With the Fairbury American Legion Speedway modified division track championship tucked away, Jeff Curl has one more item on his list to make the 2017 season a total success.

"It would be awesome to get my first win of the year in a big show," Curl said.

Curl will have that opportunity this Saturday night when Fairbury hosts the Casey's Modified Nationals, an event that's expected to attract the nation's top dirt modified competitors.

The drawing card is the $10,000 top prize and the fact that the race is the second of three American Modified Series races to be held in Illinois this weekend. Action begins Friday night at Farmer City Raceway and continues through Sunday when the series visits Fayette County Speedway in Brownstown.

When Curl started racing modifieds 17 years ago, he never dreamed he'd see a feature in the division paying its winner in five figures.

"Absolutely not," he said. "And, actually, the purses haven't really grown until the last three to five years. When I started, we were lucky to be racing in a bigger event for $1,000 and $2,000 was considered absolutely huge."

This weekend, Farmer City will be paying its modified winner $3,000 with Fayette County awarding $5,000 to the victor on Sunday.

For area drivers who want to stay closer to home Sunday, Spoon River Speedway outside of Canton is hosting its 27th Annual Modified Fall Nationals with the winner earning $3,000, making this the biggest weekend of the year in Illinois for modified competitors.

Curl, who lives in Fairbury, won the inaugural Casey's Modified Nationals at Fairbury American Legion Speedway in 2013 and was second the following year before finishing fifth in 2015 and seventh a year ago.

His $5,000 win in 2013 on his home track was his biggest career payday. He's hoping to double that on Saturday night as well as visit Fairbury's victory lane for the first time this season.

"Consistency has been good for us this year and that's what it took for us to get the championship," said Curl, who had 14 top-five finishes en route to the title.

"I'm still in the older technology stuff compared to the younger drivers in newer cars with bigger and better motors, but what I have fits my driving style. We're not flashy, we just get the job done."

Curl, 39, outran a pair of the whippersnappers for the track title, topping teenager Jeffrey Ledford of Pontiac and young Mike McKinney of Plainfield.

Ledford, who won this year's modified track title at Farmer City, is ranked seventh nationally in UMP modified weekly series points. McKinney is eighth. 

At a different stage in his life and racing career, Curl is buried well back in the national standings.

"We've only been (on the track) 26 times all year and some of the guys have been out over 60," said Curl, who was among the leaders for the national crown in both 2013 and 2014. "My lifestyle is more about work and raising a family."

Curl and his wife, Bridget, have three children, ages 14, 12 and seven.

"We're pretty focused on work, school, junior high softball and youth football right now and trying to balance all of that," Curl said.

UMP Late Models also will be on the card Friday night at Farmer City and Saturday night at Fairbury.

Friday night will be the final night of the season at Farmer City with the late models racing for $5,000 to win. The late model victor Saturday at Fairbury will earn $3,000. Tickets are $20 at Farmer City and $25 at Fairbury.

State Fair, area flavor: El Paso's Ryan Unzicker led 33 of the 100 laps at last year's ARCA series event at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds before finishing fifth. This Sunday he'll return in a car that's been almost totally rebuilt following a nasty crash midway through the Herr's Potato Chips 100 ARCA event two weeks ago at the state fairgrounds in Springfield.

"We got hit in the (rear) going into the corner and got spun pretty hard and backed it into the wall," Unzicker said of the crash. "Once we were up along the wall, another guy came across and caught the left front."

That was the last thing car owner Bill Hendren of Gridley needed as he tries for the 43rd straight year to win one of the annual ARCA fair races with a limited budget.

Doing it this long, Hendren obviously doesn't give up easily and this year is no exception. Despite the fact that the only car they have was pretty much trashed in the Springfield wreck, the Hendren crew is soldiering on to DuQuoin.

"They stripped the car down to the frame, loaded it up and went down to the Carolinas and got it clipped, a new body hung and they were back up here Friday night," Unzicker said. "They were in the shop on Saturday morning putting it back together."

They'll find out how well everything fits when practice for the Southern Illinois 100 gets underway at 10:45 a.m. Monday. Time trials are slated for 12:30 p.m. with the green flag set to fly at 3.

Also of local note, USAC National Midget Series champion and Fairbury race winner Tanner Thorson will attempt to qualify for the ARCA race in a car fielded by Venturini Motorsports. Thorson, of Minden, Nev., won the Lucas Oil POWRi National Midget Series race earlier this summer at Fairbury.

Another 2017 Fairbury winner will compete in Sunday night's Ted Horn 100, USAC Silver Crown Series race at DuQuoin.

Korey Weyant of Springfield, who won this year's WAR East sprint car feature at Fairbury, is among what's expected to be the largest field of entrants at DuQuoin in over a decade.

Elkhart's Chris Urish, a Mount Pulaski High School graduate who also attended ISU, won the Ted Horn 100 in 2013. Canton's Chris Windom is the reigning DuQuoin champ.

Weekly events: Lincoln Speedway will host Brandt Season Championship Night on Friday night with racing in six divisions and $5 tickets. Hot laps are slated for 6 p.m. with racing to follow in the season finale ... Saturday night is Bud Light Ladies Night at Macon Speedway with seven divisions of racing slated to compete ... Peoria Speedway, which races into October, will host a weekly series event on Saturday highlighted by the Midwest Street Stock Championship Series.

Bruce Yentes covers motor sports for The Pantagraph. He can be reached at byentes@pantagraph.com. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_yentes

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