Bruce Yentes

Bruce Yentes

Forget about any fancy-schmancy engineering or pulling a fast one on the field with some clever pit stop strategy.

There’s also no such thing as finding a crucial, 200-mph drafting partner or attempting to calculate fuel mileage to the last thimbleful.

Instead, it’s flat-out, hands-on-the-wheel, foot-to-the-floor, charge-as-hard-as-you-can-for-as-long-as-you-can racing when the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series visits Farmer City Raceway for the ninth annual Illini 100 on Friday and Saturday night.

A 25-lap main event will headline Friday night’s action at the quarter-mile bullring with a 75-lap finale slated for Saturday.

The Farmer City stop will be the seventh of this year’s World of Outlaws late model tour that began in February in Florida and ends in November in North Carolina.

It’s been competitive so far, with six different winners in the opening six events of 2017.

Included among this year’s victors are Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin and Shane Clanton of Georgia. Both are also former Illini 100 winners and both are scheduled to be in Farmer City this weekend.

Sheppard arrives as the series’ points leader, holding a 34-marker advantage over Pennsylvania veteran Rick Eckert.

Often referring to Farmer City Raceway as his "home track," Sheppard will not only be racing in familiar surroundings this weekend, he’ll also be racing against some familiar faces.

A solid contingent of local and area drivers will be challenging the touring series regulars, including Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver and Bloomington dirt late model standout Jason Feger.

Feger’s been especially busy in preparing for the event and was sporting a beard when he spoke with The Pantagraph at his Bloomington shop earlier this week.

"I haven’t had time to get a haircut or shave, but I haven’t had anywhere important to go, obviously," he said.

Feger’s most important thing right now is replacing a motor that blew up in last weekend’s Thaw Brawl at LaSalle Speedway, the season opener for dirt tracks in Central Illinois. He had just won his heat race when the engine let go at the finish line.

"I’m not sure exactly what happened," Feger said. "We had a bearing failure and I’m not sure why. We’re trying to dig into it."

All was rosy for the Bloomington veteran up to that point.

"The car felt great, especially for the first night out," Feger said. "It was really fast and we qualified well, won a heat race and the lap times were good."

Feger took advantage of one of the practice days offered by Farmer City Raceway in the past month. He sees smooth sailing at the track this weekend.

"The track was in great shape," he said. "There was a good cushion on the top, moisture on the bottom, it was slick through the middle and it didn’t have a ripple in it."

Even the notorious "crater" at the south end of the track was gone, at least for now.

Gibson City’s Weaver has been racing at Farmer City for over 30 years and has likely forgotten about some ruts in the track that many others have yet to discover.

"It was pretty smooth, in pretty good shape," said Weaver of his visit for a practice day a couple of weeks ago.

Weaver has been taking a bit of an interesting tack in preparing for the weekend. He purchased a Longhorn race car with 12 races on it over the winter and has been parting it out, creating somewhat of a hybrid car for this weekend.

"We’re just trying to make it better," he said.

Weaver will get his first chance to find out if it was a wise decision when racing gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Friday. A full slate of qualifying and heat races are on tap to set the field for that evening’s 25-lap main event.

They’ll start over again at 5 p.m. Saturday, winnowing the field for the 75-lap main attraction.

Reigning Illini 100 champ Josh Richards of West Virginia will not return to defend his crown. After winning his fourth World of Outlaws series title a year ago, Richards has moved over to the rival Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and currently leads the standings in his quest for that title.

Bruce Yentes covers motor sports for The Pantagraph. Contact him at byentes@pantagraph.com

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