Well, one of the absolute busiest weekends of racing has come and passed for me. That weekend I am referring to is Labor Day weekend. It is a weekend meant to celebrate the American laborer and how hard they work. It is also one of the last warm weekends of summer as well. It is a time for friends and family to get together. It also marks the start of college football, which is exciting to me as well. I spent my weekend racing 3 out of 4 days.
They ran a vintage feature before the 1st Prairie Dirt Shootout. When the PDS took to the track, the action was hot. The Dairyland Destroyer Brady Smith rocketed out front on the start. The track was very top oriented at the start but there were several cars running the bottom, no better than Jack Sullivan who was picking his way through the field. Sullivan, who started 10th in the feature, had made his way up to 5th before lap 10. The race would change when lapped traffic got involved. With around 25 to go, Brady Smith got hung up in traffic and a hard charging Brian Shirley was able to get around, as was Jason Feger. In one corner Brady went from the lead to 3rd. Shannon Babb had made his way up to 5th where he started after getting shuffled on the start a ways back. With 23 to go Sullivan was showing muscle as well, as he ended up taking 3rd from Brady Smith. Feger would crank up the pressure on leader Shirley just past the halfway point. He gave Shirley all he could handle, and with 13 to go he overtook the 3s for the lead. Feger would lead until disaster struck on the back straightaway with 3 laps to go when Greg Johnson and Richie Hedrick wrecked in the middle of the backstretch. Feger and Shirley made inadvertent contact trying to miss the wreck. Feger had right rear sheetmetal damage that, while not visible to the naked eye from the stands, damaged the tire. On the restart, it was evident Jason had his hands full with the car. With 1 to go Shirley, Sullivan and Feger were 3 wide. It was absolute insanity, and the people were on the edge of their seats, some out of them. Feger would keep trying, but would get pinched up and Shirley and Sullivan would go by with Shirley winning by about a car length over Sullivan. The top 5 ended up being Brian Shirley, Jack Sullivan, Jason Feger, Shannon Babb, and Billy Moyer It was a fantastic race, and the modified feature hadn't been run yet.
After the 1st Prairie Dirt Shootout was in the books, the UMP Modifieds ran their 30 Lap, $1,750 to win feature. Mike Harrison, a driver from Highland, Illinois who usually doesn't travel that far north, took the lead early and showed he was the car to beat. Jeff Leka tried to keep pace, but just didn't have anything for him. Several cars including Denny Schwartz, put on a show slicing through the field, but Harrison was smooth and made it look incredibly easy, and he would take the win with no real challenge from anyone else. The top 5 was Mike Harrison, Jeff Leka, Gabe Menser, Kevin Weaver, and Clint DeMoss.
The street stocks spent about 20 minutes or so helping to pack in and work in the freshly groomed track and put on a show, with Jeff Semmens winning the feature. Next up was the 21st Annual Prairie Dirt Classic 60 lap $10,000 to win UMP Late Model feature. The feature started with Feger jumping the start and the race was restarted again. On the restart, Billy Moyer jumped out front, and the track was lightning fast early. Cars were running hot lap and qualifying speeds early in the feature. With 6 in the top 5 of Billy Moyer, Jason Feger, Kevin Weaver, Brian Shirley, and Dennis Erb Jr. had broken away from the rest of the field. In 7 laps Moyer had caught the tail end of the field. Moyer had company in Feger, but he used patience and showed why he has won everything he has in his career. He was methodical in how he picked off lap traffic. Feger had problems on lap 14 when he lost a right rear tire. We went back to racing and Dennis Erb Jr. was challenging Weaver for 2nd. He would pass Kevin, but the yellow flew at the same time for Ryan Dauber who spun. This would put Erb Jr. back to 3rd. The green flag flew with 17 laps in the books and 43 remaining. Lap 21 saw Richie Hedrick and Brian Shirley swap 4th place back and forth, with Shirley coming out on top of the exchange in the end. Moyer was running the topside and holding a 1-3 carlength lead over Erb Jr. and Weaver. Erb, running his traditional low line, began to really challenge Moyer, and he eventually took the lead on lap 