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Daily Dirt 03/25/2023 17:58:39

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July 26
Fairbury Speedway,
Fairbury, IL
Sanction: World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series (Prairie Dirt Classic by Bank of Pontiac) - $30,000
Information provided by: Kevin Kovac (last updated July 27, 7:20 pm)
Illinois drivers split PDC prelims with Southerners
Heath Lawson/heathlawsonphotos.com
Chris Ferguson was a very happy winner of Fairbury's third qualifying feature on Friday night.
Key notes: Watch live at DirtonDirt.com. ... The 30th annual Prairie Dirt Classic kicked off with a preliminary program with time trials and four 25-lap qualifying races, each paying $2,500-to-win and transferring the top-finishing drivers to Saturday's 100-lap, $30,000-to-win headliner. ... The event is being run under World of Outlaws sanction for the seventh consecutive year. ... Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, is the defending race champion. ... UMP modifieds ran four 20-lap qualifying features on Friday to lead into Saturday's 40-lap, $5,000-to-win A-main.
Points chase: Before Fairbury: 1. Brandon Sheppard (3,232); 2. Darrell Lanigan (3,016); 3. Ricky Weiss (3,000); 4. Shane Clanton (2,996); 5. Chase Junghans (2,980); 6. Dennis Erb Jr. (2,930); 7. Cade Dillard (2,674); 8. Brent Larson (2,642); 9. Boom Briggs (2,636); 10. Blake Spencer (2,312).
Current weather: Sunny, 82°F
Car count: 72
Fast qualifier: Brandon Sheppard
Time: 13.112 seconds
Heat race winners: Brandon Sheppard, Bobby Pierce, Chris Ferguson, Shane Clanton
Next series race: July 27, Fairbury Speedway (Fairbury, IL) $30,000
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
By Kevin Kovac
DirtonDirt.com senior writer

FAIRBURY, Ill. (July 26) — Illinois drivers Brandon Sheppard and Bobby Pierce joined Southern stars Chris Ferguson and Shane Clanton as winners of Friday night's four 25-lap qualifying features for the 30th annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac at Fairbury Speedway.

First qualifying feature

Brandon Sheppard kicked off his bid for a second Prairie Dirt Classic victory in three years in fine fashion, rolling to a runaway flag-to-flag victory in the first 25-lap qualifying feature.

The World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series points leader was never challenged as he burst off the pole position to dominate the entire distance. He beat Dennis Erb Jr. to the finish line by a commanding margin of 2.456 seconds for a $2,500 payday.

“I knew my car felt really good,” said Sheppard, who stretched his advantage to over a straightaway. “I could see my guy telling me that I had room to move around a little bit there. We just got to the lead, got to the top and got rolling and got a lane burned in, and once we did that we were able to roll pretty good. I could keep my momentum up so that’s good for tomorrow night.”

Erb used the inside line to shoot from fifth to second on a lap-16 restart and held the spot to the finish. Boom Briggs and Gordy Gundaker also took advantage of the increasingly quick bottom lane after the race’s only restart to finish third and fourth, respectively.

Darrell Lanigan ran in a transfer spot for much of the distance but settled for a fifth-place finish after being passed by Briggs and Gundaker on laps 20 and 21. Chase Junghans, meanwhile, was second when the caution flag flew on lap 16 but faded to sixth in the final rundown while running the outside line.

Chris Simpson, who won a qualifying feature last year, was involved in the race’s wildest incident. He had just used the bottom of the track to shoot past Darrell Lanigan for fourth place on lap 16 when he overran the slower Curtis Radke on the backstretch and ended up nosing lightly into the inside wall in turn three with his car’s right-rear corner perched on Radke’s left-side door.

The caution flag was actually already displayed when Simpson and Radke tangled because third-running Cade Dillard slowed in turn three with terminal engine trouble, but the Simpson and Radke cars were both towed off the track with significant damage.

