Minersville (Forestville), PA - September 3 - Eighteen year-old, Sean Merkel of Gilbertsville surprised the field at Big Diamond Raceway Friday night with a strong performance to takeÂ take his first career Big Diamond Raceway NASCAR Dodge Weekly...
Minersville (Forestville), PA - September 3 - Eighteen year-old, Sean Merkel of Gilbertsville surprised the field at Big Diamond Raceway Friday night with a strong performance to take take his first career Big Diamond Raceway NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Modified win on Friday night. Sean became only the fifth different winner in 21 races thus far in 2004 at Big Diamond.
The Modified event was a special 20-lap qualifier for Big Diamond's Coal Cracker 100 on Sunday, September 5, with the top three finishers; Merkel, Doug Manmiller of Wyomissing and Ray Swinehart of Bechtelsville; qualifying for the 100.
Rookie Jason Hamilton of Erwinna captured his second Sportsman Modified feature of the year at Big Diamond while Marty Shappell of Pottsville was the winner of the 15-lap Roadrunner feature.
The event also saw the crowning of Big Diamond Raceway's 2004 NASCAR Dodge track champions --- Doug Hoffman of Allentown in the Weekly Series Modifieds, Tom Brennan of Pottsville in the ShorTrack Series Sportsman Modifieds and Dean Ulsh of Auburn in the Roadrunners.
Sean Merkel only became a Big Diamond regular late in July after taking the first Modified win of his career at Grandview Speedway. He piloted his Agliano Trucking / Pheasantland Roller Rink #118 to his first Big Diamond NASCAR Modified win in his seventh appearance of the year. Doug Manmiller ran second followed by Ray Swinehart, Doug Hoffman, and Craig Von Dohren of Oley. Completing the top ten in the final finishing order were Kyle Weiss (Hamburg), Paul Kline (Reading), Craig Whitmoyer (Hamburg), Billy Pauch, Jr. (Frenchtown, NJ) and Keith Hoffman (Whitehall). Keith Hoffman, Craig Whitmoyer and Doug Hoffman captured the non-stop 10-lap heats in amazing consistent times of 3:05.271, 3:05.256 and 3:05.241 respectively.
Jason Hamilton took a non-point Sportsman Modified event as part of Big Diamond's Sprint Speedweek show in June but returned to the Hoover Chevrolet Winner's Circle this week to take his first NASCAR point feature win. Dave Dissinger (Mohrsville) finished second trailed at the finish by Billy Moyer, Jr. (Pine Grove), Tom Brennan, rookie Rob Gibson (Schuylkill Haven), Luke Wagner (Grantville), Ryan Moyer (Schuylkill Haven), Ray Woodall, Jr. (Stewartsville, NJ), Brad Force (Milford, NJ) and Andy Fayash, Jr. (Mary-D).
Marty Shappell was found twice at mid-season with illegal components on his car, forcing him to give-up all points earned and start at the rear for four weeks for each violation. He served his penalty and came back to take his first roadrunner feature win of the season over Elvin Brennan (Forestville), Dave Miller (Pine Grove), (Jake Smulley) and rookie Jason Sherman (Williamstown). Heat winners were Tom Hablett (Schuylkill Haven) and Shappell.
Bruce Williams (Girardville) started on the pole of the Modified 20 and paced the field in the early laps. Sean Merkel started third and took second on lap two from Dale Hartz (Hamburg). Three of Big Diamond's strongest competitors, Doug Hoffman, Keith Hoffman and Billy Pauch, Jr., were involved in a five-car shunt with Ryan Beltz and Ryan Watt in turn four with two laps completed. Merkel stayed with Williams on the restart and powered into the lead using the outside groove coming off turn two. The was a six-car tangle with three in the books, again in turn four, including one more of the fastest drivers this season, Craig Von Dohren.
Merkel stayed on top but Williams slipped by on the outside of turn two to lead lap six only to see Merkel regain command on lap seven. Williams now began to fade with Paul Kline taking second on lap 8 followed by Jason Andrews (Palmerton) and Rick Schaffer (Woxall). Doug Manmiller was also now beginning to show his strength as he moved by a slowing Schaffer for fourth on lap 11 and just before Kline and Andrews got crossed up. Manmiller got by both for second before the yellow flew with 12 complete as Schaffer's 6JR stopped with a flat tire.
On this final restart, Manmiller immediately went after Merkel and he pulled even on the outside of the leader as they entered turn three. Merkel held on, making the inside groove work. That was Manmiller's last charge as Merkel actually pulled away to a 2.5 second lead over Doug at the checkered flag.
