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Farmer City Raceway

Richards outruns Babb, wins key Illini 100 heat

April 3, 2009, 7:47 pm
From series and staff reports
Richie Hedrick races to a heat victory. (Jim DenHamer)
Richie Hedrick races to a heat victory. (Jim DenHamer)

FARMER CITY, Ill. (April 3) — Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., did what few drivers are able to do at Farmer City Raceway on Friday night – outrun Moweaqua, Ill.’s Shannon Babb. But while Richards beat the master of the quarter-mile oval to capture a heat race for Saturday night’s second annual World of Outlaws Late Model Series Illini 100, the 21-year-old knows he has a tough road ahead of him in the weekend’s $20,000-to-win finale. | Slideshow

“Shannon is always fast here and he’ll be the guy to beat,” said Richards, who leads the WoO points standings entering the season’s sixth event. “I just was able to get ahead of him at the start of the heat because the top (groove) was the preferred line and that’s where I started (alongside Babb on the front row).”

Richards was certainly pleased with the performance of his Rocket Chassis house car, giving him high hopes that he can pull off the richest victory of his career at a bullring he loves to visit.

“My car felt like it was pretty good,” said Richards, who has a top-five finish in four of the five WoO LMS A-Mains contested to date. “We wanted to come here and have a solid qualifying night and we did that, and now we’ll concentrate on (the Illini 100) and hopefully we’ll have everything go our way.

“I’m excited,” he continued. “This place is fun to race. It’s usually fast early in the night and by feature time you can really move all over. I think that’s what it’ll be like (on Saturday night), so we’ll have to be fast to stay up front.”

Babb, who registered the fastest lap of the 51 drivers taking time-trial circuits on Friday night (12.179 seconds), settled for second place in the first 10-lap heat. He’ll start seventh in the Illini 100, behind the six Friday-night heat winners who will redraw for positions 1-6 in the feature event. Other heat winners were Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., Richie Hedrick of Urbana, Ill., and Rick Eckert of York, Pa. — Kevin Kovac

A recap of Friday night's action:

Sixth heat

Taking advantage of Chub Frank's troubles, polesitter Rick Eckert led the final six laps for a heat victory. Eckert fought off fourth-starting Brady Smith on a lap-four restart and the top two pulled away the rest of the prelim. Frank, the outside front-row starter who led the first four laps before a flat tire sent him pitside, rallied from the tail in the second half of the race to get third. Frank worked under Donny Walden exiting turn two on the final lap to secure the spot. Walden got out of shape and slipped to fifth behind Ryan Unzicker.

Finish: Rick Eckert, Brady Smith, Chub Frank, Ryan Unzicker, Donny Walden, Dustin Hapka, Jill George, Roben Huffman.

Fifth heat

Rebounding from his 2008 Illini 100 that saw him wreck two cars, Richie Hedrick dominated from the pole, topping fourth-starting Matt Lux by less than a half-straightaway. Lux was second just ahead of fifth-starting Tim Fuller, the final of three transferring drivers. Steve Sheppard Jr. was running third in the second half of the race when he slipped off the backstretch, giving up the spot to Fuller. Sheppard ended up sixth. The first start was called back when Sheppard got sideways between turns one and two, sending half the eight-car field scrambling. Outside front-row starter Vic Coffey slipped back to fourth early and spun in turn two on the fifth lap; he retired.

Finish: Richie Hedrick, Matt Lux, Tim Fuller, Jordan Bland, Jeremy Conaway, Steve Sheppard Jr., Vic Coffey, Russ Adams.

Fourth heat

Shane Clanton topped polesitter Darrell Lanigan to become the third heat winner from outside the front row. Lanigan couldn't stay in touch with Clanton as they ran the high groove, finishing six lengths back. Will Vaught was further back in the third transfer spot ahead of Dennis Erb Jr. The race ran caution-free, but the lapped car of Chas Shellenberger got hard into the turn-four wall as Clanton slid past with four laps remaining. Shellenberger never lost control and rejoined the race.

Finish: Shane Clanton, Darrell Lanigan, Will Vaught, Dennis Erb Jr., Brian Shirley, Tyler Reddick, Rich Bell, Chas Shellenberger.

Third heat

Polesittter Jimmy Mars cruised to victory, leading all 10 laps and buildiing leads of more than a straightaway on runner-up Joe Harlan. Harlan, who inherited a front-row starting spot, transferred to the feature along with two-time WISSOTA champ Zach Johnson, who battled early with Derek Chandler and held off a late charge from Eric Smith. Chandler spun on the eighth lap running sixth. Smith lost the outside front-row starting spot when he spun on the initial start, drawing a caution; with just four cars finishing and a lap-eight caution, Smith was right in the mix at the end, flashing past the flagstand just behind Harlan and Johnson.

Finish: Jimmy Mars, Joe Harlan, Zach Johnson, Eric Smith, Scott Bull, Derek Chandler, Eric Vaughan, Gary Cook Jr.

Second heat

Outside front-row starter Brian Brian Birkhofer fought off a late charger from polesitter Steve Francis to win the 10-lapper. Birkhofer was slowed by lapped traffic heading for the white flag when Francis grabbed the lead. But Birkhofer answered the move, going back ahead before the frontrunners entered turn two. Fourth-starting Jason Feger got the third and final transfer spot in the caution-free prelim.