26. Moyer would try to rally back right after that, but just didn't make a lot of progress at that point. Feger, who had a flat early, never made up ground and eventually fell a lap down, as was Sullivan who pitted earlier in the race as well. With 40 in and 20 to go Shirley was challenging Moyer for 2nd. It looked like Moyer's car was tight, meaning it didn't want to turn easily. With 15 laps to go Dennis Erb Jr. was in heavy lapped traffic. He looked at this point to have the race well in hand. The yellow flew on lap 46 when Frank Heckenast Jr. ended up in the frontstretch wall. With 14 laps to go, 19th place starter Shannon Babb had picked his way up to 8th. Erb Jr. led the field back to green, and Billy Moyer found new life. Moyer would end up taking the lead with 12 laps to go. Debris would bring out the caution on lap 50, thus bunching the field up yet again. On the restart Babb made some huge gains. He was up to 5th and was flying at the right time. He got to 4th and was challenging for 3rd. Erb Jr. cranked up the pressure on 4 time winner Billy Moyer, but Moyer fended him off. Billy Moyer ended up winning his 5th Prairie Dirt Classic title, matching Bob Pierce as the only other 5 time winner of the Prairie Dirt Classic.The top 10 of the 21st Prairie Dirt Classic was Billy Moyer, Dennis Erb Jr., Brian Shirley, Shannon Babb, Kevin Weaver, Wendall Wallace, Rodney Melvin, Brady Smith, Mike Provinzano, and Eric Smith.
Sunday was a day off, but I did watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from Atlanta. The racing there was pretty wild as the cars looked like they were on the verge of wrecking lap after lap. They were sliding sideways at 160-180 mph in the corners. Tony Stewart, who was smooth all night, was smoothest when it counted the most, and picked up his 1st win of the 2010 season.
The ARCA race was next. After all of the pre-race, and parade laps, the race went green. Polesitter A.J. Fike jumped out to the early lead. Kelly Kovski, a Springfield, Illinois native and full time car chief for Allgaier Motorsports who fields the 36 of Robb Brent, would challenge 2nd starting Ken Schrader for the runner up spot and take it a couple laps in, with Steve Arpin right behind him. The first yellow flew on lap 7 when Justin Koch spun. The pits opened up, but out of the top 5 cars, only Ken Schrader would pit to get his mandatory stop before lap 90 done then. Fike, Kovski, Arpin, Hessert, Coulter, F Kimmel, Sheltra, W Kimmel, Kile, George Jr were the top 10 when the race went back to green on lap 12. Kelly Kovski cranked up the pressure on leader Fike, and eventually would over take him on lap 17. Yellow would fly soon after as Tim George Jr. spun on the front straightaway. A.J. Fike would give up his runner up spot to make his mandatory pit stop. The top 5 at this point are Kovski, Arpin, Sheltra, Coulter, Kile. 22 laps were in when they took the green again. Schrader picked his way up to 8th pretty quicky. Frank Kimmel, 9 time ARCA Champion, ended up getting heavy right rear damage, eventually losing a right rear tire and spinning in turn 1 and hitting the wall, bringing out another yellow flag. This caution waved at lap 29, and the entire field who hadn't pitted made their mandatory pit stop. Schrader would end up being the leader after everything cycled through on lap 31. He would lead the next 5 laps, and then surrender the lead to Tom Hessert. A.J. Fike would soon after slip by Schrader to 2nd. Yellow would fly for Robb Brent on lap 46 when he spun. The green flag flew on lap 49. At halfway, Arpin had sliced his way up to 3rd with Patrick Sheltra in tow. Kovski was with those 2 as well. Skipping a 2 car spin with no damage, Arpin was reeling Hessert in and there was a battle for the lead on lap 61. He took the lead on lap 62 and would not surrender it. There was some great racing behind him. The ARCA Re/Max Series Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Car Care Top 10 was Steve Arpin, Tom Hessert, Mikey Kile, Patrick Sheltra, Ken Schrader, Will Kimmel, Craig Goess, Chad McCumbee, Kelly Kovski, and Brian Silas. Below are photos from the celebration by Arpin and crew.
This would wrap up my racing weekend. I was fortunate to be able to enjoy it with my Grandpa, who is the one who really introduced me to the sport. It was a fantastic weekend with a lot of good racing, and pretty good weather. I was blessed to be able to see it all. Hope everyone had a fun and safe Labor Day weekend!!