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Monday, Sept. 18

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Illinois Fall Nationals interrupted; will resume Oct. 1

[SEPT. 18, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- Mother Nature interrupted the 15th running of the Best Western Illinois Fall Nationals at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Sunday with a persistent rain, causing a delay in the proceedings, but not before the race fans in attendance got to see the one-lap track record fall for both the UMP Super Late Models and the UMP Modifieds in qualifying. However, the persistent rain began falling just before the UMP Super Late Model feature, forcing promoter Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises to interrupt the program until Oct. 1.

Before the rain, the nationals featured blazing speed, thanks to fine track preparation by the Illinois State Fair track crew, moderate morning temperatures and partly cloudy skies. Chadwick resident Darren "The Thriller" Miller, who set a track record at Springfield in late-model qualifying in 2004, thrilled this year's Springfield crowd by breaking his on-track record on his first lap of qualifying with a 27.603 circuit, then bettered that with a 27.581 (130.525 mph) second lap to establish the new Springfield track record. All of the UMP Late Model heats went without a caution flag, with Miller taking the first heat at an average speed of 125.495 mph. Three-time Illinois Fall Nationals late-model winner Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, won the second heat at an average of 123.850 mph after a spirited duel with Kentucky's Jackie Boggs. Elk Mound, Minn., native Jimmy Mars won the third heat race at an average speed of 121.941.

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The UMP Modified one-lap track record of 35.095 set by Jim Shereck on Sept. 14, 2003, was broken three times in qualifications for the modifieds. In fact, no less than eight drivers qualified below Shereck's 2003 standard. Taylorville's Curt Rhodes was the second qualifier in line and lowered the track record to 34.401. Two cars later, Petersburg's Mike Hess bettered Rhodes with a 34.361 circuit. That lap held up until 1999 Fall Nationals modified winner Jeff Leka of Buffalo went out and broke the 33-second barrier with a 33.240 lap, or 108.303 mph. Leka and Brian Shirley of nearby Chatham won the modified heat races.

Racing action for the 15th Best Western Illinois Fall Nationals is slated to resume at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Oct. 1 where the program left off. Rain checks will be honored. Feature racing is tentatively slated to begin at 2 p.m. Check for further details.

[Provided by Jay Hardin]

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