Bechtelsville, PA – For the second time in his racing career at Grandview Speedway, Craig VonDohren scored a three-peat. In 2006 he won the Forrest Rogers Memorial, the Freedom 76 and was the track point champion. Saturday night the Oley speedster repeated the same accomplishment. The victory coming at the wheel of the Harring Transportation/Pioneer Pole Buildings #1c marked the first time since 2008 that the Oley, PA racer was able to grab the top spot in the rich classic and the win marked the 30th year since the veteran talent won his first Freedom 76 back in 1985.
The newly crowned champion earned $25,000 for the win, plus over $500 in lap money. The victory didn’t come easy as he out-dueled Billy Pauch, Duane Howard and Jeff Strunk throughout the race and finally close runner-up Billy Pauch Jr. along with dicing through heavy lapped traffic. He also received the Dan’s Deli ½-way leader hoagie award.
Through the luck of the draw, dirt track racing legend Billy Pauch started on the pole and set the pace for the 32-car lineup for two laps before Kevin Hirthler spun in the fourth turn for the caution. On the restart VonDohren, third-place starter, shot to the outside coming off the second turn to move into the lead.
It didn’t take VonDohren long to outdistance himself leaving father Pauch and son Billy Jr. jockey for second while Jimmy Horton and Danny Erb completed the top five. Ryan Watt, seventh-place starter, soon joined the thick of the battle.
John Willman stopped along the homestretch for the 19th lap caution. VonDohren continued his dominance, by but now second through fifth consisted of Pauch, Howard, who started 16th; Pauch Jr. and Watt.
Howard cleared Pauch on the 24th lap and took chase after VonDohren, already encountering lap traffic as they were racing for positions as well.
On the 35th lap Ryan Godown hit the guardrail which slowed his momentum. Pauch coming full steam made contact and the two tangled in the fourth turn. Godown, not happy with the turn of events, refired and drove into Pauch not once, but twice, to show his displeasure. This continued with neither one giving up and both were disqualified for their auctions. At the same time a mandatory fuel stop brought out the red.
The restart lined up with VonDohren, Howard, defending race winner Stewart Friesen, who worked his way up from 15th; Horton and Strunk, who started deep in the pack in 27th. Von Dohren moved the Nick Gatto powered car out quickly as he knew the others behind him had the same incentive in mind – win the race.
A three-way battle for the lead ensued by lap 50 between VonDohren, Howard and Friesen with Strunk closing quickly.
Andy Bachetti, John Willman and Ryan Grim spun in the first turn as the front runners bore down on them bringing out the 59th lap caution. VonDohren and Strunk, who moved into second on lap 58, got by, however Friesen wasn’t as fortunate and he made contact with the melee. Friesen was through for the night towed back to the pits out of contention. Howard, who had fallen to fourth, pitted with a flat tire, but after a quick pit stop rejoined the race. On the restart Von Dohren maintained the lead on the high line with Strunk trying to get by on the inside.
On the 66th lap VonDohren on the outside and Strunk trying a run one groove higher yet made contact along the homestretch. VonDohren said later that he saw Strunk on the outside of him, but at the time he was committed and they made contact.
The final yellow was on the 68th lap when Horton and Doug Manmiller tangled in the second turn. Manmiller was put to the rear for the incident. Before the restart Strunk had to pit with a flat tire and was able to rejoin the race.
It was still VonDohren in front on the restart trailed by Pauch Jr., Ray Swinehart, Kenny Gilmore and Howard who was coming back to the front strong.
VonDohren kept the competition behind and pulled into the winner’s circle for his fifth win of the season followed by Pauch Jr., Swinehart, Howard and Gilmore. Rounding out the top ten were Tommy Scheetz III, Erb, and Frank Cozze, who received the $581 Bobby Gunther-Walsh Hard Charger award in memory of Mike Bailey; Strunk and Rick Laubach.
The Don Schaeffer Racing Minuteman 20-lap event which was the last chance for five drivers to get into the 76er field was won by Frank Cozze. Tim Buckwalter was the leader for eight laps until Cozze charged past him.
Once Cozze was in front Buckwalter, Kyle Borror, Manmiller and Nate Christman diced for the remaining positions.
Cozze never surrendered first and secured a position in the running of the 45th annual Freedom 76 along with Borror, Buckwalter, Manmiller and Christman.
Tommy Scheetz III, Howard, Swinehart, Addison Meitzler, Kevin Hirthler and Meme DeSantis won the six 12-lap qualifying events. Consolation race winners were Kyle Weiss and Eric Biehn giving them an opportunity to participate in the Minuteman.
The 10-lap Pioneer Pole Buildings Cash Dash worth $1,000 went to Howard.
This was the last Saturday event at Grandview Speedway until October 17th when the Halloween Party Thunder on the Hill special is presented featuring a Modified/358 Modified event along with Sportsman and TSRS Sprints.
And on Sunday, October 18th, 12 noon, the Outlaw Enduro racers will be back in action along with the Blast from the Past Vintage racers.
Champions and outstanding performers from the 2015 season will be honored at the annual Awards Banquet set for the Gibertsville, PA Fire Co. Social Hall on Saturday, November 21.
Freedom 76 Feature Finish (76 Laps): 1. Craig VonDohren, 2. Billy Pauch Jr., 3. Ray Swinehart, 4. Duane Howard, 5. Kenny Gilmore, 6. Tommy Scheetz III, 7. Danny Erb, 8. Frank Cozze, 9. Jeff Strunk, 10. Rick Laubach, 11. Kevin Hirthler, 12. Ryan Grim, 13. Doug Manmiller, 14. Jared Umbenhauer, 15. Jimmy Horton, 16. Don Norris Jr., 17. Nate Christman, 18. Mike Gular, 19. John Willman, 20. Andy Bachetti, 21. Ryan Kunkle, 22. Tad Cox, 23. Tim Buckwalter, 24. Stewart Friesen, 25. Ryan Watt, 26. Meme DeSantis, 27. Danny Bouc, 28. Addison Meitzler, 29. Billy Pauch, 30. Ryan Godown, 31. Lou Cicconi, 32. Kyle Borror. DNQ: Wade Hendrickson, Kyle Weiss, Jarrad Miller, Glenn Strunk, Willie Osmun, Justin Grim, Jordan Umbenhauer, Mike Butler, Chris Gambler, Brad Brightbill, Brian Hirthler, John McClelland III, Eric Biehn, Colt Harris, Chris Esposito, Bobby Trapper Jr., Bobby Gunther-Walsh, Brian Houseknecht, Glenn Owens, Mike Kellner, Ron Seltmann Jr., Brett Gilmore, Bobby Varin, Dom Buffalino, Ryan Anderson, Craig Whitmoyer, Eric Biehn, Dale Hartz and Mark Kratz.
Schaeffer Racing Minuteman 20 Finish (20 Laps). 1. Frank Cozze, 2. Kyle Borror, 3. Tim Buckwalter, 4. Doug Manmiller, 5. Nate Christman.
-Grandview Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Pete MacDonald Photo