BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. — Jeff Strunk won Grandview Speedway’s Freedom 76 for a record seventh time Saturday night at the third-mile dirt track.
Strunk broke a tie with Billy Pauch with six victories in the event, earning $30,000 for topping the 47th annual event that honored longtime track promoter Bruce Rogers, who died earlier this year.
Strunk made up for a rather dismal season during which prior to the night only won one race and that was on June 3, 2017. Strunk and Craig VonDohren, the 2017 Modified point champion, put on quite a battle throughout the race and Strunk commented that VonDohren, who is tough as nails ran him clean while the pair battled throughout the race. There were several times Strunk didn’t know which lane to choose since VonDohren tried the outside and inside which made Strunk change lanes.
Through the luck of the draw, Bob Trapper Jr. started on the pole, but it was second-place starter Billy Pauch that charged into the early lead trailed by Doug Manmiller, Strunk, Scott Albert and Brian Krummel, who started third, sixth, fifth and seventh respectively.
By lap eight, the top three approached lapped traffic and had to use heads up driving.
Duane Howard, the winner four times, slowed his pace on the 11th lap for the first yellow and was through for the night. The restart had Pauch and Strunk side-by-side, but when action resumed Pauch washed up coming out of turn four. Strunk took advantage of the situation and motored the Glenn Hyneman-owned/All Fab No. 126 into first.
Within no time Strunk opened up a commanding lead while Pauch, Manmiller, Brian Krummel and Albert chased him down.
Godown looped it in the first turn setting up a seven-car accident in which Nate Christman, running for the first time all year, took a slow roll for the 21st lap red. All drivers were thankfully uninjured, but the same couldn’t be said for the cars of Brett Kressley and Tim Buckwalter as they were out of contention. Christman later returned during another caution, but he couldn’t continue because he was three laps down. Strunk maintained first on the restart, but Pauch, Manmiller, Von Dohren and Krummel gave him no margin to error.
Strunk was able to increase the distance as the race progressed since Pauch and VonDohren battled for the runner-up spot because VonDohren cleared Pauch on the 28th lap and took chase after Strunk.
By the 32nd lap VonDohren gained a tremendous amount of ground on Strunk when the front runners encountered heavy lap traffic.
VonDohren had just moved ahead, but before the lap counted, a mandatory pit stop on the 45th lap made the move void. The first five on the restart consisted of Strunk, VonDohren, Manmiller and Kevin Hirthler, who started 22nd and 21st place starter Jared Umbenhauer. It wasn’t long before Kenny Gilmore joined the mix and got past Umbenhauer for fifth.
Ryan Watt regrouped the pack with 16 laps to go when he stopped in the fourth turn for a yellow. Strunk wasted no time punching the accelerator on the restart because he knew VonDohren was just waiting to pounce if he faltered.
Strunk never gave up until he was in Victory Lane for his biggest win of the year followed by VonDohren, Hirthler, Gilmore and Mike Gular, who came through from 27th.
Brett Kressley garnered an extra $1,000 by winning the 10-lap Pioneer Metal Roofing Cash Dash.
Jeff Strunk, Craig VonDohren, Kevin Hirthler, Kenny Gilmore, Mike Gular, Doug Manmiller, Jared Umbenhauer, Ryan Grim, Frank Cozze, Brandon Grosso, Billy Pauch Sr., Brian Krummel, Ray Swinehart, Jimmy Horton, Scott Albert, John Willman, Justin Grim, Ryan Godown, Ryan Watt, Mike Laise, Rick Laubach, Mike Mahaney, Brian Hirthler, Ryan Beltz, Ryan Krachen, Billy Pauch Jr., Stewart Friesen, Matt Stangle, Nate Christman, Brett Kressley, Tim Buckwalter, Meme DeSantis, Bob Trapper Jr., Duane Howard, Steve Swinehart.