For the second year in a row Jeff Strunk was able to take home the big bucks in the $25,000 to win 43rd Annual BPG Racing Freedom 76 at Grandview Speedway on Saturday. The win gave the nine time track champion his fifth victory in the Freedom 76 Classic and helped his mom celebrate her birthday.
More than 70 racers, many of the top names in the sport including five former Syracuse DIRT Classic winners, tried to earn starting spots in the 33 car starting field with a very large crowd on hand.
Rick Laubach took the lead at the drop of the green but Jeff Strunk, coming from fourth starting position, went to the front on the second lap and set the pace for the entire 76-lap race.
Canadian racer Stewart Friesen, a pre-race favorite, came to a stop in the fourth turn early in the race done for the night earning a last place finish. However Strunk’s winning effort was not as easy as it might seem for the veteran racer and his Keizer Aluminum Wheels sponsored modified.
Early in the race Ryan Watt, a regular at Bridgeport Speedway, moved into position to challenge Strunk for the lead and continued to challenge him through the 44th lap. Billy Pauch Jr. ran third for 19 laps before Meme DeSantis, coming from 16th starting spot, moved into third and put pressure on second place Watt.
With one third of the race completed track champion Craig VonDohren, considered a pre-race favorite, tangled with an infield marker and damaged the front end of the race car putting him out of the race just as he was starting to make his move through the field.
At the 43-lap marker a fuel stop closed up the field on the leader. Just two laps later DeSantis charged into second and put pressure on the leader. With 50 laps completed Duane Howard, who had started in 24th position, moved into third place. The top three battled for the top spot for the final 26 laps but despite some strong efforts could not catch the hard charging Strunk.
With the checkered flag waving Jeff Strunk, who calls Pottstown home, was able to claim the win in the rich classic by a narrow margin over Temple’s Meme DeSantis and Oley racer Duane Howard.
Fourth place was earned by New Jersey racer Ryan Godown, coming from 21st starting position, while Ryan Watt, Boyertown, a challenger for the top spot for much of the first half, finished fifth.
Just prior to the start of the BPG Racing Freedom 76, Ernie Saxton, track announcer for 45 years, was honored with his own microphone a beautiful photograph signed by many of those involved in the racing at Grandview. Saxton has announced his retirement as the official announcer but will continue to handle the public relations and marketing which has done for 47 years.
Qualifying heats, 12 laps each, were won by Ryan Watt, Kenny Gilmore, Keith Hoffman, Meme DeSantis, Doug Manmiller, Ryan Godown and Stewart Friesen. Consolation races, each 10 laps, went to Frank Cozze and Kyle Borror.
The Schaffer Motorsports Minuteman 20, giving the top four finishers starting spots in the BPG Freedom 76, was won by Jon Kellner Sr. followed by Ray Swinehart, Kevin Hirthler and Don Norris Jr.
In the Mertz Flying Dutchman Cash Dash, featuring heat winners and guaranteed starters, was won by Craig VonDohren earning him $1,000. VonDohren’s crew won the $500 tire changing contest.
Next event at Grandview takes place on Saturday, October 5, 1 p.m, Outlaw Enduro Series, “Chargin” Charlie Eckert Memorial featuring 200-lap events for 6 & 8 cylinder cars plus Blast from the Past Vintage Cars. Saturday, October 19, 6 p.m. Halloween Party Night featuring 358 Modifieds, URC Sprints, ARDC Midgets, Sportsman, Legends, Monster Smash Demo Derby, Blast from the Past Vintage Cars and Vince’s Towing Owners Race.
Sunday, November 10, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Grandview Speedway Flea Market – Rain or Shin.
Saturday, November 16, 6 p.m. (Doors open at 4 p.m.): Annual Awards Banquet, Gilbertsville, PA Fire Hall