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It was the night for the Farmington Locker UMP Pro Modified Division to show off their stuff at Spoon River Speedway Saturday night, and boy, did they, putting on a thrilling show for 30-laps in the Annual Bill Anderson Memorial Race at the 3/8-mile high-banked oval.
The yearly special for the Pro Modified Division, named for the late Bill Anderson, a longtime figure at the Speedway, and father of several racing brothers, including still-active son Mark Anderson, is the biggest race for that division at the Speedway, with increased purse money and a big trophy to the winner.
For the first 22 laps of the event, everyone in attendance expected the trophy, the big check and the honor of winning to Mark Anderson, as the Canton driver expertly wheeled his #31 Modified around the extreme top of the speedway, his familiar line. Even Todd Bates, the eventual winner, thought it was a foregone conclusion.
“He was gone, we were all racin’ for second, that’s what I was thinking,” said Bates later in Victory Lane. But running mere inches from the very top of the racing surface is risky, and as the race wore on, Anderson kept creeping higher and higher up to the top, searching for the quickest way around the super smooth and fast oval. He jumped the berm ever so slightly in Turn 3 on lap 23, and gamely stayed in the gas trying to save the car, hold the lead and get back on the track all at once, but the car banged the retaining wall coming out of turn 4, a smack that eventually led to the early retirement for the night of Anderson, frustration on the family’s biggest night of the season.
Pekin’s Kevin Morrow, stout all race long on the bottom groove, inherited the lead until being passed by Bates with less than five laps to go.
“We knew it was a long race for us,” said Bates about the 30-lapper, the division normally runs 15-lap features. “And we talked about being patient and letting the race come to us, saving the tires for those last few laps, and it worked out pretty good.” Pretty good indeed, to the tune of $500 for first place and a third straight feature win for the red-hot Bates.
Morrow held on for second, despite his engine starting to fade late, and Josh Smith and Matt Parrott dueled side-by-side for third over the last third of the race, Smith earning the spot and Parrott finishing a solid fourth. Josh Allen rounded out the top 5. The division qualified for position for the first time this season, and Anderson set fast time. Heat races were won by Morrow and Anderson.
The multi-groove track also provided the fans an exciting, if caution filled, Perkins Seed House UMP Modified feature, as Allen Weisser, Butch Weisser and Flyin’ Brian Lynn put on a show at the front of the pack, while numerous battles continued in the pack behind them. The wildest wreck in the 20-lap race happened when Floyd Jordan, Jr. and Zac Oedewaldt’s cars came together hard off of turn four mid-race. Oedewaldt’s car, pinched in the middle of a three-wide race off the turn and with nowhere to go, caught some air when it’s left front went up and over Jordan’s right rear. Jordan’s car suffered significant sheet metal damage, Oedewaldt’s Z1 heavy front end suspension damage, and both drivers, more frustrated with the damage than mad at each other, but both angry nonetheless, exited their cars and had a heat-of-the-moment short yelling match while being restrained by track officials.
Meanwhile, up front, Allen “A-Dog” Weisser took the lead early and held it while running a low line until lap 9, when Lynn rocketed by on the outside just as caution came out. With the running order reverting to the last completed lap, Weisser restarted in front and changed strategy, going high on the restart to keep Lynn at bay. That, however, opened the door for the A-dog’s Dad, Butch Weisser, to charge underneath both cars and grab the lead, a lead he held until the end. Lynn later suffered a similar fate to Anderson in the previous race, jumping the top of turn two and falling to an eighth place finish.
Behind the two Weissers, it was Brandon Roberts, AJ May and JD Beal to round out the Top 5. Butch Weisser set fast time in qualifying. Heat race wins in the Mods went to Lynn, Allen Weisser and Butch Weisser.
It was suggested in Victory Lane to the elder Weisser that his son was in a tough spot while leading, having to decide on a high or low line. “Yeah, that was definitely a tough call for him,” Butch said, “the track was good all over so it was just a matter of who could find the most bite. The track rubbered up on the bottom there real good towards the end and it helped my car off the turn.”
In the Monical’s Pizza Pro Late Model Division Mt. Vernon’s Aaron Heck drove from his sixth starting position to his division-leading fourth Main Event win of the year, but not before battling New Berlin’s Nick Bauman for the lead for a majority of the event. Following and pressuring on the bottom, Heck finally moved up to the middle groove and made it work, passing Bauman on the outside for the win.
“Nick’s such a great racer, and him and his Dad Ed helped us this week trying to figure out a brake problem we have,” said Heck, “We share stuff back and forth, and it’s just so much fun to race him, you know it’s gonna be a battle but a clean battle.” Bauman finished second, followed by Tommy Sheppard, Jr. , who along with Aaron Heck won heat races in the division to start the night. Daniel Heck finished fourth, followed by Brian Lynn, Brad Denney and Logan Moody.
In the Fulton FS UMP Hornet Division, Dion Smith pulled off a double, winning his first heat of the year and backing it up with a feature win, ending the three-race winning streak in the main events by Derrick DeFord. DeFord, breaking in a new car after his nearly unbeatable #11 Saturn was totaled in a rollover the previous Sunday at another speedway, challenged Smith and fellow front-runner Steve Jones for a majority of the 10 lap feature, before his car started to misfire badly, he ultimately faded to seventh.
Behind Smith at the finish line were Dave Lauritson, Robert Mendenhall, Jones, and Danny Oates. Jones had to retreat to the rear of the pack mid-race after he and DeFord bumped racing for the same piece of race track in turn three, with Jones car getting into the rear of DeFord’s ride enough to cause the 11 to spin out. Jones drove back through the pack for the fourth place finish.
Story by BJ Stone