Ebby Ridge (Milford, NJ) jumped out to the early lead in the 20-lap Sportsman Modified main event with Lowell Snyder (Upper Black Eddy) right behind. Jason Hamilton, who started seventh and took second on lap 3 from Snyder, whose 10 was starting to show some smoke. Hamilton pressured Ridge and Ridge got out of shape in turn two on lap five. Hamilton made contact but got by to take command. Snyder was now back in second but the smoke from his car was becoming more noticeable. Billy Moyer, Jr., Rob Gibson, Luke Wagner and Brad Brightbill were battling for third through fifth one lap later when Brightbill lost the left front wheel and hub from his 19 on lap 5.
Gibson and Moyer traded third several time until Moyer secured the position on lap 8. Moyer then overtook Snyder on lap 10. Luke Wagner, Gary Wagner, Jr. (Womelsdorf) and Tom Brennen got tangled while battling for sixth on lap 13 and Gary spun in his 47, causing a yellow under which Snyder dropped out. Last week's winner Dave Dissinger was steadily moving up from his twelfth starting position and he now asserted himself, taking second on lap 14. Dissinger was strong but he was unable to challenge Hamilton in the closing laps.
Marty Shappell on the pole in the Roadrunner 15-lapper and he led the entire distance to take his first win of 2004. Tom Hablett (Schuylkill Haven) was second on lap one while Jason Sherman took the spot on lap two. Elvin Brennan started seventh and took the runner-up spot on lap seven but he was unable to overtake Shappell.
The big race of the 2004 season is Sunday (Sept. 5). The 25th running of the Coal Cracker Modified 100 at 7 PM will see Big Diamond's best compete for the $10,000 first prize along with many invaders from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Sean Merkel, Doug Manmiller and Ray Swinehart already qualified Friday and they will join qualifiers from the qualifying heats, slated to start at 7 PM, in the draw for their feature starting spots for the 100. A B-Main will raise the field to a total of at least 30 cars. Finally, of the non-qualifiers, the highest in 2004 season points at Big Diamond will be added to the starting field.
An entry fee will be required for each car entered for the 100. The fee is $40 for cars registered for NASCAR member drivers and $50 for non-member drivers. There will be a mid-race fuel stop during the Coal Cracker 100 to better insure cars will be able to go the full distance.
Big Diamond 358 Modified car specifications will apply. But Big Diamond legal Sportsman Modifieds will be permitted to compete provided they have an inspected and sealed engine. The Sportsman will also have the option of running a 650 carburetor or their usual sportsman-legal carburetor.
Pit gates will open on Sunday at 3:30 PM to expedite the pre-race inspection process. All cars must be inspected before taking to the track.
The Roadrunner Coal Cracker 20 lap feature, also on the Coal Cracker card, will be open to Big Diamond and Selinsgrove legal roadrunners.
For more information on Big Diamond Raceway, connect to the internet and check out the track's web site at www.bigdiamondraceway.com or call (570) 544-6434.
RACE RESULT SUMMARY SHEET - FRIDAY NIGHT, SEPT, 3, 2004
NASCAR DODGE WEEKLY SERIES MODIFIEDS - 20-LAP FEATURE - COAL CRACKER
100 QUALIFYING EVENT (Top 3 Qualified) - 1. 118 Sean Merkel, Gilbertsville, PA, 2. OO Doug Manmiller, Wyomissing, PA, 3. 33 Ray Swinehart, Boyertown, PA, 4. 77 Doug Hoffman, Allentown, PA, 5. 70D Craig Von Dohren, Oley, PA, 6. 21K Kyle Weiss, Hamburg, PA, 7. 5 Paul Kline, Reading, PA, 8. 99W Craig Whitmoyer, Hamburg, PA, 9. 15X Billy Pauch, Jr., Frenchtown, NJ, 10. 1 Keith Hoffman, Whitehall, PA, 11. 87 Andy Burkhart, 11. 11D Meme DeSantis, 13. 42 Jeff Sechrist, 14. 15 Dale Hartz, 15. 901 Bruce Williams, 16. 83B Josh Biever, 17. 102 Shawn Fitzpatrick, 18. 221 Ryan Beltz, 19. 6Jr Rick Schaffer, 20. 505 Randy Mohn, 21. 88x Roy Wiest, 22. Sq1 Bobby Gunther Walsh, 23. 21T Jason Andrews, 24. 16 Jason Hamilton, 25. 14 Tom Umbenhauer, 26. 178 Ryan Watt, 27. 54 Smokey Warren, 28. 64W John Willman. Non-Qualifier: 24H Justin Andrews - scratched from his heat for the night. Lap Leaders: 901 Bruce Williams, Girardville, PA (1-2), 118 Merkel, (3-5), 901 Williams (6), 118 Merkel (7-20).
