- Apr. 3 - Peoria Speedway by Sam Holbrooks

Ryan Unzicker VL - Peoria Speedway 0403
UMP: Feger's Trouble Gives Unzicker The Double
By: Eric Huenefeld, Jeff Adams, Rocky Ragusa  (Mike Ruefer photo)
PEORIA, Ill. - April 3. Just when you thought you had it all figured out Sunday night at Peoria Speedway, the whole script changed. Quickly.
Ask Jason Feger. Or Ryan Unzicker.
After setting fast time, then struggling in his heat, Feger made quick moves to the front and looked to be in position to capture his second straight "Don Bohlander Tribute" race . All night long, El Paso, Ill.'s Unzicker, who had been having a great weekend on the bullrings of South-Central Illinois, seemed to be close - but not close enough - to accomplishing something he had been trying to do for the last few years, beat Jason Feger in a big race at Peoria Speedway.
Ryan Unzicker - Peoria Speedway 0403 
Ryan Unzicker battled hard for Sunday's UMP win at Peoria, but it took a little luck in the form of Jason Feger's broken axle to help the El Paso, Ill. ace to finish the job. (Mike Ruefer)
Ryan Unzicker - Brian Diveley - Peoria Speedway
Brian Diveley, who raced as a high second early on, gives way to an advancing #11 of Ryan Unzicker, who went on to win the event when leader Jason Feger broke an axle. (Mike Ruefer)
But a broken axle on Lap 38 of the 50-lap main dashed Feger's hopes for victory and suddenly placed Unzicker in the driver's seat for a payday, his second of the weekend after taking top honors the previous night at Macon Speedway. This all following his fourth place finish Friday at Belle-Clair Speedway.

“I hate that something happened to Jason, I was a little worried when he got in front”, said Unzicker in victory lane. “But something happened to him, and we got the lead. He is so tough to beat here, but we will take it”


Jason Feger - Mike Spatola - Peoria 0403

Jason Feger moves under #89 Mike Spatola, who would ultimately back into second for his best career Late Model finish. (Mike Ruefer)

When the 20-car starting field took the green flag, they were led by Fairbury's Wes Steidinger. Steidinger, driving the red number 94 for Reikert Racing, pounced to the early lead and rode the highline to a straightaway advantage over Springfield's Brian Diveley. Behind the two leaders, it was Unzicker and Feger working the field seemingly hand-in-hand. Unzicker moved forward on the high line as Feger made moved to the bottom side. By lap six, the duo had moved from their fourth row starting spots into to a hotly-contested battle for third with each other. Feger took the spot and jump to his patented high groove and begin to pressure Diveley.
Steidinger looked strong and led until a lap nine caution for a spin involving Scott Schmitt and Frank Heckenast, Jr. slowed the field.  The seventh starting Feger had driven in to the second spot, and immediately challenged Steidinger on the high side of the track on the double-file restart. Steidinger held the lead down the backstretch, but his car pushed in turn three and allowed Feger to breeze into the lead and walk away from the field in the races middle stages as Steidinger fell off the pace with brake problems and soon retired his car to turn second place over to Unzicker. At that point, Feger held a straightaway lead.
Rodney Melvin - Charley Hess - Brandon Sheppard
Rodney Melvin races by #40 Charley Hess and #5 Brandon Sheppard on his way to fourth place at Peoria. (Mike Ruefer)
As the front two powered ahead, the battle for third on back was wide open and intense. First year Late Model driver Mike Spatola, who had dropped from his fourth place starting post, jumped back into contention and found himself in third by lap 21. Behind him, Rodney Melvin was riding the high groove and making his case for the top five. Melvin overtook Diveley for fourth on lap 24, at the same time leaders Feger and Unzicker would approach lapped traffic. Unzicker erased Feger's large lead to merely a corner difference before Feger jumped out of the crowd and pulled away with 15 to go. Just as it seemed the race's final chapter was written, the yellow flag flew with 12 to go for Donny Walden's spun racer. A race that seemingly was ending was only beginning.
On the restart, Feger jumped to the lead over Unzicker and Spatola, but only a lap later, a broken axle crippled the 25 car and Fegers chance at victory. This brought out the yellow and handed the lead to Unzicker. A final caution on lap 42 gave first year late model driver, Spatola, a chance to take the lead, but Unzicker pulled away after the caution. Spatola managed to close up at the end, but Unzicker held him off for the $4,000 victory. 
Billy Drake - Wes Steidinger - Brian Shirley
Billy Drake returned to action in a Neltner Racing #75 to capture fifth, while #3 Brian Shirley entered through a B-Main and advanance to third. Early leader Wes Steidinger (#94) led nine laps of the affair before retiring his mount to handling problems. (Mike Ruefer)
A spirited battle for third had broken out over the final 12 laps, as Chatham's Brian Shirley overcame a rough start to the evening and found himself in the top five. Shirley, who started 15th after advancing through the B Main, would top the tussle for third, followed by Melvin. Bloomington's Billy Drake, driving the famed #75 car for the Neltner Family, also made a hard charge, moving from 14th to fifth.
Unzicker had bolted four hard tires on his Mastersbilt Race Car for the 50-lap feature, but had to adjust when the Peoria track crew watered the top side prior to the UMP Modified feature. “When they put that water on top, we put soft tires on all but the right rear and that might have won us the race”, said Unzicker. “It’s just such an honor to win a race named after one of the greatest drivers off all time in Don Bohlander. This is a special win for us.”
Don Bohlander is a 6 time Peoria Speedway track champion and winner of 6 Illinois State championship races. He will be inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame this fall in Florence, Kentucky.
Tim Lance, Brandon Sheppard, Todd Bennett
Tim Lance, #5 Brandon Sheppard, and #T2 Todd Bennett mix it up at Peoria Speedway. (Mike Ruefer)
UMP - Peoria Speedway
1) Ryan Unzicker, 2) Mike Spatola, 3) Brian Shirley, 4) Rodney Melvin, 5) Billy Drake, 6) Brian Diveley, 7) Tim Lance, 8) Brandon Sheppard, 9) Donny Walden, 10) Frank Heckenest, Jr., 11) Todd Bennett, 12) Kevin Weaver, 13) Richie Bell, 14) Derek Chandler, 15) Jason Feger, 16) Bobby Pierce, 17) Nathan Balensiefen, 18) Wes Steidinger, 19) Charley Hess, 20) Scott Schmitt
Fast Time (31 entries): Feger (12.41); Heat winners: Spatola, Schmitt, Steidinger, Diveley; Last chance winners: T. Lance, Drake

Mike Ruefer photo



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