By KEN BRUCE
Every year race fans mark on their calendars when opening day is for their go to track. There is just is something about the season opener at your local track that brings a smile to the face of every race fan. Just what it is can be a combination of many things. We look forward to the clean new paint schemes, how the cars are in their pristine state with no bent sheet metal (at least until warmups), reconnecting with friends who we might only see at the track during the season, checking out any new drivers that might be at your track now, seeing who has improved from last year and knowing summer is right around the corner.
For the drivers and their teams the openers are to see what all their hard work over the winter has accomplished as they approach the season with much optimism. Big Diamond and New Egypt Speedways both had their openers this past weekend and both tracks came away with very good reviews. Grandview Speedway hosted their season opener the week prior and considering all the rain we had the previous two week the track did a fairly good job preparing the speedway for action, week two at Grandview this past Saturday produced a much better racing surface allowing the drivers to move around and make passes. Bridgeport Speedway hosted their opener back on March 25 with the annual “Doug Hoffman” Memorial race. As always, the track provided a very racy surface for the drivers even after a long rain delay once qualifying was completed. After two special Sunday races, Bridgeport was back to Saturday nights for the 2017 season points opener.
Big Diamond Speedway 4/14/17 – After delaying their opener for two weeks, the speedway was finally able to get some cooperation from the weather and start their 2017 season. A huge crowd was on hand on a clear crisp cool night as Jeff Strunk was finally able to break a victory drought and take the big win. For Strunk it was his 49th career small-block win at the track and his first win since June 6th, 2014.
“It’s a big money show and we’ve been so bad here the past couple of years. This is a huge confidence builder for me and the team. I look forward to coming back here now, before it was one of them deals where you wanted to race but couldn’t figure it out.”
Strunk was bound and determined not to let this one slip away like he did a Grandview last Saturday when Kevin Hirthler surprised him on a restart and took the victory. Strunk was quick and aggressive right from the start of the feature. After starting in the seventh spot, Strunk was on the move quickly and made a big move on the initial start to get into the second only to have a caution come out before a full lap could be completed thus nullifying his big move forcing him back to his original starting position. That however did not deter the “Bechtelsville Bullet” as he remained a man on a mission to get to the front. The only car between Strunk and the lead was the strong running Bicknell car of local racer Shawn Fitzpatrick. Lap after lap Fitzpatrick held off the strong running Glenn Hyneman #126 Teo of Strunk, but after a caution was thrown on lap 12, Fitzpatrick was no match for Strunk on the restart. Strunk threw his car up into the high groove on the outside and around Fitzpatrick he went. Once in front Strunk pulled out to a commanding lead and was never heeded.
“It was a really good run for us tonight.” Said Strunk talking to him as he exited his car back at his hauler. “We got a real good restart there, we got together there a little bit and he lifted and I lifted and we both drove away. We had a real good car tonight. We made some improvements over the winter and it showed tonight. We’re real happy with the progress we’ve made and happy with the start of the season. You’re going to have your good and bad and last Saturday was bad and this Friday was good.”
Following Strunk across the line was Fitzpatrick who did a fantastic job holding off the track’s all-time feature winner Craig Von Dohren, Duane Howard and Ryan Watt rounded out the top five.
Mike Mammana was the winner of the 20 lap Sportman feature over Wayne Witmer, Craig Whitmoyer, Shawn Light and Jordan Henn.
Steel & Metal Service Center 358 modified feature (30 laps): 1. Jeff Strunk, 2. Shawn Fitzpatrick, 3. Craig VonDohren, 4. Duane Howard, 5. Ryan Watt, 6. Kevin Beach, 7. Jared Umbenhauer, 8. Rick Laubach, 9. Ryan Krachun, 10. Scott Albert, 11. Billy Pauch Jr., 12. Mike Lisowski, 13. Bobby Trapper, 14. Jimmy Reppert, 15. Dale Hartz, 16. Heath Metzger, 17. Billy Lasko, 18. Brandon Whitmoyer, 19. John Willman, 20. Tim Fitzpatrick, 21. Ron Haring Jr., 22. Bob Trapper, 23. Cliff Quinn, 24. Ryan Godown, 25. Ray Swineheart, 26. Justin Grim, DNS: Brett Kressley, Andy Burkhart.
