New faces coming to Big Diamond Speedway in 2024

BY KEN BRUCE – When the gates swing open for the 2024 season at Big Diamond Speedway on Friday, April 12th, there will be the familiar drivers we have all come to expect. but this year you can expect some new faces that will be there to compete in the Quandel Concrete Modified division regularly. You will have a former Big Diamond driver, three former Big Diamond crate sportsman drivers who will be moving up in class, and a New Jersey driver who always seems to be strong when he visits the Schuylkill County dirt track.

The Yankowski name is very familiar to Big Diamond Speedway. Steve Yankowski has always been and still is a big supporter of Big Diamond Speedway. His son Alex Yankowski is a former Open Sportsman champion along with a past winner of the “Money in the Mountains” race and the “Jack Rich Coalcracker 72”. This year another Yankowski will make his return to the speedway. Frank Yankowski, who was a track regular a few years ago will make his return to Big Diamond in 2024. Frank is very familiar with Big Diamond and is looking forward to returning to coal country next season in the family-owned No. 127.

“After a couple of years away, I am looking forward to getting back to Big Diamond weekly where in the past I had great success,” said Yankowski. “I loved the racing there, I’m excited with changing chassis manufacturers to a Bicknell so Alex and I can exchange information and have a new Murray engine under the hood. I would like to thank Steve and Jen Yankowski for putting me in great equipment and
my girlfriend Michelle for all her support. I also have some new and old crew members coming on board and they are also excited to call Big Diamond home this season.”

2022 Big Diamond USS Achey, Inc 602 Crate Sportsman Brandon Edgar dipped his toes into the modified pool late last season with a couple impressive runs. In 2024, Edgar will be racing a 358 modified on a regular basis calling Big Diamond his home on Friday nights and is excited about his move up to the 358 Modified division.

“I am looking forward to it, I thought our debut went better than expected at the end of last year,” said Edgar. “It is a lot different than running sportsman in the manner that these guys don’t wait for something to happen, they make it happen. I will have to definitely more aggressive than I have ever been before and get up on the wheel. I thought in our debut modified race last year, I was running pretty good right around 11th and made one tiny mistake and before I knew it I was back to 16th . In the sportsman car you can make a mistake and not have it hurt you as much as it does when you make a mistake in the modified. It will be fun running against some of the same drivers that my dad raced when he drove at Big Diamond.”

Mike Schneck Jr has been a weekly competitor for the past few seasons at Big Diamond in the USS Achey 602 Crate Sportsman division. In 2024, Schneck Jr will be moving up to the Quandel Concrete 358 division in his No. 22. Last season at Big Diamond, Schneck Jr finished the season 10th in USS Achey Crate Sportsman points. Schneck Jr will compete with a Bicknell chassis powered by a Morgantini 358 Spec powerplant under the hood of his No. 22.

“I am looking forward to moving up after both tracks dropped the open (sportsman) motors,” said Schneck Jr. “It was really the only thing to do with two open motors sitting around and nowhere to run them. It’s going to be a huge learning curve, but I’ve seen some of the crate guys move up, qualify and run well. I’m looking forward to 2024 already.”

Another former Big Diamond 602 Crate Sportsman driver, Matt Yoder, will also be making the move to the 358 modified division in 2024. Yoder, who didn’t get to race as much as he would like to have last season due to a variety of reasons is eager to get back and run weekly in the 358 division. Much like Brandon Edgar did, Yoder purchased a 358-spec engine late in the year and was able to make a few starts in the modified division just to get some experience and will be back this upcoming season weekly.

“We had a terrible start to last year when I was involved in that big crash at Selinsgrove and put a hole in the wall,” explained Yoder. “We then started to do pretty well after we switched from bars to coils in May, then the rainouts started and once we went on vacation in late July, I didn’t race the crate at all. While on vacation I purchased a motor that was one of Craig’s (Von Dohren) and after that we just kind of worked on building our inventory to get what we needed to go modified racing. We did run the last three (modified) races at Big Diamond and qualified in the first two but was never able to get a solid feature under my belt, but we did get some laps in and that was the goal. We know it will be tough, we are a small budget team with just me, my dad and my cousin and we just have one of everything so hopefully we can keep everything together and our main goal is to just get laps in and learn.”

One more driver who plans to make their Friday night home this season is Jack Butler out of Phillipsburg, NJ. Butler has had success in his infrequent visits to Big Diamond the past couple of years and is looking forward to being able to run every Friday night in 2024.

“We always looked forward to coming to Big Diamond every year for the half-dozen shows that we usually run,” mentioned Butler. “We seem to run really well there which brings my enthusiasm up. I always have a lot of fun doing it and am really looking forward to going there every week this year. We have had good speed there every time and have had some luck with the draw so that always helps. I don’t think we started outside the top four in our heat and outside the top five in the feature each time so running weekly with the handicap we will probably be starting back further but like I said earlier, we seem to have good speed so we should be okay. Sometimes in the feature, we sort of lacked speed late not knowing how the track changed but hopefully this year we can build on that aspect and keep our speed throughout the race. Of course, most of the races I did run were extra distance races so I will have to adjust to running a normal 25-lap feature. It will be fun running against Duane (Howard), Brett (Kressley) and Craig (Von Dohren) again. I have been running against Louden (Reimert) for a couple of years now at New Egypt and he is a very good driver, and they have a good field of cars there, so I am very much looking forward to it this year.”

The track welcomes these new drivers ensuring the fans that it will be another fun season of modified racing at Big Diamond in 2024 starting with the opener on Friday, April 12th . There is also the possibility of another driver who has won track championships at a couple of different tracks also switching to Big Diamond Speedway on a regular basis this upcoming season.