Home > July 2017 > Prairie Dirt Classic-Nothing Like It

Prairie Dirt Classic-Nothing Like It

After riding in the Illinois 491 yesterday-the distance between our hotel in Bloomington and home, my mind rebelled at the thought of posting a blog. Instead I took a well-deserved nap.

I am not one who would tell someone he isn’t a race fan because he has never been to Daytona or Charlotte, Knoxville or Eldora. If you are reading this blog you are a race fan no matter where you have or have not been. BUT, since you are a race fan you do yourself an injustice if you never make a pilgrimage to the Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Fairbury, Illinois.

Perhaps the Meyer family endorsement means little to you, but we made the trek last year, returned this year, and on the way home yesterday Matt and I started planning our trip for 2018. AND, I believe for the first time-I can’t remember for sure if I bought a Final Sunset t-shirt, I bought a race event t-shirt. Yes, I did. And I’ll be wearing it in the future. The 28th Annual Prairie Dirt Classic. That is a very big statement from me.

In the best possible context, the PDC at FALS is insane, utter chaos, extreme motorsports, total excitement, and there is nothing else like it in dirt track racing. Heck, make it all of racing.

Start with a staff-mostly volunteers-that want to make fans happy. Add concessions that are reasonably priced. And a midway selling more souvenirs than anyone could possibly want. Throw in a well-prepared track and some great racing and you will see a sight rarely seen at any race track these days-signs reading “SOLD OUT.” I almost forgot-“Welcome Race Fans” signs on nearly every business in town.

Year after year people make the trip to central Illinois from all over the U.S. For three blocks-on both sides of the street, and outside of turns 1 and 2 and the back stretch are hundreds of campers and RV’s. There is a line waiting when campgrounds open, and the 300 available spots are gone long before any racer fires an engine. And golf carts-there are more golf carts driving around the track AND on city streets than you will find at any golf course in the country.

I need to add something to my endorsement. Our seats are 7 rows up on the backstretch grandstands where cars enter turn three. I was hit by mud clods during hot laps on both Saturday and Sunday. That is not a complaint-the last time I remember getting hit with mud at a race track was at Sunset Speedway and you know how I feel about that place.

Our seats not only give us a perfect view of turns 3 and 4, but also a great view of the entire backstretch. I have always defined good racing as side by side racing, but when 29 cars are racing around a 1/4th mile oval that is automatic. How about three wide for second place? Even better, how about three wide for first place? Or the first six cars in a pack so tight that barely a tick of your watch passes as the cars do? That is the PDC at FALS. A fan has to really concentrate to figure out just who is leading the race with cars all over the place.

OK, before I continue on with this love song, I did have one problem this weekend. No, thank you Lord, there were no B-mods on hand. But there were 72 UMP Modifieds signed in. And, my friend Big Show would be thrilled by this-71 of the Modifieds time trialed. That was 40 minutes of my life wasted. I am of the belief that NO support class should ever time trial. Actually I am not a big fan of the feature class time trialing, but that is an argument for another time.

Since UMP does not race in Nebraska I have no clue if time trials for Modifieds running the Summer Nationals is standard procedure. To me, it doesn’t matter if it is. If I-80 Speedway can get the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series to change its format for the Silver Dollar Nationals, FALS can get UMP to agree to no time trials. If they won’t agree, well, “hasta la vista baby.” Don’t let the pit gate hit you on the butt on the way out. The track could do unsanctioned Modifieds as a support class. Make the race open to drivers that have ran a weekly show at FALS at least twice in the season. Pay $3,000 to win and there would easily be 50 Modifieds in the pits.

Yes I do know that UMP and the WoO are owned by the same people. The WoO is NOT going to pull out of the PDC if the track says n Modified time trials. The WoO needs the PDC more than the PDC needs the WoO. The WoO has few crown jewel events, and if they pulled out, the Lucas Oil series would be there in the blink of an eye.

And, change the race order both nights. On Friday, run two of the Modified qualifiers first, then run all the Late Model qualifiers, and end the night with the final two Modified qualifiers. On Saturday, run the 40 lap Modified feature after the 100 laps Late Model feature. People are not coming to Fairbury from all over the country to watch Modifieds race. They want to see the Late Models. I am guessing no more than 10% of the crowd is there because of Modifieds-hey, they do have family and friends so 10% sounds about right. After the final Last Chance Race for Late Models ended, the backstretch grandstands almost emptied before the start of the Modified feature and stayed that way until the Late Models returned.