Finish (top four transfer to Saturday feature): Brandon Sheppard, Dennis Erb Jr., Boom Briggs, Gordy Gundaker, Darrell Lanigan, Chase Junghans, Ricky Thornton Jr., Mike Mataragas, Jay Sparks, Brent McKinnon, Paul Stubber, Kody Evans, Joey Moriarty, Cade Dillard, Chris Simpson, Curtis Radke, Jimmy Mars (DNS) Paul Parker.

Second qualifying feature

Bobby Pierce led from wire-to-wire to capture the second 25-lap qualifying feature, but his march to the $2,500 check wasn’t without an anxious moment.

The 22-year-old sensation appeared vulnerable after the low-running Shannon Babb grabbed second from Devin Moran on lap nine and erased Pierce’s near straightaway edge in a matter of four circuits. But Babb’s bid effectively ended after he stalled his engine and fell abruptly off the pace between turns one and two on lap 16, prompting officials to put out a caution flag as the field bore down on Babb.

While Babb never stopped and was able to restart in third place — an “inadvertent” caution ruling allowed him to remain in the position in which he blended back into the field when he regained power — he stayed in the spot for the remainder of the distance.

Pierce powered away following the restart, tossing his car around the quarter-mile oval’s cushion en route to beating Moran by 1.857 seconds. Babb crossed the finish line nearly 1 second behind Moran while Frank Heckenast Jr. claimed the fourth and final transfer spot after staving off a late threat from Ryan Unzicker.

Pierce thought he was “kind of a sitting duck there” when Babb made his charge because he “wasn’t good on the bottom,” but he managed to hold on.

“I had to really change my line up on top to get going,” Pierce said. “Having to run different styles of the top in both corners was pretty tricky. I could kind of run it like I normally do in three and four, and then in one and two I had to really be cautious. I didn’t want that tire to seal up on me going into one and then slide up and hit the cushion and hit the wall and ruin it for myself.”

Two early caution flags also slowed the race. The first came on lap three when Blake Spencer snapped around in turn four and was hit in his right side by Gregg Satterlee; both cars were towed off (Spencer’s between two wreckers). Shortly thereafter, on lap four, Tyler Erb spun between turns three and four as he was racing for second with Moran; Erb wasn’t hit by any passing cars but drove into the infield and retired with apparent front-end damage.

Finish (top four transfer to Saturday feature): Bobby Pierce, Devin Moran, Shannon Babb, Frank Heckenast Jr., Ryan Unzicker, Jay Morris, Myles Moos, Jason Wagner, Steve Thorsten, Bob Gardner, Greg Wagner, Derek Doll, Daniel Flessner, Rich Bell, Tyler Erb, Blake Spencer, Gregg Satterlee (DNS) Matt Shannon.

Third qualifying feature

Chris Ferguson has dearly wanted to stand in Fairbury Speedway’s victory lane. He finally achieved his goal with a dramatic triumph in the third 25-lap qualifying feature.

After chasing leader Mike Marlar for nearly the entire distance, Ferguson pulled a breathtaking three-wide move underneath both Marlar and Brian Shirley down the backstretch to surge ahead as lap 23 was scored. The North Carolina driver then turned back a white-flag challenge from Marlar to be the 2018 World of Outlaws champion by 1.171 seconds for an emotional win worth $2,500.

Shirley finished third, but as the race wound down it appeared the 2019 DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion might emerge victorious. He got rolling on the outside of the track to overtake Ferguson for second on lap 17 and was about to challenge the inside-running Marlar for the top spot when a caution flag flew on the 18th circuit for Mike McGuire’s spin between turns one and two.

Following the restart, Shirley turned up the heat on Marlar and on lap 22 executed a slider on the leader to surge ahead in turn two. But Marlar crossed over underneath Shirley off the corner and Ferguson went even lower to accomplish his winning three-abreast move.

“I love this place,” Ferguson told the fans after the race. “This is my home away from home. Sorry I wasn’t on the cushion tonight, but we had to get it done on the bottom.

