Freedom 76er Podium Quotes & Notes – DTD Exclusive

By KEN BRUCE

To quote Grandview Speedway track announcer Jeff Ahlum, “What it was, it was racing,” and racing it was on Saturday night during the running of the 51st Freedom 76. From the heat races to the 76-lap main event, the racing was intense. At the end of the night, there was joy, there was disappointment and yes, there were many agitated drivers and teams. Thinking about, I guess it was just another typical Freedom 76.

We all know by now that Ryan Godown was the winner of the prestigious event. For Godown it was his biggest win of his career to date. The ‘Ringoes Rocket’ was able to grab the lead from 76er king Jeff Strunk on lap 51 restart and was able to hold Strunk off as they raced through the lapped cars and capture the emotional win.

Click on the following link to see my victory lane video interview with Godown. Ryan Godown | Grandview Speedway Freedom 76 Winner | 9/18/21 – Dirt Track Digest

Jeff Strunk Disappointed with 2nd Place Finish




Jeff Strunk has won more Freedom 76 races than any other driver with eight. Saturday night it looked like Strunk was on his way to his ninth 76er win. Strunk had taken the lead from pole-sitter Timmy Buckwalter with a brilliant move from fourth on a lap 24 restart.

Once in front it looked like Strunk was on his way to victory running a perfect line around the race track as Godown hounded him from behind. However, a lap 51 restart proved to be Strunk’s downfall as Godown was able to execute a perfect restart to beat Strunk into turn one and that proved to be the winning move. Strunk was able to get back to Godown as the duo came up to the tail end of the pack, but to no avail forcing the ‘Bechtelsville Bullet’ to finish second.

“It sucks, you don’t ever want to lead that many laps,” said a disappointed Strunk while awaiting his No. 88Z to go through tech. “I felt like I had control of the race and the restarts, but then with about 15 or 20 laps to go, the motor started to lay down. It’s just one of them deals. I didn’t want a yellow because I knew taking off was going to be the biggest problem and it just didn’t have the smoke it had before so that definitely hurt us.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Ryan (Godown), he drove a great race and did what he had to do to win there. It was good clean racing and I just ended up second.”

The track surface started to become bottom dominant late in the race and Strunk talked about how the track was during the race.

“The track was real good, they do a great job here with the surface,” explained Strunk. “You could use and we started on the outside there and usually the bottom is the preferred line, but tonight both grooves were good and that obviously showed on the last restart. The track was good and is always good for this race, it didn’t take rubber and they did a great job with it. The bottom is the place you want to be when it gets slicked off like it was, but he (Godown) was actually running about a half a line higher that I was there and even that seemed to be a little bit quicker for him. I tried to stay down a little lower because with my motor starting to lay down, I thought that was the better line for me to run.

“As we came up on the lapped cars there, he tried to roll the top around the lapped car and we got closer to him but, just didn’t have enough to get beside him and to get back by him. After that he knew not get back off the bottom there once he tried it.  I tried it as well, and lost ground that we had gained before. It’s just one of them things where everyone tried to run the bottom after the top gets dirty. You usually get a couple of guys up there cleaning it off to keep it decent, but tonight I guess there must not been too many guys up there so the bottom ended up being dominant.”

Buckwalter Settles for Third

Starting from the pole, Timmy Buckwalter knew it wasn’t going to be easy and he was right, it wasn’t. Buckwalter held the lead for the first 24 laps until a spectacular move by Jeff Strunk on a restart saw him lose the lead. Eventual winner Ryan Godown also was able to get by to claim second with Buckwalter now back to third. That is where the 2021 Big Diamond track champion would stay for the remainder of race after being able to hold off Duane Howard to collect a podium finish. Not exactly the finish Buckwalter was hoping for, but still a good run for the Norm Saxton No. 23X team.

“We had enough in the beginning, and we had enough at the end, but just couldn’t put the middle of the race together,” cited Buckwalter after race. “We had a couple of bad restarts and switching over to this coil deal, it makes the restarts a little different. It is what it is. We will be happy to take a solid third for our small team like we are here at the 76er. We had a lot of good guys behind us and helluva lot of restarts.  To stay where we did and finish where we did, I am happy with it. You know we always want to win, but to take home a third with all the talent that is here is not a bad thing.”

Talking to Buckwalter earlier this season, he mentioned that he has struggled in the middle of these long races and tonight was no exception.

“I just can’t seem to figure my middle race package out,” explained Buckwalter. “I don’t know if it is the way we are prepping our tires as far as siping or cutting them. We just can’t seem to restart that good in the middle of these races. Who knows, it could be me too, but we have to work on it for sure. We have a couple more this year to work on it and if not, it’s going to be a long winter for me to figure it out.”

Freedom 76er Notes

A total of 70 cars went through tech on Saturday for the Freedom 76 race. Sixty-three cars took place in the six heats to try and make the starting grid with the three guaranteed starters added to the last three heats in order to shakedown their cars…

Heat winners on Saturday night were Michael Maresca, Dillon Steuer, Dave Dissinger, Jared Umbenhauer, Ryan Godown and Brett Kressley. Consi winners were Rick Laubach and Brian Hirthler which advanced them to the Schaeffer Motorsports Minuteman 20…

The lineup or the Minuteman 20 would have made for a great starting feature lineup at most tracks with Mike Gular, Davey Sammons, Danny Bouc, Doug Manmiller and Bobby Varin all making it into the Freedom 76 starting grid…

Freedom 76 guaranteed starters were – Jeff Strunk (2020 Freedom 76 winner), Craig Von Dohren (2021 Grandview Track Champion) and Timmy Buckwalter (Runner-up to Von Dohren in the Forrest Rogers Memorial race) …

Brett Kressley was the winner of the GT Radiators Repairs Cash Dash worth a $1,000…

A lap 24 incident saw Meme Desantis spin entering turn three just as the leaders were barreling down the backstretch. Timmy Buckwalter and Ryan Krachun were able to sneak by, unfortunately Frank Cozze (third) and Brett Kressley (fourth) were caught up in the wreck ending the night for both cars…

A shoutout to teenager Cole Stangle for qualifying for his first ever Freedom 76 race. Stangle held steady all race long and despite a flat tire late in the race was able to finish the race in 18th

Invaders Billy VanInwegen and Danny Creeden both saw their nights end early after being caught up in separate heat race accidents ending the night for both drivers…

A bad feature draw put pre-race favorite Craig Von Dohren back in the starting 24th spot. Von Dohren did manage to drive his way up to a seventh place finish which certainly was not what the Oley, Pa., driver had envisioned…

After being one of the fasted cars in Friday night’s practice session and winning his heat race on Saturday, Michael Maresca was poised and primed for a good run in the Freedom 76. However, a bad feature draw saw Maresca taking the green from the 25th spot. Maresca was never a factor in the feature race and eventually dropped out…

Billy Pauch Jr., had a steady run Saturday night in his one race deal driving the Norm Hansell No. 357. Pauch qualified easily in his heat, started the 76er in the seventh spot. Pauch dropped back early on but rebounded to an eighth-place finish…

Bobby Varin made his annual trek to Grandview Speedway for the Freedom 76 race to drive the Tom Umbenhauer No. 5 Modified. Varin able to get into the race through the Minuteman 20 and looked good early on only to eventually be involved in an incident to end the team’s race…