FARMER CITY - Steve Hillard was ready to settle for second Friday night during the United Midwestern Promoters Summernationals 40-lap race for late model stock cars at Farmer City Raceway.
"When I went through and took the white flag, I thought unless he (leader Darren Miller) really screws up that I was going to get second," said Hillard, who hails from Sadorus and races regularly at Farmer City.
Screwup or not, Hillard and Miller made contact coming out of turn two on the final lap, sending Miller's car into a spin and Hillard on his way to victory and the $10,000 prize money.
"My plan was to be patient during the race and keep my tires under me," said Hillard. "Everything played out except that last deal in turn two."
Miller started from the pole position and led every lap but the last one on the rubber-laden, one-groove track.
Still, Hillard felt he was closing in on Miller the last few laps.
"The last couple of laps Darren started getting looser and looser and he started running in (the turns) straighter," said Hillard. "Across the bottom of the track, there was a little dust streak and he actually had his left-side tires out of the rubber (groove).
"I started gaining on him, and by him being down there in the dust he got loose coming off two. When he got loose, I hooked him and that was that.
"I couldn't have gotten under him if he hadn't gotten loose. It's unfortunate. I hate it. For my biggest win of my career to be shrouded with something like this is terrible."
Miller obviously viewed things differently.
"He drove up into me and turned me sideways and then ran into the front end of my car," said Miller, who recovered in time to finish seventh.
"I was just setting the pace riding around there until the end of the race. That's what you do on a one-groove track. He could not have passed me without wrecking me. You just don't do that."
Hillard, who had never won a Summernational race or earned a $10,000 paycheck, was followed across the finish line by Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Shannon Babb of Moweaqua and Matt Taylor of Springfield to round out the top five.
Other area drivers and their places among the 21-car starting field were Shirley's Eric Smith (13th), Bloomington's Junior Shickel (14th), El Paso's Joe Harlan (19th) and Bloomington's Billy Drake (20th).
Late model heats winners included Steve Sheppard Jr., of New Berlin, Hillard, Weaver, Harlan, Miller and Steidinger. Miller won the trophy dash. Semi-feature winners were Mike Mullvain of Bartonville, Wendell Wallace of Batesville, Ark., and Ryan Dauber of Tonica.
Bull, Nail, Nichols win
Fairbury's Scott Bull and Decatur's Billy Nail and Jeremy Nichols won modified, sportsman and street stock feature races, respectively, Friday at Farmer City.
Bull finished ahead of Buffalo's Jeff Leka, Ashmore's Denny Schwartz, Bloomington's Gary Turpin and Fairbury's McKay Wenger in the modified feature. Heat winners were Champaign's Bill Giannetti, Wenger and Bull. Jeb Friedman of Forrest and Matt Wilson of Clinton were semi-feature winners.
Nail won the sportsman's feature with Nick Macklin of Argenta, Greg Kimmons of Pleasant Plains, Jason Unzicker of El Paso and Leka rounding out the top five. Heat winners included Jimmy Dehm of Lexington, Nail and Kimmons. Kevin Crowder of Argenta won the semi-feature.