FAIRBURY, Ill. — Shannon Babb battled and battled and battled…and finally came out on top of a Prairie Dirt Classic A-Main for the ages on Saturday night at Fairbury American Legion Speedway.
The 39-year-old star from Moweaqua, Ill., thrilled his home-state crowd, outdueling Dale McDowell and Bobby Pierce down the stretch to win a 100-lap race that was arguably the most dramatic of the 2013 World of Outlaws Late Model Series campaign.
For a driver who since 2008 has tried so hard — but continually fallen just short — to score a signature WoO LMS triumph in the Illini 100 at nearby Farmer City Raceway, mastering another bullring in his backyard to the tune of a $20,050 first-place check holds extra significance.
“This ranks right up there with the Illini 100 to me,” said Babb, who previously won the Prairie Dirt Classic in 2002 and 2006. “Twenty-grand (to win a dirt Late Model race) right here in Illinois is unheard of, and I’m just tickled to death (to win it).
“Having this many people here, a 100-lapper at Fairbury, $20,000 to win and all the Outlaw guys here — it was cool. It’s something that’s hard to get.”
After watching the 16-year-old Pierce use the inside groove to march forward from the 17th starting spot and take the lead on lap 29, Babb stuck to his preferred outside line around the high-banked, quarter-mile oval and reached second place on lap 48. Babb then relentlessly chased Pierce for the remainder of the distance, nosing ahead to lead briefly on lap 80 and laps 89-90 before gaining full command on lap 93 and holding off both Pierce and McDowell, 47, over the final circuits.
Babb, Pierce and McDowell ran three-wide at times during the last five laps, igniting the packed house that turned out for the biggest event in Fairbury’s storied history. The trio came off turn two close together on the final lap, but Pierce and McDowell vied for the same real estate in turn three and lost momentum, allowing Babb to vault away to the checkered flag in his Victory Circle car.
McDowell settled for second place in his Team Dillon MasterSbilt machine, 0.730 of a second behind Babb. Pierce registered a career-best WoO LMS finish of third in a car built by his father Bob.
Tim McCreadie quietly rallied from a lap-39 pit stop for a left-rear tire change to finish fourth in the Sweeteners Plus Warrior, reaching the position with just four circuits left in the 100. He used a WoO LMS points provisional to start 24th and actually went a lap down early in the race but was reinstated to the lead lap by the tour’s ‘Outlaw Pardon’ rule when a caution flag flew on lap 39.
Shane Clanton placed fifth in the Kennedy Motorsports Capital Race Car after climbing as high as third from the 11th starting spot. He regained second place in the WoO LMS standings from Darrell Lanigan, who was never a factor while finishing two laps down in 19th place.
Josh Richards remained atop the WoO LMS points standings with a sixth-place finish after starting 20th.