BECHTELSVILLE, PA -- Jeff Strunk, ten-time NASCAR T.P. Trailers Modified point champion, defending NASCAR Late Model point champion Chuck Schutz and NASCAR Sportsman defending champion Brian Hirthler were in victory lane for the first time this season on Saturday night at Grandview Speedway when they each won their respective feature. The activities were sponsored by K&N Filters and broadcast by RCN-TV, Allentown.
Strunk, the fourth different Modified winner of the season, held off the late stage challenges of Mike Gular, currently second in the point standings, for his 68th career win in the 30-lap event. Strunk dedicated the win to former promoter Bruce Rogers, who passed away last year, and to Ben Moyer, a longtime supporter of racing that recently lost his battle to cancer plus Strunk also thanked all the supportive fans.
Schutz got by leader Kyle Merkel for the lead with five laps to go in the 25-lap Late Model feature to become the fourth different winner thus far.
Brian Hirthler became the season’s fifth different NASCAR Sportsman 25-lap feature winner by holding off the challenges of runner-up Ryan Beltz.
Providing all winners met the necessary requirements, they received monetary awards from T.P. Trailers, products from VP Gas. Strunk, Kyle Merkel and Hirthler were the recipients of the Dan’s Deli ½-way hoagie award.
The onset of the Modified feature saw Jared Umbenhauer outgun pole sitter Chris Esposito to take the early lead and immediately outdistanced himself from the remaining 27-car starting grid.
Steve Swinehart’s seventh lap spin between the third and fourth turn regrouped the pack, but that didn’t hamper Umbenhauer leaving Eric Biehn, Esposito, Justin Grim and Strunk, who started third, first, seventh and 13th in pursuit.
Strunk advanced to second on the 10th lap restart caused when Mike Kellner and Kevin Hirthler tangled along the backstretch.
On the 14th lap yellow brought out when Chris Gambler spun in the fourth turn, Strunk got the edge on Umbenhauer to become the new leader.
Within no time Strunk opened daylight leaving Umbenhauer, Gular, Biehn and Duane Howard to give chase.
The red had to be thrown on the 24th lap for a fiery crash that involved Umbenhauer. Strunk had just squeezed by the spinning cars of Bobby Trapper Jr. and Ron Kline in the third turn. Umbenhauer wasn’t as fortunate as he hit the two. Flipped and the car erupted into a huge fireball. He quickly exited the inferno in which firefighters had a tough time extinguishing, but they finally got it under control. Umbenhauer was uninjured, but the car was heavily damaged. On the restart Strunk chose the inside lane leaving Gular to take the outside path to challenge. Strunk wasted no time keeping the Glenn and Bonita Hyneman-owned No. 126 at the head of the others. Behind the pair Howard, current point leader Brett Kressley and Biehn jockeyed for the remaining top five positions.
Strunk never surrendered the lead and went on to return to the winner’s circle – a place he was shut out of since September 2017 when he won the Freedom 76. Finishing second for the second race in a row was Gular followed by Kressley, Howard and defending point champion Craig Von Dohren.
Umbenhauer, Kevin Hirthler, Kyle Weiss and Strunk won the heats. The consolations went to Brett Gilmore and Dan Waisempacher.
After several incidents to get the first lap of the Late Model feature in the books, pole sitter Drew Weisser set the early pace for five laps before he spun in the fourth turn relinquishing first to Kyle Merkel. The battle behind Merkel on the restart for second through fifth was comprised of Chuck Schutz, Brian Shuey, Lou Egrie and brother Sean Merkel.
K. Merkel and Schutz put on a fierce side-by-side dual for the lead as the race progressed. With Merkel sticking to the high side and Schutz down low.
Lap cars came in to play in the closing stages and with five laps to go Schutz used them to his advantage and took the lead from Merkel.
Shut out of the winner’s circle since August 5, 2017, Schutz kept this fellow competitors behind him as he went on to claim his 49th career win. Following him across the line were K. Merkel, Shuey, S. Merkel and Egrie.
Andrew Kreis and K. Hirthler diced for the lead for three laps before Hirthler took to the high side and proceeded to take control of the Sportsman feature.
