Big Diamond report 2002-08-30

DeSantis takes win at Big Diamond to qualify for CC 100; Darren Eash tops KARS Sprints, Whitmoyer repeats in Sportsman. Minersville, PA - August 30 - Meme DeSantis of Temple outran Big Diamond Raceway's best to take his fourth NASCAR Weekly...

DeSantis takes win at Big Diamond to qualify for CC 100; Darren Eash tops KARS Sprints, Whitmoyer repeats in Sportsman.

Minersville, PA - August 30 - Meme DeSantis of Temple outran Big Diamond Raceway's best to take his fourth NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Modified win of the season on Friday night. The win in the special 20-lap feature earned DeSantis a conservative $1400 but he and the other top five finishers also qualified to start in the Coal Cracker 100 scheduled for this Sunday night (September 1) which pays $10,000 to win and is worth a minimum of $325 to start.

Darren Eash of Ijamsville, MD showed his experience as a driver more than made up for his lack of experience at Big Diamond Raceway. Piloting the #22 J&S Fabrication sprinter, Eash turned his first-ever visit to the Minersville track Friday into a Doorways Unlimited KARS 358-Sprint Series feature win. In the NASCAR Sportsman, point leader Craig Whitmoyer of Hamburg adding still another feature win to his 2002 season tally.

Tom Pompei of Sellersville took the early lead in the Modified feature but Tim Fitzpatrick (Branchdale) put his 102 on top on lap two. Kevin Hartnett (Perkasie) was pressuring the leaders from the drop of the green but as he made his move on lap four so did Meme DeSantis and Craig Von Dohren (Barto) resulting in Hartnett maintaining third but now behind leader DeSantis and Von Dohren.

A restart with four laps in a restart saw Von Dohren use the outside to get the edge coming off turn four as he ran nearly the full fifth lap side-by-side with DeSantis. Another quick yellow one lap later saw DeSantis return the favor to take the lead on lap six coming off turn two.

DeSantis, who started fifth tonight due to recent tough luck, opened up a lead but it was not a cake walk as later DeSantis commented , "We won but the car just was not quite right." On lap eight DeSantis jumped the cushion between turns three and four, just regaining control in time to maintain the lead over Von Dohren. Then Duane Howard (Oley) made his big charge after taking second on lap 13. Howard drew near even with DeSantis as they completed lap 17. Howard appeared to have the pass for the lead completed on lap 18 when the yellow flag flew for Glenn Strunk in turn four returning DeSantis to the lead.

"We almost did not come tonight as a three-night racing weekend is tough for us," commented DeSantis, "but when we knew it was a qualifier for the 100, we decided we needed to be here. The car was not quite right but we did what we came to do and now we are ready for Sunday."

DeSantis went on to take the win for Norm Hansell in the Norm's Save Station 357 over Duane Howard, point leader Keith Hoffman (Whitehall), Craig Von Dohren and Kyle Weiss (Hamburg). This five qualify for the Coal Cracker 100 on Sunday and will draw for their starting positions with the Sunday heat qualifiers. Jeff Strunk (Bethel) took sixth trailed by Kevin Hartnett, Tom Pompei, Doug Manmiller (Wyomissing) and Kevin Graver, Jr. (Lehighton). Heat winners in the 50-car field were Bruce Williams (Mahanoy Plane), Von Dohren, Pompei and Jeff Strunk. Larry Solomon (Birdsboro) and Rick Schaffer (Woxall) took the consolation honors.

"I saw the track for the first time when we pulled in at 3 o'clock," Darren Eash said in the winners' circle. "It was a good deal; I had a lot of fun. We got around here real well and I be back next time we (KARS Sprints) run here"

Pole-sitter Jamie Schwartz (Pottsville) took the lead at the drop of the green flag. Schwartz maintained a comfortable lead over Keith Prutzman in the early going, but the Hamburg driver began gaining ground on the leader when lapped traffic came into play. Schwartz maintained his advantage over Prutzman when the first caution of the race came out with nine laps in the books after Jake Raudabaugh (Carlisle) and the lapped car of Denny Gross (New Freedom) tangled in turn four. Both drivers were able to continue.

On the restart, Schwartz lined up in front of Prutzman and the eventual race winner, who had moved up from his eighth starting spot. Schwartz held the lead when racing action slowed again one lap later after eighth-running Dale Hammaker (Grantville) and seventh-running Adrian Shaeffer (Mt Wolf) got together on the frontstretch. The incident produced some tense moments for Hammaker, whose sprinter came to a rest sideways in the middle of the frontstretch, with much of the field forced to scatter high and low to avoid hitting the popular #66H. After changing a flat tire, Hammaker was able to continue. However, Shaeffer, who won the third heat in convincing fashion, was done for the night and forced to settle for a disappointing 16th-place finish.

