By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
MINERSVILLE -- Tonight's first-ever "Prelude to the Coal Cracker" for 358 modifieds will be the next-to-last opportunity drivers will have to get their cars dialed in for the 37th Coal Cracker race on Sept. 1.
Current points leader Craig VonDohren, of Oley, has five wins on the season, including a 4-for-4 clip in 30-lap features at Big Diamond this year.
Tonight's 30-lap feature pays $4,000 to win.
VonDohren, who last won the Coal Cracker in 2007, leads Jeff Strunk of Mohnton by 106 points. Meme DeSantis of Temple is third, while defending Coal Cracker winner Doug Manmiller of Shoemakersville is fourth and one-time winner Frank Cozze of Win Gap is fifth.
Bob Emerich won the inaugural Coal Cracker as a 50-lap feature in 1979.
Strunk was the first driver to win the race in consecutive years (1996, '97).
To date, with no race held in 1983 nor 2005, no driver has ever won the event three years in a row.
Since 2006, Duane Howard has won the event three times. He's the leading winner of the event with six wins; his first came in 1998.
Traditionally, the season at Big Diamond has ended on the last Friday of August, but this year the track, which began the year racing on Sundays, is retiring to Sunday racing and extending the season and title fight to the end of September.
Manmiller, who won the 2010 track championship without posting a win, won last week's one-on-one match race for 358 modifieds.
"The season has been decent; we've had a win here," he said. "When we won our title in 2010, we finished every lap."
Manmiller and Strunk raced go-karts at Shellhammers Speedway in Shoemakersville.
"I raced go-karts for 15 years and traveled the East Coast with the World Karting Association," Manmiller said.