BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. – It may have taken Duane Howard and the Mike Petruska-owned Atlas Paving No. 66 NASCAR 358 modified team a few weeks to get things ironed out at Grandview Speedway, but once they did Howard was back in a place he’s grown accustomed to – victory lane.
“After starting deep in the pack three weeks ago, the Petruska’s found something and made adjustments. Since then I’ve had a fast hot rod ever since,” Howard said. “The competition is always strong here every week and I was able to deal with the side-by-side racing of the lapped traffic.”
He finished first by a comfortable margin over second-place finisher Kevin Hirthler, who earned his best finish of the season.
Andy Ressler wasted no time charging into the lead at the start of the modified feature. Rookie racer Brad Arnold moved into second on the fourth lap to challenge Ressler for the top spot.
Nate Christman clipped the second turn guardrail and continued before he stopped in the fourth turn for the first yellow with ten laps scored. On the restart Arnold outgunned Ressler for the lead. By this time Howard advanced from 15th into third while Chris Esposito and John Willman completed the top five.
Ressler was back in front one lap later when Arnold went high off of turn four. The lead was short-lived for Ressler when Arnold regained first on lap 13. First and second on the 14th lap were Ressler and Howard as Arnold began fading.
Howard was the new leader on the 15th lap while Ressler, Esposito, Willman and Hirthler battled for second through fifth. Within five laps Howard built up a sizeable lead while the four-way battle for second behind him was a highly contested one between Willman, Esposito, Ressler and Hirthler.
Arnold’s fine run ended when he slowed in the third turn forcing a caution on the 22nd lap. Howard held his own when action continued followed by Willman, Hirthler, Esposito and 14th place starter Frank Cozze.
The field regrouped for the final time with five to go when Eric Biehn stopped with a flat tire to bring out the caution. It was still Howard in command, but now Hirthler was second to attempt to overtake him.
Howard never faltered and pulled into the winner’s circle trailed by Hirthler, Cozze, Willman and Doug Manmiller, who came from 22nd after having to run the consi in which he won.
Sean Merkel won his third 25-lap NASCAR BRC Late Model feature by a healthy margin over runner-up Randy Stoudt. The 25-lap NASCAR sportsman feature winner for the fourth time this season was defending point champion and current point leader Jared Umbenhauer.