Von Dohren Dominates, Strong Runs for Fitzpatrick and Yankowski at Big D – DTD Exclusive

By KEN BRUCE

It should come at no surprise to anyone that Craig Von Dohren visited victory lane on Friday night at Big Diamond Speedway. Von Dohren was fast on opening night finishing a close second to winner Jared Umbenhauer. Last Friday Von Dohren got bottled up in traffic early on and could not quite get into a rhythm and finished a disappointing eighth.

Friday night Von Dohren came out for the 25-lap feature with a vengeance. Starting 11th, Von Dohren was up into the top five by the completion of lap two and quickly worked his way past Duane Howard for second. Once past Howard, Von Dohren set his sights on leader Shawn Fitzpatrick and started to apply the pressure for the lead.

Fitzpatrick held his line and was able to hold off the Oley, Pa., veteran lap after lap. Coming off of turn four to complete lap 10, Von Dohren had worked his way under Fitzpatrick but Fitzpatrick was once again to surge ahead as they steamed into turn one. Before Fitzpatrick could be scored the leader on lap eleven, Timmy Buckwalter came to a stop bringing out the yellow.

Everyone including Von Dohren thought Fitzpatrick was still the leader but as the cars were pacing under yellow, race control had found out the Von Dohren crossed the line first as they completed lap 10. As per track rules, the lineup is determined by the last scored lap and Von Dohren was told he was the leader. Once in front, Von Dohren was never to be challenged and went on to win his track leading 97th victory.




“We had a really good car, but we’ve had a good car all year here so far,” said a smiling Von Dohren as he waited for his Modified to go through post-race tech. “It didn’t even dawn on me that I had the lead.  I was so focused on working, working him for the lead that I never even thought I had the lead there. They just came over the radio and said the 88X is the leader and I was on the top. Once they said that, I said to myself I don’t want to be up here and switched to the bottom. I thought if I kept pressuring him he might make a mistake and I would be able to get by him, but you never know.”

Strong Second-Place Finish for Fitzpatrick

It has been a some time since Shawn Fitzpatrick had found himself being called to the tech shed after a race at his longtime home track the Big Diamond Speedway. Fitzpatrick has suffered many issues over the past couple of seasons and to finally get off the snide.  To have a solid second-place finish in his family owned No. T102 was just like a win to the long time throttle jockey.

“First off, if you want something to make you laugh,” Fitzpatrick said as he explained his fantastic race. “If you look at the left rear tire, that was off of Craig Von Dohren’s scrap pile. I went down to his shop this week and picked it up off the floor and Jason Bashore (Von Dohren’s crew chief) said give me $20 bucks for it and here we are. It has 25 laps left in it at least, so I ran that tonight. Hey, we got beat by a better driver and a better program. He is just so good; I was learning a lot tonight. I mean, look at it, I had the two best drivers to ever run Big Diamond in front of me and in back of me. I’m trying to hold one off (Duane Howard) and at the same time trying to study the other one (Von Dohren). Man, we needed this. We really needed a good finish tonight.”

It has been a struggle for Fitpatrick over the past few years and a night like this really picks up, not only the confidence of the driver, but also picks up the emotions of the crew who work long and hard to put this Bicknell chassis on the track.

“We had a terrible start to our year, we took the car down to my former crew chief Ryan Jame’s garage,” mentioned Fitzpatrick. “He said to bring it down and let’s see if I can help you get this coil program to where its needs to be. We messed around on a bunch of different spring set-ups and tonight it felt real good. It’s driveable, it’s balanced again and I feel like we can be competitive again. We have a strange frame.  It’s a 2016 Bicknell and the way that it’s built the left rear shock mount is not in the standard location that Bicknell generally puts it.

“We ended up having to concoct our own mounts that my brother fabricated and he did such a great job, but the car had a terrible bind to it the first race and no balance to it.  You could barely drive it so he said let’s build about an two to three degrees angle into the left rear shock and he built a great shock setup and it worked good for about 20 laps.  Then Kressley got sideways in front of us last week and I really had to get on the binders and when I stood the car up it just yanked the heim end right out of the left rear shock and our night was over. So we knew it was good, but it wouldn’t be able to take any kind of abuse, so we redid everything again this week and built a clevice style now to make sure even if the eye of the shock came out know it wouldn’t be able to go anywhere and still being able to finish the race.”

