By KEN BRUCE
It wasn’t a weekend where we didn’t have to dodge the raindrops at some time or another but all four NJ/PA tracks managed to get in there shows for only the second time all season.
Big Diamond Speedway 7/07/17 – Although the night started out on an iffy note when showers blew through the area not long before the action was supposed to start. The track stuck with it and although the start time was delayed rewarded the fans with a solid night of racing.
On tap for the Modifieds was the annual “George Stevenson Memorial” race with a first-place prize of $4,000 up for grabs to the winner.
After starting out the season at Big Diamond Speedway on a rather rough note, second year 358 driver Brett Kressley has seemed to turn his season around. The Kressley team has suffered numerous engine and mechanical issues the first half of the season but in the last month the hard-working team has seemed to settle into a nice rhythm and have put their problems behind them. After picking up a win recently at the Grandview Speedway, Kressley kept the momentum going on Friday night at Big Diamond.
Due to all of Kressley’s previously mentioned misfortunes earlier in the year, the young driver out of Orefield, Pa., was scheduled to start on the pole for the night’s feature event. Kressley immediately jumped out to the lead and was never headed after that. Kressley would go on to lead all 30-laps to take the big win.
During the night’s feature event on a lap four restart the Big Diamond version of the “Daytona Big One” took place involving several cars on the home stretch eliminating the cars of Billy Pauch Jr, Ryan Krachun among others. After that incident, the race settled down as Kressley again grabbed the lead and put a safe distance between himself and the balance of the field. While Kressley was leading lap after lap, the top dogs battled behind him for position amongst themselves.
As the laps wound down quickly, Kressley seemed to be heading to victory lane with no problems, but the caution appeared with only four laps remaining putting the always dangerous Craig Von Dohren alongside of him on the restart. Kressley had been in this same position only a few weeks prior with Von Dohren. As it turned out Kressley would lose the lead to Von Dohren on the last lap having to settle for a second-place finish. This time however, Kressley was able to dig deep and maintain the lead over Von Dohren to take the big win.
Finishing behind Kressley and Von Dohren to round out the top five were Ryan Godown, Jeff Strunk and Duane Howard.
As you would expect the young Kressley was very excited to grab the big trophy on Friday night.
“It was a good win for sure, it always helps when you start on the pole so that makes it a little easier. Right now, we are hitting a high point now with everything. The cars are handling well and the engines are staying together so hopefully that is the way we are going to finish the year, nice and strong.”
I asked Kressley if he was worried about the last restart with Von Dohren right alongside of him and if he was worrying about a repeat of a few weeks ago.
“We had that restart with four to go and I had been running the top but I choose the bottom on the restart. It seemed like I could control the restart a little more from the bottom. Luckily that was the right choice and I was able to jump out to a small lead and maintain it till we took the checkered. It was in my mind what happened a few weeks ago but I just told myself to be as perfect as possible the last four laps and not screw up.”
Von Dohren remains the points leader over Jeff Strunk with Rick Laubach, Billy Pauch Jr and Kevin Beach Jr the top five.
It is a big weekend coming up at Big Diamond Speedway. On Friday night, it will be a regular show consisting of the 358 Modifieds, Sportsman and the Road Runners. Then on Sunday night Brett Deyo and the Short Track Super Series will present the 3rd annual “Anthracite Assault”. This event is always a showstopper because it is the one and only combination race for the STSS. It will be the North series vs the South Series for 50 laps and $5000 to win. The two previous winners of this event Rick Laubach and Ryan Watt will both be on hand to try and keep the cash here in the South once again.
Grandview Speedway 7/08/17 – If there was ever a driver who has deserved a win at Grandview it was Mike Gular. The driver of the Rich Stankewicz #2 has been oh so close on many occasions the past couple of season but has never been able to close the deal.
This Saturday night at Grandview, Gular had it all come together and ran a perfect race. Staying out of trouble throughout the main event Gular had his Bicknell Chassis, Wide Open Technologies motor fueled by Kelly Racing Fuels #2 modified flying through the field to take popular crowd pleasing win.
“Man, it feels good to finally get one. It’s been a really long wait. It didn’t get here quick but we come on really good at the end of the races usually and last night the car was really, really good and it kind of just fell our way I guess. It’s definitely a relief because I know how good we are everywhere we go but especially at “The Hill” where we’ve been really good but just couldn’t get that win.”
