan Davenport overtook Sheppard for second on lap six and was able to sneak inside Bloomquist through turns three and four on lap 12, but Bloomquist held on to win by 0.253 of a second. Sheppard settled for third. Derek Chandler brought out a caution lap five when he stopped on the homestretch.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Jonathan Davenport, Brandon Sheppard, Ryan Unzicker, Brian Shirley, Mike Glasscock, Derek Chandler, Steve Thorsten, Glen Thompson, Joe Harlan, Shane Allen.
Chase Junghans emerged victorious, pulling ahead of Kevin Weaver on the start and surviving a last-lap bid from the local veteran. Weaver slipped to third on lap-11 restart when Brandon Overton drove by on the outside, but he charged back on the inside to regain second on lap 13 and drew close to Junghans off turn four with the checkere flag flying. Overton, meanwhile, nipped Morgan Bagley for third. Caution flags flew on the opening lap for a multi-car tangle between turns one and two that involved Boom Briggs; on lap three for Scott Schmitt, who stopped on the backstretch with rear bodywork damage while contending for a transfer spot; and lap 11 for Mckay Weanger, who spun in turn four while battling for third place.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Chase Junghans, Kevin Weaver, Brandon Overton, Morgan Bagley, Boom Briggs, Scott Schmitt, James Rice, Mike Mullvain, Mckay Wenger, Mark Larson, Mike McGuire.
Local hero Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., thrilled the crowd during time trials, turning a lap of 12.737 seconds during Group 1 that stood up as the overall fastest of the qualifying session. He earned the pole position for the first of six 15-lap heat races that will transfer the top-three finishers from each to the PDC feature.
Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., was fastest in Group 2 with a lap of 12.782 seconds, giving him the pole for the fourth heat.
Other heat polesitters will be Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., and Billy Moyer, also of Batesville, Ark.
Qualifying was delayed for a brief time early in the first group after Shane Allen of Washington, Ill., experienced engine trouble that oiled the track, forcing the track crew into action to clean up the spill.
The Prairie Dirt Classic begins on a beautiful summer day with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 80s. … Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., is on hand to make his first Fairbury start since a sixth-place finish in the 2002 UMP DIRTcar Summernationals event. He arrived at the track during the overnight hours after spending part of Thursday evening testing at the quarter-mile Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway. … The red-hot Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and his K&L Rumley team were among the first arrivals in the pit area on Thursday. Father-and-son team owner Lee Roy and Kevin Rumley had their cars unloaded on Thursday night and were seen doing some tuning as the early-arriving campers began to fire up their parties around the fairgrounds. … Defending PDC champion Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., is racing this weekend without his crew chief Tommy Grecco, who traveled to North Carolina after last Saturday night’s WoO event at Minnesota’s Deer Creek Speedway to spend time with his ailing father. T-Mac received crew reinforcements in the form of his former truck driver Dave "Frog" Griepsma, long-time McCreadie crewman Huey Nayler of Kingston, Ont., and Nayler’s brother, Stephen, who all rode out together to join McCreadie this week. … Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., experienced ignition problems in Thursday night’s WoO feature at Quincy (Ill.) Raceway — the malfunction caused him to slow in front of leader Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., who stalled his motor while taking evasive action to miss Wells and was passed for the win by Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. — so he’s decided to run his other car this weekend. He spend the afternoon installing an MSD ignition in the car he used at Quincy (he had another type of ignition in it) so it will be available as a backup. … WoO rookie Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., is driving a Barry Wright-built car owned by Benji Cranford of Thompson, Ga., that sports a black-and-gold color scheme. He’s been using the machine throughout this month’s WoO swing while awaiting construction of a new MasterSbilt by MBH mount to replace the Doug and Cathy Varnadore-owned vehicle he wrecked hard last month in New York. … Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., is behind the wheel of the Larry Moring-owned car he runs in selected specials. … After competing in the first two events of the WoO Wild West Tour and last weekend’s Lucas Oil Series Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb., and stopping in Indiana to get more repairs done to his trailer, Chad Hollenbeck of Kingsley, Pa., decided to stay on the road and make his first-ever start at Fairbury. … Noticeably missing from the field is defending WoO champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who skipped Quincy and Fairbury to continue his team’s retooling but is expected to return to WoO action in Morgan Bagley’s second car for WoO events July 28 at Shawano (Wis.) Speedway and July 30-Aug. 1 at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis. … Also a high-profile no-show is UMP DIRTcar Summernationals titlist Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., who announced on his Facebook page after Thursday night’s WoO program at Quincy that he was bypassing his home state’s biggest event ever because he and his team are “flat out exhausted after the Hell Tour, Slinger Nationals and the (NASCAR Camping World Trucker Series) Mud Summer Classic (at Eldora Speedway).” The 18-year-old Pierce, who finished a sterling second in his Truck Series debut at Eldora, noted that “the staff at FALS have went out of their way to accommodate us and it's greatly appreciated (but) I’d like to take this weekend off, spend some time with friends and we have a lot of work to prepare for Freedomfest (a car show) on Sunday.” He said he will be back to race at Fairbury, a track he called “home to the Pierce family.”
The biggest, most anticipated Dirt Late Model weekend in the history of both the venerable Fairbury American Legion Speedway and the state of Illinois kicks off Friday night with a 64-car Prairie Dirt Classic qualifying program that includes an intriguing new bonus race.
After Friday’s WoO time trials and heat races are completed, the action will continue with the #FALS Draw, a 25-lap invitational event that includes a cross-section of 18 WoO, national, regional and local drivers. A $5,000 top prize will be on the line in the short sprint plus a $1,000 bonus to the hard charger, a $500 bonus to the driver who gains the second-most positions and a $500 bonus for winning from the last row.
