By Ken Bruce
Qualifying in your assigned heat race is always important, but for some reason, qualifying in your heat and, more importantly, making the handicap at Grandview Speedway seems to take on a new meaning. It usually means the difference between racing for a top five or a top 20 in the feature. It was never more evident than on Saturday night, with $10,000 on the line for the winner of the Forrest Rogers Memorial.
The heat racing on Saturday night was some of the most hotly contested racing I have seen all year. With drivers knowing how important it was to start within the top 16 handicap positions, it was game-on from the start. The usually methodical Jeff Strunk was on the chip at the drop of the green and vaulted into the lead from his eighth starting spot quickly, knowing what was on the line in the nightcap. All the drivers knew how important it was on this night, and it showed on the track. Each of the four qualifying heats was like a feature for the drivers involved, as drivers went high and low trying to find their way to the front.
This was not just limited to the modified division; the sportsman division heat races are raced in the same exact manner. There are bound to be hurt feelings afterwards, but you better get used to it and have a short memory because that is just the way it is. Leave a lane open on the track, and you can be damn sure it will be filled quickly and there will be rubbing of nerf bars, and that’s just the way it is, so if you’re a driver, you better get used to it.
There are two ways to run your 12-lap heat at Grandview: go like hell at the drop of the green, like Brett Kressley, or let the field settle down, then work your way up car by car, like Craig Von Dohren. Both ways are effective but distinctly different. Either way, the heat races at Grandview are arguably some of the most exciting racing you can witness. Why? Because of the competition. If you do not make the handicap for the feature race, you can rest assured that your chance of winning that night has greatly diminished.
Starting the feature race with the likes of Brett Kressley, Jeff Strunk, Mike Gular, Craig Von Dohren, Timmy Buckwalter, and Ryan Watt in front of you does not bode well for a great finish. If you are on your game that night and have a fast car, the odds of you passing one of those drivers are low, and passing all of them is downright impossible. Hence, the heat races at Grandview are extremely important.
If you can qualify in your heat race and make the handicap, your odds of a good finish go up tenfold at Grandview. There are nights where the feature at Grandview runs with very few cautions, and if you start up front on one of the nights, you can parlay that into a win or, at worst, a top-five finish. Drivers such as Eric Biehn, Nate Brinker, and Brian Hirthler have all had wins this year at Grandview, using a great starting spot to propel them to victory. That is no way to disparage those three drivers, as they are all very good drivers, but facts are facts in this case.
Let’s be clear: I am not saying that the heat racing at Grandview is dirty. Far from it, it is just good, hard racing, and you better be up on the wheel from the drop of the green flag. If you aren’t, it’s going to be a long night or possibly a very short night, depending on the outcome. It is just that good and INTENSE!
Forrest Rogers Notes:
36 Spec 358 Modifieds were on hand for the Forrest Rogers Memorial, with heat wins going to Eddie Strada, Doug Manmiller, Jeff Strunk, and Lex Shive. Consi wins were taken by Timmy Buckwalter and Jimmy Leiby.
Heartbreak for Eddie Strada. Lake Eriel’s Eddie Strada looked to be on his way to his very first modified win. Taking the lead early on from Kevin Hirtler, Strada had the race in hand and was pulling away until his motor let go around the halfway point of the 50-lap feature, leaving the team wondering what could’ve been.
Mike Gular and Brett Kressley both made early race pitstops and both rebounded for a top-five finish.
Ryan Watt was the hard charger of the night, coming from 23rd to finish sixth.
Carroll Hine Jr. had a new powerplant under the hood of his No. 114. Hine qualified for the feature and had a nice 12th place finish.
Different tracks, same result for Jeff Strunk. The tough season continues for Jeff Strunk and the Glen and Bonita Hyneman No. 126 team. Strunk showed plenty of speed coming from eighth to win his heat, but just like Friday at Big Diamond, Strunk was forced to drop out early. Friday night it was motor troubles; Saturday night Strunk was involved in a crash on the backstretch that ruined his night.
Congratulations to Kyle Smith, who won his second Sportsman feature of the season in dominating fashion.
Sportsman points leader at Grandview Logan Watt was having a good steady race just outside the top five until late when he was caught up in a tangle in front of him, resulting in a left front flat tire. The crew was able to get Watt back out but could only manage a 16th-place finish. Watt, who came into the night with over a 450-point lead over Brian Hirthler, is still in good shape to win his first ever points title.
I can be reached for any questions and comments via email at @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter (X) at @dirtracefan25.