FARMER CITY, Ill. — When the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models come to Illinois, they face a hungry contingent of regional drivers, looking to take home a victory.
That was the case Friday night at Farmer City Raceway, as Mike Spatola led two other Prairie State drivers across the finish line on night one of the Illini 100 to claim his first career World of Outlaws win.
“Opie” took the lead on lap five of the 25-lap feature and never looked back.
Even though the Manhattan, Ill., driver led most of the race, it wasn’t an easy task. He had Ryan Unzicker and Bobby Pierce breathing down his neck in the final stages of the race.
Spatola said he knew he had to stay conservative in the last five laps.
“I was so tight going into the corner early in the race, that I almost shoved up into the wall three or four times,” Spatola said.
He said he knew keeping the car on the high side of the race track, was where he’d find success.
“I know I backed up to [Unzicker and Pierce] and made it really interesting, but it was what I needed to do to protect and get the win,” Spatola said.
While Spatola was protecting the top, it was Ryan Unzicker inching closer on the bottom with each lap, just narrowly missing out on a win. He fell back a little bit early in the race but battled back for the runner-up spot.
“I was trying to search the middle and the top, and it really wasn’t my cup of tea,” said Unzicker. I kind of found a rhythm on the bottom, and that’s where I’ve won a lot of races before.
Bobby Pierce was also battling in the final stages of the event, working the top side of the track. He got right to the back of Spatola’s car but didn’t have enough to get by. Pierce knew he left the bottom open for Unzicker to have a chance.
“I thought [Unzicker] was going to sneak in there and win it, because [Spatola] seemed to be slowing down just a little bit,” Pierce said. I couldn’t really go anywhere, but I had the best seat in the house to watch [the race].
Pierce was hoping for the race to stay green a little longer. All three cautions came in the final ten laps.
“In traffic I think I would’ve had a real good shot at maybe getting by [Spatola] somehow, but all in all it’s not a bad night,” Pierce said.
Tanner English finished fourth. Brandon Sheppard was the first tour regular over the line, finishing fifth.
Feature (25 Laps)-1. 89-Mike Spatola [$6,000]; 2. 24-Ryan Unzicker [$3,000]; 3. 32P-Bobby Pierce [$2,000]; 4. 81E-Tanner English [$1,750]; 5. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$1,500]; 6. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,400]; 7. OE-Rick Eckert [$1,300]; 8. 3S-Brian Shirley [$1,200]; 9. 18B-Shannon Babb [$1,100]; 10. 19R-Ryan Gustin [$1,000]; 11. 99B-Boom Briggs [$900]; 12. 9-Devin Moran [$850]; 13. 16-Tyler Bruening [$800]; 14. 28-Dennis Erb [$175]; 15. 10S-Taylor Scheffler [$750]; 16. 8-Kyle Strickler [$700]; 17. 25-Shane Clanton [$660]; 18. 44-Chris Madden [$640]; 19. 18-Chase Junghans [$110]; 20. 11T-Trevor Gundaker [$600]; 21. 29V-Darrell Lanigan [$600]; 22. 7-Ricky Weiss [$600]; 23. 20RT-Ricky Thornton [$600]; 24. 6-Blake Spencer [$110]; 25. B1-Brent Larson [$600]; 26. 83-Scott James [$600]; 27. 91-Rusty Schlenk [$600]; 28. O-Scott Bloomquist [$110] KSE Hard Charger Award: 1-Brandon Sheppard[+13]