FAIRBURY — Although race teams, fans and track staff were denied their showcase event, the Prairie Dirt Classic, due to COVID-19, the team at Fairbury Speedway went to work to produce a Tuesday night special, thus "One for the Road" was born.
The inaugural even took place Tuesday with New Berlin’s Brandon Sheppard taking the checkered flag and pocketing the $15,000 prize in the late model race. Mike McKinney earned the $1,500 check in the "One for the Road" modified race.
There were 44 late model teams representing 16 states for the 50-lap feature event. Group One qualifying saw Kyle Strickler break the nine-year mark of Scott Bull by turning a lap of 12.143 seconds for a new track record. Josh Richards' lap of 12.267 paced Group Two qualifiers.
Strickler, Richards, Shannon Babb and Brandon Overton won their heat races. Bobby Pierce and Ryan Unzicker took their semi-features to advance into the 22-car starting field.
In a race that saw five different race leaders, World of Outlaw point leader Sheppard took the lead from Babb after the first caution in the race that fell on lap 35. From that point on, Sheppard had to contend with Richards before pulling away in the final laps for his 27th win of the year.
"That’s awesome, man," an excited Sheppard said afterward. "It’s such a privilege to be able to race here. During these hard times and everything, we are glad to be racing period. To race this close to home and at this great of a race track, this place puts a lot of places to shame if you ask me."
Richards finished 1½ seconds behind with Pierce edging out Frank Heckenast Jr. for third. Babb took fifth place. Jeremiah Hurst, Taylor Scheffler, and Myles Moos were the remaining cars left on the track. Kyle Bronson and Brandon Overton completed the top 10.
McKinney’s time of 13.985 seconds led Group One modified qualifiers and track champion Allen Weisser’s time of 13.899 ticks paced Group Two as 34 drivers looked to take home the FALS Cup trophy.
The four heat races saw McKinney, Weisser, Austin Lynn and Levi Kissinger taking wins. Kevin Morrow and Dylan Woodling won in their respective semi- features.
The top three drivers battling for the UMP national championship went at it back and forth in the 25-lap race as Weisser led the first three laps before McKinney took over for the next 12 circuits.
Current national point leader Nick Hoffman moved to the front for two laps as the top contenders were never separated by less than five car lengths. McKinney and Hoffman raced side by side for the final seven laps. Hoffman was scored as the race leader on the white flag.
As Hoffman and McKinney entered turns three-four and the checkered flag in site, Hoffman slipped and allowed McKinney to slide by for the win.
"I wanted that win," said McKinney, who trails Hoffman in the point battle. "I am in the position now where there is nothing to do, but win."
Hoffman, Weisser, Kyle Hammer and Jeff Leka took the next four positions. Brad DeYoung led the second five with Dan Rork, Steve Brooks, Woodling and Zeke McKenzie following to complete the top 10.