Fitzpatrick who has one career win at Big Diamond back in 2013 was quick to praise his crew and his engine builder on his success.

“My brother did just a great job putting this car back together after getting it balled up last Tuesday.  The last couple laps of that race a car spun out in front of me and I had nowhere to go. We had to cut the whole nose off and front clip and he made it as good as new. Man, it feels good to back up into the top two or three and be competitive again. This Morrison engine is just great, I love this engine. We hurt it last year on week three of four and didn’t have it the rest of the season.  Pat (Morrison) was a gentleman about it. He couldn’t get it done in time for us last year ,but when it came down to it, he got it done right. I mean he had to send the heads out to have them repaired and did a bunch of other work to it and I said that’s great, let’s just it done for next season (this season) and it is. It is a real good piece.”

Yankowski Happy to be Competitive

Just like the aforementioned Shawn Fitzpatrick, if there was a driver who absolutely needed a good night it was Frank Yankowski. After some strong runs in 2018, Yankowski was poised to have a good year in 2019, but night after night the veteran driver kept having issues. Yankowski came into this season with a new Hig-Fab car after running TEO’s for the past couple of years and after a couple of weeks of getting things sorted out, Yankowski ran a solid race this past Friday night ending up with a nice six-place finish after running in the top five most of the race.

“Yeah, we’ll take it tonight,” said a relieved Yankowski as he poured over his car post-race. “It just seemed like the car had a stumble off the corner and that is where we lost our spots in the feature. But the car is straight and in one piece, so we’ll go home and get it fixed up and ready to go next week. This Hig-Fab four coil car is a great car.  Jerry (Hig-Fab owner Jerry Higbie) is a great guy and Dave Reedy who helps us with our Penske shocks is another great guy. Without both of them we couldn’t do this.”

Big Diamond Bits

There were 29 Modifieds filled the pits on Friday night with Fitzpatrick, Yankowski and Mike Gular winning the heats. Attrition played it’s part in the heat races and with only six cars reporting to the track for the consolation race, the race was given the green and the checker as all cars would qualify…

Jared Umbenhauer took a nasty ride. Luckily he was okay – Roger Phillips Photo

Opening night winner Jared Umbenhauer took a nasty roll down the front stretch as his heat race came to green. Umbenhauer put his car between the cars of Billy Pauch Jr and Eddie Strada and ended up hopping a wheel and going end over end towards turn one. Fortunately, Umbenhauer was okay, but the Mike and Jenn Harvey No. 1H was a write-off. I reached out to Jared Saturday morning via text and he told me he was a little sore but otherwise okay. The team posted they will be out of action for a few weeks as they try to put another car together…

Third generation driver Billy Osmun III made a rare Big Diamond start on Friday night.  Their night didn’t go as planned as Osmun had trouble firing the car up all night and forcing the team to end their night early…

The same can be said for Brett Kressley who had issues in his heat and was forced to load up early…

Coming off a strong third-place finish last Friday night, Eddie Strada was looking on making two good Fridays in a row but the motor on the No. 33 went up in a cloud of smoke in the heat race also causing them to load up and be done for the night…

Ron Haring Jr. flipped is No. 13 in the feature event but was okay…

Having issues the first two weeks, Kris Graver handed over the driving duties of his No. 101 to veteran Doug Manmiller on Friday to see if they can sort out the bugs. Manmiller easily qualified the car and was doing okay in the feature event until he spun out late in the race…

This Friday night July 3rd, at Big Diamond will be the annual Georgie Stevenson Memorial race. The Modifieds will race a 30-lap feature paying $4000 to the winner. The USAC Wingless sprints will also be on hand on Friday night. Friday night will also feature an Open Sportsman vs 602 Sportsman Race with added cash prizes for both classes…

I have always been partial to the Modified class my whole life as a racing fan with 410 winged sprints right behind. I am usually the person who when the lower classes like the street stocks or roadrunners come out for their features that usually makes a bathroom run or concession stand run. However, the features in the roadrunner class this season at Big Diamond have been sensational! The roadrunners run nose to tail, door to door and put on some extremely hard and clean racing. Last Friday night the top six cars were running under a blanket as they all battled for the top spot. If you are like me, try to remain in your seat during the roadrunner feature and give it a watch, you will not be disappointed…

If you have any questions or comments, I can reached by email at dirtracefan25@hotmail.com or on Twitter @dirtracefan25