The #FALS Draw field will be comprised of Friday night's six heat winners plus 10 additional drivers who don't capture heats: the top two in the WoO points; top two in the Fairbury points; two highest-ranked non-WoO national drivers in the DirtonDirt.com Top 25 poll; two highest-ranked Illini drivers in the DirtonDirt.com Top 25; the highest-finishing Fairbury regular from April's Illini 100 finale at Farmer City; and the three highest vote-getters in fan voting on the FALS website.
The Prairie Dirt Classic will conclude on Saturday night with WoO B-Mains, the Prairie Dirt Shootout for non-qualifiers and the 100-lap PDC boasting an event-record $26,000 top prize.
Heat race lineups
(15 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Kevin Weaver, Chase Junghans
Row 2: Mckay Wenger, Scott Schmitt
Row 3: Boom Briggs, Brandon Overton
Row 4: Mike Mulvain, James Rice
Row 5: Morgan Bagley, Mike McGuire
Row 6: Mark Larson
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Scott Bloomquist, Joe Harlan
Row 3: Steve Thorsten, Jonathan Davenport
Row 4: Ryan Unzicker, Mike Glasscock
Row 5: Derek Chandler, Glen Thompson
Row 6: Shane Allen
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Jimmy Owens
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Gregg Satterlee
Row 3: Rick Eckert, Daniel Flessner
Row 4: Chad Hollenbeck, Levi Kessinger
Row 5: Mike Provenzano, Cole Swibold
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Daren Friedman
Row 2: Mason Zeigler, Jason Feger
Row 3: Mike Maharajas, Josh Richards
Row 4: John Gardner Jr., Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 5: Bob Gardner, Mike Spatola
Row 6: Aaron Ricketts
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Chub Frank
Row 2: Jimmy Mars, Shannon Babb
Row 3: Frank Heckenast Jr., Eric Well
Row 4: Jordan Yaggy, Chris Simpson
Row 5: Kolby Vandenbergh, Jay Morris
Row 6: Snooky Dehm
Row 1: Billy Moyer, Michael Kloos
Row 2: Eric Smith, Scott Bull
Row 3: Josh Rice, Torin Mettille
Row 4: Kyle Hammer, Steve Lance Jr.
Row 5: Jay Sparks, Billy Hough
Kevin Weaver (b12), Gibson City, Ill., 12.737
Brandon Sheppard (b5), New Berlin, Ill., 12.757
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 12.813
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 12.816
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 12.837
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 12.839
McKay Wenger (42), Fairbury, Ill., 12.884
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 12.912
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 12.919
Scott Schmitt (10s), Tonica, Ill.,12.961
Joe Harlan (Z), El Paso, Ill., 12.97
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 12.983
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 13.005
Steve Thorsten (7T), Milford, Ill.,13.047
Rick Eckert (7K), York, Pa., 13.063
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 13.103
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 13.114
Daniel Flessner (9d), Thawville, Ill., 13.135
Mike Mulvain (4), Bartonville, Ill., 13.19
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 13.244
Chad Hollenbeck (4ds), Kingsley, Pa., 13.366
James Rice (11R), Verona, Ky., 13.379
Mike Glasscock (30), Le Roy, Ill., 13.403
Levi Kissinger (8K), Mt. Vernon, Ill., 13.469
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 13.49
Derek Chandler (35), Pontiac, Ill., 13.537
Mike Provenzano (M27), Marseilles, Ill., 13.699
Mike McGuire (44), Forrest, Ill., 13.707
Glen Thompson (14), Buckingham, Ill., 13.847
Cole Swibold (98), Fairview, Ill., 13.983
Mark Larson (782), Ottawa, Ill., 14.159
Shane Allen (16), Washington, Ill., 15.767
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 12.782
Billy Moyer Jr. (21Jr), Batesville, Ark., 12.886
Billy Moyer (21), Bateville, Ark., 12.894
Daren Friedman (89), Manhattan, Ill., 12.908
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 12.933
Michael Kloos (6K), Trenton, Ill., 12.936
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 12.95
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 12.963
Eric Smith (9), Bloomington, Ill., 12.966
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 13.008
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill.,13.059
Scott Bull (83), Fairbury, Ill., 13.064
Mike Mataragas (7), Dekald, Ill., 13.077
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Orland Park, Ill., 13.085
Josh Rice (11), Verona, Ky., 13.087
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 13.092
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 13.138
Torin Mettille (116), Cullom, Ill., 13.153
John Gardner Jr. (38c), Germantown Hills, Ill., 13.197
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn., 13.207
Kyle Hammer (45), Clinton, Ill., 13.227
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla, 13.246
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 13.247
Steve Lance Jr. (25L), Cuba, Ill., 13.283
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 13.299
Kolby Vanderbergh (15), Ashland, Ill., 13.311
Jay Sparks (7s), Metamora, Ill., 13.38
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 13.401
Jay Morris (77M), Watseka, Ill., 13.443
Bill Hough (33), Thomasboro, lll., 13.504
Aaron Ricketts (95), Fairbury, Ill., 13.521
Snooky Dehm (D2), Chatsworth, Ill., 28.817
Friday’s schedule of events
5:30 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
6 p.m. – On-track action begins
• UMP modified hot laps
• WoO hot laps
• UMP modified time trials
• WoO time trials (2 groups, 2 laps per car, 2 cars per session)
• UMP modified heat races (10 laps)
• WoO heat race (15 laps)
• UMP modified B-Mains (12 lap)
• WoO practice for non-#FALS Draw cars
• UMP modified feature (30 laps)
• #FALS Draw pick for starting positions
• #FALS Draw feature (25 laps; $5,000 to win)