10-lap Heats - 7 Qualify, Top 5 Handicapped.
Heat 1: 1 K. Hoffman (3:05.271), 15 Hartz, 21T Ja. Andrews, 42 Sechrist, 6Jr Schaffer, 33 Swinehart, 14 T. Umbenhauer, 505 Mohn, 54 Warren, 88X Wiest.
Heat 2: 99w Whitmoyer (3:05.256), 70d Von Dohren, 118 Merkel, 21K Weiss, 15X Pauch, Jr., 221 Beltz, 102 S. Fitzpatrick, 87 Burkhart, Sq1 Walsh, 16 Hamilton.
Heat 3: 77 D. Hoffman (3:05.241), 901 Williams, 5 Kline, OO Manmiller, 83B Biever, 11D DeSantis, 178 Watt, 64W Willman. Scratched 24H Ju. Andrews.
NASCAR DODGE SHORTRACK SPORTSMAN MODIFIEDS - 20-LAP FEATURE - 1. 15 Jason Hamilton, Erwinna, PA, 2. 69 Dave Dissinger, Mohrsville, PA, 3. 17 Billy Moyer, Jr., Pine Grove, PA, 4. 26 Tom Brennan, Pottsville, PA, 5. 221 Rob Gibson, Schuylkill Haven, PA, 6. 3 Luke Wagner, Grantville, PA, 7. 93 Ryan Moyer, Schuylkill Haven, PA, 8. 72 Ray Woodall, Jr., Stewartsville, NJ, 9. 8 Brad Force, Milford, NJ, 10. 157 Andy Fayash, Jr., Mary-D, PA, 11. 19U Justin Umbenhauer, 12. 5 Greg Weiland, 13. 35 Ebby Ridge, 14. W9 Colt Harris, 15. 95 Freddie Fisher, 16. 47 Gary Wagner, Jr., 17. 11 Mike Sankiewicz, 18. 976 Don Norris, Jr., 19. 73 Darrell Herman, 20. 10 Lowell Snyder, 21. 17R Kevin Nolf, 22. 147 Louie Mitchalk, 23. 23B Steve Zimmerman, 24. 19 Brad Brightbill, 25. 74 Pete Marburger. Non-Qualifiers: 58 Chris Eckert, 8Jr. Doug Hendricks, 4 Jesse Sterling, KT3 Cory Renninger, 22N Ray Gara, 59 Jason Kohler, 12V John Deatrich, Jr.
Lap Leaders: 35 Ebby Ridge, Milford, NJ (1-4), 15 Hamilton (5-20).
Heats - 6 Qualify, 5 Handicapped
Heat 1: 35 Ridge, 19 Brightbill, 17 B. Moyer, 73 Herman, 72 Woodall, 8 Force, 5 Weiland, 23B Zimmerman, 147 Mitchalk, 19U J. Umbenhauer, 74 Marburger.
Heat 2: 15 Hamilton, 26 Brennan, 10 Snyder, 47 G. Wagner, 221Gibson, 157 Fayash, 58 Eckert, 976 Norris, 95 Fisher, 93 R. Moyer, 22N Gara.
Heat 3 (only four qualified as only four finished) 69 Dissinger, 17R Nolf, 3 L. Wagner, W9 Harris. DNF: 8Jr Hendricks, 4 Sterling, KT3 Renninger, 11 Stankiewicz, 59 Kohler, 12V Deatrich,
Consolation (9 qualified instead of 7 due to short finishing field in heat 3): 5, 23B, 19U, 93, 95, 147, 976, 11, 74, 58, 8Jr, 4, KT3, 22N, 50, 12V.
NASCAR ROADRUNNERS -15-LAP FEATURE - 1. 117 Marty Shappell, Pottsville, PA, 2. 555 Elvin Brennan, Forestville, PA, 3. 1 Dave Miller, Pine Grove, PA, 4. 4 Jake Smulley, Phoenix Park, PA, 5. 721 Jason Sherman, Williamstown, PA, 6. 22 Tom Hablett, 7. 3 John Ulsh, 8. 39 Rob Pyle, 9. 23 Dave Kamp, 10. 17 Kevin Beach, 11. 35 Ricky Bender, 12. 19 Jeremy Becker, 13. 39S Butch Solt, 14. 19W Derek Bender.
Heat 1: 22 Hablett, 1 Miller, 19W D. Bender, 555 Brennan, 4 Smulley, 35 R. Bender, 19 Becker.
Heat 2: 117 Shappell, 17 Beach, 721 Sherman, 39 Pyle, 3 J. Ulsh, 39S Solt, 23 Kamp.