Finish: Brian Birkhofer, Steve Francis, Jason Feger, Brandon Sheppard, Russ King, Kevin Weaver, Ted Loomis, Adam Mefford, Cory Daugherty.

First heat

Josh Richards jumped into the lead from outside the front row and fought off challenges from polesitter and fast qualifier Shannon Babb through the last half of the race. The top two finished nearly a half-lap ahead of third-finishing Clint Smith, the third of three drivers transferring to the main event. Teen Jimmy Dehm was further back in fourth. Two cautions waved early, first for Kerry Mathew on the initial start on then for a spin by Mike Mataragas on the second lap. Mataragas pulled into the infield on the fourth lap.

Finish: Josh Richards, Shannon Babb, Clint Smith, Jimmy Dehm, Kerry Mathew, Daren Friedman, Brent Robinson, Mike Mataragas.


Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., who had to rally from the tail in finishing second at last year's Illini 100, is primed for an easier path to the front after topping 51 qualifiers in Friday's time trial for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series event at Farmer City Raceway.

Babb, who led the late stages of last year's evening before falling to Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., heading for the white flag, posted a lap of 12.179 seconds on the quarter-mile oval.

Six heat races are scheduled for later Friday evening while the $20,000-to-win main event is scheduled for Saturday night. Consolation races and a non-qualifiers' race are also on Saturday's program.

Besides Babb, other drivers scheduled to start on the pole of heat races are Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky. (12.231 seconds), Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis. (12.305), Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky. (12.328), Richie Hedrick of Urbana, Ill. (12.347) and Rick Eckert of York, Pa. (12.408)

Pre-race notes

The five fast qualifiers were among the first 17 cars to qualify. ... The sixth fastest, Rick Eckert, was the 37th qualifier. ... Jon Rogers of German Valley, Ill., flipped his Out-Pace-sponsored No. 61 in hot laps in turn one. He didn't appear to be injured. ... Ted Loomis of Kingston, Ill., had steering problems in time trials. ... Steve Sheppard Jr. slipped over the turn-one banking on his first qualifying lap. ... The crowd gave itself a big cheer following the national anthem. When the P.A. recording of the anthem cut off midway through, spectators took it upon themselves to finish up with a not-quite-in-tune rendition. ... Crate Late Models are also on the card with modifieds and street stocks.

Time trials (unofficial)

Driver (car no.), hometown, time
  1. Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 12.179
  2. Steve Francis (19), Ashland, Ky., 12.231
  3. Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 12.305
  4. Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 12.328
  5. Richie Hedrick (0), Urbana, Ill., 12.347
  6. Rick Eckert (24), York, Pa., 12.408
  7. Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 12.434
  8. Brian Birkhofer (15B), Muscatine, Iowa, 12.471
  9. Eric Smith (9), Bloomington, Ill., 12.523
  10. Shane Clanton (25), Locust Grove, Ga., 12.537
  11. Vic Coffey (32c), Caledonia, N.Y., 12.543
  12. Clint Smith (44), Senoia, Ga., 12.554
  13. Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 12.584
  14. Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 12.596
  15. Derek Chandler (35), Pontiac, Ill., 12.601
  16. Will Vaught (1v), Crane, Mo., 12.672
  17. Steve Sheppard Jr. (5s), New Berlin, Ill., 12.698
  18. Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 12.721
  19. Jimmy Dehm (99j), Lexington, Ill., 12.732
  20. Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 12.752
  21. Joe Harlan (Z), El Paso, Ill., 12.765
  22. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 12.783
  23. Matt Lux (21), Franklin, Ill., 12.8
  24. Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., 12.836
  25. Daren Friedman (89), Forrest, Ill., 12.862
  26. Kevin Weaver (B12), Gibson City, Ill., 12.883
  27. Scott Bull (83), Fairbury, Ill., 12.903
  28. Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 12.94
  29. Tim Fuller (19), Watertown, N.Y., 12.964
  30. Donny Walden (1w), Towanda, Ill., 13.04
  31. Kerry Mathew (14), Renssealear, Ind., 13.053
  32. Russ King (56k), Bristolville, Ohio, 13.089
  33. Zach Johnson (73), Kensington, Minn., 13.096
  34. Tyler Reddick (11), Corning, Calif., 13.103
  35. Jeremy Conaway (F15), Springfield, Ill., 13.294
  36. Dustin Hapka (18), Grand Forks, N.D., 13.302
  37. Brent Robinson (3), Smithfield, Va., 13.308
  38. Cory Daugherty (96), Blue Mound, Ill., 13.352
  39. Eric Vaughan (36), Fairbury, Ill., 13.356
  40. Rich Bell (21B), Sheffield, Ill., 13.409
  41. Jordan Bland (12), Campbellsville, Ky., 13.425
  42. Jill George (22), Cedar Falls, Iowa, 13.656
  43. Mike Mataragas (1m), Dekalb, Ill., 13.756
  44. Adam Mefford (7m), Jacksonville, Ill., 13.767
  45. Gary Cook Jr. (64), Deer Creek, Ill., 13.806
  46. Chas Shellenberger (56s), Winfield, Pa., 13.94
  47. Russ Adams (74), Princeton, Ill., 14.003
  48. Roben Huffman (33H), Clinton, Ill., 14.193
  49. Paul Zehr (z45), Fisher, Ill., 14.626
  50. Ted Loomis (23), Kingston, Ill., no time
  51. Jon Rogers (61), German Valley, Ill., no time
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