BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. – 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.