A long Labor Day weekend of racing begins tonight with the first of two nights of action at Big Diamond Speedway and the annual Jack Rich Memorial Coalcracker events.

Action tonight includes the $1,600-to-win, 40-lap, Coalcracker 40 for the sportsman division along with the final points race of the season for the roadrunners, a special non-winners modified feature for drivers who competed at Big Diamond this season but were winless and an enduro dash race.

Sunday night, the most prestigious race on the schedule, the season-ending Jack Rich Memorial Coalcracker 72 for the 358 modifieds will be competed. It pays a whopping $10,000 to the winner of the feature. The roadrunners will also enjoy a bigger payday in their Coalcracker 25 feature event.

Looking back over the years, some of the most talented 358 modified drivers have won the Coalcracker, and event that has had plenty of formats and distances over the years.

Charlie Eckert, Kenny Brightbill, Rick Schaffer, Fred Rahmer, Doug Hoffman, Tom Mayberry, Duane Howard, Craig Von Dohren and Jeff Strunk have all been winners in the event. Strunk dominated last year's event for his fourth career win in the Coalcracker event and will return Sunday night to try to win his fifth. Gates open at 5 p.m. tonight with racing at 8:15.Sunday, the gates open at 4 p.m. with racing at 8:15. There will also be fireworks on Sunday night.

Williams Grove also shares a Friday/Sunday schedule this weekend. The Mechanicsburg oval honors former promoter, Jack Gunn with the 32nd annual Jack Gunn Memorial for the 410 sprint cars tonight. The 30-lap feature pays $6,000 to the winner. The street stocks of the Saturday Night Series will also be in action.

Sunday night's program is the Billy Kimmel Memorial with the winged super sportsman and 410 sprint cars sharing the card. Action starts at 7:30 on both nights and fans will be treated to a fireworks show each evening.

Port Royal Speedway kicks off the 160th annual Juniata County Fair Saturday with three straight nights of action on the half-mile track. The 11th annual Butch Renninger Memorial for late models, along with the 410 sprint cars, limited late models and extreme stock cars are in action Saturday night. The Interstate Truck and Tractor Pullers Association program will be run Sunday evenin and the 63rd annual Labor Day Classic for the 410 sprint cars will be competed Monday, along with the limited late models and four cylinder stockers.

At Beaver Springs Dragway, Bob Motz and his 200 MPH-plus jet Kenworth and the WFO 160 MPH street cars and Vegas Fuel street legal racing is on the card tonight. The MANDRA and Pro Stick groups join the weekend action along with the final IHRA Summit Series points events through Monday.

Numidia Dragway will host Street Legal drags tonight, with NHRA Summit Series points events Saturday and Sunday.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is already at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis for the 60th Chevrolet Performance U. S. Nationals, the final race of 18 national events; setting the field for the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Hight, and John Hall (P/S Bike) are the defending event winners, as 2013 Pro Stock winner Mike Edwards retired last season.

Along with the entire U.S. Nationals qualifying and eliminations action, the semifinal and final round of Pro Stock racing and the final round of Funny Car eliminations from the rained-out program of Brainerd International Raceway will be contested. The Traxxas Nitro Shootouts for the Top Fuel and Funny Car teams, paying the winners of each special race $100,000, will be contested on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, respectively.

NOTES: With Fred Rahmer retiring at the end of last season and Steve Kinser announcing earlier in the year that this would be his final season in a sprint car, the winged sprint cars were dealt another blow when Sammy Swindell announced earlier this week he is retiring from sprint car racing immediately with plans to only drive his midget in the Chili Bowl. Swindell's cars were always meticulous and well engineered, as the 58-year-old accumulated three STP World of Outlaw Sprint Car Series titles and 294 victories on the tour, as a part of the "Big 3," Swindell, Kinser and Doug Wolfgang, during the formative years of the traveling series. Swindell was victorious in nearly every big sprint car event from Williams Grove's National Open, the Knoxville Nationals, Syracuse Nationals, the King's Royal and many other high profile events and also ran NASCAR and IndyCar races through his career. ... Lincoln Speedway has an open wheel triple header Saturday with the 410 sprinters, 358 sprinters and the winged super sportsman. ... Grandview Speedway only has two points races left. Jeff Strunk is trying to secure his record-setting 10th NASCAR 358 modified title. The mods, sportsman and limited late models are in action Saturday night at the Berks County track. ... Along with the two- day World of Outlaws Late Model Series special at Selinsgrove Speedway, the Dauntless Hook and Ladder Fire Company is going to have a pig roast/sandwichfest on both days and the proceeds will benefit two drivers, Duane Mausteller and Justin Collard, who were injured this season at the track.

(Kaminski covers auto racing for The News-Item)