Column By: NICHOLAS FILLMAN / RPW – BECHTELSVILLE, PA – Night number five of the ever tough Pennsylvania Sprint car Speedweek rolled into the Grandview Speedway on Tuesday night featuring some of the very best sprint car drivers from Pennsylvania, and all across the world. Oh, and who can forget NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, and Christopher Bell. They were there too.
In an almost repeat performance of last years event, Kyle Larson was able to collect the win in the 35 lap feature event utilizing the high line to his advantage. But unlike last year, Greg Hodnett would stay glued to the tail tank of the Paul Silva, Finley Farms Special machine not letting Larson get away and battling hard until ultimately Hodnett would have to settle for second.
The battle from third on back was nothing short of epic, with Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, and Danny Dietrich battling from the 12th position to the front of the field, in a fierce battle until the checkered flag flew.
Dietrich ultimately picked up the hard charger award that was given out after organization from many groups and fans, including the Beer Hill Gang. The hard charger award was given out in memory of Ben Moyer who was an avid race fan who supported modified and sprint car events in Pennsylvania, who unfortunately lost his battle with cancer a few weeks ago. $750 would end up going to Dietrich in a very fitting reward for the show he was able to put on working his way through the field.
Hard luck would fall on Australian James McFadden, and Christopher Bell who would each suffer flat right rear tires while running in the third place position. Bell, arguably had the fastest car in the feature event and was quickly catching the leaders Larson and Hodnett before blowing a right rear tire and making contact with a lapped car. Also involved in the incident would be PA Sprint Speedweek points leader Trey Starks who would restart at the rear of the field and end up finishing in the 18th position.
In addition to the PA representatives, NASCAR drivers, a hand full of drivers from Australia made the trip for Speedweek, and also top drivers from the All Star Circuit of champions in Parker Price-Miller, and series points leader Aaron Reutzel.
With some of the top regular drivers and potential invaders for Grandview’s usual 358 modified field away at Brett Deyo’s Show at the Accord Speedway, the door was potentially left open for a different face to grace victory lane in the modified feature event, but Jeff Strunk would have a different plan as he cut his way though the field to grab the checkered flag.
Jeff Strunk’s night did not start out as well as hoped and planned as in the heat race event Strunk had worked his way into the third place position before receiving contact from another car leaving the Hyneman 126 entry with a flat left rear tire and unable to make the change quick enough to join the heat again. Luckily, with 28 cars in attendance and some having issues, no B Main was needed and Strunk would be in the show.
The feature event would be one for the record books as drivers Ryan Watt, Jared Umbenhauer, and Craig Von Dohren would wage war, at some points being just about three wide for the race lead.
Watt would utilize the high line on early race restarts to maintain the lead from Jared Umbenhauer with Von Dohren being in a close third. Until a caution flew with just nine laps to go and Watt having switched to the bottom, it was the opening that Strunk needed.
At that point Strunk had worked his way into the top five and was looking for more on the restart. Strunk would utilize the outside and pick off the top three one by one, ultimately engaging in a side by side battle with Ryan Watt for the race lead before passing Watt with just five laps to go.
Strunk would get the win in a dominating fashion after carving his way through the field from the 23rd starting spot and collecting the pay check. Watt would have to settle for second, with Von Dohren slipping by Umbenhauer late for third, and Doug Manmiller winding up 5th.