Strunk Ends Drought, Stangle Wins First Modifed Race Plus Big Diamond Notes – DTD Exclusive

By KEN BRUCE

You would think that a driver with Jeff Strunk’s credentials at Big Diamond Speedway would have multiple wins each year. Going into Friday night at Big Diamond, Strunk had a total of 49 career wins at the Minersville, Pa., dirt oval that he has called home for many years on Friday night. But Strunk has struggled at Big Diamond in recent years finding the right set-up to return to victory lane.

Strunk’s last win at the track came back on April 17, 2017, that is over three years for the Bechtelsville Bullet since he last pulled into victory lane.

Friday night the drought ended for Strunk, but it was not in his usual Glen and Bonita Hyneman owned No. 126. Since damaging the engine in the Big Diamond car a couple of weeks ago at Bridgeport Speedway, Strunk has been wheeling the Butch Getz owned No. 15s at Big Diamond while the team’s engine is being repaired or replaced. Strunk made his debut with the car two weeks ago and had a strong second place finish without much tuning on the car after just picking it up from Getz on Wednesday night. With time to make the adjustments that Strunk needed to make to fit his driving style, he was ready for action this week as the track presented twin 20’s for the Insigner Performance Modifieds.

The first race Strunk looked good, but with the race running all 20 laps non-stop, Strunk had a hard time getting through the pack. After making a few adjustments for the second twin 20, the team was ready to roll in the nightcap. Starting from the fifth spot, Strunk was on the gas early and heading to the front. The problem was that the track’s all-time feature winner Craig Von Dohren also had the same agenda as he went by Strunk early and was making tracks to the front as well. Von Dohren is usually a driver that once he gets in front, you might as close the books and put the name on the check it is that simple.




However, on this Friday night Strunk had other ideas as he tracked the leader Von Dohren down after moving into second. Running the low-side of the track, Strunk started to quickly put pressure on Von Dohren as was able to pull even with him through turns three and four. Von Dohren was able to keep his momentum up coming off the corner to hold the lead. Sensing that Strunk was faster on the inside Von Dorhen moved his line down there as well to block the advances of Strunk. Once he did that, Strunk moved to the top of the speedway and simply outpowered Von Dorhen and swept by him for the lead and the win. For Strunk it was his 50th career small block win at the speedway.

“This was an awesome win for us tonight and I think Brad (Brightbill) won as well so it feels good to keep it in our hometown,” said a very happy and relieved Strunk after the race. “It was a great run.  We tweaked on it a little bit after the first feature there I guess they were the right adjustments. I know I keep thanking everybody for this, but I would not be here without them. It is a super deal we have going here right now, and we’ll see what transpires over the next couple of weeks.

“I have to thank Butch (car owner Butch Getz) for giving me a great race car and the Billy the Kid engine was great tonight. Thanks to Glenn and Bonita (Hyneman) for supplying the rest of what we needed to get to victory lane and allowing me to maintain the car in their shop. My guys have been working their tails off all year and we’ve been close but getting that first win is huge and now hopefully the rest will come easy. It was important that we had time the past of couple of weeks to get their car where we wanted it. Randy Williamson from Bicknell gave us their baseline set-up and that is what we ran tonight. In the second feature we put some of my ideas into along with some of crews input and it all worked out for us. There is nothing better than winning a race and having all those people cheering that loud and that’s as good as it gets.”

Strunk went on to talk about his pass of Von Dohren and the respect he has for his fellow member of the PA Big Three.

“Craig’s been the number one guy here on top for a while now and to be able to catch and pass him really means we’ve really accomplished something tonight. I was able to run the bottom and catch him but when he switched to the bottom I really didn’t know what was going to happen because I hadn’t really run the top in the feature at all except for about a half a lap after one of the restarts. So I rolled in there on the outside and it stuck.  I said ‘wow, this thing is really maneuverable’ and I was able to roll around him and then I think I was even faster after taking the lead. I knew Craig was still there, but I knew if I just kept my momentum up, I would be good to go.”

In the opening race it was the youngster Matt Stangle winning his first ever Modified race at the track driving the family owned No. 6 Bicknell car powered by a Pat Morrison engine. The 2017 Sportsman track champion inherited the lead when early leader Craig Whitmoyer suddenly pulled off the track and went on to hold off a hard charging Rick Laubach to take his long awaited first win.

“We’ve has a very unlucky start to the year so far,” cited a relieved Stangle as I talked to him after the night was over. “We’ve running in the top five a few times this year and have had different things break to take us out and tonight we finally had some luck. The track was a little slicker early on then we had thought it would be and I was driving it too hard and he (Craig Whitmoyer) was able to pull away a little.  Then I started to slow down a little and it seemed I was able to stay with him and maybe even gain on him a little and then two laps later he broke and I didn’t have to worry and just run my race.”

Big Diamond Bits:

There were 29 Modifieds registered for action on Friday night with Billy Pauch Jr, Craig Whitmoyer and Alex Yankowski winning the three heats. Brett Kressley was the winner of the consi…

Duane Howard was not in action this past Friday as the hauler for the Norm Hansell No. 357 broke down while in route to the track…

In a rather ironic note, Butch Getz who is the car owner of the No. 15s that Jeff Strunk drove to victory in the second twin twenty won his first ever career modified feature on the same night up at Penn Can Speedway. In fact Strunk told me on Sunday that Butch was able to watch the final few laps of the Strunk’s thrilling Big Diamond win while in victory lane at Penn Can…

The second 20-lap feature saw a major crash happen on an early race restart as Brett Kressley bounced off the front stretch wall just past the starters stand causing his No. 19K to dart left in the middle of the hard charging pack. The end result found `13 cars involved in one way or another with the car of Craig Whitmoyer the most heavily damaged…

Heartbreak for Craig Whitmoyer who was seemingly on his way to his first career modified victory in the first 20-lap feature when an axle broke while leading. Whitmoyer’s luck was not any better in the second feature when he was involved in the aforementioned 13-car crash resulting in heave damage to the No. 99…

Ironically, no drivers were able to record top five finishes in both races but there was a total of eight drivers who had top tens in both features…

A controversial call in the Open Sportsman race saw eventual winner Brad Brightbill and Tim Fitzpatrick both spin at the start of the race and being allowed to pit and regain their starting spots. The track ruled that since the start had been called off by the officials before the spin occurred that it wasn’t the driver’s fault and deemed they shouldn’t penalized for it. Some fans in the grandstand disagreed with the call and voiced their displeasure when Brightbill was in victory lane…

Von Dohren leads in the chase for the Insigner Performance Modified points title with a slight advantage over Jeff Strunk and Mike Gular. Billy Pauch Jr and Alex Yankowski complete the top five in the chase for the title…

This coming Friday night (July 24th) will find the Modifieds, Crate Sportsman, Street Stocks, Roadrunners and the 600 Modifieds in action…

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