Racing from FALS on Saturday
Street stock drivers were featured in the first special event of the year at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway as the 9th annual Earl J. Hubert Memorial drew 28 of the finest drivers in the area for their 43-lap, $2,000-to-win show down Saturday at Fairbury American Legion Speedway.
It was Pete Odell hanging on over the final 18 laps to capture the top prize and find his way into Victory Lane.
Also pulling in as race winners on the night were Brandon Pralle (sportsman), Mike McKinney (modified) and Ryan Unzicker (late model).
Matt Hammond took fast time honors with at a 15.639-second circuit in warmups. Hammond, Michael Clark and Jeremy Nichols won their respective heat races. Before the feature, the top two finishers in each heat race ran a trophy dash to determine the first six starting spots for their feature race, which Hammond was also able to win.
Nichols out powered Hammond at the start of the race with Jason Maier, Joe Brown and Clark following. Nichols set a blistering pace, running the top side of the track, and moved by slower cars by the fourth lap.
Starting in the eighth position, AJ Meiferdt moved into fourth by the ninth lap. Nichols held a straight away lead over his competitors, but disaster fell on the 13th lap as he spun out on the front stretch for a caution. He had to go to the rear of the field.
Brown took over the first position and on the restart, Meiferdt got by Hammond for second. After a caution on the next lap, Brown and Meiferdt put the gloves on in a battle for first.
Running the bottom of the track, Odell made his presence known and soon found himself in the third spot. With Meiferdt and Brown on the top, Odell was able to move into first place on the 25th lap and extended his lead. Maier got by Brown for third and offered a brief challenge to Meiferdt, as Nick Macklin moved into fifth.
A caution fell with four laps to go and gave the defending Hubert race winner, Meiferdt, an opportunity to overtake Odell. With a go-for-broke attitude, Meiferdt tried the top and bottom groove, but Odell was able to withstand Meiferdt’s challenge and take his first-ever feature win at FALS.
“I started in the middle of the pack and was racing Tanner Sullivan for position,” Odell said. “After the first caution, I didn’t think I was going to be able to go anywhere. All of a sudden everyone was going back and I kept telling myself to hold your line, stay calm, and don’t drive over your head. I did just that.
“This is an awesome feeling. I want to thank my dad, the Hubert family, and Fairbury for putting this race on.”
Meiferdt was second with Jason Maier, Macklin and Matt Maieralso in the top five. Jerrad Krick led the second five with Brown, Don Hilleary, Darrell Dick and Nichols in tow.
For the 15-lap sportsman race, Steve Mattingly was the night’s fast qualifier with a time of 15.271 seconds. Mattingly and Pralle were the heat race victors.
Taking last week off to attend a prom, Pralle wasted little time in getting back into the groove. After two early cautions, Pralle pulled away from the field to register his first win of the year. Richard Craven held off Mattingly for second with Amber Crouch, Matt Ramer, Anthony Craven, Michael Ledford, Tyler Roth, Valerie Hurt and Eric Saltzman finishing in the top 10 positions.
“Thanks to Fairbury for giving us an amazing track tonight,” said Pralle. “I also want to thank Roger Friedman for the tremendous horsepower.”
McKay Wenger turned back 19 other modified drivers in time trials with a lap of 14.163 seconds. Last week’s winner, Mike McKinney, and Allen Weisser picked up heat race wins.
Four caution flags waved during the first 10 laps of the 20-lap race. On the final caution, McKinney walked the dog over his competitors and pulled away for an easy win. Weisser, Steven Brooks, Wenger and Jim Farris Jr. followed in the top five. Allan Stipp, Jared Spalding, Dave Lija, Nick Clubb and Justin Gregory rounded out the top 10.
“There were some good cars here tonight,” McKinney said. “I am sure the fans miss me running the top side, but it just goes to show you how good this race car is, to run on the top or bottom.”
Mike Spatola was the fast qualifier for the 18 cars on hand for the 30-lap late model feature race. Spatola, who won last week, and Scott Schmitt picked up heat race wins.
After a caution on the opening lap, Schmitt, Spatola and Jason Feger engaged in a spirited race for the top position. Fourth starter Unzicker soon joined in and was able to take over first place on the eighth lap. Spatola, Kevin Weaver, Feger and Allen Weisser in the top five trying to give chase.
Following cautions on laps nine and 10, Unzicker vaulted to a 10-car length lead.Meanwhile, Weaver looked to take second from Spatola but with no success.
At the halfway mark of the race, Unzicker and Spatola were able to distance themselves from the competition. Weisser was on the move and got by Weaver for third.
In the closing laps, Unzicker had some anxious moments with five cars, in their own race for position, in front of him. Spatola was able to close in on Unzicker, but the defending track champion treaded his way by and took the win.
Spatola held off Weisser for second, with Feger in third and Bob Gardner and Weaver following. Derek Chandler led the second five home with Collin Alexander, Jeff Curl and Glen Thompson in tow.
“I had to work for that win,” explained Unzicker. “We had a heck of a track tonight. My car was good on the bottom.
“Once I caught up to the lapped traffic, Dan Rork was telling me that Spatola was gaining on me. I went to the top and the car worked good up there.”
The MARS and ALMS Late Model series will be in the house for a 50-lap, $10,000 first place payout to the winner this week. Added money has been posted with the modified class in a $2,000-to-win race and sportsman going for a $400-to-win special.