U.S.S. Achey sportsman feature (20 laps): 1. Mike Mammana; 2. Wayne Witmer; 3. Craig Whitmoyer; 4. Shawn Light; 5. Jordan Henn; 6. Daryl Dissinger; 7. Doug Hendricks; 8. Chuck Fayash; 9. Glenn Rowan; 10. Matt Clay; 11. BJ Jolly; 12. John McGovern; 13. Greg Cole; 14. T.J. Fitzpatrick; 15. Nathan Mohr; 16. Tyler Reber, 17. Dave Dissinger, 18. Chad Kohler, 19. Rob Riegel, 20. Matt Stangle, 21. Billy Moyer Jr., 22. Ed Mrochko, 23. Gary Grim, 24. Kevin Brady, 25. Todd Huffman, 26. Rob Light,
Bridgeport Speedway 4/15/17 – Rick Laubach has been in the headlines for the past ten days but not for the reasons he would prefer. However, this past Saturday night at Bridgeport Laubach made the headline he was looking for. Out to prove to the fans and even more so to his peers Laubach led all 25 laps of the speedway’s point’s opener to claim the victory over a hard running Ryan Watt.
Laubach driving the Gary and Lori Herrman #7 Teo chassis, Morrison powered big block modified started on the pole for the main event due to the luck of the draw on this night. Handicapping will go into effect starting at the next regular season show. Laubach jumped out to the lead right from the start and was never headed after that to claim the victory. Ryan Watt who started on the outside of the front row put on a late race charge and was able to get under Laubach on occasion but never enough to get the by the leader. Following Laubach and Watt to the finish line was Neal Williams, Jamie Mills and new track regular Brett Kressley.
Matt Stangle held off Brian Papiez, Dave Damiano, Travis Hill and Eric Korman to win the 20 lap Crate/Sportsman feature.
SPIRIT AUTO CENTER BIG BLOCK MODIFIED FEATURE (25 laps): 1. Rick Laubach, 2. Ryan Watt, 3. Neal Williams, 4. Jamie Mills, 5. Brett Kressley, 6. Dominick Buffalino, 7. Wade Hendrickson, 8. Jim Britt, 9. Jimmy Horton, 10. Jesse Hill, 11. Mike Barone, 12. Tommy Beamer, 13. Pete Visconti, 14. Rusty Smith, 15. Ron Roberts, 16. Bob Sarkisian, 17. Dave Shirk, 18. Ricky DiEva, 19. Richie Pratt, Jr., 20. Sam Martz, 21. Billy Pauch, Sr. 22. Jack Swain, 23. Mike Franz, 24. Dave Hunt, DNQ – Bobby Firth
STEWART STAINLESS SUPPLY CRATE/SPORTSMAN FEATURE (20 laps): 1. Matt Stangle, 2. Brian Papiez, 3. Dave Damiano, 4. Travis Hill, 5. Eric Kormann, 6. Roger Manning, 7. Adam Cox, 8. Clyde Cox, 9. Jeremy Harrington, 10. Chris Jenkins, 11. Steve Kemery, 12. David Crossman, 13. Nick Nicotra, 14. Bobby Bracall, 15. John Gilroy, 16. Dave Izzi, 17. Roger Gaskill, 18. Matt Peck, 19. Matt Luzi, 20. Scott Kohler, 21. Brad Roberts, 22. Bill Briggs, 23. John Scarpati, 24. Andrew Belmont, 25. Tommy Errico. DNQ – Jim Gallagher, Jr., Brett Belmont, Melissa Scarpati, Chris Sammons, Tom Holding, Scott Hulmes
New Egypt Speedway 4/15/17 – Just like at Big Diamond Speedway, the opener for the New Egypt Speedway was delayed for two weeks due to the torrential rains the central New Jersey area had received over the past two weeks. Even though last Saturday was a clear day it was decided that with all the water the track had received it would be in the best interests of the track, their teams and the fans to delay it one more week to make sure the drivers would have a better racing surface. The wait proved to be the right move. The track surface on Saturday was superb and the drivers I talked to afterwards made it a point to say exactly that.
