Strunk’s 8th Freedom 76 Win Pays $35,550

Jeff Strunk won his eighth Freedom 76 Saturday at Grandview Speedway. (Rich Kepner photo)
Jeff Strunk won his eighth Freedom 76 Saturday at Grandview Speedway. (Rich Kepner photo)

BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. — Jeff Strunk has a history of rising to the occasion in big-money events, and he did it again on Saturday night at Grandview Speedway.

Strunk captured the 50th annual Freedom 76 modified race at the third-mile dirt track for the eighth time, banking a $35,550 payday.

The 10-time track champion began his battle for the lead with Brett Kressley on lap 37 and chased him furiously until grabbing the top spot on the 64th lap, becoming the fourth different leader of the event that was first run in 1971 under the direction of legendary promoter Bruce Rogers.

Strunk led the remainder of the 76-lap race, beating Matt Sheppard to the checkered flag.

Mike Gular, Brett Kressley and Bobby Varin rounded out the top five.

Polesitter Briggs Danner set the pace for one lap before Bobby Varin overtook him. The battle for second brewed among Danner, Brandon Grosso and Sheppard while Lauden Reimert, Richie Hitzler, track champion Craig Von Dohren and Cory Merkel.

Merkel’s night ended when he hit the third-turn wall for the first caution on the 13th lap. Varin maintained the lead on the restart with Grosso second.

Strunk advanced to the runner-up spot on lap-18 restart after Mike Maresca spun in the first turn allowing him challenge Varin.

Von Dohren’s night was over early when he jumped the cushion in turn three and hit the wall to bring the caution on lap 22. Varin led on the restart, with Kressley in pursuit.

Kressley passed Varin on the 26th lap and second through fifth was now comprised of Varin, Strunk, Sheppard and Gular.

It wasn’t until the 31st lap that Strunk motored into second and set his sights on Kressley, who was on the move from 20th.

The yellow was flying again for Ryan Lilick on the 38th lap when he stopped along the backstretch. Strunk took the lead on the restart but it was short-lived since Kressley was back on top the following lap.

Kressley ran the outside lane while Strunk stuck to the low groove as the battle progressed with each driver determined to be first.

It wasn’t until the 64th lap that Strunk, who started 12th, put the Glenn Hyneman-owned Bicknell chassis No. 126 into the lead

Sheppard and Gular passed Kressley for second and third, respectively, with five laps to go when Kressley fell to fourth.

Strunk continued his pace to chalk up his second win of the season at Grandview with the last one coming August 15.

The finish:

Feature (76 Laps): 1. Jeff Strunk, 2. Matt Sheppard, 3. Mike Gular, 4. Brett Kressley, 5. Bobby Varin, 6. Duane Howard, 7. Ryan Godown, 8. Stewart Freisen, 9. Louden Reimert, 10. Frank Cozze, 11. Kevin Hirthler, 12. Jared Umbenhauer, 13. Briggs Danner, 14. Mike Maresca, 15. Andy Bachetti, 16. Danny Bouc, 17. Dylan Swinehart, 18. Ryan Lilick, 19. Justin Grim, 20. John Willman, 21. Dave Dissinger, 22. Max McLaughlin, 23. Frank Yankowski, 24. Brandon Grosso, 25. Keith Hoffman, 26. Richie Hitzler, 27. Mark Kratz, 28. Craig Von Dohren, 29. Ryan Krachun, 30. Andy Perrego, 31. Doug Manmiller, 32. Cory Merkel.