The race started with Mike Kellner grabbing the lead early until he spun handing the lead to Kressley. Kressley immediately took off looking for his second win of the season as the field battled behind him. Kenny Gilmore and Kyle Borror would battle for second with Gilmore winning the battle and now setting his sights on the high flying Kressley. While all this was going, Gular who had started back in the 12th spot, was on the move and on the move fast as he moved into third with ten to go.
The lead was still going all Kressley’s way when Gular squeezed by Gilmore to move into the runner-up spot now setting his sights on the leader Kressley. Gular was coming like an out of control freight train and ran Kressley down quickly. Kressley still lead as the white flag was displayed but now Gular was right there. Kressley went into turn three a little too hard with a lapped car in front of him and that was the break Gular needed as diamonded the turn and shot low under Kressley coming out of turn four to take the checkered flag.
Kenny Gilmore had a great run to finish in second over a charging Duane Howard. Frank Cozze and Kyle Borror rounded out the top five. Kressley crossed the line in second but was disqualified and placed in last for a fuel issue (see note below).
It was Gular’s first win at the speedway in six year with his last win coming way back on May 28th, 2011. It was also Gular’s sixth career win at Grandview.
Gular talked about the pass for the win and how he hopes they have the car back to where he needs to be for the rest of year
“I watch them guys like Craig (Von Dohren) and Jeff (Strunk) but Craig especially and the way he runs that corner where he runs it in there high and then comes down the hill. I used to watch him do that all the time and I’ve been trying to do that for a long time and tonight it was the best I could ever get it to work. If you hit it right you can really get your momentum swinging when you do that and it paid off for us tonight. Unfortunately we got caught up in a couple of things early in the year. One week we got wrecked it pretty good and it’s taken a few weeks to get the car back to where we were before the wreck. It felt a little different after we wrecked it and it took us a little longer than usual to get it dialed in. But now we have it straightened out at a good time with some big money shows coming up.”
As happy as Gular was for himself he was even happier for the car owner and the crew that gave him the fast hotrod that he drove to victory.
“These guys deserve it, they’ve stuck with me the last couple of year when we weren’t winning. We’ve been so close so many times and it gets frustrating to not win. But, I am very proud of them for sticking with me. I told them we were going to be good enough to do it and all it took was for everything to fall our way. We’ve had a couple taken away from us when we close to winning so this means everything to them. I couldn’t be prouder of them, they never give up and keep plugging away at it and give me a good car every week. It’s great; they are a good group of guys.”
Modified Feature (30-Laps): 1. Mike Gular, 2. Kenny Gilmore, 3. Duane Howard, 4. Frank Cozze, 5. Kyle Borror, 6. Jared Umbenhauer, 7. Craig Von Dohren, 8. Jeff Strunk, 9. Addison Meitzler, 10. Ryan Grim, 122. Ryan Krummel, 12. Chris Esposito, 13. Kevin Hirthler, 14. Doug Manmiller, 15. Ray Swinehart, 16. Mike Laise, 17. Clay Butler, 18. Dylan Swinehart, 19. Justin Grim, DNF: 20. Chris Gambler, 21. Kory Fleming, 22. Ron Seltmann Jr., 23. Joe Fanelli, 24. Colt Harris, 25. Kyle Weiss, 26. Mike Kellner, 27. John Willman, DQ: 28. Brett Kressley.
Jeff Strunk remains the points leader with only a four point advantage of Craig Von Dohren. Duane Howard, Mike Gular and Jared Umbehaurer complete the top five in the chase for the track championship.
Just a reminder that this Saturday night July 15th the 358 Modifieds will run two 30 lap features with the first one being the rained out feature from June 24th.
New Egypt Speedway 7/08/17 – “Liquid” Lou Cicconi was the man in charge on Saturday night at the New Egypt Speedway as he held off the charge of Ryan Krachun to win his second career feature event at the speedway.
The always popular Cicconi took the lead from a strong running Rocco Infante on lap on a lap eleven restart after a red flag due to the car of Kevin Vaclavicek hitting the wall and rolled over. During the red flag a small shower came over the track causing a bit more of a delay in the action.
While Cicconi was leading the way, there was fierce action going on behind him as Krachun, Infante and Ryan Godown were hooked up in an intense battle for the second thru fourth. As Infante and Godown waged their own personal war, Krachun was able to slip by both of them and into second. Once Krachun grabbed second he set sail for the leader Cicconi and caught the leader. Krachun pressured the leader lap after lap. Krachun was able to put pressure on Cicconi but never was able to get around him as Cicconi took the checkered flag.