Kyle Bronson, Scott Bloomquist, and Shannon Babb finished 3rd-4th-5th in the Silver Dollar Nationals feature. Not one of them made the PDC feature in Friday night qualifiers. Neither did Billy Moyer, Don O’Neal, or Earl Pearson. Bronson, Bloomquist, Babb, and Moyer did not qualify in the Last Chance Races either. Amazing.

If you subscribe to www.DirtonDirt.com, you can go to the website and watch a 20 minute video of the 100 lap feature. It will be 20 minutes well spent if you do. So, I’ll skip a race recap and go right to my Random Thoughts:  

-I thought my friend Big Show was a PDC no show, but the track announcer kept on talking about “fat heads” in the backstretch grandstands. Made me wonder if he made it after all.

-Matt keeps telling me that Chris Simpson is the good brother and that Chad is bad. Well, the good brother put on a great show. Late in the race he was second and trying to pass Brandon Sheppard for the lead. He faded some at the end, but still ended up with a 7th place finish.

-I was the first person to write about Devin Moran, in an article for Dirt Late Model magazine some years ago. I think many more people will be writing about the son of Million Dollar Man Donnie Moran. The young Moran set fast time and won his qualifier on Friday, and ended up 3rd in the 100 lapper. Two thumbs up for the WoO Rookie of the Year contender.

-Ryan Unzicker is a solid Late Model driver from El Paso-the El Paso down the road from Fairbury, not the one in Texas. Unzicker vied for the lead early, faded, and then came back strong to finish second in the feature.

-Brandon Sheppard has my vote for driver of the year. Well, he would if I had a vote. Winning the PDC isn’t easy, though the Rocket house car pilot made it look that way. What a week B-Shepp had. From 32nd to 2nd at the Silver Dollar Nationals (that is what garnered my DOY vote), a WoO win at Fayette County Speedway in Illinois on Wednesday, a PDC qualifier win on Friday, and the big win on Saturday. Rocket Shepp has seven WoO feature wins, earlier this summer won five straight UMP Summernationals features, and his earning in the eight days through Saturday amounted to nearly $65,000. His season earning on the WoO circuit are $159,950. Not quite the year Jonathan Davenport had a few years ago, but still a super one.

-I like the farming done by the track prep crew at various times during both Friday and Saturday. Yes, it does at to the length of the show, but it also leads to incredibly competitive racing as well.

-I would like to thank a number of people for a very enjoyable weekend. First and foremost, my son Matt. All I had to do was show up, get in the car to ride, and he did all the rest. I appreciate all he did and his patience with me too. My g.d. left knee is going to be replaced sometime in the next six months, but right now I am terribly afraid it is going to lead me to a fall and far more damage than I need. He really did do so much for me this weekend and I can’t tell him enough how much I appreciate him and all he did.

-I would also like to thank Michael Rigsby for his hospitality. Michael is a class act and yes, he does a fantastic job with www.DirtonDirt.com. Matt counts Michael as a good racing friend, and loves to talk racing with Michael and the rest of the Rigsby Mafia at events like this.

-I would also like to thank Barry Rigsby for two outstanding pork chop sandwiches. Last time I had pork chops sandwiches at a race track was year’s ago at Fairmont Speedway in Minnesota. Those were good, Barry’s were great.

-I would also like to thank Matt Curl, FALS race director and promoter. First for the amazing job he does with this event, but also for the media pit pass. I don’t avail myself of this type of pass often, but then again I don’t do 1700 word blogs very often either. So thank you Matt. I know my Sprint Car fans will disagree and say the best two straight weeks of dirt track racing are the Knoxville 360 and 410 Nationals. Sorry, I think the best two straight weeks of dirt track racing are the Silver Dollar Nationals and the Prairie Dirt Classic.

Tomorrow I am going to post comments from a few people who wrote me about the Silver Dollar Nationals. I am also going to talk about the quality of fields in what I consider to be the top five Late Model events of the year.

For now, once again, if you are a Late Model fan you owe it to yourself to make at least one pilgrimage to FALS for the Prairie Dirt Classic. And yes, it is almost a religious experience. And yes tickets are incredibly difficult to come by, so plan early and watch for when they go on sale. There is nothing like the PDC.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Slowhand
    August 1, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Sounds like it is a must for the bucket list… When do tickets go on sale usually?

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