Howard Back on Track, Doug Smith Jr Gets First Top Five, Diamond Notes – DTD Exclusive

By Ken Bruce

There is no easy way to put it, but the Getz Motorsports No. 15G team and driver Duane Howard have struggled the past month at Big Diamond Speedway. The team came out of the gate strong, winning two races early on, including the $10,000 to win “Money in the Mountains” race back in April, but after that, the team has had a run of bad luck, culminating with a DNQ a few weeks ago after Howard hit a yuke tire in his heat race, and the team could not get the car repaired in time for the consi. 

This past Friday night, Howard was back in early season, coming from his ninth-place starting spot to make a late race pass of leader Louden Reimert to take a much-needed win for the team. 

“Finally, we needed that going into some of these bigger races,” said the victorious Howard, standing outside of the team’s trailer post-race. “It’s no secret that we have been struggling for the last month and a half. We just went back to doing simple, normal stuff tonight. It was a good pick-me-up for this team; we have been working through some motor issues the past two weeks. This motor here ran good tonight, and I think we have a good package for some of the bigger races coming up on the schedule.”

With the 410 sprints running their feature before the modifieds, the track usually has a tendency to widen out and slick off, but not on this night.

“The track was so heavy tonight,” explained Howard. “When it’s like that, you have to be so aggressive to get to the front, and I certainly didn’t make any friends tonight, but that’s the way you have to race when the track has so much grip in it like it did tonight. I felt bad. I got into the back of the No. 29 car going down the back, but he was slowing up for the lapped car in front of him, and I had such a run coming off turn two that I couldn’t stay off of him. You just can’t give an inch right now; if you have any kind of position, you better take it because there is so much bite and every car in the pits here is fast right now, so you cannot give anything up and drive aggressively, and tonight, we did that.”

If you are a longtime Big Diamond fan, you know that Howard has a reputation for using the inside line to make most of his passes. When the yellow came out with three laps to go, my guess is that the leader Reimert knew that as well, choosing the inside lane on the restart to keep Howard to his outside. When the green came back out, Howard knew what he had to do and executed it to perfection.

“I had no choice; going to the outside was my only chance,” mentioned Howard. “I had caught Louden there in open track, but I wasn’t going to be able to pass him. My only shot was to be even with him at the flagstand or at least a half car alongside him. Early in the feature, I was able to roll the top a couple of times, and I felt pretty good up there, so knowing that was the only chance I had, I had to go for it. I wasn’t worried about losing spots, and if I went for it and ended up fifth, that is what it was going to be. I wanted to get the win for this team tonight. “I think Louden just pushed up a tick there, and I was able to rotate the car around him.”

“The track fooled me a little tonight. Usually when the sprint cars are here, it usually makes for a better track and the track widens out, but tonight it got a little wider, and I’m telling you there was a lot of bite in the track tonight. We thought it would be a little slicker, so we freed it up after the heat race, but there was a top, especially in turns one and two.”

With so many good cars at Big Diamond on Friday nights, the key to success is making the handicap in the heat races. If you don’t make the handicap, it puts you behind for the night, and I would be willing to bet no driver has won this season that did not make the handicap out of the heat.

“The heat races are the key, and you have to be aggressive to make the handicap,” said Howard. “The restarts are the key, and that is the easiest place to pass cars here. You have to get to the inside and be aggressive because once the cars get racing, it is really hard to pass, so the opportunity is there on the restarts, and that is when you have to go.”

First career top-five finish for Doug Smith Jr.: It has been a season of learning for Doug Smith Jr. and the No. 119 team. Smith has shown some promise as of late, and the team was rewarded on Friday night with a strong fifth-place finish, which left the young driver happy with a top five amongst the caliber of drivers here at Big Diamond.

“You know, when that late race caution came out, I looked ahead at the drivers that were ahead of me,” said a happy Smith after the race. “I was thinking they have more wins combined than I have laps on the track. “The guys I was racing with are top of the class, and it was a lot of fun.

The team struggled early in the season, but lately they seemed to have turned the tide and have started to right the ship, as evidenced by their finish on Friday night.

“We have been struggling and missing the set-up every week,” explained Smith. “We just cannot seem to figure it out, but recently we have started making changes that are starting to send us in the right direction, and it paid off tonight, and we hit it spot on, until I hit Rochinski, I think, going into three and bent the tie rod. I had a hard time steering the car after that. I was happy to finish fifth after that. The car was a rocket ship; we have a great RPM motor in it, and it was nice to be able to show the speed of the car tonight.”

Big Diamond Nuggets: 25 cars signed in for action on Friday night, with heat wins going to Corey Renninger, Aleia Geisler, and Ken Eckert Jr. 

Low-budget racers Ken Eckert Jr. and Wayne Witmer both had top-five runs going until late in the race. Unfortunately, both drivers ended up out of the top ten at night’s end.

Quandel Concrete Modified Points Leader Brett Kressley saw his large points lead shrink dramatically after the No. 19K suffered mechanical issues, forcing Kressley to stop on the track.

Ryan Watt aboard the Fitzpatrick Racing No. T102 saw his streak of top-five finishes come to a stop on Friday night. Watt raced most of the feature with a flat left front tire and a broken rear shock but still managed to nurse the car home for a ninth-place finish.

A nice six-place finish for the No. 5 of Corey Renninger…

Aleia Geisler continues to improve at Big Diamond with another heat win and a nice tenth-place finish in the feature race.

Nick Rochinski was the latest winner at Big Diamond and was having another good run this Friday when contact from another car broke the front end of the No. 20R TEO Chassis.

USS Achey, Inc. 602 Crate Sportsman points leader Logan Watt suffered his first DNF of the season when Nick Desantis spun early in the race and Watt, with no place to go, caught the front end of the Desantis car with his right rear, causing damage that the team could not repair at the track.

Jordan Henn is back in front of the USS Achey, Inc. season-long points standing after a solid second-place finish to the hottest crate driver at Big Diamond, Danny Buccafusca. All Buccafusca has done is win three out of the last four crate features, and by doing so, he has thrust himself into contention for the championship.

You had to feel for Brandon Edgar last week. Edgar has been fast every time he has raced this season and has had many top fives, but has not been able to garner a checkered flag so far. Last Friday night, Edgar had a big lead and was heading to his first win of the season, only to tangle with a lapped car, ending his bid for the win.

Next Friday night, it will be the $10,000 to win “Prelude to the Coalcracker” at Big Diamond Speedway. The Prelude to the Coalcracker is the second of the three crown jewel races presented by the speedway, with the others being the Money in the Mountains race and the granddaddy of them all, the Jack Rich, Inc. Coalcracker 72. With the extra money being offered, I look for some outsiders to show up and try and steal the big payday away from the Big Diamond regulars. New Egypt regulars Billy Pauch Jr. and Jack Butler have confirmed they will be in attendance, along with recent Orange County Fair Speedway small block winner Dillon Steuer. I expect more names to be added to the invader list as the week progresses.

I can be reached for any questions and comments via email at or on Twitter (X) @dirtracefan25.