By KEN BRUCE
It was a cold and windy night Friday night at Big Diamond Soeedwat as the track opened up for their 51st season of racing at the Schuylkill Valley dirt oval. Despite the cold temperatures, the racing on the track generated a lot of heat with the track’s all-time feature winner Craig Von Dohren secured the opening night win. For Von Dohren it was win number 104 at Big Diamond and his 364th career victory.
It was a complete turnaround from last season’s opener when the motor expired in the Dave Dissinger No. 88X putting a damper on the season’s start.
“We’ll take this after last year’s start, that’s for sure,” cited a happy Von Dohren after the race. “That was a bad deal last year and kind of boned us all year long. We are in a little better position this year if something dumb like that happens again this year. Last year we were prepared for something like that to happen, but we are now.”
Starting second in the 25-lap feature always helps but you still have to be able to keep it up front and hold off all the challenges that may present themselves.
“Rick (Laubach) took off well in the beginning of the race and he was really good,” said Von Dohren. “Obviously the No. 19K car (Brett Kressley) is always fast. I knew I had the preferred line, but I certainly didn’t want to see those cautions come out. But we did it right and I guess I am still kicking!”
Restarts always play a key role in the outcome of a race and this race was no different as Von Dohren and Kressley battled hard on consecutive restarts with neither one wanting to give an inch.
“It’s the way it always goes, look he knew he had to get there and beat me into turn one for the preferred lane and our car was good enough tonight to be able to stay ahead,” explained Von Dohren. “I thought our car was really good tonight on restarts and Rick still beat me on the initial start. The bottom was pretty good and grippy and is always the shortest way around. It’s a good way to start the year and I hope we can continue it tomorrow night. We have a good car for Grandview, and I think I know my way around there so we should be good there as well. I really just want it to warm up, this is too damn cold. I think it was warmer in January.”
Coming in second on Friday night was the young veteran Alex Yankowski who was making an infrequent visit to his former home track of Big Diamond. Once Utica-Rome opens, Yankowski will compete there weekly on Friday nights but made the most out of his visit to Big Diamond on Friday.
“It was a very good run for us tonight and a good warmup for next week’s Money in the Mountains race,” mentioned Yankowski. “Kevin Bates (crew chief) and I will go over some stuff and make a few adjustments for next Friday and hopefully get one spot better with the Stankiewica Roofing No. 2rs. The track was good tonight, it was a little narrow but with all the rain we have had recently I thought they did a very good job. Hopefully next Friday it will be a little slicker. We love coming here to Big Diamond. We get to see a lot of people that we don’t get to see during the summer. I love racing at Utica-Rome but I love racing at Big Diamond as well and hopefully we can win at both tracks this year.”
I know that the competition in the Crate Sportsman divisions at every track are close and with everyone using the same style engine that it the way it is supposed to be but I would put up the drivers roster in the crate division at Big Diamond up against any other track. Last season the crate division was dominated by three drivers with those being Brandon Edgar, Danny Buccafusca and Logan Watt. All three of those drivers are back again this year plus the likes of Nick Desantis, Jordan Henn, Paulie Hartwig III, Talon Carter and a host of others shows the talent of the crate sportsman drivers at Big Diamond.
Last Friday night’s feature saw Logan Watt lead all 20 laps but it was anything but easy as he had to hold of the challenges of first Nick Desants, then a very fast Paulie Hartwig III (in the former No. 6 of Danny Bouc) and then Talon Carter in his new ride for Big Diamond, the No. 17. Brandon Edgar did not have the pleasure of a prime starting spot in the main event but did work his way up to a fourth-place finish and was coming. Unfortunately for Danny Buccafusca, the No. 20G had a fuel problem that forced him to pull off. It is definitely a division that will provide some exciting racing throughout 2023 at Big Diamond.
It was a long race for winner Logan last Friday as he had to be perfect on multiple restarts to hold off the competition.
“Talan (Carter) was really fast tonight and (Nick) Desantis was fast last year at the Coalcracker and he was really good and I didn’t know who all else I had behind me there,” said a happy Watt in the tech shed after the race. “Luckily on those restarts I was able to get ahead of them and take the line I wanted through turn one to beat them off the corner. Once I was in front it was just a matter of me focusing on hitting my marks right and not making any mistakes.”
This Friday night at Big Diamond Speedway will be the annual “Money in the Mountains” race which will pay a tidy little sum of $10,000 to the winner. This Friday night’s MITM race will be the 10th time the race will be run with Ryan Watt being the only repeat winner in the previous nine races. An all-star field of drivers is expected to be in competition on Friday. Former MITM winner and Big Diamond track champion Ryan Godown will be in the field along with another former track champion Billy Pauch Jr in the Kid Racing No. 15 plus many more. With a very favorable forecast for Friday night, a tremendous crowd is expected for a great night of modified racing.
Big Diamond Nuggets:
34 Modifieds were on hand for opening night at Big Diamond with heat race wins going to Bobby Trapper Jr, Jeff Strunk, Craig Von Dohren & Ken Eckert Jr…
Eddie Strada was very strong in the Modified feature coming from starting 17th to a 5th place finish. If this team can stay away from the problems that have plagued them the last couple of years, I believe Strada will get his first modified win at Big Diamond this year…
Ran into former Big Diamond regular Frank Yankowski in the pits last week. Frank, who ran at Five Mile Point last season informed me that he will probably race this season at Penn Can Speedway when they open the season…
Nick Rochinski’s season didn’t get off to the start he was hoping for as he ended up going off on the back of the wrecker after a tangle with Dave Dissinger on the backstretch…
Brett Kressley was running in second place and challenging Von Dohren for the lead when the motor let go on the Kressley’s Truck Sales No. 19K…
It was nice to have the “Handler” Doug Manmiller in action on Friday night. Unfortunately, Manmiller flipped his No. 44 during the modified feature Saturday night at Grandview which will prevent him from returning this Friday night for the MITM race…
Congratulations to Bryce Bashore who is the son of Craig Von Dohren’s crew chief Jason Bashore on his win in the first ever Big Creek Concrete Rookie feature last Friday…
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