MINERSVILLE, PA By KEN BRUCE– Ransomville, N.Y., driver Erick Rudolph invaded the Big Diamond Speedway on Sunday and took the $3500 winners share back to the state of New York. Rudolph driving a team car for Randy Chrysler took the lead on lap 27 after a hard crash in turn one in that included both your first and second place drivers resulting in a red flag. He then led the final three laps holding off a hard charging Billy Pauch Jr. for the victory.
“We ran good down here last year and the track was pretty much the same,” Rudolph said. “I was running sixth or seventh for awhile not going anywhere just cheering my teammate on. I was able to make a couple of key passes on restarts and caught a break when the top two wrecked. Restarts were definitely the key today like they are in most races but today even more. We were able to get up on wheel and make some moves to put us in the position we were in when wreck occurred.”
Chrysler, the pole-sitter, took the lead at the drop of the green flag and jumped out quickly to the front while the battle for second between Ryan Watt and Duane Howard raged on behind him with Watt coming out ahead. The caution flew on lap three for Jimmy Reppert spinning in turn one.
Chrysler jumped out to the lead once again when we got back to racing only to have the caution fly again on lap five for Watt spinning in turn one as well. By this time Craig Von Dohren and Stewart Friesen had moved into positions three and four.
Chrysler once again took the top spot on the restart only to have Kevin Beach and Jim Bobbit tangling in turn three before a lap could be completed. When the green flag flew on the restart Chrysler stayed in the lead with Von Dohren and Friesen getting by Howard for positions two and three. Friesen powered by Von Dohren and was starting to put the pressure on Chrysler for the lead when Watt spun again, this time in turn three. Rick Laubach was also starting to make his presence known at this time working his way to fourth when the yellow was displayed.
The green flag came back out on lap 10 but it was short lived as Kyle Borrow spun on lap 11 to bring out yet another caution. The running order was still Chrysler leading followed by Friesen, Laubach, Von Dohren and Howard. When the green flag came back out Howard came to a stop in turn one due to a broken left front spindle on the Keystone Racing #126 ending his bid for the win.
When the green flag was displayed on lap 12 Chrysler jumped out to the lead once again followed by Friesen, Laubach, Von Dohren with Pauch Jr. making his way into the top five. Chrysler was pulling away on the field until lapped traffic allowed Friesen and Laubach to catch him. They started battling for the lead.
As they came across the line to complete lap 22, all three cars were side by side with a lapped car in the middle. Things got crossed up a little with Friesen getting into the back of the Chrysler’s No. 21K causing him to spinout right at the starter’s stand. Officials at this point penalized Friesen for aggressive driving sending the #66 to the rear of the field. As there were lining up for the restart Friesen pulled in the pits to call it a day.
When the green flag was displayed to return to racing, Laubach raced out in front with Von Dohren not far behind. Rudolph was able to get by Pauch Jr. on the restart to take the third position. Laubach and Von Dohren were pulling away from the third and fourth drivers when the red flag was displayed on lap 27 after Andy Burkhardt spun going into turn one and was run into by Justin Grim and Jim Bobbit with Grim flipping over. With visibility limited due to the sun and dust Laubach was unable to avoid the incident and hit the front end of the Burkhardt’s car sending him into the outside wall. Von Dohren, with no place to go, plowed into the side of the disabled Laubach car. Thankfully all drivers were ok but it was a lengthy cleanup to remove the badly damage race cars.
The race was set to resume with three laps to go with Rudolph leading Pauch Jr., Jeff Strunk, Frank Cozze and Colt Harris. The green flag flew with Rudolph jumping out to the lead with Pauch Jr., trying to make a last ditch effort to get by for the checkered but there was no denying Rudolph as raced under the checkered flag for his first ever win at the Minersville, Pa., track.
Pauch Jr., finished a strong second and is looking forward to the rest of the year at Big Diamond.
“The car ran really good for a small block,” stated Pauch Jr. “Rudolph was better than me with the big block off the corners but once I got rolling I was good. When I look at it I was the first spec motor for awhile there, so it’s a good thing to start off of for the year. We got a good thing to base off of and I think I gave it away on a restart when I tried to get up under the guys and Rudolph got me back. It was tough to pass out there, not awful but sketchy to say the least. Restarts were you best bet to pass”
Jeff Strunk was very happy with his third place finish.
“We were a seventh to tenth place car today and ended up third due to the other drivers misfortunes,” commented Strunk. “We’ll take that make some changes and be back here on Friday, hopefully a little better.”
Cozze held off Harris in the final laps to finish in fourth with Harris settling for fifth.
Brett Kressley was the winner in the Sportsman race over Mike Lisoski.
MODIFIED FEATURE: 1. 21K Erick Rudolph ($3500); 2. 15 Billy Pauch Jr., 3. 88 Jeff Strunk, 4. 19 Frank Cozze, 5. 30 Colt Harris
Heats – All drivers qualify (top 4 to redraw)
Heat #1 finish: Friesen, Von Dohren, Rudolph, Strunk, Bouc, 1 Burkhardt, Cozze – DNF Reppert.
Heat #2 finish: Laubach, Howard, Pauch Jr, Watt, Beach, Searock, J Grim, Bobbit, – DNF – M Butler
Heat #3 finish: Desantis, Chrysler, Fitzpatrick, Swinehart, Harris, Borrow, Metzger. DNF Willman.