Manmiller One Spot Short, Podium Quotes and More from the Freedom 76 – DTD Exclusive

By Ken Bruce

Doug Manmiller has been a fixture at Grandview for almost 30 years and has amassed a total of 35 wins over that span at the speedway. The two things that have eluded the Shoemakersville, Pa., driver at his home track have been a championship and a signature win. Manmiller has finished the Freedom 76 race in second place one time, third place two times, fourth place six times, and fifth place one time, but has yet to win the coveted race. Manmiller once again was a force to be reckoned with on Saturday night, pressuring winner Ryan Godown for most of the second half of the race. Manmiller tried every groove but ultimately came up one spot short to finish second.

“Just a little short tonight,” mentioned Manmiller, who was debriefing with his crew post-race. “I am going to replay a couple of laps in my head for a long time, but all in all, we had a good car. We didn’t put ourselves too far behind the eight-ball. I think the last five times in this race, we have started in the thirties. “Tonight, we started twelfth; it was good, but I just couldn’t get him.”

After a lap 38 restart, Manmiller worked his way past Rick Laubach for second and put the pressure on Godown for the lead. He was there a couple times but just couldn’t get the run he needed to make the pass for the lead.

“We had some runs on him (Godown) and had him guessing but just couldn’t clear him,” explained Manmiller. “I thought I could make a move after the second restart there (lap 45), but then we started to get into lapped cars, and Mike (Gular) and I started racing for second, and Ryan was able to drive away. Then once I was able to clear Mike and the lapped cars, I was running him back down, but I needed to have cleared the lapped cars a couple of laps earlier, and then I may have been able to pull off some last lap heroics.”

For Manmiller, it was the end of a very good season at Grandview that saw him pick off two wins and finish fourth in the points.

“It was a great year for us, and I can’t thank the guys enough,” said Manmiller. “They have been busting their asses, and we finally got the results that we think we earned here. “Tonight, I am happy yet sad, but overall, it was a happy end to our season here at Grandview.”

Gular frustrated with third

Mike Gular has had quite the season at Grandview Speedway. Starting the year off by winning the Bruce Rogers Moneymaker race, Gular then took some Saturday night’s off but ultimately ended up racing at Grandview weekly, ending the season as the leader in wins with four. The Terry Fastnacht No. 2A team had high expectations coming into the Freedom 76. 

With their win in the Moneymaker race, Gular was a guaranteed starter and did not have to race a heat, putting them directly into the redraw. Unfortunately for Gular, he drew the 18th starting spot for the feature, putting him at a major disadvantage for the night. Gular raced hard throughout the 76-lap race but was only able to come up with a third-place finish at night’s end, leaving the Boyertown, Pa., driver extremely disappointed after the race. 

“The starting spot just killed us tonight,” said a very disappointed Gular afterwards. “Not getting any cautions there towards the end didn’t help as well. I ran as hard as I could; I was aggressive. I said the hell with it and didn’t care if anybody was mad at me at the end of his night. I was gonna rub and grind and do what I had to do, and we did. I was up to second there, and then the lapped car messed me up, and Doug (Manmiller) was able to roll around him. I tried to get into him to move him up to slow Doug down, but I got into him just a little late and didn’t get into him when I wanted to get into him, and it turned the wheel into his left rear and knocked the toe out, and then I was screwed for the last 10 laps.”

Gular is having probably his finest year of racing in 2023, and winning the Freedom 76 race for the second time in his career would have definitely added to the team’s great year.

“All in all, it was a good night, and anytime you can get a podium in this race is a good night, but I am bummed I couldn’t get the win,” mentioned Gular. “I am just so disappointed right now; we had four wins here, finished seventh in points despite missing four races, and had a lot of confidence coming into tonight.”

The driver to the front by Gular was impressive in itself, but what most didn’t know was that Gular made that drive with a bad right hand and was at the hospital on Friday afternoon getting it checked out. Being the racer he is, the hospital wanted him to stay, but Gular said I am leaving and going racing.

