By KEN BRUCE
Friday night’s thriller at Big Diamond Speedway will be a race that will be talked about for the whole season. Veteran drivers and rivals Craig Von Dohren and Mike Gular put a show that had the fans standing and cheering for the last five laps.
Von Dohren and Gular have a history with each other as they battled hard last season at Grandview Speedway for the track championship with Gular ultimately winning the title and knocking Von Dohren off the throne. With Gular’s decision to race at Orange County Fair Speedway this season the fans at Grandview will not have a chance to see a repeat of that knock down drag out battle once again.
What the fans at Grandview missed, the large crowd at Big Diamond Speedway had a chance to witness with the reincarnation of said battle. Von Dohren was wheeling the Dick Biever No. 14S on this night due to the MITM race following the rules of the Short Track Super Series. Von Dohren was coming off a hard-fought win last Friday in the opener as he was looking to make it two-for-two on the season.
Gular jumped out to the lead from his pole starting spot with Von Dohren and Billy Pauch Jr., getting by outside pole-sitter David VanHorn to jump into second and third. Gular continued to lead with Von Dohren starting to apply pressure as the caution flag was displayed.
On the restart, Von Dohren powered by Gular to grab the lead, but the Boyertown, Pa., driver was not letting Von Dohren get away from him. Gular continued to stalk Von Dohren for the lead as the rest of field battled behind them. Lap after lap, Gular inched in on Von Dohren and as the race approached the 20-lap mark he was all over the leader.
Lap 20 saw Gular make his move underneath Von Dohren in turns three and four to take over the top spot. Gular started to put some distance on the field, but it was short lived as the yellow was out one lap later slowing the race.
On the ensuing restart, Von Dohren once again asserted himself and as the lead duo entered turn one he was back in front of Gular. A series yellow flags slowed the action as the field approached the lap 30 fuel break which was taken on lap 29 after Alex Yankowski hit the frontstretch wall hard after contact with another car.
When the race resumed after the break, it was once again Von Dohren taking command over Gular, but now there was a third driver in the mix as Ryan Godown made his way to third looking to get in on some of the fun. The top three raced nose to tail with the last stoppage of the race coming on lap 35 as Ryan Watt slowed with a flat tire.
The last 15 laps of the race were run without incident as Von Dohren, Gular and Godown waged an epic battle all going for the $10,000 payday. With Von Dohren still leading the way, Gular now had to figure out a way to get past Von Dohren while trying to hold off the high flying Godown.
Gular started working both the low and the high side trying to get past his rival. With 10 laps to go tried to go around the top for the lead, this was the opportunity Godown was waiting for as he went under Gular to take away the runner-up spot, albeit just for a moment as Gular crossed back under Godown to take back the spot.
The Gular and Godown battle was the elixir that Von Dohren was hoping to see as he was able to stretch his lead just a little. Once Gular had re-established himself in second he was on a mission to gain back the distance he had lost to the leader and in no time was back on Von Dohren’s rear bumper. Gular stalked Von Dohren every lap hoping for a mistake to be made by the leader, but Von Dohren does not make too many mistakes and it was up to Gular to make his move.
Gular clearly had the faster car at this point of the race but with the veteran Von Dohren making his car as wide as possible it was going take a herculean task from Gular to win this race. Gular worked hard to try and set-up his move for the lead and as the field was coming to the white flag with the crown on their feet, slid underneath Von Dohren through turns three and four.
Applying a little muscle, the two leaders came out of the turn with rub rails together with Gular taking the top spot away. Not too be deterred, Von Dohren set the car hard into turn one and was able to reassert himself as the leader as they stormed off of turn two with Gular still working the low side. Gular gave it one more shot coming to the checkered flag but just didn’t have enough as Von Dohren held him off for the big win.
As far as big money races go on the PA circuit goes, Von Dohren has won them all with multiple wins in the Forest Rogers, Freedom 76 and the Coalcracker, but the one race that has eluded the Oley, Pa, star until Friday night was the MITM race which he can now add to his long list of racing accomplishments.
“I knew he (Gular) was close but I wasn’t sure how close he was. I could see the flashes of the photographers, so I knew he it was close,” as Von Dohren explained what went down the last few laps. “I tried to hold my car down low in three and four but when I did that the car felt terribly slow so I tried to keep right on the edge of the mud so too speak, but sometimes I would get the right rear up too much and it would cause me to hang up a little bit. I tried to mix it up a little bit to break his momentum, especially in one and two. I saw at the fuel break that tires were probably going to be an issue as mine were starting to chunk up a little bit. I’m guessing he had a harder tire on than me because he was way better on the long runs.”
Winning the race on Friday night has made Von Dohren two-for-two on the young season so far in 2019 at Big Diamond and with another major race coming up this Tuesday as the Short Track Super Series makes it’s return to the speedway with its annual combination series race.
“We’ve had a good start to the season here so far winning in two different cars,” mentioned Von Dohren. “We tried a whole new package here tonight in this car and that seemed to work out well for us. I have to thank Dick and Diane Biever for everything they do to make all this happen along with Pioneer Pole Buildings and the Bashore’s who both have been with us for a long time. It’s a good deal we have going here.”
Dissapointed Gular Finishes Second
Mike Gular has definitely started to make a name for himself on the Modified traveling circuit. Until last year, Gular had never traveled too much outside of his weekly tracks, but after hooking up with car Terry Fasnacht late in 2017 Gular has ventured out to run both the North and South regions of the Short Track Super Series along with other special events. Winning the track title last season at Grandview Speedway has also made fans stand up and take notice that the name Mike Gular is a name to be reckoned with whenever they pull into the pits of a speedway. This season Gular recognized that there are a lot of big paying Modified races in the Northeast and he needed to raise his game if he wanted to have a chance at winning one of them.
