BECHTELSVILLE, PA – On a cool and breezy evening the action on the track was hot-and-heavy, Friday night at Grandview Speedway, with the seventh annual Freedom 38’er featuring Sportsman racers on the menu. A total of 55 cars in action made up the largest field ever assembled for the event, paying a healthy $3,550 to the winner of the 38-lap event on the high-banked third-mile clay covered lightning-fast oval in Bechtelsville, PA.
Following a luck-of-the-draw line-up for the 27 car starting field, second-place starter Steve Davis, of Jackson, N.J., aboard the Howie Finch owned Ice Less backed No. 4 mount, took the lead with the initial green waving with pole starter Joe Toth and third-place starter 28-year-old Brett Kressley, of Orefield, PA, in tow for the first four circuits before a caution appeared for Brad Arnold slowing with a flat tire.
The new green showed Toth moving out in front on the restart, followed by Kressley and Davis for lap 5, with Davis knifing his way back out in front for lap 6, with Kressley and Toth battling for the runner-up spot. On lap 7, Kressley powered his way out in front steering the Keith Hoffman owned No. 6 Over entry, as Toth and Davis trailed. By lap 9, Mike Gular, of Sassamansville, PA, who started from fourth-place, advanced into the runner-up role, with Toth and Davis following.
A caution on lap 11 for Ryan Beltz slowing to a stop in turn 2 forced the field to regroup, once again.
Kressley remained the race leader for lap 12, with a quick caution for Lex Shive spinning in turn 4 again bunching up the competition.
With racing back underway, it was Kressley again in command, followed by Davis and Kevin Hirthler, who started the event from eighteenth-place, looking strong as he quickly cut his way through the field, now running in third aboard his self-owned Pioneer Pole Building backed Bicknell chassied Crate powered No. 117 ride. Hirthler and Davis battled side-by-side for a couple of tours, with Davis fighting off every challenge.
At the halfway point, it was Kressley, Davis, Hirthler, Gular and fifth-place starter 17-year-old Kyle Smith, of Kutztown, PA, making up the top five.
Hirthler ducked underneath Davis exiting turn 2 on lap 25 to steal second-place, as the leaders now got into the slower lapped traffic, making things interesting.
“You could move anywhere you wanted to. The top, bottom or middle tonight,” revealed Hirthler. “The track was great and I used the top side in the beginning and, later, the bottom to cut through the traffic. My car felt great all night and we rolled the dice before the feature trying to decide if we’d run the hard tire or try the softer tire. I knew the car would get beat up pretty good coming through traffic from the back and I guess we made the right choice?”
Hirthler challenged Kressley racing through heavy lapped traffic for laps 27, 28 and 29 and on lap 30 they crossed the stripe running wheel-to-wheel. On lap 31 racing through turns 1 and 2, Hirthler made a nice move getting underneath Kressley and became the new race leader down the back chute. A yellow on lap 32 for Cole Stangle slowing with a broken left rear suspension bunched up the field for one final time.
“It certainly was a hard fought battle there with Brett. A great job tonight turned in by him. He was really fast,” Hirthler said.
The new green showed Hirthler taking the lead over Kressley, Davis and Gular for lap 33, with Gular slipping by Davis for third on lap 35.
“We had a great starting spot and I was just out there riding around, honestly, when out of nowhere along came Kevin with his Crate engine and he just smoked us all,” commented Kressley. “I was out there searching around and not paying attention to the lap counter as I should’ve been. We’re all good though. It was a good night.”
Hirthler went unchallenged for the final circuits to easily put a W in the win column. Kressley, Gular, Davis and Smith rounded out the top five at the checkered.
“Those guys that started up front were just out there riding around so we took a gamble on what tire to run,” noted the 40-year-old race winner from Boyertown, PA. “I am truly honored to be the first to win this race twice. It means a lot to me.”
Hirthler, who previously won the event back in 2018, became the first driver to repeat as a race winner in the event.
The triumph by Hirthler was his first in a Sportsman car since April 6, 2019 and the win pushed his career win total up to four. Being the first Crate powered car to cross the line, Hirthler was awarded an additional $100 bonus, bringing his total for the win up to $3,650 for his efforts.
“We put a brand-new Crate motor in the car for tonight right out of the box from Chevrolet,” offered Hirthler. “We just picked it up earlier this week off the shelf and put it in the car this week.”
The fifth-place finisher Kyle Smith was awarded an additional $100 as well for being the first weekly Sportsman racer to cross the line.
The 10-lap heat race winners were Brandon Edgar, Cole Stangle, Ryan Beltz, Tom Miller, Brett Kressley and Brett Gilmore. The 10-lap consolation race winners were Lex Shive, Kevin Hirthler and Ryan Higgs.
A total of 53 358 Modified cars took part in practice sessions throughout the evening, preparing for the 50th annual Freedom 76 event scheduled for the following night. Again, it produced the largest field of cars for practice since the “Night before the Freedom 76” events began back in 2014.
Next event coming up, after the Freedom 76 weekend is complete, is the Mods at the Mad House on Saturday, October 17th. Included will be three 20-lap features for Small Block/Big Block Modified racers each paying $2000 to win. A driver winning all three earns a Pioneer Pole Building Triple Sweep Bonus of $2500. And if someone falls short of the three wins and claims two wins there is a PPB Double Sweep Bonus of $500. And for the Sportsman racers there is $1,300 to win their feature.
Freedom 38 Feature Finish, 38 laps
1)Kevin Hirthler, 2) Brett Kressley, 3) Mike Gular, 4) Steve Davis, 5) Kyle Smith, 6) Jack Butler, 7) Brad Brightbill, 8) Ryan Lilick, 9) Dakota Kohler, 10) Jimmy Leiby, 11) Brandon Edgar, 12) Joe Toth, 13) Nate Brinker, 14) Nathan Mohr, 15) Ryan Higgs, 16) Jesse Leiby, 17) Ken Eckert Jr., 18) Tyler Peet, 19) Tom Miller, 20) Chris Esposito, 21) John McGovern, 22) Matt Peck, 23) Lex Shive, 24) Cole Stangle, 25) Jordan Henn, 26) Ryan Beltz, 27) Brad Arnold
DNS-Brett Gilmore (scratched due to engine issues). Matt Peck (first alternate) started the race as a result.
DNQ-Derrick Smith, Brian Hirthler, Mike Laise, Matt Brooke, Doug Snyder, Joey Vaccaro, Mike Schneck, Jim Housworth, Joe Brown, Bob Lineman Jr., Kenny Bock, Brianna James, Kyle Lilick, BJ Joly, Jesse Landis, Decker Swinehart, Tyler James, Cody Manmiller, Parker Guldin, Ray Woodall Jr., Bryan Rhoads, Skyler Sheriff, Steve Young, Mark Kemmerer, Chuck Eckert, Mark Gaugler, Scott Kohler.