By Ken Bruce
It’s the final weekend of the season for Big Diamond Speedway, and of course that means Coalcracker Weekend is upon us. That’s right, folks, we wind up the year on Sunday with the running of the Jack Rich, Inc. Coalcracker 72. The winner will take home a $15,000 payday. Here is all of Sunday’s information, along with the favorites, contenders, and sleepers for Sunday’s big race, plus some fun Coalcracker facts.
Where: Big Diamond Speedway
When: Sunday, September 3rd, 2023
Time: Warmups at 7:00 PM with racing to follow
Race Length: 72 laps with no fuel stop, all green flag laps
Payout: $15,000 to win, $600 to take the green
Starting number of cars: 24 (no provisionals).
Support Classes: Crate 602 Sportsman: 25 laps, $1,500 to win; Roadrunners: 20 laps, $550 to win.
Ticket Prices: GA $35; ages 6 to 16 $10; under 5 y/o are free.
Pit Admission: $45 for everyone
Streaming will be provided by DirtTrackDigest.TV via pay-per-view. This will be a multi-camera event.
Brett Kressley: How can you not list Kressley as one of the favorites? The driver of the #19K has three wins this season and is the 2023 points champion. Oh, and he is also is the defending race winner. If it were not for some untimely engine problems, Kressley could easily have had five or more wins.
Duane Howard: Referred to as the Diamond Cutter, Howard also has three wins in 2023, including the $10,000 to win Money in the Mountains back in April. Howard is the leading Coalcracker winner with seven. Aboard the potent Getz Motorsports No. 15G, you can never count Howard out in a big race at Big Diamond.
Mike Gular: 2023 has been a career year for Gular. Totaling eight wins, including two at Big Diamond. Gular has a knack for winning big-money races and will be gunning for the big check wheeling the Terry Fastnacht No. 2A.
Anthony Perrego: Perrego finally broke the ice this year at Big Diamond, winning two of the three times he has visited the speedway in 2023. Driving the Vinny Salerno No. 4*, Perrego won the 75-lap Anthracite Assault Super DIRTcar Series race in July and returned two weeks ago and took the checkers in the $10K Prelude to the Coalcracker race. The Salerno team has their spec 358 program on point and should be in the mix come Sunday.
Louden Reimert: The Oley, Pa., driver has been very fast all season long, and if Reimert can put a complete race together, it would be no surprise to see the No. 16 in victory lane on Sunday. Reimert is driving the Flurer Machine & Tool No. 16. Reimert is coming off a win at New Egypt Speedway a couple of weeks ago and was a very strong second to Perrego two weeks ago in the Prelude race.
Craig Von Dohren: I would normally have CVD in the favorites category, but 2023 has not been a typical CVD year. Von Dohren won opening night at BD but has struggled through most of the year learning how to get the Dave Dissinger No. 88X better on coils. The team started to show progress as CVD was leading and pulling away at the Prelude race, only to suffer a driveline failure just past the halfway mark. The track’s all time feature winner can never be counted out when the big money is on the line, and you can bet he will be in the mix come Sunday.
Jeff Strunk: Strunk has had a terrible year at BD in 2023 by Jeff Strunk standards, but the Hyneman No. 126 has shown speed only to be done in by Lady Luck on more than one occasion. Strunk is a master of extra-distance races on the PA Small Block Circuit and can never be counted out.
Ryan Godown: The Ringoes Rocket is a three-time winner of the Coalcracker race as well as a former champion at Big Diamond. Godown came for the Prelude race two weeks ago to reacclimate himself with the track, and even though he was a little off on the night, Godown and the crew are confident they will have the R&M Motorsports No. 26 ready to go come Sunday night.
Billy Pauch Jr.: One of the Kid’s Kid goals each season is to win either the Big Diamond Speedway Coalcracker or the Grandview Speedway 76er. Pauch Jr. would love to win one of the races that his legendary father has conquered over the years. Pauch Jr. has come close on occasion but has not been able to close the deal. Pauch Jr. has totaled 19 career wins at Big Diamond, along with a points title, and looked very fast in the Prelude race, coming from the back into the top five before an encounter with the third turn wall ended his night.
Ryan Watt: Watt, who was the winner of the 2020 Coalcracker race, has had a strong year at Big Diamond in 2023, mostly wheeling the Fitzpatrick Racing No. T102. Watt has visited victory lane once and had a string of four consecutive top-five finishes during the summer. Watt is always a threat to win when it comes to big-money races.
