Last season, the Machesney Park native racked up eight feature wins on his way to the Rockford Speedway Track Championship and the NASCAR Illinois State Championship.
On Saturday night, Papini was back on top, capturing the win in the 30 lap Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model feature event on Mobil 1 'Dollar Night'. Papini outran seven-time Rockford Speedway track champion Ricky Bilderback on his way to his first victory of 2014.
Papini started on the outside front row of the main event, next to Elkhorn Wisconsin's 'Insane' Wayne Freimund. Papini pounced to the lead in the race’s opening laps, bringing Bilderback along for the ride. Over the next ten laps, Papini and Bilderback wrestled for the race lead. Bilderback tried to shake Papini from the lead and even pulled side-by-side with the defending track champion, but eventually Papini pulled away, building as much a three car length lead on Bilderback at halfway.
Bilderback, however, was not done. The Rockton native closed the gap numerous times between he and Papini in the race's final ten laps, but never seriously challenged for the lead again in the caution free race. Papini hit the line first, scoring his twelfth Late Model feature win in thirteen months. Bilderback continued his steady start to the season, finishing in second place. Three-time track champion Jerry Gille finished the 30 laps in third, holding off several challenges from his nephew Jake Gille, who settled for fourth. 'Driver X' Jon Reynolds Jr, who earlier in the night set fast time and accepted the Gerber Collision and Glass Ultimate Challenge, rounded out the top five.
Third year Bargain Hunter Sportsman driver Pat Featherston has gotten better each and every week he's gotten behind the wheel. Last year, Fetherston finished a runner up two times in feature races and also was a runner up in the Gilley's Cool 5 point standings. This week, Featherston was second to none, as the Byron resident sprinted to his first ever Rockford Speedway feature win, passing Rockford's John Logan Jr with nine laps to go en route to the checkered flag. For the second straight week, Howie Ware finished the 25 lap Sportsman feature in second place, with Johnny Robinson II taking third place after a late race charge. Opening night winner Brett McCoy collected a fourth place finish and Whitelaw Wisconsin driver Daryl Gerke came home fifth.
Shawn Rickelman made it look easy in the Kickstart Roadrunner division. Rickelman powered to the front of the large field of Roadrunners, assuming the lead on lap four of the 20 lap affair and never looking back on his way to victory. Rickelman won the race by a straightaway, with Adam Cartwright finishing in second position. The second place result Cartwright's second straight runner up to start the new season. 'Magic Shoes' Trevor Robinson finished third, with 'Bullet' Bobby Frisch in fourth and Ryan Ostenson in fifth.
Ostenson's great night continued in the first Figure 8 race of 2014. 'Flyin Ryan' led all 10 laps of the twisting and turning feature finale and won his first ever Figure 8 race. Joey Thomas finished the Figure 8 race in second, with Dennis Smith Jr third.