Going into the season opener everyone who attends New Egypt Speedway knew that it was going to be a two man race for the title between Billy Pauch Jr. and Ryan Godown and the two drivers proved from the start that they were right. Both drivers have very fast modifieds and the one that can get to the front first is going to awfully tough to beat. On this night with the starting lineup determined by the luck of draw it was Billy Pauch Jr who got the upper hand as he drew the seventh spot and Godown drew the ninth spot.
Pauch was able to get to the front early with some daring moves as Godown was forced to move at a little slower pace getting through the field. Pauch Jr already had the lead when the yellow flag was displayed on lap seven. Once in front the only challenge Pauch Jr had was getting around some lapped traffic towards the end of the race.
Pauch was glad to get his season off on such a good note as he car was going through post-race technical inspection.
“We really rolled around this place pretty good tonight. This car seems to be good here. We went out this winter and put a lot of new parts on this car to make sure we were right when we came here this year and it definitely showed tonight on opening day. This is the same car we ran last year, we’ve built a new one but we figured this car runs so good here why change something that works. We’ve freshened up the motor and I think we are in good shape for the long haul. I was lucky to be able to get by David (Van Horn) early or I think he would’ve been really hard to pass later on.”
Pauch went on to praise the track surface on this night.
“You have to give hats off to the people here at the speedway. This was probably the best track I’ve raced on all year. You could move around, most races seem to single file once you get going but the track stayed racy all night. This is what we want, we want good racing and I’m glad we got it now.”
David VanHorn is the one driver who can throw a monkey wrench into the perceived Pauch Jr/Godown title battle. VanHorn was very fast on Saturday night and held off Godown for the last half of the feature to garner a well earned second place. Ryan Godown had to settle for third on this night with Chad Barney and Johnny McClelland completing the top five.
Talking to VanHorn after the race, he was happy but knew he still had some work to do to catch up to the high flying Pauch Jr.
“The car was pretty good tonight, but we still have some fine tuning to do yet. It was the first time out for this car so we’ll fine tune it and work with it to see if we can get it as fast as Little Billy (Pauch Jr) over there. He definitely had us covered tonight so we will go back to the shop and work on to see if we can make better. We had a good battle going with Ryan (Godown) there the last ten laps or so. It was a good way to start the season for us here especially after losing a car last week at Middletown.”
Third generation driver Billy Osmun III captured the Sportsman feature over Wll Dupree, Bob Lineman Jr, Pat Wall and Cale Ross.
358 MODIFIEDS – 30 LAPS FEATURE – 1. BILLY PAUCH, JR. 2. David Van Horn 3. Ryan Godown 4. Chad Barney 5. John McClelland 6. Brandon Grosso 7. Willie Osmun 8. PJ Oliver 9. Bryan Kuhl 10. Tad Cox 11.Ryan Krachun 12. Chris Grbac 13. John Pakenham 14. Steve Davis 15. Andrew Bohn 16. Kevin Vaclavicek 17. Marty Saxton 18. Danny Bouc 19. Lou Cicconi 20. Lou Farina 21. Doug Ostwald 22. DJ Ruppert
HAMMER SPORTSMAN – 20 LAPS FEATURE – 1. BILLY OSMUN III, 2. Will Dupree 3. Bob Lineman, Jr. 4. Pat Wall 5. Cale Ross 6. Tommy Tanner 7. JR Fulper 8. JT Trstensky 9. Joe Dill 10. Jimmy Amato 11. Kyle Kania 12. Jeremy Martino 13. Jason Kosch 14. Marty Resnick 15. John Criscione 16. Jesse Dill 17. Richard Wegner, Sr. 18. Mike Lyons 19. Jeff Bubori 20. TJ Lilly 21. David Burns 22. Aaron Weaver 23. Ryan Simmons 24. Glenn Knell 25. George Gareis, Jr.
Grandview Speedway 4/15/17 – After the feature event last Saturday night at Grandview Speedway Kyle Weiss was thinking he might have to miss a couple of weeks after suffering what he thought was major damage to his Hig-Fab chassis #21K in a crash on opening night. Weiss described his car as junk the day after on his team’s Facebook page. Upon further review and after some hard work from his dedicated pit crew the #21K was back in action this past Saturday and it could not have ended up any better for him as he held off the two winningest drivers in Grandview’s history in Duane Howard and Craig Von Dohren to take the highly deserved checkered flag.
