By Ken Bruce
The old saying is that you have to lose one before you win one, and Brett Kressley proved that true at the Big Diamond Speedway in 2023. Last year at Big Diamond, Kressley ended up losing to eventual track champion Duane Howard by only a few points after Howard won the final points race of the season. Coming into this season, Kressley was determined to not let it happen again.
Kressley ended the year at Big Diamond with three wins, tying Duane Howard for the most wins, but was much more consistent throughout the year. There were three races that Kressley dropped out of with motor issues, but luckily for the Orefield, Pa., driver, two of them were show-up point shows so as not to deter his run to the championship as badly as it could have been if they were full point shows.
Coming into Friday night’s season points finale, Kressley had a 60 point lead over his closest pursuer, Mike Gular. In the main event on Friday, Gular made a dash to the front while Kressley seemed to bide his time getting to the front, which is not a normal Brett Kressley trait. As the race wore on, Kressley turned up the wick and quickly charged forward, passing cars outside in the Kressley lane, eventually catching Gular and going by him to lock up his first ever modified points title.
“This is really cool,” said a happy and relieved Kressley at his team’s trailer after their accomplishment. “We have been second enough times that we could taste it but just never get the full effect of winning one.”
Winning the title at Big Diamond is hopefully just the start for Kressley. With two weeks left in the points chase at Grandview Speedway, Kressley is the current points leader, and it would be quite a feat if he were to win both titles in the same year.
“In the perfect world, it would be nice to win both titles,” cited Kressley. “But if you want to win the pair, you have to get the first one out of the way, and we did that tonight, so let’s hope we can get the second one as well.”
After not qualifying into the handicap in his heat, Kressley was forced to start further back than he would have liked and got stuck back in the field early on.
“I kept trying to make moves early, but it kept putting me in worse spots,” explained Kressley. “I would get in a spot where I had to back out of the gas and they would fly by me, then a caution would come out and the lap counted, and I just kept getting deeper and deeper in the back until we could actually get some green flag laps in. Once that happened, I could start to pick cars off.”
The top started to come in midway through the race, and that’s where Kressley normally makes his living, and the track came to him enough to get towards the front.
“Yeah, I was trying the outside early but just couldn’t get anything going,” mentioned Kressley. “But then it came in, and the track started to get top dominant. The track was different tonight; in the heats, there wasn’t much passing, which put us out of the handicap, which put us really deep in the field to start the feature.”
It was the culmination of a good year for the Kressley No. 19 team.
“This was the goal that we set at the beginning of the year, and hopefully we can keep it rolling and win the points at Grandview as well.”
After winning Sportsman titles and coming oh so close to winning a modified title in the past, this was something Kressley has worked for since moving up to the modified ranks.
“Man, I think we have four second-place points finishes in the modified, so we definitely know how to do that,” pointed out Kressley. “We just couldn’t figure out how to close them out due to some engine trouble and other things out of your control. We just kept plugging away, and tonight it paid off for us. If we hadn’t dropped out twice earlier in point shows, we wouldn’t have been even shaking tonight, but it definitely made it interesting.”
Rochinski Wins His Second Feature of the Year: Nick Rochinski has had an up-and-down past four weeks at Big Diamond. The Dickson City, Pa., driver won his first feature of the season on July 28th. After that win, Rochinski dropped out of the next two races, but on championship night, Rochinski wheeled the No. 20R to a convincing win over the track’s all-time career leader in wins, Craig Von Dohren. It was a dominant win for the family-owned team.
“I definitely had a couple of things going through my head when I saw Craig alongside me there on the restart,” said the smiling Rochinski after the win. “He jumped on the first restart, and I figured he was trying to catch me sleeping, and once I saw him do that, I knew I was in control of the race.”
Rochinski hopes tonight’s win will bode well for Sunday’s Coalcracker.
“This is a good car; we were disappointed with it in the heat race,” explained Rochinski. “After the heat race, we made a few minor changes to it for the feature, and my brother (Kyle Rochinski) had that thing on a rail. I don’t see any reason why the car can’t be the same on Sunday, and that will make me happy for the next couple of days. The track was really good tonight; I felt like I changed my lanes there throughout the race and to see where I felt best, and I thought the track was pretty darn good.”
“On Sunday, we are coming after that $15,000 and trying to put our name in the record books.”
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