Racing from American Legion Speedway
With 120 race cars jammed in the pit area Saturday night, the Fairbury American Legion Speedway played host to the eighth annual “DIRTcar Street Stock Spring Nationals, in Memory of Earl J. Hubert.”
But the night will be remembered as historical thanks to a little lady from Cullom's patience and good fortune that allowed for her to persevere.
Other winners on the night were AJ Meiferdt (street stock), Danny Schwartz (modified), Ryan Unzicker (late model) and Josh McKendrick (hobby modified) visited the winner's circle.
On a day that saw the Run for the Roses, it was only fitting that a filly came through with a little history as Crouch captured the sportsman feature, making her the first female driver to take a feature checkered flag in the 71-year history the speedway.
Scott Williams and Lake Nichoalds took their respective heat race wins to lead 14 CR Towing Sportsman competitors for their 15-lap feature after. After contenders Williams and Steven Mattingly dropped out with mechanical problems, Nichoalds led with Anthony Craven, Rick Thomas, Tyler Roth and Crouch following.
Craven made several attempts to take the lead but Nichoalds was able to hang. Following a caution flag, drivers were told on their race receiver that the race would end after the final restart.
When the race went back to green, Craven got under Nichoalds to take the lead. As the drivers approached the final turn, Nichoalds jumped the cushion and Craven’s car got loose exiting turn four.
Crouch was able to seize the moment and drove the final 50 yards to her first career win.
“It was a crazy race,” an emotional Crouch said in victory lane. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the hard work by my crew.”
Thomas, Craven, Bryant Frechette (hard charger), Dustin Mounce, Richard Craven, Nichoalds, Roth, Eric Legner and Gregg Paul completed the top 10.
Joe Brown was the fast qualifier over 48 other driver's in the Tool’s Auto Sales Street Stock field. Brown, Dane Arvin, Jerrard Krick, Meiferdt, and Jeremy Nichols won heat races. Justin Hamm and Jim Ransom won semi features.
Arvin took an early lead in the 43-lap event with Nichols, Meiferdt, Krick and Darrel Dick following. Meiferdt moved into the lead on lap 14 followed by Krick and Nichols.
Although cautions were a problem during the course of the race, Meiferdt held a 10-car-length lead by lap 25, with Nichols fighting an ill-handling car to keep Meiferdt within distance.
When the field went green after a lap 29 caution, Rick Thomas stuck his car in the middle groove to take the lead, with Nichols and Meiferdt trailing. Nichols moved to the point with six laps remaining, as the top three separated themselves from the field.
Meiferdt pulled alongside of Nichols with three laps to go, reclaimed the lead and became the eighth winner in the prestigious race. Winning more than $2,400, including lap money, Meiferdt commented in victory lane, “Perseverance was the name of the game.
“The cautions were killing me. I saw Nichols go by me on the high side and went back to work.”
Nichols, Thomas, Curtis Radke (hard charger) and Brown completed the top five. Mike Behm, Andy Thompson, Ransom, Krick and Andrew Funk made up the second five as only six cars were left on the track when the race ended.
Jeffrey Ledford had the quickest hot lap time at 13.986 seconds and he won a heat race as a lead in to the Varsitee Screen Printing Modified race. Ledford, TD Burger and Schwartz were heat victors.
When the field went back to green after a caution on the first lap, Ledford suddenly slowed in turn one and was collected by Nick Clubb, Vince Cooper and Jimmy Dehm. On the restart, Burger, Schwartz and Mike McKinney raced three wide for the lead before Schwartz laid claim to the top position.
Schwartz held a straightaway lead and found himself with that same advantage by the sixth lap. After a caution on lap 13, McKinney made a brief charge for the lead, but Schwartz had to strong of a car on this night.
Burger stayed with McKinney, but wasn’t able to make the pass. Schwartz, a second-generation driver, was able to take his first Fairbury feature win.
“This was the first night out on a new car for us. I am just glad to get this win,” Schwartz said.
McKinney was next with Burger taking third. Travis Kohler and Jeff Curl followed in the top five. Jimmy Dehm led the second five with Alan Stipp (hard charger), Michael Mennel, Logan Rogers and Eric Vaughan in tow.
Hometown driver McKay Wenger set the fast time at a 12.770 seconds as 25 I Beam Sliding Doors Late Model drivers attempted to qualify for the 30-lap race. Heat races were won by Wenger, Kevin Weaver and Unzicker.
Wenger’s car bobbled at the start of the race, allowing Unzicker to take a lead he never relinquished. Unzicker quickly pulled away from the competition while Scott Bull top over second. Bull worked through slower cars made a valiant effort to close in on Unzicker just after the halfway mark.
In the closing stages of the feature, Derek Chandler, sticking to the bottom of the track, took over second, but Unzicker, a former UMP national champion, was the class of the field and took the win.
“This is our first win of the year and hopefully they keep coming,” commented Unzicker. “We have a pretty good car and we will just keep tweaking on it.”
Chandler earned the race’s hard charger award with a second place finish. He was followed by Weaver, Rusty Schlenk, Bull, Wenger, Daniel Flessner, Bob Gardner, Jason Wagner and Mike Glasscock.
Racing ended with a 10-lap hobby modified race. McKenrick won the seven-car heat race and was able to run away from the field for the win.
“We blew our motor at the first race of the year. We just got the motor back this week and the crew scrambled to get it back in,” said McKenrick.
Mike Petersen and Albie Perez trailed at the line.
This Saturday night will be the “FALS Frenzy,” a 50-lap late model race, co-sanctioned by MARS and the ALMS Racing Series. Drivers will be competing for a $10,000 first prize. Modified drivers have a $2,000-to-win race and sportsman round out the program with a $400-to-win special.