BECHTELSVILLE, PA – Brett Kressley took full advantage of the race leaders getting bunched up on the high side racing into turn 3 behind some heavy lapped traffic, while running in third-place on lap 18, as he ducked to the bottom lane to slip by the race leaders and moved out in front exiting turn 4, becoming the new race leader just ahead of a caution flag regrouping the field. The 28-year-old veteran easily went on from that point, taking his first checkered flag this season in the T.P. Trailers 358 Modified 30-lap main event at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, PA Saturday night kicking off the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series season.
The win by Kressley was career win number 14 and his first at the high-banked third-mile dirt oval since August 29 of last season. The Orefield, PA based driver started from ninth-place in the first points-paying event of the season and ran strong after going out in front aboard his familiar family-owned Kressley Auto & Truck Sales No. 19K machine. He won the event by a safe margin.
In the 25-lap T.P Truck Equipment Sportsman main event, two-time Sportsman track champion and the defending champion, Brian Hirthler got involved in a fan-pleasing three-car fight for first-place, covering the final dozen or so circuits, and raced out in front exiting turn 4 on the high side to make the winning pass with the white flag waving and go on to lay claim to career win number 9, his first since July 11, 2020. The 38-year-old veteran chauffeur out of Green Lane, PA easily captured the triumph once out in front wheeling his family-funded Four Star Lettering No. 4* open Sportsman powered ride.
The night began with four 8-lap heats for the 34-car Sportsman field, with heat victories going out to Kenny Gilmore, Ryan Beltz, Brandon Edgar and Kyle Lilick. Twin 8-lap consolation event wins went to Dylan Hoch and Parker Guldin.
The 39-car 358 Modified field saw 12-lap heat race wins go to John Willman, Ryan Grim, Kevin Hirthler and Jordan Henn. A pair of 10-lap consolation races were won by Brad Grim and Jared Umbenhauer.
Both feature races started heads-up with the night offering the initial points-paying races of the new season.
In the 358 Modified feature, pole sitter John Willman immediately jumped out in front of the 28-car starting field with outside front row starter Ryan Grim, third starter Kevin Hirthler and seventh starter Duane Howard in tow as the early circuits clicked off. By lap 5, Grim whistled by Willman to become the new race leader, dropping Willman into second-place.
Howard knifed his way into second-place by lap 12, with the top runners working through lapped traffic, as Kressley powered his way into third-place a lap later, after starting the event from ninth-place.
The top three cars got into heavy lapped traffic by laps 16 and 17, with everyone bunched up running nose-to-tail in heavy lapped traffic down the back chute on lap 18. Grim and Howard went high, as Kressley ducked to the inside racing through turns 3 and 4. Kressley slipped by Howard in turn 3 and Grim in turn 4 and crossed under the starters stand as the new race leader just prior to the caution being waved for Jack Butler, who slowed with a flat tire.
“I kind of sat back there and waited,” revealed Kressley. “They got into lapped traffic and that held them up enough so I could roll off the bottom and complete that lap, coming out on top. I didn’t think there was anything down on the bottom until I rolled down there and found out there was something down there. That move definitely worked out for us tonight. I made the right adjustments tonight and everything worked out well tonight for us.”
Once racing got back underway Kressley powered out in front over Grim, Howard and Willman, but a caution on lap 23 bunched the field up once again. Kressley once again grabbed the top spot on the restart, with Danny Bouc, who started from twelfth, advancing up to fourth-place on lap 24. Another caution on lap 26 again regrouped the field.
With 27 circuits completed it was Kressley out in front over Grim, Bouc, defending 358 Modified track champion Craig Von Dohren, who started from nineteenth, and Howard, with yet another yellow flag on lap 28 tightening things up. Under caution Bouc headed to the pit area with a flat left rear tire, allowing Von Dohren to move up to third for the restart.
Completing lap 29 the 11-time track champion Von Dohren raced into the runner-up spot, but he couldn’t catch the Kressley car. Kressley easily recorded the win earning $2,500, plus a $300 bonus from T.P. Trailers.
The Dan’s Deli Halfway Hoagie went to Ryan Grim and John Willman was the recipient of the Cargo Trailers Award as the tenth-place finisher.
Von Dohren, Grim, Howard and Hirthler completed the top five in that order at the checkers.
In the Sportsman main, pole sitter Kenny Gilmore vaulted out into the lead with the green over the 26-car starting field, with second starting Ryan Beltz, third starting Brandon Edgar and fourth starting Kyle Lilick trailing in that order for lap 1. On lap 2, Beltz moved out in front using the outside lane off turn 4 and the caution appeared on lap 4.
The new green showed Gilmore regaining the top spot over Beltz, Edgar and Lilick running the high outside lane, as Edgar took second from Beltz a lap later. A caution after 7 tours regrouped the field.
The restart showed Gilmore, Edgar, Beltz and now Brian Hirthler running fourth after starting the event from eighth.
Gilmore and Edgar raced wheel-to-wheel for three circuits battling for first, with Hirthler advancing into third-place by lap 12. The top three raced nose-to-tail through lap 17, with Edgar ducking under Gilmore exiting turn 2 on lap 18 to become the new race leader and a caution after 19 laps were completed regrouped the field. A caution after 21 laps again bunched things up.
On lap 22 Hirthler used a slide job racing through turn 2 underneath Gilmore to steal the runner-up spot away and on lap 24 it was Edgar using the bottom and Hirthler the top, battling side-by-side for first. Exiting turn 4 it was Hirthler wrestling the lead away and easily going on to the checkered.
Edgar registered a solid second-place finish followed by Gilmore, Beltz and Lilick completing the top five finishers.
“I got a good run there on Gilmore after the caution and got into second,” explained Hirthler. “Edgar went to the bottom and I had the car set up to go up on the top. I watched a cushion build up through the turns during the 358 Modified race and quickly raced back to change the car around so I could run up on the top. Everyone seemed a little too tight to run up on the top there at the end. My car was a real gem with the set up tonight.
“I didn’t have the power I used to have since they changed the rules this year for the open Sportsman cars so I had to learn more about set ups and I needed to be more aggressive. I was just back there waiting for a chance to get ahead,” offered Hirthler.
Hirthler received the $200 bonus award from T.P. Truck Equipment for his feature triumph.
The Dan’s Deli Halfway Hoagie went to Kenny Gilmore.