Krachun finished second with Godown, Billy Pauch Sr & Infante rounding out the top five.
358 MODIFIEDS – 30 LAPS FEATURE 1. LOU CICCONI 2. Ryan Krachun 3. Ryan Godown 4. Billy Pauch, Jr. 5. Rocco Infante 6. Steve Davis 7. Tad Cox 8. Chad Barney 9. John McClelland 10. Danny Bouc 11. Bryan Kuhl 12. David Van Horn 13. Doug Ostwald 14. Rich Rutski 15. John Pakenham 16. Kevin Vaclavicek 17. Tim Apgar
Bridgeport Speedway 7/08/17 – These days it doesn’t really matter what car Roberts Racing Stable that Ryan Watt brings to the big 5/8’s mile oval, the end result seems to be the same with the Boyertown, PA hot shoe getting his picture taken in victory lane.
Watt has won two Poker Series races along with the Super DIRTcar Series race this season at Bridgeport all aboard the team’s 2017 Enders powered Bicknell chassis. But Watt, who still has a couple of Troyer cars at his disposal, still has the confidence in them to get the job done and on this Saturday night decided to leave the new car home and bring one of team’s older Troyer cars to the track for the night.
You would think that the car you have had so much success in this season would be the car of choice but Watt explained their decision to bring the older car to the track for this race.
“We changed some stuff on it after I ran it here a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t that fast in the beginning of the feature but it was good late in the race. There were no cautions and the feature went non-stop. So I changed some stuff around on it and wanted to see how it ran. We’ve been putting a bunch of laps on the other car (Bicknell) and the Enders motor and it’s almost halfway through needing another rebuild already. We figured we have a bunch of big races coming up so we’ll save that car and try the other car to see if the changes we made are any better. This car has always been good to us and has some good wins on it. We just had to dial it in a little bit.”
Tommy Beamer was the leader early on until Bob Sarkisian was able to grab the lead on lap seven. Sarkisian continued to lead the field and looked like he was on his way to his first win of the season when the caution flag flew on lap 15. Sarkisian, who had been running the high side while leading, choose the inside on the restart and that was the break Watt needed as he was now in the runner-up position. Watt was able to power by Sarkisian on the restart and that was all she wrote as Watt led the remaining ten laps to grab his fourth overall win of the season at Bridgeport. It was his first points paying win of the season as well.
Richie Pratt Jr was looking strong and seemed to be gaining on Watt only to have to pull off with a flat tire and restart at the tail of the field. Dominick Buffalino finished in second with Neal Williams, David Hunt and Jesse Hill rounding out the top five.
BIG BLOCK MODIFIED FEATURE (25 laps): 1. Ryan Watt, 2. Dominick Buffalino, 3. Neal Williams, 4. David Hunt, 5. Jesse Hill, 6. Tommy Beamer, 7. Richie Pratt, Jr., 8. Rick Laubach, 9. Dave Shirk, 10. Wade Hendrickson, 11. Ron Roberts, 12. Sam Martz, 13. Anthony Moran, 14. Ernie Miles, Jr., 15. Bob Sarkisian, 16. Bobby Firth
NJ/PA Mod News N Notes:
As mentioned above, Brett Kressley was disqualified due to a fuel issue after finishing second on Saturday night at Grandview. I spoke to Kressley today regarding the issue and according to him they are not sure what was the cause of the issue. Kressley said it is the same car they won with the night before at Big Diamond and it passed the fuel test there. They said they will look into the situation to see what caused the problem, but they are going to put it behind them a move on. On a lighter note, Kressley told me he was now glad the Mike Gular got by him for the win due to the fact it would’ve made it worse if he had won and had the victory lane photos taken for nothing…
With the big trip to Eldora Speedway for the Super DIRTcar Series race fast approaching, the only local drivers I know as of now planning to make the trip are Ryan Watt and Jimmy Horton. I will try and find out if any other of our local drivers plan to attend…
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: Driver of the week this week goes to Mike Gular! How can you not give it to a guy who is so competitive each and every week at the Grandview Speedway yet had to go over six years between victories? Congratulations to Mike and the Stankewicz Racing Team on the big win!
As always, I can be reached for any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25