“High Atop the Rock” June 27th; Story/Photos by Rocky Ragusa

Rocky Ragusa
Rocky Ragusa photo






Speed Week

With the LaSalle Speedway racing a partial schedule this year, Mendota’s Matt Ramer was looking for a track to get his racing fix. Making several appearances in the past to the Fairbury American Legion Speedway, Ramer took a liking to the track. Ramer is currently fourth in the CR Towing and Recovery Sportsman track standings, first in the Lind Construction Rookie of the Year battle, and had his best finish to date, a second place finish, just two weeks ago.

A second generation driver, Ramer followed in his father’s footstep, racing at the now closed, Bureau County Speedway in Princeton. “My family has a long history at that track,” explained Ramer. “My dad, Paul, race there. My mom was the scorekeeper and I would be under her feet, watching the races. I cut my teeth on that track, racing and was the flagman the last three years it was open.”

With the added incentives for a driver in the Sportsman class, Ramer felt it would be the right choice to race at Fairbury. “Last year I came down here with my Street Stock and ran it with the Sportsman class, “said Ramer. “ There really wasn’t a lot of difference in the two classes, besides the weight. What Richard and Anthony Craven have done for the Sportsman class, it was a no brainer to race here. Besides that, it is a good track, with a great staff, and the fans have been awesome to us.”

Not only racing in the Sportsman class, Ramer serves as promoter of the Vintage Series of Illinois, a series that races at tracks thru out the state in vintage race cars. Ramer was a participant when the club was ran by Art Fehrman. “When Art decided to focus on the Illinois Stock Car Hall of Fame, I decided to give promoting a try,” Ramer spoke. “I already had four vintage cars at the time and I didn’t want to see the club go. With being the fair board president in Mendota and having contacts with different tracks, I started making the phone calls and telling the promoters what our club could offer. I have been in charge since 2016 and can say that the tracks have enjoyed having the series at their track. I have 22 race ready cars in our shop. My son, Brandon, Austin Lipe, and I take care of all the cars, including the Sportsman, Street Stock, Hobby-Modified, and all the Vintage Cars.”

Many of the drivers in the Vintage series are drivers that Ramer grew up watching or raced against. “Some of the guys are a little older, have families, or really can’t afford to maintain a race car,’ Ramer said. “ I like to give them a chance to come out to the track and have a little fun. All they have to do is a few minor up keeps and go race. The fans have really enjoyed seeing the cars and yesterday’s heroes again.”

Running the families business and taking care of the fleet of race cars, leaves Ramer with little time. “It is a never ending process for us,” laughed Ramer. “There are so many people I can thank. My parents for giving me the opportunity they have given to race or make sure I could be at the track. My wife is behind the racing, 100%. She has to put up with a lot and my four sons. They have all been a tremendous help at the track. A lot of times, they might not see me as much as they would like, but we are all together as a family when we go to the track.”

Sometimes the sport that we all have a great passion for, can be very cruel to us all. Two weeks ago, the Craftsman World of Outlaw Sprint Car Series made their first ever appearance to Fairbury. The last time that I had seen the Outlaws, drivers like Steve Kinser, Mark Kinser, Sammy Swindell, and Jac Haudenschild were the dominate force. I was only familiar with a few of the drivers that raced in the series now, but the one driver that caught my eye, hailed from the same state I was born in. So I had a driver to cheer for. Although he didn’t have that great of a finish, I made my way to his pit area after the races and introduced myself and told him I too was from Louisiana. He made me feel welcomed, with a real genuine, down to earth personality. Sadly, we lost Jason Johnson from Eunice, Louisiana this past Saturday night in a racing accident in Wisconsin. Johnson a five time champion on the Lucas Oil, ASCS series, rose to prominence when he joined the World of Outlaws, the most prestigious winged series and drivers in the country in 2015. Despite an injury early in the year, Johnson came back strong and claimed the Rookie of the Year title. The following year Johnson was able to win the one race every Sprint Car driver would want to add to his resume by winning the Knoxville Nationals. When a driver passes, the entire racing community mourns his loss and the family as evident by the outpouring from drivers from various sanctioning bodies. Johnson lives behind his wife, Bobbi, and five year old son, Jaxx. As co=track photographer at Fairbury, I feel that I need to do something to help his family. I will be offering various photo special for the remainder of the year, with proceeds to help his family. If You see me in the pits, feel free to stop me and make a donation. I thank everyone for their support and send my prayers to the Johnson family.

Thursday Racing

LaSalle Speedway The DIRTcar Summer Nationals makes a stop at the ¼ mile, high banked oval with a $5000 to win Late Model race. The Summit Modified Nationals will be co-featured, plus there the track will feature a huge firework display. Hot laps start at 6:30, followed by time trials, and racing.

Friday Racing

Farmer City Raceway A full show and fireworks are planned on $5 Fan Appreciation Night. Hot laps at 6:30, followed by qualifying, and racing. Kevin Weaver (Late Model), AJ May (Pro Late Model), Mike Chasteen Jr. (Modified), and Matt Maier (Street Stock) ate the current point leaders.

Grundy County Speedway Two night of racing are scheduled in conjunction with the annual Grundy County Fair. On Friday, the POWRi Midgets will join the Late Models, Mid-Am, and Pure Stocks. Racing starts at 8. Saturday, the Midgets return along with Street Stock, Pure Stocks, and the Super Cup class. Racing at 7.

Kankakee County Speedway Pro Late Model drivers will headline the night’s program with a $750 to win special, plus a full show. The green flag waves at 7:30. Torin Mettille (Pro Late Model), Mike McKinney (Modified), and Matt Hammond (Street Stock) are among the track’s point leaders.

Saturday Racing

Fairbury American Legion Speedway It will be $5 Fan Appreciation Night with racing in five divisions. Hot laps start at 6, with time trials, and racing to follow. Alkota “Keep it Clean” series points will be up for grabs with AJ Meiferdt (50 pts) leading Matt Ramer (44 pts) and McKay Wenger (44 pts).

Macon Speedway The POWRi National Midget Series will be featured, plus racing in the Pro Late Model, Street Stock, and Hornet classes. Hot start at 6 and racing at 7.

Peoria Speedway Late Models and Modified classes will headline the six division program this week. Hot laps start at 5:30 and racing at 6. AJ May (Late Model) and Dan Dozard (Modified) were feature winners from last week.

Sunday Racing

Bohmer’s Rt 66 Raceway Kart racing is on the agenda this week. Gates open at 10 and racing at noon.

Lincoln Speedway The DIRTcar Summer National tour makes a stop at the Logan County fairgrounds .The Summit Modified Nationals and POWRi National Midget series will also be part of the night’s program. Hot laps start at 5, with racing at 6.