Weedsport, NY — April 23, 2009 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Chris Budihas Photo
Jeff Strunk is already a six-time points champion at Big Diamond Raceway with 38 feature wins. Sunday could still be his biggest day in coal country when the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series comes to town for a rare Big-Block appearance.
“Its still on my agenda to win a tour race,” remarked Strunk, 40, fresh off his season-opening Small-Block triumph at Big Diamond the first weekend in April. While it was the third opening day victory at BDR in the past four years for the Mohnton, Pennsylvania veteran, it marked the first-ever win for his new car owner Vince Gagliardo. “The prestige of winning one would easily rank it among the biggest of my career.”
“The tour drivers are the best around, they certainly set the trend wherever they run. When you go up against these guys you can expect some good, hard, clean racing. To beat the DIRT guys will take 125%, you need 110% just to win a regular Friday night show here. Our fans will be in for a real treat as they’ll see some of the best racing all season,” said Strunk, the reigning Big-Diamond 358-Modified points king.
Big Diamond’s ‘Spring Fever 75’ leads off the 2009 Advance Series points chase on April 26. Activity gets underway Sunday with Integra Shocks Time Trials coming on the heels of a 5:15 p.m. practice session. Big-Block Modified qualifying heats take the first green flag at 6:30 p.m. while pit gates and grandstands open at 2 p.m. A rain date of Monday April 27 has been secured if necessary. General Admission grandstand tickets at Big Diamond are $20 (kids 10 yrs. and under are Free) and pit passes cost $30 each.
While Strunk holds a clear vision of returning to the winner’s circle aboard the no. 41 Vince’s Automotive & Towing-Pepsi Special, expectations are just as high among 40 other drivers primed to showcase the best from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey for this stand-alone event. He knows big race experience will pay big dividends and he hopes home track advantage will be just as significant.
“We’ve got a solid team and I’m confident going in but have yet to finish a tour race here,” noted Strunk, who raced for Chad Sinon Motorsports in both previous Advance Series stops, running just 41 laps in 2003 (finished 25th) while completing all but two circuits in the ’04 (17th) century grind. “If we can finish, I’m sure it will be up front.”
“For the travelers Big Diamond is probably most similar to Ransomville (Speedway), maybe a little wider. But the series guys know how to set up for longer races even at a new track. A few of the tour drivers have run here before so any time they can feel more comfortable out there will play in their favor,” figured Strunk, who began competing at Big Diamond in 1988 and won his first feature the following season.
The closest Strunk came to following the Mr. DIRTcar champ trail was in 1995 when he finished 16th in overall points piloting Keith Roussey’s no. 93 Auger Manufacturing entry. He came even closer to that elusive first Advance Series win last summer when he chased eventual Mr. DIRTcar Champion Billy Decker across the line at Grandview (Pa.) Speedway, where he earned the ’08 Small-Block season title.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my buddy Dale again,” added Strunk, who helped out Advance Series contender Planck and his car owner Carey Terrance last October during Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds. Strunk unveiled tentative plans this year that include him racing on the Syracuse Mile teamed with past Rite Aid 200 Champion Richie Tobias Jr. in a pair of TEO Pro rides provided by Gagliardo Motorsports — Vince, wife Pat and sons Brian and Vince Jr.
“We might even run into each other a few more times during the summer. We’d like to spread out a little and make more series shows. Its tough with our full schedule on weekends but we’ll consider anything not in conflict, like Cayuga County in July where its $1,000 just to start. Traveling around with a professional touring group is something every driver would like to do, right now racing closer to home keeps the bills paid up.”
While its been five years since the Advance Series last visited Big Diamond, inaugural winner Alan Johnson and ‘04 victor Brett Hearn never seem to forget the path to victory lane. Hearn, the all-time tour winner with 100, began the 2009 campaign with a checkered flag at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida while Johnson, DIRTcar Northeast’s Big-Block win leader now with 359, captured the ’09 lid-lifter last Sunday at Cayuga County Fair (NY) Speedway — site of the DIRTcar All-Star Weekend, July 17-19, alluded to by Strunk that boasts $20,000 to win.
Hearn and Johnson will be joined at Big Diamond by defending overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Champion Decker, along with series all-stars Planck, Jimmy Phelps, Steve Paine, Matt Sheppard, Danny Johnson, Frankie Caprara, Ryan Phelps, Justin Haers, Billy Dunn, Jeff Brownell Jr. and ’08 Rookie of the Year Larry Wight, plus upstart Michael Storms and Canadian veteran Pat O’Brien.
Strunk will lead the best from the Penn-Jersey circuit featuring early season Big Diamond points leader Duane Howard and his closet pursuers Billy Pauch, Doug Manmiller and Mike Gular. Also expected to be in the hunt on Sunday will be all-time track win leader Craig VonDohren, Doug and Keith Hoffman, Rick Laubach, Ryan Godown, Richie Pratt and Billy Pauch Jr.
For additional information, contact DIRTcar Racing Northeast Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning Cory Reed via cell (315/224-9009) or in the DIRTcar Northeast Office (315/834-6606). Also log into www.superdirtcarseries.com, phone the speedway office at 570/385-0744 (570/544-1410 on raceday) or visit the track website at www.bigdiamondraceway.com 24/7.
Big Diamond Raceway – Big-Block Modified Feature Winners (1981-2008)
WINS DRIVER FIRST LAST
2 Bob Toreky 8/5/81 9/25/81
2 Billy Pauch 8/9/05 6/6/06
2 Alan Johnson 6/18/03 7/25/06
2 Keith Hoffman 10/1/06 9/30/07
1 Roger Laureno 4/23/82
1 Garry Gollub 7/23/82
1 Dave Schoffstall 9/10/82
1 Frank Cozze 3/29/04
1 Brett Hearn 6/16/04
1 Jeff Strunk 6/7/05
1 Duane Howard 3/29/08
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds www.cayugacountyfairspeedway.com, home of the 2009 DIRTcar All-Star Weekend, July 17-19, featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Sportsman and Big-Block Modifieds in the richest short-track show of its kind in the nation — the $20,000-to-win Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series “DIRTcar All-Star 100” on Sunday, July 19.
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets As of April 19, 2008, the Company operated 3,291 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional information about the Company, employment opportunities, customer services, and on-line shopping for parts and accessories can be found on the Company’s web site at www.advanceautoparts.com.
The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Advance Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include Rite Aid Corporation www.riteaid.com, Dig Safely New York www.digsafelynewyork.com and the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks www.barsproducts.com, Bert Transmission www.berttransmission.com, Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, Brodix Cylinder Heads www.brodix.com, Ferris Industries www.ferrisindustries.com, Integra Shocks www.integrashocksandsprings.com, Intercomp www.intercomp-racing.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Rislone Oil Stabilizer www.barsproducts.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.