Rocky Ragusa's Speed Week column
The 33rd edition of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals began on Wednesday night at the Peoria Speedway, with a 40-lap, $5,000-to win-race. For 32 days with 28 races, late model teams will test their mettle by traveling through seven states.
Of the 28 races, nine will pay a $10,000 top prize, while the remaining races will offer a $5,000 payday. At the conclusion of each week (five weeks), the point leader for that week will pocket $2,000.
The 2018 Summer National champion will receive a check for $25,000 to be awarded at the UMP banquet.
Billy Moyer is the leader in career wins with 96. Moyer plans a partial tour for the series. Shannon Babb has 92 wins and is expected to run the whole series. Defending champion, Bobby Pierce, with his commitments to the Lucas Oil Late Model Series, has announced he will race the second week, which includes Fairbury.
Babb, Ryan Unzicker, Brian Shirley, Frank Heckenast Jr., Jason Feger and Nick Hoffman are among the drivers that have indicated their plans to race the entire tour.
Of the 28 races, 17 will be contested in the Land of Lincoln. Spoon River (June 21), Fairbury (June 23), LaSalle (June 28), Lincoln (July 1) and Farmer City (July 6) are among some of the local dates.
The Dirt Oval at Route 66 in Joliet will host its first-ever Summer National race this Saturday (June 16). Located next to the Chicagoland Speedway, the track is a semi-banked, half-mile oval. The DIRTcar late models will battle for a $10,000 to win check, while the Summit Modified Series has a $2,000-to-win prize. The Mid West Street Stock Series will also be in action with a $1,000-to-win show. Racing will start at 7 p.m.
Making its second-ever appearance on the tour will be the Sycamore Speedway. Located on State Road 64 in Maple Park, the half-mile track received high marks from race teams, media members and the race fans.
The track features ample parking with areas for pre-race grilling, along with shaded trees.
On my several visits to the track, it is somewhat a reminder of the old Santa Fe Speedway. Demolition derbies, figure eight and stock car-type classes are held on Friday.
On Saturdays, the track features super late models (similar to the FALS sportsman) and several other classes. The UMP late models race every other week and draw a respectable car count.
The fans flock to the track, which has a seating capacity of 3,000, on both nights. Their Summer National race will be held on June 15, with the first $10,000-to-win race on the tour.
Farmer City Raceway
The Hornet drivers will return this week, plus a full show of Late models, modified, pro late models and street stocks. Hot laps start at 6:30 p.m., followed by time trials and racing.
Last week, Mike Spatola (late model), AJ May (pro late model), McKay Wenger (modified), Jordon Smith (B-mods), and Matt Maier (street stock) picked up feature wins.
Grundy County Speedway
The Frank Welsh Memorial that was planned for last week was cancelled due to rain. The 94-lap late model race will be held this week, along with the street stocks and pure stocks. Qualifying is at 6:45 p.m. and racing at 8.
Kankakee County Speedway
The second race of the month-long Summer National series will be held on Thursday evening. Late model drivers will be featured in a 40-lap, $5,000-to-win race, for their lone appearance to the speedway.
Modified drivers will race a 25-lap, $1,000-to-win, plus a full show in each of the tracks regular classes. Racing will start at 7:30 p.m.
The WAR 410 sprint cars will invade the fairground oval this Friday night. Pro late models, midgets, a $1,000 Hornet special and the KidModz Series will join the show. Hot laps start at 6 p.m. and racing at 7.
Fairbury American Legion Speedway
Track points and the Alkota hard charger points will be up for grabs this week. Five divisions of racing will tackle the 1/3-mile dirt oval. Hot laps start at 5:50 p.m., followed by time trials and racing. Adult admission is $10 and children under 12 are free.
Hornet drivers will have a $1,000-to-win payday at stake, plus a full show is planned. Hot laps at 6 p.m. and racing will begin at 7.
The Joe Wagner Memorial race will be held this week. A full show, plus the KidModz Racing Series will be featured. Hot laps will start at 5:30 p.m. and racing at 6.
Matt Shannon (late model), Mike Chasteen Jr. (modified) and Megan Erwin (street stock) are feature winners last week. Jason Jaggers took the win in the steel block late model race. Returning to racing in the class and finishing second, was the “Fairbury Flyer” Wes Steidinger.