Racing from FALS

Six divisions of racing took place Saturday night at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway, including the Vintage Racing of Illinois series.
    Taking checkered flags were Brian Shirley (late model), Ryan Thomas (modified), Joe Brown (street stock), Brandon Pralle (sportsman), Brendan Patterson (hobby-modified) and Robert Mitchell (vintage).
    Fairbury’s Troy Ricketts set quick time for the eight hobby-modified drivers on hand for the 12-lap race with a time of 16.305 seconds. Ricketts was also the winner of the heat race.
    Mike Petersen led the first lap of the feature before Spring Bay’s Brendan Patterson moved to the front. Petersen was involved in a wreck on the fourth lap for a caution.
    On the restart, Patterson pulled away from his competition as Petersen’s car experienced trouble. Following a caution with one lap remaining, Patterson pulled away to secure his third straight win of the season.
    “Thanks to my Dad, we were able make the right adjustments for the feature,” said Patterson. “I would not believe we could have won three straight races.”
    Ricketts took the runner-up spot, followed by Petersen, Makinzi Semmens and Thad Gee.
    Although nine street stock drivers checked in for their 15-lap race, they were all quality drivers. Dwight’s Rick Thomas led the way in qualifying at 16.266 seconds, and Wilmington’s Joe Brown was the heat race victor.
    Brown led the first lap before AJ Meiferdt inched by to lead lap two. Brown reclaimed the lead on lap three and took command for his second win of the year.
    Meiferdt (hard charger) held off Thomas for second, with Al Gray and Pete Odell completing the top five.
    Cullom’s Amber Crouch turned back 12 sportsman drivers in qualifying at a 15.461 clip for the 15-lap race. Ashkum’s Brandon Pralle and Joliet veteran Richard Craven bagged heat race wins.
    Pralle and Craven battled neck and neck for the lead at the start, but as the leaders rounded the third turn, Craven’s car climbed the wall and fell back eighth place. Pralle put on a dominating performance in a caution-free race, leading flag-to-flag for his second straight win.
    “Thanks to Fairbury for giving us an amazing track tonight,” said Pralle. “Thanks to my sponsors and crew for getting the back together.”
    Crouch settled for second, with Rod Rusher, Matt Ramer and Richard Craven following.
    There were 16 drivers from the Vintage Racing of Illinois Series signed in for a 15-lap special event. Austin Lipe (West Brooklyn) and Matt Ramer (Mendota) claimed heat race wins.
    Ladd’s Robert Mitchell took the lead after early race leader, David Moore got loose exiting turn two. Mitchell was able to use slower traffic to his advantage and take the win.
    “I want to thank Matt Ramer for all they do for the series,” said Mitchell. “All I have to do is show up with a helmet and race. A lot of tracks don’t want to have our series, so thanks to all the tracks that allow us to put on a show for the fans.”
    Ramer took second, followed by John Ryan, Justin Rutledge and Randy Lucas.
    Plainfield native Mike McKinney edged his competitors in time trials with a lap of 13.913 seconds in the modified division. McKinney, Brownstown, Ind., hot shoe Ryan Thomas and New Lenox driver Steven Brooks picked up heat race wins.
    Thomas, the owner and builder of Diamond Race Cars, moved into the lead on the 10th lap and pulled away for a convincing win in the 20-lap feature, which was his first at FALS. McKinney placed second, with Brooks, Tyler Nicely and Jeffrey Ledford following in the top five.
    “This is the fourth time I have raced here and we have struggled in the past. We went to Danville for the AMS race, but with the rain, we decided to come here,” Thomas said in victory lane. “I have to thank everyone for all their hard work in making this car work and thanks to all my Diamond drivers for the feedback. It is really paying off this year.”
    Mooresville, N.C, driver Nick Hoffman was the fast qualifier at 12.944 seconds for the 17 late model drivers looking to take gold in a 30-lap contest. Manhattan’s Mike Spatola and Chatham’s Shirley won heat races.
    After a caution on the opening lap, Shirley won the drag race to take the lead, as Spatola tried the top and bottom grooves to keep pace. Jose Parga briefly took second, but tagged the front stretch wall, enabling Spatola to move back into the runnerup position.
    Seventh-starting Scott Schmitt was on a roll and moved into the third spot on lap six. While Shirley was working slower traffic, Spatola closed the gap to a car length.
    Shirley, Spatola and Schmitt, running the top side, were able to pull away from the field and set the stage for a shootout.
    Schmitt went to the bottom of the speedway and took over the lead on the 17th circuit. With nine laps left in the race, Schmitt tagged the wall in turn two for a caution.
    Shirley was able to fend off the constant pressure from Spatola in the final laps to claim the victory. Spatola, Rusty Schlenk (hard charger), Kevin Weaver and Hoffman made up the top five.
    “I felt we were pretty good,” Shirley said. “I was trying to ride the top, but the cushion was treacherous. I really wasn’t wanting to go as fast as Mike on the top.
    “We did what we had to do and bid our time. The bottom was actually the best place to be. Schmitt got by us and then I got back by him on the bottom when we got into lapped traffic.”
    Memorial Day weekend at the speedway brings extra money on the line. The AMS Modified Series will be in town for a $2,000 special. Late models battle for a $2,000 first prize, street stocks and sportsman have a $400-to-win pay day, and the pro late model drivers make an appearance with $1,000 awaiting the winner. Gates open at 3 p.m., hot laps are at 6, with qualifying at 6:30, and racing will follow.