The Fasnacht No. 2A team decided early in the year to make a move to the legendary Orange County Fair Speedway forfeiting the chance to win another title at Grandview to get more experience running with a big-block along with getting use to running on Hoosier Tires. The move has paid off for the team as Gular has been a contender every week at his new home track and has been highly competitive wherever his teams decides to run.
Friday night at Big Diamond Speedway, Gular didn’t know what to expect with new surface but was fast right out of the box during warm-ups. Gular continued to impress in his heat race easily garnering a redraw spot for the feature event. Gular’s good night continued with him drawing the pole for the feature. As described above, Gular ran a great race. He ultimately finished second to rival Von Dohren.
Second place in a race of this magnitude with all the talent that competed would be a great night for most drivers, but Gular is not one of them and you could see the disappointment in his face as he sat on his Modified’s tire as it was going through tech after the race.
“It was a great race for us but not quite enough,” a visibly down Gular explained. “It’s tough taking a second. I especially don’t like taking a second to him (Von Dohren). The only thing I think I could’ve done differently was too be a little dirty, but that’s not how we come up to race.”
After Gular had taken the lead on lap 20 there was a yellow and I asked him if he thought he would’ve been better off taking the high side on the restart.
“I just couldn’t roll the top on the restarts,” mentioned Gular. “I don’t know if it was the marbles out there or not, but I just couldn’t get a good jump. Every time he picked the bottom on restarts he just drove away from me on the starts. This is just a little small-block. It’s an open small-block, but it’s a little one. Maybe on Tuesday night we’ll bring the big-block. We probably could’ve used the extra power tonight. I could get good runs coming off of (turn) four and if I was able to keep my car straight. He had the extra power he needed tonight down the straights.”
Gular was also quick to mention the new surface and how much better the lighting was this season.
“The new track surface was smooth, there were a few ripples getting into turn three but nothing major. You could see great and they’ve done a nice job with the place. It’s impressive and it’s nice to see when the put time and money into something and it works out for them.”
Badly Needed Podium Finish for Godown
As disappointed as Gular was with a second-place finish, quite the opposite could be said for the Searock Fabrications No. 26 team of Ryan Godown. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the “Ringoes Rocket” and coming home with an impressive third place finish on Friday night was a step in the right direction for the team.
“It was a good run for us tonight,” said a happy Godown standing in the tech area afterwards. “It was a run we needed for sure after the past couple of races. Starting seventh with those guys starting up front hurt a little. Those guys are good here and they don’t make many mistakes. I thought we had a good car here tonight and the longer the race went on the better we got, especially the last 10 laps. I felt like I was there, but we just didn’t have enough smoke under the hood compared to those two cars. I thought I had Gular there but once I got by him and slid up high he had the power to just go back by us. We’ll be back on Tuesday with the same car and we’ll be in the same situation motor wise because I don’t have big 430 motor to run the Deyo series anymore. We’ll make a couple of changes to see if can get it a little better.”
MITM Diamond Nuggets
Thirty-six cars took to the track for the annual race with Craig Von Dohren, David VanHorn and Shawn Fitzpatrick winning the three heats. Anthony Perrego was the winner of the consolation…
Jimmy Horton took a wild flip over the third turn fence on the opening lap of the third heat. Thankfully the veteran Horton was okay after the hard crash and was busy working on repairing the car enough to load it in the trailer for the ride home. Regrettably the same could not be said for DKM Cyclone chassis as it sat twisted in the pits with major damage. The Halmar team was very appreciative of the all the safety measures DKM takes in the construction of their chassis’s…
Great run for veteran Woodhull Speedway campaigner Billy Van Pelt. Van Pelt qualified easily for the feature event as he hung in the top five most of the race coming home with an impressive sixth place finish at a track the multi-time Woodhull champion does not have too much experience on…
Anthony Perrego was aboard the Gary Simpson owned No. 12 Friday night. The car seemed to be having handling issues for most of the evening. Perrego missed qualifying in his heat race but came back to win the consi. In the main-event Perrego made multiple pit stops to try and improve on the car’s performance ultimately ending up with 12th place finish. It was certainly not what the team was hoping for…
Billy Pauch Sr. was on hand driving the experimental car owned by a group of gentlemen from North Jersey and New York. This was the same car that Frank Cozze had tested earlier this year up at OCFS and also from what I was told that Mike Gular tested at Grandview Speedway not too long ago. This would be the first time the car had actually saw competition and you could see that Pauch Sr had his hands full right from the beginning. The car failed to qualify for the feature event…
Impressive young rookie Modified driver Alex Yankowski had another solid run going in the feature event. Starting from the eighth starting spot, Yankowski dropped back out of the top 10 early on in the feature and was starting to make his way back to the front. He was up to the sixth spot when he slipped up in turn three allowing a few cars to race back underneath him. Trying to get back in line down the front stretch, Yankowski was clipped by another car and turned hard into the front stretch wall. I’m really looking for good things from this young up and coming Modified star at Big Diamond…
Alex’s cousin Frank Yankowski had a rough night when the motor in his No. 127 went bad during warm-ups forcing him to spectate the rest of the night…
The consensus of the drivers I spoke to were very happy with the direction the speedway has taken with the new surface along with the additional lighting. A couple of drivers thought the track was a little too fast and narrow but said that as the season goes on and the track gets raced on more that should take care of itself…
As always, I can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.