Veteran Danny Erb looked to have the field covered on this night leading until lap 25 when his car unfortunately broke handing the lead to Weiss. Once in the lead all Weiss had to do was hold off Duane Howard and Craig Von Dohren as they three drivers ran nose to tail to the finish. Weiss never made a mistake and ran the preferred line to take the well deserved win.
Following Weiss across the finish line were Duane Howard, Craig Von Dohren, Mike Gular and Jeff Strunk.
Ryan Lilick held off the charge of Mike Lisowski to win the 25 lap Sportsman feature with defending track champion Jordan Henn, Paul Houseknecht and Ryan Beltz rounding out the top five.
NASCAR T.P. Trailers Modified Feature (35-Laps): 1. Kyle Weiss, 2. Duane Howard, 3. Craig Von Dohren, 4. Mike Gular, 5. Jeff Strunk, 6. Jared Umbenhauer, 7. Kyle Borror, 8. Kevin Hirthler, 9. Brian Krummel, 10. Kenny Gilmore, 11. John Willman, 12. Doug Manmiller, 13. Addison Meitzler, 14. Chris Esposito, 15. Brian Houseknecht, 16. Justin Grim, 17. Bobby Gunther-Walsh, 18. Chris Gambler, 19. Joe Fanelli, 20. Dan Waisempacher, 21. Ryan Grim, 22. Blaine Bracelin, 23. Danny Erb, 24. Ron Seltmann Jr., 25. Brigg Danner, 26. Brett Gilmore, 27. Ray Swinehart 28. Mike Kellner. DNQ: Kory Fleming and Brandon Whitmoyer.
Sportsman Feature (25-Laps): 1. Ryan Lilick, 2. Mike Lisowski, 3. Jordan Henn, 4. Paul Houseknecht, 5. Ryan Beltz, 6. Craig Whitmoyer, 7. Ryan Lilick, 8. Jack Butler, 9. Louden Reimert, 10. Mike Mammana, 11. Brian Hirthler, 12. Mark Kemmerer, 13. Dean Bachman, 14. Joe Funk III, 15. Brad Grim, 16. Brad Arnold, 17. Dylan Swinehart, 18. Ryan Higgs, 19. Jesse Landis, 20. John McGovern, 21. Kurt Bettler, 22. Andrew Kreis, 23. Kenny Bock, 24. Ryan Shupp. DNQ: Andy Clemmer, Jeromy Guistwite, Pat Conrad, Mark Kemmerer, Nathan Mohr.
NJ/PA Mod News N Notes – After having motor troubles Friday night on the last lap of his heat race at Big Diamond Speedway, Brett Kressley was forced to scratch his car for the feature. Kressley who uses the same car at Grandview that he uses at Big Diamond decided to take his big block car to Bridgeport Speedway on Saturday. Kressley earned a well deserved fifth place finish at the “Port” and rumor has it will race there regularly now on Saturday nights….
Ryan Godown made his debut at Big Diamond on Friday night in the Searock Fabrications #26 Teo Chassis. After winning his heat handily, Godown was forced to pull off early in the feature event due to motor trouble. It was discovered a broken rocker arm was the culprit….
Kudos to the management and track crew at New Egypt Speedway on Saturday night. New Egypt has taken it on the chin the past year or so and is looking to bounce back this season with some new people in place to try and make this year a transition year and get the track back on its feet. The track was smooth as glass and produced no tire wear whatsoever. The Modified feature was over by 9:30 and that included a red flag having to be thrown during the race as well. For a track that takes its share of bashing it was good to see them on the ball this week….
The track surface at Big Diamond Speedway was super smooth on Friday night after all the rain the track had received recently. Great job by Jake Smulley and his crew to have the track in good shape for their opener….
With his home track Orange County Fair Speedway not opening until next Saturday, Jimmy Horton towed his Halmar #43 to Bridgeport Speedway to get some racing action in….
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: This week’s honor goes to Kyle Weiss along with his crew. After surveying the damage to his #21K after a hard crash opening night at Grandview, the team dug down deep to get the car ready for action the following week. Their efforts were well rewarded as Kyle was able to park it in victory lane for his fouth career win at the speedway.
As always I can be reached for any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25