BECHTELSVILLE, PA – Way back in 1956, Oley, PA sprint car driver Tommy Hinnershitz mastered the Reading Fairgrounds Speedway to win the first ever USAC Sprint car show in Berks County. He not only won the first race, but repeated again in 1957 and 1958. Since that time, seventy-two USAC events graced Berks County, taking place at Reading as well as the Grandview Speedway. The USAC history at Reading continued until 1979 when the track closed. The roster of USAC winners at Reading is legendary and to name just a few who join Hinnershitz on the win list include A.J. Foyt, Johnny Thomson, Eddie Sachs, Jim Hurtibise, Roger McCluskey, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Red Riegel, Greg Weld, Bruce Walkup, Larry Dickson, Gary Bettenhausen, Toby Tobias, Pancho Carter, Larry “Boom Boom” Cannon, Lee Osborne and Ronnie Shuman. Paul Pitzer won the USAC finale at Reading in 1979.
Twenty-eight years later, the NAPA Auto Parts Thunder on the Hill Racing Series led by Bruce Rogers and Bob Miller, re-introduced USAC non-wing sprint car racing to Berks and other surrounding counties with the birth of the USAC Eastern Storm in 2007, that opened at the one-third mile Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, PA. The USAC Eastern Storm has been growing in this area ever since that first race.
This was the start of another tradition that brought nationally recognized sprint car drivers back to Berks County. The current day USAC stars and feature winners include Jesse Hockett, Bryan Clauson, Levi Jones, “Macho Man Brady Bacon”, Cole Whitt, “The Mad Man” Robert Ballou, Chris Windom, “The Modern Day Cowboy” Daron Clayton and C.J. Leary. This is a traveling organization certainly strong with drivers who have strong and defining personalities
Another piece of interesting history is that in 8 of the first 12 Eastern Storm Series, the driver who claimed the annual Eastern Storm title in June, translated that success to become the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion later that same year. So there is a correlation between the Eastern Storm and the USAC season long title winner of that same year.
In 2021, the Thunder on the Hill Racing Series at Grandview Speedway will host two USAC Amsoil National Non-Wing Sprint Tour events. The “Rub Rails & Rooster Tails” 40 is set for Thursday night, April 22 with $6,000 going to the winner . Broken Arrow, Oklahoma driver Brady Bacon will be looking to make it four wins in a row at Grandview. The record for most consecutive Thunder on the Hill victories is held by Greg Hodnett, with four wins coming on July 3, 2012, July 30, 2013, July 1, 2014 and July 29, 2014. Winning on this tricky and very demanding one third mile speedway is a challenge on any given night so winning three or even four in a row is quite an accomplishment. The 358 NASCAR Modifieds will be on the program in an always popular double-header event that will get underway at 7:30 PM.
The official 2021 Eastern Storm will head our way with Thunder on the Hill and Grandview Speedway hosting the opener on Tuesday night, June 15. This event will be the Jesse Hockett Classic, a 40 lap $6,000 to win kickoff to the five nights of racing and the 358 NASCAR Modifieds will join the double header starting at 7:30 PM.
Other Thunder Series race dates include Sunday night, May 30 (Memorial Day weekend) with the running of the Big Block/358 Modified Triple 20’s joined by the Sportsman and the Outlaw Vintage Racing Series. This event will start at 7:30 PM. Kevin Hirthler, the 2020 Thunder on the Hill Modified Champion is excited about the return of this event. Hirthler has his eye on that Pioneer Pole Building bonus for any driver that can sweep all three 20 lap features in one night!
Tuesday, June 29 will mark the return of the Pennsylvania 410 Sprint Speed Week event, dubbed the Hodnett Cup paying $10,000 to the winner of the 35 lap feature. This event is presented in the memory of local sprint car great and former Thunder on the Hill Champion, Greg Hodnett. The 358 Modifieds will gear up for this highly attended program that will have a 7:30 PM.
The USAC Midgets are returning to Grandview for the Ken Brenn Midget Masters on Tuesday night, August 3 in a double-show with the 358 Modifieds. The USAC Midgets are perfect on the high-banked one third mile Grandview oval. Thursday night, August 26 Tony Stewart’s All Star Circuit of Champion sprints will hit the “hill” teaming up with the 358 Modifieds. In 2020, this race was a thriller with Danny Dietrich take the lead and the win in the final laps from All Star Champion Aaron Reutzel. Race time is set for 7:30 PM.
The season finale is set for the Saturday night, October 16 with the MODS at the MADHOUSE Triple 20’s for the Big Block/358 Modifieds joined by the Sportsman. In 2020, the Triple 20’s event was a big success, attracting a field of fifty modifieds. Kevin Hirthler, Ryan Beltz and Duane Howard shared the Triple 20’s victories and race time for this event is scheduled for 6 PM.
Continue support of the Thunder on the Hill Racing Series is provided by NAPA Auto Parts, Levan Machine & Truck Equipment in Fleetwood, PA and Pioneer Pole Buildings. All three play a key role is the on-going success of the Thunder Series.
In the thirty-one previous years, there has been 140 Thunder on the Hill events with the payout in excess of $4,976,000. The all-time Thunder on the Hill feature winners list is a who’s who of dirt tracking racings’ local and national stars. To review the stats and history of Thunder on the Hill, please visit our website: www.thunderonthehillracingseries.com