AUTO RACING: Hendricks captures Big D win

·5 min read

Jun. 27—FORESTVILLE — After he struggled last year while racing a 358 modified at Big Diamond Speedway, Orwigsburg's Doug Hendricks was uncertain what to do in 2021.

Friday night, it turned out he made the right decision.

The 2019 open sportsman track champion claimed his first feature victory since Aug. 16, 2019, when he edged Lehighton's Brandon Edgar to win the 20-lap open sportsman main on the 3/8-mile oval.

Hendricks won by .349 seconds, the closest margin in five feature events held under a nearly full moon.

The other victories were claimed by Green Lane's Mike Gular in the 358 modifieds; Burlington, New Jersey's Robbie Stillwaggon in the United Racing Club sprints; and Gordon's Kris Ney and Llewellyn's Alex Schoffstall in roadrunners. Ney won the completion of a rained-out feature from June 18 while Schoffstall claimed the regularly scheduled race.

Hendricks won seven sportsman features in 2019, but could not break into the victory column in a modified in 2020.

"Last year in the first race, we got hit pretty good and that put us behind," Hendricks said. "The car was bent. It just comes down to family life and having time to do this. We had this (sportsman) stuff sitting here and we sold everything else. It was just the right move for what we do."

That, according to Hendricks, was to come to Big Diamond as a part-time racer.

"I didn't even know if we were really going to race," he said. "Do we just hang it up? We figured we'll just come and do it for fun. If we make every race, we make every race. If we don't, we don't."

Hendricks took the lead on the second lap and withstood four caution periods before driving the final 11 laps non-stop. He was trailed closely the entire way by Edgar, one of four different feature winners in four appearances by the open sportsmen this season at Big Diamond.

Defending feature winner Mike Burrows was third ahead of Tanner Van Doren and Brad Roberts, who charged from 13th starting spot to place fifth.

Gular, the defending 358 modified track champion at Big Diamond, notched his first victory at the track in 2021 after he won three times in 2020. The victory surprised him because of the track surface, which was soaked earlier to the point that 40 extra minutes were needed to run in the track before warm-up laps began.

"Big cushions and fast tracks aren't usually my forté," he said. "I'm better usually on the drier, slicker, smoothed-out style of track. But that's what they were giving us and that's what we had to adapt to and that's what we had to run on."

The sixth different feature winner in seven events at Big Diamond, Gular was further surprised because sprint cars were on Friday's program.

"Usually, these (sprint) guys come here, they file (dirt) off and it gets nice and smooth and wide. It's more of a finesse thing. Tonight, it was just stomp and steer and try not to push. If you keep the right front (tire) under you, you're good."

Gular took the lead off a sixth-lap restart after an unusual incident in which the cars of Alex Yankowski and Brett Kressley collided in the third turn. Kressley tried twice to express his displeasure at Yankowski, first missing him and then banging wheels with him in the first turn. That led to Kressley's disqualification.

After that, Gular only had to endure one more restart en route to his fifth career win at Big Diamond, though Oley's Jeff Strunk was close over the entire distance before falling short by .647 seconds. Cole Stangle was third ahead of Tim Buckwalter and Ryan Krachun.

Defending feature winner Craig Von Dohren failed in his first attempt at his 100th career win at Big Diamond by having to pull off the track after 11 laps in the feature.

Stillwaggon led every lap of the URC sprint feature but endured a long race by time that began only after yellow flags aborted the first two attempts to start the 25-lap feature. The field then completed 10 laps before the rest of the race was interrupted six more times, including a red flag for a fuel stop after 21 laps.

Still, it didn't dampen Stillwaggon's enthusiasm in Victory Lane.

"This is like home. I love Big Diamond," he said, "I'm glad to be here. I'd love to be here every week. If this was my home track, I'd love it."

Perkasie's Ryan Taylor was second ahead of Myerstown's Dallas Schott, Mertztown's Josh Weller and Felton, Delaware's Andy Best.

With the June 18 race stopped by lightning after five laps, Ney took the point from race leader Jesse Krasnitsky on the restart and never looked back to win the suspended roadrunner feature. He then placed third behind runner-up Andrew Fayash III as Schoffstall drove away to win the regular roadrunner main by more than two seconds.

Ney's victory was his first of the season while Schoffstall claimed his third feature win, which paces all divisions.

Nine heat races were conducted and eight went non-stop. The heat winners were Stangle, Pottsville's Shawn Fitzpatrick and Gular in 358 modifieds, Burrows and Tim Fitzpatrick in open sportsmen, Josh Weller and Jesse Pruchnik in URC sprints and Don Murphy and Schoffstall in roadrunners.

Next Friday, Big Diamond hosts the Georgie Stevenson Memorial, a 30-lap race for the 358 modifieds that pays $4,000 to the winner, along with the wingless East Coast sprints, 602 crate sportsmen and roadrunners.

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