Long Haul Worth In for Lance Willix; More Freedom 76 Notes – DTD Exclusive

By KEN BRUCE

Friday night Lance Willix was racing at Mohawk International Speedway in a DIRTCar 358 series race and despite not returning home to his shop in Theresa, NY until 2:30 AM, Willix was determined to get up early and head to Grandview Speedway to try and qualify for what may be the final Freedom 76 race to be held due to the future of the track up in the air right now. It was a long trip, but one Willix thought he had to make.

“It has been a long day or so, that’s for sure,” said an exhausted Willix after the race. “It was probably about two hours from Mohawk to home, then we slept for three, three and a half hours and got back up to head here. It was almost five hours to get here. It’s a lot of driving but what else are we going to do on a Saturday.”

Willix has heard what possibly might happen to Grandview and was determined to get there and race in possibly the final race at the speedway.

“You hear the horror stories, that this may possibly be the last one and it has been on my bucket list to make this race,” explained Willix. “So, we said we better get down there this year to do it and we did. We didn’t get quite the finish we wanted but we made the show and that was our goal and hopefully they can run this race again next year.”




It was a long day for the crew which only consisted of himself and wife Rachael. Willix has a great personality and has made some friends down this way that were willing to lend a hand to get the No. 31 ready for racing at Grandview.

“Yeah, it is a lot, but we had a couple of guys from Ryan Watt’s crew come over to give us a hand,” mentioned Willix. “Ryan himself came over to give us a hand. The guy doing this interview came over and helped us mount a new tire for the feature tonight. We really do appreciate all of the help. We have made a lot of great friends down here and it is very enjoyable when we get a chance to come down to race in Pennsylvania. We had planned on coming down to race the Coalcracker but we just couldn’t chance it with the weather and knowing I couldn’t come back on the rain date due to having to run a tour race.”

Powering through the day without much sleep, Willix was able to fulfill his goal for the day and qualify through his heat for the opportunity to race for the first time in the Freedom 76 race.

“Just making this race is a tough deal,” commented Willix. “We were fortunate to have a good draw in our heat race, started in fourth and finished third. I drew 17th for the feature and that was all we could ask for. We were a little off on set-up, but we don’t run these American Racer tires enough to figure them out. Hopefully we’ll get them figured out for the next time.”

The American Racer tires that Willix used had been sitting in his shop since last year.

“These tires have been sitting in our back room at the shop where our compressor and generator is,” mentioned Willix. “I told my wife, we better get those tires out and see what we got so we pulled them out, aired them up and here we are. Luckily, we were able to get a new tire here to run the feature with so that helped. We have a long ride home now, not sure if I am going to drive straight through but it was worth it to come down here and race, especially if it is the last one.”

Freedom 76 Notes

A total of 76 modifieds went through the inspection process with 72 drivers attempting to qualify for the Freedom 76. The other four were backup cars. There were six heats run with wins going to Jim Houseworth, Ryan Grim, Kevin Hirthler, Matt Stangle, Timmy Buckwalter & Ray Swinehart. The Minuteman 20 was won by Jared Umbenhauer…

Guaranteed starters were Craig Von Dohren (Points Champion), Brett Kressley (Forrest Rogers Winner) and Jeff Strunk (2nd Place in Bruce Rogers Moneymaker). Ryan Godown was also guaranteed due to winning last year’s race but was not there due to racing in the Fonda 200…

Kevin Hirthler was the $1,000 Cash Dash winner…

Kyle Weiss raced for only the second time this season. Weiss, who sold all of his equipment, was behind the wheel of the Tom Umbenhauer No. 5. Weiss easily qualified through his heat and raced in the top five all night ultimately finishing in the fifth spot…

Logan Watt, Kevin Hirthler, Ryan Grim, Jordan Henn and Brian Hirthler all qualified for both the Sportsman Freedom 38 race and the Freedom 76 race…

Ryan Grim drove the No. 20G Crate Sportsman that Danny Buccafusca normally races at Big Diamond on Friday night and came away with the win in the Freedom 38 over a hard charging Logan Watt…

Speaking of Ryan Grim, instead of driving his own No. 17 on Saturday drove the No. 44 of Alea Geisler. Grim won his heat but was a DNF in the 76er…

Frank Cozze had a night he would rather forget. Cozze was involved in multiple incidents in his heat race resulting in a DNQ. The team decided to park the No. 401 for the remainder of the night…

Timmy Buckwalter had a certain top five finish go away when the electrical problems struck the Norm Saxton No. 23X late in the race forcing him to pull in…

Duane Howard and the Getz No. 15G team ended their Grandview season just like it has gone all year. Frustrated! It had been 17 years (2005) since Howard did not win a feature at Grandview until this season. The team just couldn’t find the right combination all year and seemed to always be in the wrong place and wrong time. Saturday night was a microcosm of their season. Howard was penalized to the rear in his heat after contact with Joe Funk. Howard got back to fifth but was one spot out of a qualified spot. Howard did make the race through the MM20 and worked his way to a 12th place finish…

In his first ever attempt to qualify for the Freedom 76 and the first time ever wheeling a modified at Grandview Speedway, teenager Logan Watt qualified solidly in his heat holding off Jared Umbenhauer for the final qualifying spot. Starting seventh in the Freedom 76, the young Watt ran most of the race in the top ten, fading late to a 16th place finish…

Logan’s father Ryan Watt’s night didn’t end up quite as well as Ryan caught the right rear wheel of Michael Storms with two laps to go which launched him into a series of flips down the front stretch. Watt was okay but has decided to sit out this weekend’s races at Bridgeport for precautionary reasons. The No. 14W Troyer modified was destroyed in the crash…

There were quite a few father-son combinations in the pits on Saturday attempting to qualify for the Freedom 76. As mentioned above the Watt’s (Ryan and Logan), the Manmiller’s (Doug & Cody), the Martz’s (Sam and Sammy) and the Trappers (Bob & Bobby). The Watt’s were the only family to have both father and son qualify…

If you have any questions or comments. I can be reached at dirtracefan25@hotmail.com or on Twitter @dirtracefan25.