“I knew Mikey (Marlar) was pretty good, but we were a little bit better than him on the bottom. Once he ran my line I just kind of had to settle. I seen Shirley peaking out there (on the outside), and when he threw that slider in one and two I was like, ‘Don’t miss the bottom.’

“Them two guys are two of the best,” he added. “To come out here and outrun them, it’s awesome.”

Kyle Bronson grabbed the final transfer spot after overtaking Jimmy Owens for fourth on lap 21.

A caution flag flew on lap five when Steven Roberts and Allen Weisser tangled between turns three and four. During the caution period Tim McCreadie limped into the infield with the right-rear tire down on his K&L Rumley No. 6 after catching a piece of the incident.

Finish (top four transfer to Saturday feature): Chris Ferguson, Mike Marlar, Brian Shirley, Kyle Bronson, Jimmy Owens, Jonathan Davenport, Hudson O’Neal, Allen Murray, Jason Feger, Tim McCreadie, Jeff Curl, Justin Reed, Steven Roberts, Allen Weisser, Tyler Dietz, Jonathan Brauns, Victor Benedetto, Mike McGuire.

Fourth qualifying feature

Shane Clanton powered around the outside of race-long pacesetter and fellow Georgian Ashton Winger — a teenager he’s watched grow up — to assume command and outran Billy Drake in the final circuits to capture the fourth 25-lap qualifying feature.

Drake slipped by Winger for second on lap 16 and soon closed up within striking distance of Clanton, but Clanton gained some breathing room when he cleared a pair of lapped cars and survived Drake’s last-ditch bid on the final circuit to claim the $2,500 top prize by 0.515 of a second.

“To dig ourselves out a hole that we dug — we qualified 12th in our group and started sixth — and to win the race, it felt real good,” said Clanton, whose career-best PDC finish is third in 2016. “We could go anywhere I wanted to on the racetrack. My (crew) guy signaled me there with five (laps) to go to get to the bottom and we pulled away (from Drake) so that felt real good.”

WoO Rookie of the Year leader Ricky Weiss finished third after sliding past Winger on lap 23 and Kent Robinson stole fourth from Winger with a last-lap, last-turn pass. Winger settled for fifth, falling one spot short of transferring to the Prairie Dirt Classic A-main in his first attempt at the event.

The race’s lone caution flag flew on lap nine for Lyle Zanker’s spin.

Finish (top four transfer to Saturday feature): Shane Clanton, Billy Drake, Ricky Weiss, Kent Robinson, Ashton Winger, McKay Wenger, Mike Spatola, Mason Zeigler, Derek Chandler, Kevin Weaver, Billy Moyer, Scott Schmitt, Brent Larson, Lyle Zanker, Kolby Vandenbergh, Glen Thompson, Cullen Breeden, Bill Kettering Jr.

Qualifying feature lineups

(25 laps; top 4 transfer to 100-lap PDC)
First feature
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Chase Junghans
Row 2: Cade Dillard, Mike Mataragas
Row 3: Darrell Lanigan, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 4: Jimmy Mars, Chris Simpson
Row 5: Gordy Gundaker, Paul Stubber
Row 6: Boom Briggs, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 7: Jay Sparks, Kody Evans
Row 8: Joey Moriarty, Brent McKinnon
Row 9: Curtis Radke, Paul Parker
Second feature
Row 1: Tyler Erb, Bobby Pierce
Row 2: Devin Moran, Ryan Unzicker
Row 3: Shannon Babb, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 4: Bob Gardner, Jay Morris
Row 5: Gregg Satterlee, Rich Bell
Row 6: Daniel Flessner, Myles Moos
Row 7: Steve Thorsten, Derek Doll
Row 8: Jason Wagner, Blake Spencer
Row 9: Greg Wagner, Matt Shannon
Third feature
Row 1: Mike Marlar, Hudson O’Neal
Row 2: Chris Ferguson, Brian Shirley
Row 3: Steve Roberts, Jimmy Owens
Row 4: Kyle Bronson, Jonathan Davenport
Row 5: Allen Weisser, Jonathan Brauns
Row 6: Tim McCreadie, Jason Feger
Row 7: Allen Murray, Jeff Curl
Row 8:  Tyler Dietz, Justin Reed
Row 9: Victor Benedetto, Mike McGuire
Fourth heat
Row 1: Ashton Winger, McKay Wenger
Row 2: Kevin Weaver, Ricky Weiss
Row 3: Billy Drake, Shane Clanton
Row 4: Scott Schmitt, Kent Robinson
Row 5: Mike Spatola, Mason Zeigler
Row 6: Kolby Vandenbergh, Lyle Zanker
Row 7: Brent Larson, Billy Moyer
Row 8: Derek Chandler, Glen Thompson
Row 9: Cullen Breeden, Bill Kettering Jr.


Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., ripped off the overall fastest lap in qualifying, rounding the quarter-mile oval in 13.112 seconds in the first group. His effort earned him the pole position for the first of the four 25-lap qualifying features.

Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., was quickest in the second at 13.267 seconds, putting him on the pole of the third qualifying feature.

Both Sheppard and Marlar earned $200 bonuses for their qualifying performances from Schahrer Farms & Trucking.

Other pole starters are Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, and Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga.

Pre-race notes

With absolutely gorgeous weather conditions prevailing — partly sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s — a field of 72 cars is signed in for the start of the 30th annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac. It’s the largest turnout for the race since it expanded in 2013 to a weekend format sanctioned by the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series. … Former PDC winner Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., is driving — at least for one night — his Pennsylvania buddy Mason Zeigler’s second XR1 Rocket No. 25z because his Lance Landers-owned team was unable to make it to Fairbury for Friday’s action. Davenport’s crew chief, Jason Durham, was about an hour out from his Kentucky shop en route to Fairbury on Thursday night when an inside bearing broke on the trailer’s back axle, causing a brief flareup that filled the inside of the trailer with smoke but fortunately didn’t develop into a devastating full-blown fire. With Davenport flying into Fairbury on Thursday, he made a deal to run Zeigler’s car in Friday’s qualifying (and borrow a helmet and uniform from Zeigler) in hopes that Durham will be able to bring J.D.’s No. 49 to the track on Saturday after trailer repairs are completed. … Defending PDC champion Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, is back at Fairbury driving for Tye Twarog of Coshocton, Ohio, who fielded the No. 9 Moran piloted to victory last year. Twarog also experienced some toterhome mechanical trouble that prevented him from running Wednesday night’s WoO show at Davenport (Iowa) Speedway with Moran; Twarog borrowed a hauler from Ohio modified racer Brad Goff — a rig that Goff purchased from Northeast big-block modified star Brett Hearn — to make the trip to Fairbury. … Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., is racing one night after flipping wildly during the completion of the postponed DIRTcar Summer Nationals at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway. He has shifted to his backup car for the weekend because the machine he rolled will need some frame repairs at Rocket Chassis in Shinnston, W.Va., after this weekend’s action. … Fifty-three UMP modifieds are also signed in for competition, jamming virtually every available inch of Fairbury’s pit area.

Pre-race setup

The 30th annual Prairie Dirt Classic presented by Bank of Pontiac — the biggest and, at $30,000 to win, richest Dirt Late Model event of the season in the state of Illinois — kicks off Friday night with a qualifying program that boasts a unique qualifying format for the third consecutive year.

In its seventh year as a big-money, mid-summer spectacular under the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series banner, Friday’s action will begin with time trials that set the lineups for four 25-lap qualifying features that each pay $2,500 to win and $200 to start. The top four finishers from each preliminary will move on to Saturday night’s 100-lap finale while the remainder will run B-mains before the century grind.

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 that carries a $30,000 winner’s check for the third consecutive year.

Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, won last year’s PDC for the first time in his career. Other winners since the event moved to late-July from its traditional Labor Day weekend date include Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill. (2013), Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. (’14), Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga. (’15), Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga. ('16) and Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. ('17).

