Every region of the country has competitive racers who are more than capable of giving the teams who compete full-time on the two national tours fits when they venture onto the home turf of those who compete at a particular place on a regular basis. That said, however, the safe play on most nights when either the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series or the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series takes to the track is to predict that one of the travelling stars will come away with the win in the end.
That was not the case on a cold Friday evening during the first night of competition in the Illini 100 event at the Farmer City Raceway. The regional racers pretty much had their way throughout the entire show as no World of Outlaws Late Model Series regular was fastest in either qualifying group, won a heat race, or led any portion of the 25-lap feature.
To illustrate the complete domination of the local guys, only seven WoO drivers transferred to the feature through heat races. And more, of the drivers who have started all eight WoO features held so far in 2021, only Darrell Lanigan and Tyler Bruening made it into the redraw.
Three-time and defending WoO Late Models champion Brandon Sheppard was forced to race his way into the main event through a Last Chance Showdown. Current points leader Kyle Strickler, 2020 series runner-up Ricky Weiss, former series champion Scott Bloomquist, and multiple-time WoO feature winner Dennis Erb, Jr. had to accept provisional starting spots just to make the feature.
Friday night winner and first time WoO feature race victor Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Ill. talked about his home field advantage during his post-race interview. “It’s awesome, especially to do it here at Farmer City, which is pretty much our home track and Fairbury, we race here just about every week,” he pointed out in victory lane. “The track was great tonight. It got treacherous there at the end. I was just holding on off of two. It was a rodeo, but man, I’m so glad.”
Sheppard eventually wound up at the highest finishing series regular in fifth with Cade Dillard and rookie contender Ryan Gustin being the only other touring mainstays to earn a top-10. Top-3 finishers Spatola, Ryan Unzicker, and Bobby Pierce are all natives of Illinois.
Both series regulars and home turf defenders will be back in action on Saturday night for a 75-lap feature that will dole out $20,000 to the winner.
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