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FightForTheRail

Strunk Passes Kressley with 13 to go to win Grandview $35,550

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Jeff Strunk was not panicked at seeing upstart Grandview regular Brett Kressley roar from 20th to the lead  in 24 laps Saturday night during Grandview's 50th annual Freedom 76. Kressley a three-time winner at the track this year, drove around the outside of some of the Northeast's biggest Modified names (Strunk, Bobby Varin and Matt Sheppard) to go from fourth to first. But Strunk had already won the Freedom 76 seven times prior to Saturday night, and he related after the race that he did not think Kressley's pace was sustainable for 76 laps.

Of course, Strunk was right. Saturday's Freedom 76 went caution-free from lap 38 until the finish -- and Strunk drove past the fading Kressley for the $35,550 win in turn two 13 laps from the finish. Over the final 10 laps, Strunk pulled away to a half-straightaway margin of victory in an event that saw the top four finishers race through slower traffic in a tight bunch for the better past of 20 laps in the race's closing stages.

After dominating much of the race's mid stages, Kressley faded from the lead to fourth over the final 13 circuits, dropping over $30,000 in the process.

The top five finished as follows:

1. 126 Jeff Strunk (12th starting spot)

2. 9s Matt Sheppard (5th starting spot)

3. 2a Mike Gular (24th starting spot)

4. 19K Brett Kressley  (20th starting spot) 

5.  5 Bobby Varin (2nd starting spot)

* Teenage pole start Briggs Danner led the event'a opening circuit before ceding control to Bobby Varin (Clay Realty No. 5). After Kressley powered to the lead on lap 24. he would officially lead until lap 64, when Strunk became the fourth and final leader. For many circuits following the race's final caution on lap 38, the top four cars battled nearly nose to tail through slower traffic.

* Sixty-nine cars attempted to qualify for the event, which featured New York track champions from Fonda, Lebanon Valley, Orange County, Outlaw and Thunder Mountain speedways.

* The feature was slowed six times by caution, all of which were single -car incidents of cars slowing or spinning.

* Among the night's three biggest non-qualifiers were Billy Decker, Billy Pauch Jr and Ryan Watt (coming off a $17,000 Big Diamond (Pa.) win two weeks earlier). All three drivers were hampered by poor starting positions in one of the six heat races. Decker started last (11th) in the second heat, and could advance only to sixth. That placed him in eighth starting spot in the Minuteman 20 last chance event that qualified five cars to the feature.

* The Minuteman 20 last chance race has traditionally been a crash-laden mess of mishaps that is often shortened to a time-limit conclusion. Saturday's Minuteman 20, amazingly, went non-stop for the second straight year.

* Mike Mahaney, who owns one career Saturday-night Grandview feature win, was handily leading his heat race before going up in smoke.

* One -time Freedom 76 winner Stewart Friesen was especially quiet Saturday night. After drawing 25th starting spot among the 27 drivers to draw for feature starting positions, Friesen was instead forced to start last in the 32-car field following a pit stop during the pre-race pace laps. Friesen ultimately moved from last to an eighth-place finish.

*  Six-time Freedom 76 winner Duane Howard was forced to the Minuteman 20 after failing to transfer by one position in his qualifying heat. Howard advanced from 29th starting spot to a sixth-place finish in the feature, and certainly would have benefited from a caution at some point in the final 39 laps.

* Row three in the feature looked like an obvious place to find the race winner before the event began. Matt Sheppard drew fifth starting spot and did challenge for the top spot at various points in the event. Sheppard passed Kressley for second on lap 67, but gained no ground on Strunk over the final 10 laps.

Eleven-time Grandview track champion Craig Von Dohren drew sixth starting spot, but was not much of a factor. Von Dohren was falling through the field before dropping from the event on lap 21 following contact with the outside wall.

* Fonda champion Mike Maresca (Hirthler owned No. 117x) won the Minuteman 20, but did not make any progress from his (28th starting spot). in the feature.

* Just from walking through the grandstand parking lot during the evening, lots of New York license plates were visible.

 

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Just got home (4 hr ride and 2 hr nap in the middle). First time there and I had a super time. Great place to watch a race. The list of DNQ's alone would've made a good feature. Glad that Mowdown was a non factor. 

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I watched the  76er replay last night on flo after getting home from Canandaigua.   👍

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Always enjoy your race recap of the 76er!!!!! Thanks for the recap!!!!!

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Was great to see the 76er on Floracing this year. I think it was a great advertisement for what a cool event this is. 

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37 minutes ago, HighPlainsDrifter said:

Great review FFTR. This New Yorker got home at 2:30. Great atmosphere, had a great time. 

Another New York track champion was Mike Mahaney (Albany-Saratoga)

I didn't know you were there. You should have sent me a message on here that you were definitely coming down.  ☺️

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This was definitely one of the best races of the year. Till the last 5 laps you really couldn't say who was going to win.  The unique minutemen race is a cool change up compared to other events. 

To bad it was only a single camera show. But with four cars racing for the lead through the whole race you weren't going to get to see the charges from the back.  The fans in attendance definitely got their moneys worth. 

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FFTR, every year I read your review and say I have to get down there at least once.  This year I got to watch it on Flo and feel the same way.  It was everything you've told us about through the years.  

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I never get to see Strunk race much but the handful of times I have in the last year or 2 I was almost never impressed. Though my perception was that he's a top runner. How long has he used Bicknell? He was always Teo i thought.

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1 hour ago, macho said:

I never get to see Strunk race much but the handful of times I have in the last year or 2 I was almost never impressed. Though my perception was that he's a top runner. How long has he used Bicknell? He was always Teo i thought.

The 126 team made the switch in mid-July. The Getz 15 he ran for weekly at Big Diamond almost every week is also a Bicknell

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On 9/20/2020 at 5:34 AM, Sicklajoie said:

Just got home (4 hr ride and 2 hr nap in the middle). First time there and I had a super time. Great place to watch a race. The list of DNQ's alone would've made a good feature. Glad that Mowdown was a non factor. 

Mowdown took out Von dohren when he decided to switch lanes down the backstretch  putting Von dohren in the wall. 

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58 minutes ago, bicknell5 said:

Mowdown took out Von dohren when he decided to switch lanes down the backstretch  putting Von dohren in the wall. 

I don't see the problem....🤔

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