LOCAL RACING: Change of cars boosts Kressley to Big Diamond victory

FORESTVILLE — Brett Kressley has spent the start to the 2024 season trying to figure out how to return to Victory Lane at Big Diamond Speedway.

It turns out all the defending 358 modified track champion had to do was swap cars.

“This is our Grandview (Speedway) car,” the Orefield resident said after winning Friday night’s 25-lap feature at Big Diamond. “I just felt the engine combination and everything was going to be better here, so we just did a whole reset and brought this car up.”

The result was Kressley’s 12th career win and a $5,000 check to conclude the Month of Money at the track. In addition, the win also gave Kressley a $200 bonus for the best average finish over the month after he tied with Mike Gular.

Kressley was not the only first-time winner this season in Friday night’s races. Perkasie’s Colin Cox and Matt Martino, of Glen Gardner, New Jersey, earned their first career wins in 602 crate sportsman features. Christopher Buffalino, of South River, New Jersey, won his first 602 crate sportsman rookie feature.

The only repeat winner was Llew-ellyn’s Alex Schoffstall, whose victory in the 20-lap roadrunner feature was his second of 2024 and the division-leading 30th of his career.

Cody Manmiller, the 2020 602 crate sportsman track champion, took the 358 modified feature lead from Scott Albert on the ninth lap, but relinquished it to Kressley off Turn 4 two laps later.

From there, Kressley withstood two caution flags and led the rest of the race.

“We had a real good, consistent car,” Kressley said. “We started ninth, which isn’t at the front, but it’s closer to the front where you can see the front end, at least make your moves and not worry about just going right from the start. You kind of pace yourself a little bit better.”

Manmiller followed Kressley to the checkered flag to finish ahead of Jeff Strunk, who returned to the Rochinski No. 20R for the second straight week after he won his debut in the car on May 24. Louden Reimert and Duane Howard completed the top five.

After using his Grandview car Friday night, Kressley said, “We’re taking that (Big Diamond) car down (to Grandview) tomorrow and see. It could be what we’re missing.”

Cox won $1,052 for winning the first 602 crate sportsman feature, the rained-out Thaw Brawl from April 19. Starting from the pole, the teenager led every lap to hold off Forestville’s Kevin Olenick by 2.148 seconds. Joe Toth, Jordan Henn and Brennan Chapman completed the top five.

“I didn’t have any idea,” Cox said about his lead.” I just knew to hold my line and keep running good, consistent laps, and I’d be fine.”

After placing sixth in the Thaw Brawl, Martino led all 20 laps and won the Tony’s Meat Market Night feature by a slimmer margin, 1.21 seconds, over Olenick. Henn was third ahead of Cox and Ryan Conrad.

“Honestly, I got an idea in that heat race,” Martino, who won the heat, said about his chance at a feature win. “We’re pretty good on the top and I knew it was going to be a bottom-lane deal at the end. So I just hit my marks every lap and came out on top.”

In the rookie 602 crate sportsman feature, Buffalino, a cousin of 358 modified driver Dominick Buffalino, took the lead on a fifth-lap restart and dominated the 15-lap race. He beat runner-up Stephen Smith III by 3.186 seconds.

“It feel amazing,” Buffalino said in Victory Lane about his first win in his third career feature at Big Diamond. “The track was great. My car felt great, thanks to my dad and my cousin.”

Schoffstall passed T.J. Fitzpatrick off the first turn on the ninth lap and held off the field to earn the 20-lap roadrunner feature win. Kris Ney was second ahead of Andrew Fayash III, Chuck Fayash and Jim Kost.

“The extra laps definitely made the track a little more hard than usual this early in the night with the make-up sportsman feature,” Schoffstall said. “That is really where I like to be, on a nice, hard track.”

Fitzpatrick and Mike Reicher won roadrunner heats. They were joined as heat winners by Doug Smith Jr., Scott Albert, Kressley and Manmiller in 358 modifieds and Olenick, Martino and Jax Yohn in 602 crate sportsmen. Aleia Geisler won the 358 modified consolation.

Big Diamond will host its annual Anthracite Assault for the Super DIRT Series big-block modifieds on Tuesday night, when the division will race a 75-lap feature with $10,000 going to the winner. The 600cc modifieds will be part of that program.