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Up until Saturday night Jeff Strunk’s season at Grandview Speedway could be described as less than what he envisioned. However the hometown boy turned a less than desirable season, based on his past nine championships, into a great season when he was able to steer the Norm Hansell owned Norm’s Save Station 358 Modified to victory in the 76-lap BPG Racing Freedom 76 earning the Pottstown racer $50,000 plus a large share of lap money and other cash awards. It was the most a winner has ever received at the Rogers family operated dirt track racing facility that is celebrating it’s 50 anniversary season. The race attracted what may have been the largest crowd ever to see a racing event at track.
In victory lane an emotional winner had thanks for his car owner, his crew and the others that helped him get to victory lane. The veteran racer did have a couple comments about the racing of another competitor and some sort of hand gesture that had been made toward the winner in the fourth turn incident back with a little more than two thirds of the race completed. He also remembered his grandmother.
Brad Missimer, who happens to be the grandson of track event organizer Bruce Rogers, was able to charge to the front of the 38 car starting field and set the pace for the first two circuits of the one-third-mile banked clay oval. Billy Pauch Jr. took the top spot on the third lap with Jeff Strunk, benefiting from a second place starting position (luck of the draw) close behind. With just short of a dozen laps completed Strunk charged to the front.
Strunk was able to survive a number of multi car accidents and held on to the lead until the 22nd lap when Meme DeSantis, a three time winner of the Freedom 76, went to the front but he was only able to keep the top spot for a couple laps before Strunk, also a three time winner of this event, was able to take back the lead in a strong charge on a caution restart.
At 36 laps completed, about 80 laps run because of caution laps for accidents, the racers were brought to a halt in the second turn and given an opportunity to add fuel.
On the restart Strunk again was in command and had things under control as he was challenged by Canadian racer Stewart Friesen along with New Yorkers Matt Sheppard and Bobby Varin. Early leader Meme DeSantis was fifth.
With two thirds of the laps in the record book the competition got tighter and tougher. In the fourth turn Varin took the lead ever so briefly as he bounced off Strunk after Strunk was getting himself under control after an incident with Stewart Friesen. A few laps later with a little more pushing and shoving Varin went to the front again but on the 61st circuit Strunk put the Norm’s Save Station entry in front to stay.
The final laps saw Strunk holding on to the top spot as Bobby Varin and Billy Decker battled for second while trying to get to the leader.
Strunk was up for the challenge from some of the sport’s very best as he took the victory in the rich classic.
A close second place finish was taken by Bobby Varin followed closely by Billy Decker (a guaranteed starter) coming from 24th starting position, Stewart Friesen and Matt Sheppard.
The Mertz Flying Mullet Cash Dash, 10 laps featuring the heat winners and guaranteed starters, was won by Billy Pauch, a six time winner of the Freedom 76.
Young Jared Umbenhauer, the 2012 Sportsman champion at Grandview, won the Schaeffer Motorsports Minuteman 20 with the top seven finishers moving to the BPG Racing Freedom 76. Mike Gular earned second followed by Ryan Watt, Pat Ward, Nate Christman, Kevin Hartnett and Jarrad Miller.
The eight 12-lap qualifying heat races, sending three from each to the feature race, were won by Ryan Grim, Stewart Freisen, Billy Pauch, Terry Meitzler, Jeff Strunk, Don Norris, Tommy Scheetz III, and Ryan Godown. 82 racers tried to qualify.
Four 10-lap consolation races, sending the top two to the last chance Minuteman 20, were won by Jordan Umbenhauer, Gary Tomkins, Craig Whitmoyer and Alan Johnson.
The BPG Racing Freedom 76 starting field was set with three from each qualifying heat race, five guaranteed starters (Duane Howard, Danny Johnson, Billy Decker, Doug Manmiller and Kevin Hirthler), top seven from the Minuteman 20 and two past winners (in the last 25 years) of the Freedom 76 taking provisional starts (Kenny Brightbill and Craig VonDohren).
Billy Decker earned the Hard Charger Award gaining 21 positions in the feature race. The Hard Charger Award included $100 and a recliner from Beltzville Furniture plus $200 from Bobby Gunther Walsh and Sponsors.
$500 was presented by Area Auto Racing News and the Motorsports 2013 Race Car and Trade Show to the halfway leader Jeff Strunk.
V&M Towing of Leesport presented $250 to Strunk for leading the 44th lap.
TP Trailers of Limerick had $250 for Strunk as the winner.
Dan’s Deli of Boyertown had giant hoagies for Strunk as the leader at the halfway mark and the Texas Roadhouse Restaurant of Wyomissing gave a couple free dinners to the race winner.
This was the final regular Saturday night season event. Next up is the NEETS Enduro racers and Blast From the Past Vintage Cars on Sunday, September 23rd starting at 1 p.m. Adult admission is just $7. The same show will be presented on Sunday, September 30.
The next Saturday event takes place on October 13th. The Halloween Party starts at 6 p.m. and features 358 Modifieds, URC Sprints, ARDC Midgets, Sportsman, Legends, Monster Smash Demo Derby, Vince’s Towing Owners Race and Blast from the Past/Garden State Vintage Cars.
BPG RACING FREEDOM 76 FOR 358 MODIFIEDS: 1. Jeff Strunk 2. Bobby Varin 3. Billy Decker 3. Stewart Friesen 5. Matt Sheppard 6. Meme DeSantis 7. Duane Howard 8. Danny Johnson 9. Ryan Godown 10. Craig VonDohren 11. Doug Manmiller 12. Billy Pauch Jr. 13. Mike Gular 14. Don Norris 15. Pat Ward 16. Kevin Hirthler 17. Jimmy Horton 18. Brad Missimer 19. Mike Maheney 20. Jarrad Miller 21. Terry Meitzler 22. Kenny Brightbill 23. Glenn Strunk 24. Addison Meitzler 25. Kyle Follweiler 26. Jeremy Banos 27. Ryan Grim 28. Chad Brachman 29. Dan Waisempacher 30. Nate Christman 31.John Willman 32. Billy Pauch Sr. 33. Kevin Hartnett 34. Ray Swinehart 35. Tommy Scheetz III 36. Brad Grim 37. Jared Umbenhauer 38. Ryan Watt