BY CHUCK CURLEY
FORESTVILLE — Saturday’s open practice for the 2021 season at Big Diamond Speedway gave some drivers chances to try something new.
Minersville’s Brandon Firestine brought out his new No. 11F 602 crate sportsman for its maiden laps around the 3/8-mile oval in preparation for Friday night’s season-opening program.
“I always dreamed of it,” the 26-year-old Minersville graduate said. “Me and my Pap have been up here since I was in diapers. Pap (Emil Keitsock) was loyal to this track. He only lives 5 minutes away in Branchdale.
“I always wanted to turn some laps on this track, and it will be one to remember when I go out there today.”
Just as Keitsock once raced at the former Anthracite Raceway in Schoentown, Firestine achieved his memory Saturday in his Bicknell chassis. That included a spin in the second turn during the 602 crate sportsmen’s fourth time on the oval, which was dry and slick by that point.
A seven-year veteran of micro sprints and 600cc modifieds, Firestine said, “So we decided to go with the crate. It’s the easiest thing to start learning on right now, and it’s a good program. I think everything one day is going to turn to crates instead of open sportsmen, so you might as well get what we want to do and try to fix our flaws and hopefully get good at it.”
That faith is always supported by a dozen sponsors, many of which came with him from the micro sprint that was sold to finance his new car.
“I picked up a few new ones, which is great … Sponsors are a big key to this program,” he said, noting Big Diamond will be his home track in 2021.
“I want to learn the car, keep the car in one piece, come home every night with the car rolled off the trailer, and come back next week and try to do better,” he said. “If I make features, I make features.”
Lavelle’s Cory Lindenmuth also was trying something new Saturday. The former Big Diamond roadrunner performer showed up with a limited late model that he hopes to race primarily at Selinsgrove Speedway.
However, his first time at that track during its open practice recently didn’t turn out well.
“We made one decent lap and then don’t lift in the corner or you end up in the guardrail,” Lindenmuth said, saying repairs on his No. 14, which used to compete at Clinton County Speedway, cost $800. That did not dissuade him from coming to Big Diamond.
“It’s just so different. It’s like driving something that you can’t explain it,” he said, but then he tried. “When you get up on the bars (in the turns), you’re looking down. You can see nothing when you’re driving it around until you’re on the throttle.”
Like at Selinsgrove, Lindenmuth had trouble navigating the second turn at Big Diamond. He went high in the second turn in several sessions and once headed straight for the yuke tires off Turn 2, but got the car stopped.
That caused one of several caution flags Saturday, but the drivers managed to avoid crashes during their practice sessions. The practicing groups were split into roadrunners, 602 crate sportsmen and a vintage stock, open sportsmen, modifieds, sprint cars and the late model.
At least 40 race teams, including four sprint car teams, showed up after the practice was rescheduled from today because of the forecast of rain.
Under dry, sunny conditions, the cars circled the track for about 90 minutes before the action was stopped to apply water to the racing surface. After 15 minutes and as some teams began leaving, three more test sessions were held to complete the day.
Saturday’s practice was the only one scheduled before Big Diamond opens its season Friday night with a program of 358 modifieds, open sportsmen, 602 crate sportsmen and roadrunners. Warm-up laps are scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
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