UMP modifieds will also compete in a Friday-night qualifying card that includes four 20-lap “qualifying” features paying $500 to win each. The division’s $5,000-to-win feature shares the Saturday-evening program.

Qualifying results

First group   
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 13.112
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 13.207
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 13.211
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 13.327
Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 13.415
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 13.417
Mike Mataragas (1m), Dekalb, Ill., 13.442
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 13.509
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 13.528
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 13.538
Ricky Thornton Jr. (20RT), Chandler, Ariz., 13.552
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Frankfort, Ill., 13.555
Jimmy Mars (28m), Menomonie, Wis., 13.588
Bob Gardner (4G), E. Peoria, Ill., 13.601
Chris Simpson (32s), Oxford, Iowa, 13.643
Jay Morris (77m), Watseka, Ill., 13.696
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 13.706
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 13.770
Paul Stubber (31AUS), Bunbury, W. Australia, 13.798
Rich Bell (21b), Sheffield, Ill., 13.829
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 13.838
Daniel Flessner (9D), Roberts, Ill., 13.877
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 13.915
Myles Moos (84), Lincoln, Ill., 13.974
Jay Sparks (7s), Metamora, Ill., 14.018
Steve Thorsten (7T), Ashcum, Ill., 14.047
Kody Evans (4G), Camden, Ohio, 14.117
Derek Doll (87), Greenwood, W.Va., 14.170
Joey Moriarty (51), Denver, N.C., 14.176
Jason Wagner (J12), Polo, Ill., 14.393
Brent McKinnon (26M), Carlyle, Ill., 14.739
Blake Spencer (6), St. Augustine, Fla., 14.743
Curtis Radke (61), Milford, Ill., 14.756
Greg Wagner (79w), Polo, Ill., 14.808
Paul Parker (10), Kaukauna, Wis., no time
Matt Shannon (15), Bartonville, Ill., no time
Second group   
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 13.267
Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga., 13.509
Hudson O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 13.639
McKay Wenger (42), Fairbury, Ill., 13.682
Chris Ferguson (22), Mt. Holly, N.C., 13.747
Kevin Weaver (b12), Gibson City, Ill., 13.751
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 13.828
Ricky Weiss (7w), Headingly, Manitoba, 13.829
Steven Roberts (111), Jesup, Ga., 13.856
Billy Drake (75), Bloomington, Ill., 13.872
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 13.877
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 13.885
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 13.935
Scott Schmitt (10s), Tonica, Ill., 13.956
Jonathan Davenport (25d), Blairsville, Ga., 13.958
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 13.991
Allen Weisser (25W), Peoria, Ill., 13.996
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 14.022
Jonathan Brauns (22b), Muscatine, Iowa, 14.053
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 14.082
Tim McCreadie (6M), Watertown, N.Y., 14.089
Kolby Vandenbergh (15v), Ashland, Ill., 14.165
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 14.176
Lyle Zanker (9z), Rockford, Ill., 14.182
Allen Murray (2), San Antonio, Texas, 14.233
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 14.262
Jeff Curl (12c), Fairbury, Ill., 14.303
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 14.415
Tyler Dietz (77), Saxonburg, Pa., 14.448
Derek Chandler (35), Pontiac, Ill., 14.462
Justin Reed (11r), Camp Point, Ill., 14.722
Glen Thompson (14T), Buckingham, Ill., 14.854
Victor Benedetto (14v), Sycamore, Ill., 15.142
Cullen Breeden (09), Forrest, Ill., 15.287
Mike McGuire (44), Forrest, Ill., 15.591
Bill Kettering Jr. (25K), Pekin, Ill., 15.897

Friday’s schedule

5:30 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
6 p.m.: On-track action
- WoO Late Model hot laps
- UMP modified hot laps/qualifying
- WoO Late Model qualifying
- UMP modified showdown features
- WoO Late Model showdown features

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