BECHTELSVILLE, PA – Seasoned veteran Ryan Beltz fought it out with youngster Ryan Lilick right down to the wire to go on and claim a very popular win, Friday night at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, PA, pocketing $1,500 for his triumph in the fourth annual Sportsman Freedom 38’er. With his win, the 43-year-old Beltz became the 13th different driver to earn a Sportsman feature win this season, taking his first win this season, the second of his career and his first since May 28, 2016. The win makes Beltz the fourth different driver to win the event in its four-year race history.
In a companion 25-lap feature event for the Mid-Atlantic 305 Sprint Series at the high-banked third-mile dirt track, a dominating triumph was scored by Kyle Smith in his first visit ever to the track.
“I am certain I drove the only four coil car at the track tonight to victory,” announced Beltz, following a roof dance in victory lane. “I’ve got to give thanks to Ryan Watt for all the help he has given us this season, plus Bicknell Race Cars. We just went back to basics tonight. We had a different engine in and just haven’t had a lot of luck here the last few weeks. We had a good race car and everything just came together for us here tonight.”
Following the heat races the top 20 qualified cars, all, picked for spots in a blind draw, with Brian Hirthler, 35, out of Perkiomenville, PA picking the pole to start, with former 358 Modified racer Doug Pannepacker pulling outside the front row. Beltz picked third to start in the 26-car starting field.
With the green waved by starter Ray Kemp it was Hirthler setting the early pace aboard his self-owned No. 4* Four Star Letting Sportsman mount over Pannepacker and Beltz through the first five tours. On lap 6 it was Beltz moving into the runner-up role, dropping Pannepacker to third.
With seven in the record books, Hirthler had nearly a full straightaway lead over Beltz, steering his self-owned KAM Fueled Racing No. 221 entry.
Craig Whitmoyer, 42, of Hamburg, PA, who won the event back in 2015 and started from eighth Friday night, was on the move and by lap 13 he advanced into fourth-place behind Beltz and Pannepacker. A lap 19 caution slowed things and regrouped the field, erasing the big lead held by Hirthler.
When racing resumed it was Hirthler out in front again over Whitmoyer, who ducked underneath Beltz through turn 3 on the restart, and Beltz now running in third. Pannepacker fell back to fourth, with Lilick, who started fourteenth, moving to fifth.
By lap 25 Hirthler again started to pull away, holding a comfortable lead.
Lilick began to pick off positions and took fourth with seven circuits to go. A lap later, Whitmoyer saw his night come to an early end when his motor expired in a huge cloud of smoke to bring out the caution with six to go.
On the double-file restart Hirthler selected to start from the outside, putting Beltz on the bottom. With the green, it was Beltz outgunning Hirthler and becoming the new race leader for lap 33. Lilick advanced to third and took second a lap later, as Hirthler dropped back to third.
“He kept picking the top on the restarts and I just kept praying, eventually, I’d get the jump and we did,” Beltz said. “Everybody was going to the top and I figured, eventually, they’d rub everything away up on top and I still had good grip on the bottom. I got a good run on him the previous restart, but he held on.”
With a lap remaining, Lilick hit Beltz hard, but Beltz held on, as they battled for the win.
“When he hit me I wound up losing my brakes. That last lap I was driving it balls to the wall or else without brakes,” explained the driver out of Schwenksville, PA. “I figured at the end if he went high I’d go low and if he stayed low I’d go high. I wasn’t about to give it away and settle for second.”
Racing through turns 3 and 4 with the checkered waving, Lilick drifted up to the top to protect, as Beltz drove it in on the bottom. Beltz had the edge exiting turn 4 and crossed the line first, winning by a narrow margin over Lilick at the line.
Third went to Hirthler, trailed by Brad Grim, Brett Gilmore and Brian Papiez, who started the event from 21st with the original green.
Heat races for 50 Sportsman entries were won by Hirthler, Mike Lisowski, Ryan Higgs and Beltz. Twin consolations went out to Papiez and Matt Stangle.
In the 25-lap Mid-Atlantic Sprint Series (MASS) feature race it was Brian Krummel, who started outside the front row taking the early lead over pole sitter Steph Carberry and third-starter Austin Bishop. By lap 6, Krummel held a safe lead.
Lap 12 it was still Krummel setting a torrid pace, as Bishop slipped into second, as the leaders raced through heavy slower, lapped traffic. Carberry fell into third. A lap later, Samantha Lieberman spun out in turn 3, as Bishop tried to avoid the spinning car. Bishop darted to the outside and smacked the boiler plate wall hard to bring out the red at the crossed flags.
With the restart it was Carberry outracing Krummel off turn 4 to become the new race leader. Smith roared into second spot, with Krummel falling to third. Smith quickly went by Carberry to become the new race leader, with Carberry dropping to second on lap 15. A lap later Krummel spun it out in turn 2 to bring out a caution.
Smith retook the top spot in front of Carberry and by lap 21 Smith was nearly a full straightaway out in front of Carberry. Eddie Wagner was running third, with Dave Brown now fourth.
Smith easily secured the win, with Carberry, Wagner, Eddie Strada and Tim Tanner Jr. chasing him.
Heat races for 30 Sprint Cars were claimed by Wagner, Bishop and Krummel. The consolation win went to Stephanie Dodson.
Some 25 358 Modified cars were also on hand for several practice sessions throughout the evening of racing.
Sportsman – 38-laps 1) Ryan Beltz 2) Ryan Lilick 3) Brian Hirthler 4) Brad Grim 5) Brett Gilmore 6) Brian Papiez 7) Louden Reimert 8) Doug Pannepacker 9) Jordan Henn 10) Kyle Lilick 11) Cale Ross 12) Jesse Landis 13) Kenny Bock 14) Nick Mady 15) Craig Whitmoyer 16) Roger Manning 17) Matt Stangle 18) Chad Kohler 19) Jack Butler 20) Ken Eckert Jr. 21) Joe Funk 22) Ryan Schupp 23) Ryan Higgs 24) Mike Lisowski 25 Andrew Kreis 26) Billy Osmun III
MASS Sprint Cars – 25-laps 1) Kyle Smith 2) Steph Carberry 3) Eddie Wagner 4) Eddie Strada 5) Tim Tanner Jr. 6) Dave Brown 7) Jeff Geiges 8) Tyler Reinhardt 9) Joe Kay 10) Jon Haegele 11) Brian Krummel 12) Cassidy Kreitz 13) Brandon Poff 14) Stephanie Dodson 15) Dave Graber 16) Keith Anderson 17) Scott Frack 18) Tom Carberry 19) Bryant Davis 20) Austin Bishop 21) Bobby Sandt 22) Samantha Lieberman 23) Tommy Carberry 24) Dave Bonner 25) Zack Burd