Vandermeersch Wins Illinois State Fair Sportsman Nationals for Fifth Time


Staff member
By Jay Hardin

Springfield, IL August 23, 2010- Springfield fireman Dennis Vandermeersch has been competing in the Sportsman Nationals virtually since its inception in 1994 and for a while it looked as if his chances to win a fifth Sportsman event at the Illinois State Fairgrounds weren't very good. The Ritz Lil Fryer-B Safe-Midwest Brick Wash Monte Carlo appeared to have engine woes during the practice period and many in attendance assumed the race would be decided between former winners Wes O'Dell, Jeff Leka and Timmy Dick. They were wrong.

Assumption's Phil Moreland Jr. was slated to start from the pole for the 20-mile race but his Chevrolet broke during practice moving Vandermeersch to the pole position. Vandermeersch and his crew worked diligently before the Sportsman feature to repair the misfiring number 25 and had the car ready to go when the field began to line up.

Vandermeersch's Chevrolet, used only once a year, broke from the pole position at the green flag in front of five-time winner Wes O'Dell of Springfield, Tim Dick of Monticello and Mike Pickering of Decatur. Jeff Leka of Buffalo started 14th and began a march to the front. The show from the back of the pack was spectacular as Steve Adams of Humboldt arrived just before the start of hot laps and found that his Chevrolet smoked badly during practice. The white plume continued as Adams passed several cars on the high side in the opening laps.

The first caution on lap 4 slowed the field as Bob Cowell, Bill Berghaus and Jim Farley Jr. tangled in turn one with Farley smacking the concrete. Adams smoking car, which had moved from twenty-fifth to about seventh dropped out under caution. O'Dell, the only driver to start all 17 Sportsman National events, tried to gain the lead on the ensuing restart but Vandermeersch was too strong and he began to pull away. Two other minor cautions slowed the field but it was not enough to allow O'Dell to pass Vandermeersch. Former winners Tim Dick and Jeff Leka were running in the top five when Leka and the 2007 winner tangled in turn one on lap 17 after Ethan Schnapp caught fire in turn four. Leka hit the concrete very hard, the three-time winner was not injured but extremely upset.

Vandermeersch led the final three laps without challenge arid won his fifth Sportman event tying him with Wes O'Dell and became the fourth driver to win three straight. It also marked just the third time a driver led all the laps of the Sportsman main event. O'Dell finished second with Tim Dick third, Rick Roedel fourth and Cody Bauman rounding out the top five as 12 cars finished the race with all on the lead lap.

Feature Results: l7th Sportsman Nationals Illinois State Fair August 21, 2010
Distance: 20 Miles Time: 36:02.10 Speed: 33.301
P NO Driver-Car
Laps St Lineup
1 25 Dennis Vandermeersch/Ritz Lil Fryer-B Safe Chevrolet 20 07
2 87 Wes O'Dell/U1 Auction-Illini Transmission Pontiac 20 11
3 22t Tim DickJSK Service-Koester Real Estate Chevrolet 20 25
4 11 Rick Roedel/Touchstone Energy Chevrolet 20 9
5 4 Cody Bauman/Midwest Asphalt Repair Pontiac 20 87
6 9 Mike Pickering/Dingostand Pontiac 20 8k
7 l1e Shannon Eskew/Modern Paving Chevrolet 20 22t
8 15 Rick Lowe/C&A Auto Sales-Patrick Heating & Cooling Chevrolet 20 l1e
9 42 Travis Wellbaum/Wellbaum Farms Chevrolet 20 22c
10 9D Danny Smith/Smith Racing Chevrolet 20 4g
11 22c Bob Cowell/State Farm Insurance Chevrolet 20 22d
12 8K Ken Fustin/JL Sullivan-RE/MAX Chevrolet 20 V8
13 6 Jeff Leka/Illini Power Chevrolet 17 1
14 7s Ethan Schnapp/O'Connor Paint & Drywall Chevrolet 16 6
15 22s Dave Slade/Greg's Auto Body Chevrolet 14 B99
16 1 Steve Stevenson/Stevenson Chevrolet 13 22s
17 3 Bill Berghaus/Berghaus Chevrolet 9 15
18 22d Darrell Dick/B Sharpe-SK Service Chevrolet 6 3
19 B99 Tim Bedinger/Bedinger Chevrolet 6 42
20 500 Steve Adams/Steve's Performance Chevrolet 4 1F
21 4g Cody Wickline/Double J Photos Chevrolet 3 5
22 1F Jim Farley Jr./Dyer Rooflng Chevrolet, 3 7s
23 07 Phil Moreland/Dunn's-State Farm Chevrolet ODNS 16j
24 V8 Jim Farley III/Northside Towing-Winner's Circle Bar Chevrolet ODNS
25 16J Jason Lynch/Streetmatter Services Chevrolet ODNS 500

Lap Leaders: 1-20 Vandermeersch