Nick Rochinski: I originally had Rochinski in the sleeper category, but after his dominant win in the championship over track kingpins Craig Von Dohren and Duane Howard, I had no choice but to move the Dickson City, Pa., driver up to the contender list. The No. 20R TEO Chassis not only won but pulled away from the track’s all-time feature winner, Von Dohren, to win in dominating fashion. It would be no surprise to this writer to see Rochinski repeat Friday night’s masterpiece.
Doug Manmiller: A former Coalcracker winner and always fast in his infrequent visits to Big Diamond.
Timmy Buckwalter: Buckwalter is a former champion at Big Diamond and is always in the mix when he visits.
Rick Laubach: A former track champion, Laubach has shown speed at Big Diamond lately and would love to add a Coalcracker win to his career resume.
Jared Umbenhauer: Umbenhauer has won before at Big Diamond and is always fast when he visits.
Ryan Krachun: Krachun is a former winner of the Money in the Mountains race at Big Diamond and has always been a threat to win when he visits.
Mike Lisowski: It would be great to see the Lisowski family No. 15 pull off an upset win on Sunday. Lisowski has supported the speedway for years and has one career win at Big Diamond.
Jack Butler: The Phillipsburg, N.J., native loves coming to Big Diamond and has been fast each time. Butler has a knack for the draw, and it would be great to see the No. 5 near the front on Sunday. If things work out the way they hope, Butler could be a Big Diamond regular in 2024.
Expected invaders on Sunday include Anthony Perrego, Billy Pauch Jr., Ryan Godown, Frank Cozze, Doug Manmiller, Ryan Krachun, Jack Butler, DJ Hunt, Jimmy Horton, Corey Cormier, Eddie Strada, Jared Umbenhauer, Sammy Martz Jr., Eric Kormann, Jordan Watson, and others.
Crate 602 Sportsman drivers Brandon Edgar and Logan Watt will both be looking to qualify for the Coalcracker on Sunday. Watt is the defending winner of the Crate 602 Coalcracker race and will be in the field to defend his win in the Crate 602 class.
The first Coalcracer race was run back in 1979, with Bob Emerich as the winner.
Sunday’s Coalcracker will be the 44th running of the race.
There was no Coalcracker race in both 1983 and 2005.
Duane Howard is the career leader in Coalcracker wins with seven.
Howard is also the leader in top fives at the Coalcracker with 23. Craig Von Dohren (19) and Jeff Strunk (17) are next in line.
Doug Manmiller was a Big Diamond weekly driver in 2012, when he won the Coalcracker race. However, Manmiller drove that year for the Fitzpatrick Racing team but won the Coalcracker while driving for Josh Biever.
Since the year 2000, invaders have won the Coalcracker five times. Billy Pauch (2000 and 2002), Matt Sheppard (2014), Danny Bouc (2018), and Ryan Watt (2020).
There are two car owners tied for the most Coalcracker wins. Chad Sinon (#4) has three wins, all with driver Duane Howard, in 2006, 2008, and 2010. The other owner with three CC wins is Johnny Rae (#R1). The first was Keith Hoffman in 2003, followed by two with Ryan Godown in 2009 and 2011.
Duane Howard’s seven Coalcracker wins have come with four different car owners. Cary Duncan No. 85 (1998 & 1999), Glenn Hyneman #126 (2001), Chad Sinon #4 (2006, 2008 & 2010), and Norm Hansell #357 (2017)
Legendary car owner Glenn Hyneman only has one Coalcracker, with that coming in 2001 with Duane Howard.
Longtime Big Diamond car owner Norm Hansell has won the Coalcracker on two occasions. Matt Sheppard got it done for Hansell in 2014, and Duane Howard also took the 357 to a win in 2017.
Although this cannot be confirmed, I believe the youngest driver to win the Coalcracker was Alex Yankowski in 2021.
Anthony Perrego will be in attendance, looking for his first Coalcracker win on Sunday with the Vinnie Salerno No. 4* modified. However, should Perrego win, it would not be the first Coalcracker win for Salerno, who won the race back in 2013 with Jeff Strunk.
The Hoffman brothers, Doug and Keith, are the only brothers to both win the Coalcracker.
There will be plenty of contingency money available for all divisions on Sunday. Please check out the Big Diamond Facebook page for the complete list. Please support the people and companies that support the racers.
Disclaimer: The facts above have been compiled as best I could, but due to a lack of exact statistics, they may not be 100% correct. Thank you to the ARRA website for all of their help.
I can be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter (X) at @dirtracefan25.