Defending URC Champion Curt Michael of Ocean View, DE won the 25-lap Advance Auto Parts URC Sprint Series opener and Jason Sherman of Williamstown, PA took his first career Big Diamond Raceway Roadrunner feature win. For Michael, it was his twenty-fourth career URC in and for car owners Pat and Cathy Palladino, it was their third consecutive year of winning the URC season opener.
Racing resumes at Big Diamond Raceway this Friday night, May 6, at the normal starting time of 8PM, featuring the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Modifieds, Roadrunners and the Sportsman-Modifieds in a feature event that will provide the winner with a guaranteed starting spot for the September Hoover Chevrolet and GM Performance Parts 50.
Von Dohren overtook early leader Andy Burkhart (Temple) and survived race long pressure from Jeff Strunk (Bethel) and Doug Hoffman (Allentown) in the closing laps to take the 25-lap NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Modified feature win. Hoffman took second followed by Strunk, Meme DeSantis (Temple), and Duane Howard (Oley). The next five finishers were Paul Kline (Reading), Rick Schaffer (Woxall), Ray Swinehart (Bechtelsville), Shawn Fitzpatrick (Pottsville) and John Willman (Birdsboro).
Trevor Lewis (Upper Black Eddy) started on the pole in the URC feature and charged away from Curt Michael at the drop of the green. But Michael caught the leader in traffic and took the lead on lap 18 following contact which left Lewis backwards on the backstretch. Michael took the win over the ageless veteran Gary Gollub (Mohnton), Scott Purcell (Frenchtown, NJ), Brian Seidel (Allentown), Jon Eldreth (Rising Sun, MD), Josh Weller (Mertztown), Ed Aikin (Lincoln University), Joe Zurzek (Robbinsville, NJ), Bill Brian, Jr. (Ephrata) and Scott McClaren (Freehold, NJ).
Jason Sherman took the lead in the 12-lap Roadrunner on lap 5 from Kevin Holland (Pine Grove) and never looked back. Holland held on for second followed by Elvin Brennan (Forestville), Kevin Beach (Llewellyn) and Ryan Olenick (Forestville).
Heat wins went to Andy Burkhart, Dale Hartz (Hamburg) and Von Dohren in the 33-car modified field and Shawn Fitzpatrick (Pottsville) took the consolation honors. Kevin Welsh (Far Hills, NJ), Michael, Dave Ely (West Lawn) and Pete Green (Lehighton) took the URC heats in their 32-car field while Kyle Purks (Langhorne) was the 12-alp B-Main winner. Rookie Pete Gettis (Schuylkill Haven) and Kirby Schlappich (Temple) took the Roadrunner qualifying event wins.
The racing Gods threw track officials all they could handle with dark and threatening skies all around, problems in getting things rolling with accidents and emergencies delaying teams and officials yielding confusion and even modifieds that were locked together that eventually required some disassembly of the cars to separate them. But the officials of Big Diamond Raceway pressed hard to do all they could and beat the forecasted bad weather that arrived within an hour after the final checkered flag flew.
Andy Burkhart started on the pole of the NASCAR Modified 25-lap feature and took the early lead ahead of Craig Von Dohren and Dale Hartz as third place starter, Justin Andrews (Parryville) spun in turn four as the leaders completed lap one. It was tough from the drivers to develop any type of rhythm as The yellow flew for Shawn Fitzpatrick on lap two and then for rookie Colt Harris (Gordon) on lap three. By now Meme DeSantis has moved from seventh starting spot to third and Von Dohren decided it was time to go. Von Dohren went into turn one hard on the outside when the green returned and he charged into the lead. Jeff Strunk, who started eighth, timed a big move on the outside with Burkhart trying to settle in after he lost the lead to charged around Paul Kline, Dale Hartz, DeSantis and Burkhart to take second.
A pair of yellows followed on lap 9 and on the restart point leader Duane Howard, who was fifth behind Paul Kline, got caught by Ray Swinehart and their cars hooked in turn two causing a yellow. Although their cars were not noticeably damaged, their rub rails and bumpers got wedged together and could not be separated. Officials, track crew and pit crewmembers tried unsuccessfully to pull the cars apart. Air was actually released from the opposite tires of the cars to raise one and lower the other without success. Finally a sufficiently small lug wrench was found to remove a wheel from one of the cars and they were separated after a long delay.
When racing resumed defending Big Diamond modified point champion, Doug Hoffman was on the move. He charged to third on lap 13 while Jeff Strunk continued to try to find enough bite on the inside to get by the leading Von Dohren. Hoffman caught Strunk and two laps later he managed to go around him for second. Hoffman was able to make a run at Von Dohren but the leader only ventured a half groove off of the bottom and held off Hoffman.
Twenty-four cars started the 25-lap URC sprint feature with Trevor Lewis and Curt Michael starting in the front row as a result of the luck of the draw. At the drop of the green flag, Curt gunned to the lead but before the first lap was completed the red flag was displayed when Kramer Williamson broke an axle and flipped down the homestretch while, at the front of the pack, a six car tangle blocked the speedway in turn two which brought the field to a stop. Involved in the six car mishap was Kevin Welsh, Dave McGough (Sassamansville), Dave Ely, Tim Hogue (Medford, NJ) and Bill Brian Jr.
When the race resumed, Trevor Lewis had the jump and took the lead as Michael and Gary Gollub followed. Lewis, driving the Kennedy/Turpin #56 URC sprint car set a blistering pace and quickly ran to hide from the rest of the field. Michael on the other hand, was running a smooth and steady pace, almost like he was waiting for a strong finish.
The yellow flag was displayed on lap nine when Kyle Purks came to stop in turn three. The restart brought Michael to the rear bumper of Lewis but when the green flag fell, Lewis again ran off to hide. At the halfway mark of the race, Trevor was still on top followed by Michael, Gollub, Scott Pursell and Jon Eldreth.
The leader soon came upon slower traffic and this offered Michael his opportunity to take a run at the leader. As they completed lap eighteen, Michael challenged Lewis for the lead. Michael drew inside and even with Lewis coming off turn two and they made contact on the backstretch, with Lewis spinning into the infield. The yellow was displayed as Lewis returned to the pit area on the back of a tow truck.
With just five laps remaining, Curt Michael set the pace and maintained a strong lead to win the URC opener with Gollub collecting a strong second.
Jason Sherman joined the Big Diamond field of Roadrunners late last season and apparently learned very quickly. Kevin Holland started second in the Roadrunner 12-lapper after two drivers slated to start in front of him elected to start at the rear. Holland quickly outgunned Ken Eckert, Jr. (Minersville) to take the lead. Meanwhile Butch Solt (Lehighton) and Sherman, who started fourth and sixth respectively, weaved their way to second and third as they completed lap two. Solt bobbled on lap four and Sherman charged to second. The race’s only yellow came on lap 5 for the crossed up car of Robbie Pyle (Downingtown) in turn four. On the restart Sherman charged around the outside of Holland in turn two to take command and go on to win over Holland.
For more information on the racing at Big Diamond Raceway check out the speedway’s official web site at www.bigdiamondraceway.com or call (570) 544-6434. Racing resumes at Big Diamond Raceway this Friday night, May 6, at the normal starting time of 8PM for the remainder of the season for Friday night races.
The speedway will also be open for an open practice night on Tuesday, May 10, at 7:15 PM, which is open to all racing divisions with roll cages. A number of the 600cc Modifieds are expected to join the modifieds, sportsman, roadrunners, pro stocks, pure stocks, sprint cars and more. No membership is required and a $20 pit fee is charged. Spectators may view the session for no cost.