“Right now, I have nothing in this hand (his right hand),” explained Gular. “I signed myself out of the hospital on Friday at 2:30 PM; they weren’t going to let me leave, and I said I was going racing. They told me that you are not doing anything, and I told them I was leaving. I thought it was a pinched nerve, but they think I wacked my elbow on something and kinked a nerve, and that’s what might be causing it. They did MRI’s and some other tests, but I am a racer and am not going to miss this race. It didn’t bother me while I was racing, and the hardest part is just getting your helmet on with no use of your right hand.

“Good night, frustrating night, but we made some money, but damn, we wanted that big check!”

Freedom 76 Notes:

Over 70 modifieds went through tech on Saturday, starting at 9:00 AM, keeping the Grandview tech officials busy.

There were six heat races for the modifieds, with heat wins going to Eddie Strada, Sam Martz Sr., Duane Howard, Joseph Watson, Ryan Godown, and Billy Pauch Jr.

Guaranteed starters for the Freedom 76 were Mike Gular (Bruce Rogers Moneymaker Winner), Craig Von Dohren (2022 Freedom 76 Winner), Brett Kressley (2023 Point Champion), and Kevin Hirthler (second to CVD in the Forrest Rogers).

Duane Howard won the Low Down and Dirty Cash Dash.

The Minuteman 20 race was won by Bobby Trapper Jr.

A very hard crash in the Minuteman 20 saw Ray Swinehart get into the side of Sammy Martz Jr. exiting turn two, causing Martz Jr. to hit the wall and slow with the filed piling into the disabled No. 24. The cars of Martz Jr., Jack Butler, and Adrianna Delliponti received the worst damage.

I’m not sure how this worked out, but it seemed like all the team cars, father-son, and brothers were all paired together in their respective heat races. It was very odd to me how that happened.

Brett Kressley fielded three cars on Saturday. Kressley drove his normal No. 19K, while Addison Meitzler drove the No. 19A, and Ryan Graver drove the No. 19RG.

Sportsman drivers who made qualifying attempts for the Freedom 76 included 2023 Sportsman Points Champion Logan Watt, Freedom 38 winner Brian Hirthler, Jesse Hirthler, Logan Bauman, Kyle Smith, Adrianna Delliponti, and Addison Meitzler.

New Egypt Speedway had a strong contingent of drivers on hand that included race winner Ryan Godown, Billy Pauch Jr., Louden Reimert, Brandon Grosso, Jack Butler, Paul Mancini, and Anthony Tramontana.

Bridgeport Motorsports Park invaders included Joseph Watson, Jordan Watson, Duane Howard, Matt Stangle, Ryan Krachun, WB James, Rick Laubach, Sam Martz Sr., Sammy Martz Jr., and Cale Ross.

The Jason Miller No. 44 team had team cars on with regular wheelman Doug Manmiller and sprint car standout Briggs Danner behind the wheels. Danner came home with a ninth-place finish, with Manmiller posting a runner-up finish.

It was great to have Bobby Gunter-Walsh back at Grandview after his vicous crash a few weeks ago. BGW was able to qualify for the 76er but was a DNF.

It was a bad night for Timmy Buckwalter. The Wheelmaster General had a strong qualifying run in his heat, but the No. 23X Norm Saxton modified started trailing smoke towards the end. Buckwalter started the feature, but was an early race DNF.

Billy Pauch Jr. won his heat race going away with the No. 15P showing smoke. Fortunately, the culprit was a leaking valve cover gasket, which was easily fixable.

Fourth-place points finisher Jared Umbenhauer worked his butt off just to qualify for the big race, only to drop out early on. Umbenhauer started fourth in his heat and had a first-lap miscue that saw him fall back out of a qualifying spot. Umbenhauer then worked his way through the consolation race and the Minuteman 20 to make the big show.

The Grandview track was great all weekend long, with cars being able to race multiple grooves. Kenny Rogers, Brad Missimer, and the entire track crew did a fantastic job throughout the weekend on track prep.

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