Schwartz held the lead for two more laps. On the restart following caution No. 3 for a spin by Keith Wetzel in turn four, Eash took over the top spot with 13 laps remaining. Behind the leader, a hard-charging Scott Ausherman (Hersshey) continued his strong move to the front, while Everett's Kenny Foor was locked in a good battle for fifth with Mike Miller (Reading).

Hammaker also had moved back up through the field when he spun in turn two, bringing out the final caution of the race on lap 22. Hammaker ended the night in 12th, where he started the feature. The spin was timely as Ausherman was side-by-side with Prutzman coming off turn four but the caution flew before Ausherman could reach the flag stand and be credited with the pass.

Eash took the checkered, over Prutzman, Ausherman, Foor, Schwartz, Miller, Raudabaugh, Brian Eichelberger (Etters), Dan Richcreek (Enola), and Nyles Berkes.

"The cautions helped," the 41-year old Eash said after the race. "The 98 [Jamie Schwartz] was good out there, but I just muscled my way around him. I have more experience than some of the guys, so that helped too."

The Mt. Joy Pennzoil Stop 'n Go Oil Change hard charger award went to Ausherman, who advanced eight spots after starting 11th. KARS 10-lap heat winners were Eash (2:42.75), Foor (2:41.18) and Adrian Sheaffer (2:38.41).

The heavy rain during the week required some extra grater service during the card but the track stayed tacky all night long, providing the card ending Sportsman 20-lap feature with a great track. Andy Fayash (Mary-D) took the early lead in his 101 but Craig Whitmoyer was on a mission. He was fourth after two laps when leader Fayash stopped in turn two and second place Tom Brennan (Pottsville) pitted with a flat tire. That left John Deatrich, Jr. (Pottsville) the only driver between Whitmoyer and the lead. Following the restart Deatrich jumped the cushion with his 25 in turn three and Whitmoyer went by for the lead.

It appeared Whitmoyer was wired for win seven when Jesse Sterling (Lehighton) decided he'd have something to say about that. Sterling, who started inside Whitmoyer in row five at the start, took second on lap six. On lap nine Sterling powered around the outside of Whitmoyer off turn two and into the lead. Sterling pulled away but his engine began to sound tight at the high end. Suddenly with 16 laps in the books Sterling's bad luck this season continues as the 414 came silently to a stop and was pushed to the pits. Whitmoyer now regained the lead and never looked back.

Shawn Fitzpatrick (Pottsville) made a late charge at Whitmoyer but settled for second trailed at the finish by Darren Dreher (Schuylkill Haven), Tom Cremer (Sinking Spring), Kirby Sites (Hamburg), Chris Clemens (Coopersburg), Daryl Dissinger (Mechanicsburg), Dan Guinther (Fleetwood), Brent Boyer (Bloomsburg) and Carl Lieber (West Lawn). Heat winners were Fitzpatrick and Dissinger.

Billy Moyer, Jr. started the night of Sportsman competition only 13 points behind point leader Craig Whitmoyer. His title hopes were dashed on lap two when his 17 got into the turn four wall hard and was done for the night with a 22nd place finish.

This Sunday, September 1, it is the biggest race of the season at Big Diamond Raceway, the 23rd annual Coal Cracker 100. Gates will open at 4:30 for the 7PM event that will also include the Coal Cracker 20 for the roadrunners. The $10,00 to win Coal Cracker Modified 100 is certain to draw the biggest field of cars for the season.

Twenty-nine competitors have already paid their entry fees for the 100 which is double the normal number of early entries for this event. Big Diamond's best will be on hand but among the non regulars among the pre-entries are Billy Pauch, Larry Solomon, and Bob and Jeff Ebersole.

The top five Friday finishers, Meme DeSantis, Duane Howard, Keith Hoffman, Craig Von Dohren and Kyle Weiss have already qualified for the 100 and will draw with 15 or 16 Sunday heat qualifiers for starting spots in the 100. A C-Main/B-Main format will add a minimum of five more starters with past Coal Cracker winners added to the field. Additional B-main cars will be taken to provide a minimum 30-car starting field.

The rain date for the Coal Cracker 100 is Monday, September 2. The tentative starting time is 5:30 PM.

Next Friday, September 6, will see another big special event at Big Diamond. The final point races of the season will be held for all three classes. The Modifieds will start with consolations and a 25-lap feature to completed their rain-delayed card from August 23. Then a full card of heats, consolations and features will be run as necessary for the NASCAR Modifieds, Sportsman and Roadrunners. Racing will start at 7:45 PM.

Then, there is one more event left on the schedule. On Sunday afternoon, Septembner 29, the track will hold the first Sportsman Championship Open 50 and a Roadrunner Open 20. Additionally, the track will hold Powder Puff events for the Modifieds, Sportsman and Roadrunners. Participants interested in the Powder Puff events should contract the track for applications.

Big Diamond raceway can be reached by calling 570-544-6434 or by checking out the world wide web at www.bigdiamondraceway.com.

-bdr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR , Sprint
Drivers Billy Pauch
Teams Williams