AUTO RACING: Watt, Strunk focus on family after wins

FORESTVILLE — Friday night’s 358 modified features at Big Diamond Speedway were all about family.

First, in the rescheduled Thaw Brawl 25-lap feature that led off Modified Madness, Boyertown’s Ryan Watt, driving a car owned by Pottsville’s Shawn Fitzpatrick, held off his son Logan to capture his first Big Diamond feature win in 11 months.

“It’s pretty cool to finish 1-2 with my son there,” Watt said. “I know there’s going to be a bunch of races where he’s going to beat me, so it was cool to be on top this time.”

Second, in the regularly-scheduled 25-lap feature, Bechtelsville’s Jeff Strunk, mourning the February death of brother Glenn, earned his first victory of the season for car owner Norm Hansell. Strunk, holding back tears, thanked the fans for their condolences.

“Some of you may like me and some of you may not like me, but I’m just glad you’re here supporting someone,” Strunk said after his 59th career win at the speedway.

In oither action, Boyertown’s Jax Yohn repeated as 602 crate sportsman feature winner with a last-lap pass of Chadds Ford’s Tim Borror. Llewellyn’s Alex Schoffstall earned his first roadrunner victory since last July in that 20-lap race, and Ray Kable III, of Sykesville, Md., won the first Mid-Atlantic E-Mod Series feature of the tour’s season.

Ryan Watt earned $4,052 for his Thaw Brawl victory by leading every lap, including the last nine non-stop circuits. Behind him, Logan Watt, who started the race behind his father, the polesitter, in third, passed Louden Reimert on a 17th-lap restart, but could not catch his father in Fitzpatrick’s No. T102.

“One start there, I got tight oin the (Turn 1) corner and washed up, and both Louden and Logan got by me,” Ryan Watt said, adding the yellow flag negated the move. “Luckily the caution came out, so I made sure I didn’t make that same mistake again.”

“I’m super happy for the Fitzpatricks and all of our sponsors that stick by us that allow us to keep doing this,” Watt said after his 11th career victory.

Eddie Strada took third ahead of Reimert and Rick Laubach.

If Ryan Watt would have won the second feature Friday night, he would have received a $3,000 bonus as part of the track’s Month of Money promotion.

Instead, Strunk and Brett Kressley turned the closing laps into a two-car race over the closing 11 non-stop circuits. Kressley’s car faded as the laps wound down, and Strunk walked away with $5,000.

“We’ve been running good all year, real solid,” Strunk said. “Just to get a win and to get that out of the way is awesome. … Very emotional. I lost my brother in February and he’s been with me all along. I definitely dedicate this win to him. I lost two good friends in the last week-and-a-half too who were very close to me. It’s a tough time right now.”

Strunk took the race lead from polesitter Mike Burrows on the 11th lap and led the rest of the way for his first win since April 16, 2022.

While Kressley was second, Mike Gular, Billy Pauch Jr. and Reimert completed the top five.

In the 20-lap crate sportsman feature, Yohn got even with Borror off Turn 2 and completed the pass off the final corner to earn his second win in two tries in 2024.

“I don’t know,” Yohn said about the way he completed the pass. “The whole race, I just kept telling myself, ‘Patience, patience, patience.’”

Yohn followed Joe Toth toward the front through the race, but after Toth got to third place, his car broke, setting up the duel between Yohn and Borror, bidding for his first feature win.

Matt Martino, Brandon Firestine and Nick DeSantis completed the top five.

The roadrunner feature was a back-and-forth duel for the top spot between Schoffstall, who earned his 29th career victory, and Andrew Fayash III before Schoffstall came away with his first win since last July.

“We just caught the cushion right, protected the line going into (Turns) 3 and 4 and didn’t give him any room to get around us,” Schoffstall said.

Fayash was followed across the line by Chuck Fayash, Jim Kost and Kris Ney.

In a 12-car Mid-Atlantic E-Mod Series feature, Kable lapped up to fourth place to capture the tour’s second-ever appearance at Big Diamond.

“I could run low. I could run high. I could run anywhere. This thing was under me tonight,” he said in Victory Lane.

Burrows, Pauch, Brandon Edgar and Kressley won 358 modified heats, and Craig Von Dohren took the consolation.

Martino, Jordan Henn and Toth won 602 crate sportsman heats before Colin Cox claimed the consolation.

Mike Reichert and Terry Kramer won roadrunner heats before Justin Cullum and George Dixon Jr. captured E-mod qualifiers.

The 358 modifieds will take a break next Friday, when Big Diamond hosts the 602 Crate Sportsman Classic, a 30-lap feature paying $3,000 to the winner, along with the Full-Fendered Frenzy for roadrunners. The 600cc modifieds and East Coast Legends also will compete in the 7:45 p.m. program.