Sparks Fly in Fairbury Speedway Action
By Rocky Ragusa
Fairbury, Ill. (8/27/22) There was the thrill of victory, agony of defeat, thrills, chills, and a few feel good stories Saturday night at the Fairbury Speedway. The FALS Cup/Alkota weekly program was Championship NIght with the crowning of track champions in four of the DIRTcar classes. The program was presented by Daikin Air Intelligence Mike Spatola (Late Model), Michael Ledford (Modified), Tommy Duncan (CR Towing Sportsman), and Ian Keller (Stock Car) earning track championships in their respective divisions. In the feature races,Jay Sparks (Late Model), Mike McKinney (Modified), Tommy Duncan (CR Towing Sportsman), Jarrad Krick (Stock Car), Jason Vandermeir (Hobby-Mod), and Ryan Kohler (Hobby-Mod) went home as victor.
Quietly going about his business on race day, with his wife and a crew member or two on hand, Metamor’s Jay Sparks has shown signs of a fast race car only to be snake bitten come feature time. Sparks running the bottom of the track saw race leader and track champion, Mike Spatola also racing on the bottom, slip up enough to allow Sparks to slp by on the final lap and take his first ever Fairbury feature win.
A popular win, the Metamora racer was greeted in victory lane by officials as fans gave a loud cheer of approval.
“ I have been waiting for this for a long time,” Sparks, the race's hard charger winner said. “ We have had a good car all year. Ray Nelter has gotten us running pretty good. I probably laid on Spatola too hard, but I haven’t had a win and I wanted one.”
Spatola would finish in second position, followed by contender Ryan Unzicker. Friday night’s Farmer City winner, Myles Moos took fourth and early race leader, Kevin Weaver was fifth. The rest of the top ten had Donny Walden, Mike Provenzano, Derek Chandler, Bill Hough, and Brian Dively.
23 Late Models made qualifying attempts that saw Spatola’s time of 12.549 leading the way. Spatola, Chandler, and Unzicker took heat race wins. Bob Thoennes was the semi feature winner.
With next weekend’s $10,000 to win race next, 21 competitors fine tuned their cars for their special event. Forrest’s Austin Friedman set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 13.680.
Friedman, Mike McKinney, and Caden McWhorter won heat races.
Friedman checked out on the field at the wave of the green flag as McKinney and track champion Michael Ledford raced for second. McKinney tried the top and bottom groove after a lap five yellow flag, but Friedman was able to prevail. The caution came out on the eighth circuit and on the restart, Friedman took a five car length lead over McKinney. Ledford had his hands full with Jared Thomas, Alan Stipp, and Brandon Bollinger in contention.McKinney got by Friedman after the caution came out on the 10th lap as Ledford moved into second. Bad luck struck Friedman on the 15th lap, as his night came to an end. McKinney led the field to the green as Steven Brooks got by Ledford for second. In the final stages of the race, Brooks cut into McKinney’s lead, but laps ran out and McKinney took his fourth Fairbury win of the season.
“ I kind of played it patient,” McKinney said. “ The top was a pretty far way around. The bottom had Moisture left, so I let it run in and let it come to me.”
Brooks finished in second, followed closely by Jason Hastings. Thomas took fourth, as Ledford, Bollinger, Stipp, McWhorter,Ethan Weber, and Wyatt Harms completed the top ten.
Looking to avenge his loss two weeks ago, four time CR Towing Sportsman track champion, Metamora’s Tommy Duncan went the distance in taking his eighth win of the year in the caution marred 15 lap race.
“ I kept looking at the scoreboard and saw Miller and Mattingly were right there,” said Duncan. “ I figured that I had to play defense on both.”
Landen Miller turned back Tyler Roth for second, followed by newcomer Ron Wilkes. Jim Farleylll was fifth, with Doug Carls (hardcharger), Victor Strong, Makinzi Semmens, Roy Magee, and Aaron Reid rounding out the top ten.
Miller set the pace in qualifying with a time of 14.774 with 13 cars taking to the ¼ mile dirt track.
Duncan and Steve Mattingly won the heat races.
In the 15 lap Stock Car feature, Cody Clubb looked to be on his way to the win. Contact with a slower car in turn four, abruptly brought his night to an end. Former UMP National Champion, Jarrad Krick inherited the lead with four laps to go and held off Tim Loomis for the win.
“ I hated to see that happen to Cody,” Earl Park, Indiana’s Krick said. “ He definitely had the best car tonight. I will take it any way I can get it. This place is never usually that good to me. I won the 2016 Hubert Memorial race once and haven’t been able to get back to victory lane. This feels pretty good.”
Loomis had to settle for second. Early race leader, Megan Erwin was third,followed by Andy Thompson, Jordan Smith, Brandon Tracy, Derrick Weiand (hardcharger), Jace Gall, and Devin Hoskins.
18 drivers were on hand tuning up for the upcoming Hubert Memorial race saw Krick’s time of 15.164 leading the way. Two heat races were held with Erwin and Clubb taking the wins.
With the growing popularity in the Hobby-Mod class and a new record of 28 cars in attendance, it was decided to hold two feature races. In the first race Pontiac’s Trevor Ringle, a successful Kart racer, led flag to flag for a convincing win. In a post race inspection, Ringle’s car was deemed illegal and he was disqualified. The victory was awarded to Ryan Kohler, son of 2008 Street Stock track champion Darrin Kohler. Fans that know the tragedy the Kohler family has experienced makes the win a feel good story.
“ It was definitely a stacked field,” the Chebanse native spoke. “ I kept the car steady. This is really awesome. I have always dreamed of this.”
Scott McDonald took the runner up spot. Rick Thomas was third, followed by Dalton Deavers, Clay Wisher, Ryan Wilson, Reid Gall, Jake Green, J Thompson, and Kellen Arnold completing the top ten.
In the second race, Json Vandermeir had to hold off Luke Gebhardt in taking his first win of the year.
Vandermeir from Channahon commented in victory lane. “ The car didn’t run that good in the heat race. We worked on it and it came back to life.”
Dylan Turpin finished in third, with Payton Semmens, Graham Jackson, Tim Wilson, Cameron Pierce, Michael Killion, Scott Compton, and coming out of retirement, the 1984 6-Cylinder track champion, Lonnie Benedict.
Ringle, Deavers, and Kohler were heat race winners.