While Hirthler showed the way, the action behind him was hot and heavy between Kreis, Beltz, Louden Reimert and Dylan Swinehart with Brad Arnold trying to get into the thick of the mix.
Beltz took over the second spot on the 14th lap and set sail after Hirthler, who had a sizeable lead built up.
A one-lap shoot-out was set up when B.J. Joly spun into the homestretch infield and was at a very dangerous spot. This regrouped the field.
Hirthler, absent from the winner’s circle since April 8, 2017 kept everyone behind and went on to capture his second career triumph. Chasing him across the line were Beltz, Reimert, Kreis and Arnold.
Heats were won by Kreis, Beltz and Hirthler. Kyle Lilick won the consolation race.
On Thursday, June 14th, 7:30 p.m. the traveling United States Auto Club non-wing Sprint cars will be in action in the annual Jesse Hockett Memorial featuring several top name racers from across the nation. In addition the always popular 358 Modifieds will be in action with a number of visiting talents expected to take part. The Modified race will be a NASCAR point race.
Adult admission for the USAC/358 Modified doubleheader is $30 while youngsters 6-11 pay $10. Kids under 6 are admitted free. Pit admission is $35. Spectator gates open at 5 p.m.
Longtime supporter T.P.Trailers and Truck Equipment of Limerick will be sponsoring the Saturday, June 16th tripleheader featuring the NASCAR 358 Modifieds, Late Models and Sportsman stock cars. This would be a great opportunity to take dad out to celebrate Father’s Day and enjoy a great night of action packed stock car racing.
Adult admission is just $15 while youngsters under 12 are admitted free.
K&N Filters Night Modified Feature (30 Laps): 1. Jeff Strunk, 2. Mike Gular, 3. Brett Kressley, 4. Duane Howard, 5. Craig Von Dohren, 6. Eric Biehn, 7. Tim Buckwalter, 8. Kevin Hirthler, 9. Kenny Gilmore, 10. Justin Grim, 11. Ryan Brim, 12. Ryan Lilick, 13. Steve Swinehart, 14. Ron Kline, (provisional), 15. Skylar Sheriff, 16. Kyle Weiss, 17. Chris Esposito, 18. Brett Gilmore, 19. Chris Butler, 20. Chris Gambler, 21. Joe Fanelli, 22. Dan Waisempacher, 23. Jared Umbenhauer, 24. Bobby Trapper Jr., 25. Ron Seltmann Jr., 26. Doug Manmiller, 27. Mike Kellner, 28. John Willman. DNQ: Bobby Gunther, Steve Young, Carroll Hine III, Jordan Henn, Briggs Danner, Bobby Trapper, Mark Kratz and Ron Myers.
K&N Filters Night Late Model Feature (25 Laps): 1. Chuck Schutz, 2. Kyle Merkel, 3. Brian Shuey, 4. Sean Merkel, 5. Lou Egrie, 6. Draw Weisser, 7. Steve Wilson, 8. Steve Todorow, 9. Danny Snyder, 10. Dirk Rimrott, 11. Patrick Robinson, 12. Shawn Horning, 13. Dustin Fitzcharles, 14. Bryon Sipe, 15. Todd Ravel, 16. Dallas Breidenbach.
K&N Filters Night Sportsman Feature (25 Laps): 1. Brian Hirthler, 2. Ryan Beltz, 3. Louden Reimert, 4. Andrew Kreis, 5. Brad Arnold, 6. Dylan Swinehart, 7. Brad Grim, 8. Jack Butler, 9. Mike Lisowski, 10. Brad Brightbill, 11. Kenny Bock, 12. Jesse Landis, 13. Kyle Lilick, 14. Mike Mammana, 15. Derrick Smith, 16. Jim Housworth, 17. Gary Wagner, 18. Andy Clemmer, 19. Josh Adams, 20. B.J. Joly, 21. Craig Whitmoyer, 22. Nico Flammer, 23. Kurt Bettler, 24. Mark Kemmerer (provisional), 25. Nathan Mohr. DNQ: Lex Shive, Mike Koffel, Mike Florito and Ryan Higgs.
-Grandview Speedway Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos