Story By: ERNIE SAXTON / GRANDVIEW SPEEDWAY – BECHTELSVILLE, PA – Established 358 Modified chauffeur Brett Kressley showed his strength early on Saturday evening at Grandview Speedway, winning his heat race in an exciting fashion aboard the Northern Valley Erectors Morgantini Racing Engines powered No. 19K family-owned mount, which placed him outside the front row to start the T.P. Trailers 358 Modified 30-lap main event, the result of a heads-up start for the 28-car field on opening night.
With the green it was the 26-year-old Orefield, Pa resident immediately jumping out in front over Eric Biehn, who started from the pole. Frank Cozze, who started third, and Duane Howard, who started fourth, followed running third and fourth prior to a caution on lap 3 when Brett Gilmore developed a flat right rear tire.
Kressley retook the lead with the new green with Biehn, Jeff Strunk, who started fifth, and Cozze in tow for lap 4, however a caution again quickly bunched up the field.
Again the green waved and it was the former Sportsman track champion Kressley, Biehn, Strunk and Doug Manmiller, who started from twelfth, in that order completing lap 5. Howard slipped by Manmiller to claim fourth on lap 6 and by lap 8, Kressley had built up a safe advantage over Biehn, who was doing a fantastic job holding on to the runner-up role while holding off challenges from 10-time track champion Strunk and 5-time track champion Howard lap-after-lap.
With 15 in the books and 15 still to go, it was Kressley out in front now by a full straightaway, but a caution on lap 20 as Briggs Danner developed a left rear flat tire tightened things up again with ten to go.
“The way they did the starting line-up tonight you really had to give it all you had in the heat race to earn a good starting spot in the feature,” announced Kressley. “With a lot of the real good cars starting up in the front it made things a little easier because we started in front of them. I wanted to run this car a week earlier (in the Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker 50) and I knew it was a good car. We had some problems in that race a week ago, however, tonight it showed.”
When racing got back underway it was Kressley still showing the way over Biehn, with Strunk, Howard and Manmiller trailing after 21-laps.
On lap 22, racing through turn 2, Biehn had a slight push and Strunk ducked underneath to steal second away just prior to Frank Yankowski spinning in turn 1 and bringing out the yellow.
The restart saw Kressley remain on top over Strunk, with Howard slipping by Biehn for third, as Biehn fell back into fourth-place just ahead of Rick Laubach, who started the event from sixth. That’s how the top five remained with Kressley claiming his seventh career 358 Modified feature win at the high-banked third-mile dirt oval in Bechtelsville, Pa.
“You can’t make a mistake on the restart with racers like Duane and Jeff right there behind you,” offered Kressley. “It definitely made it a little nerve-wracking, but I knew the top was the way to go. It’s a little shorter around the bottom and I saw Jeff sticking his nose in there, but everything worked out in our favor tonight.”
Kressley claimed the $2,500 first-place check, plus a $300 bonus award from T.P Trailers in nearby Limerick, Pa and a $100 product award from VP Racing Fuels. Kressley in addition was awarded the “Halfway Hoagie” from Dan’s Deli in Boyertown, Pa as the race leader at the halfway point.
The 12-lap heat race winners, with 45 cars in the pit area, were Biehn, Kressley, Cozze and Howard. The 10-lap consolation event wins were captured by Ryan Lilick and Skylar Sheriff.
Third generation Sportsman pilot Jack Butler started from the pole position wheeling the family-owned Applegate’s Bakery Leindecker Racing Engines powered No. 5 entry in the T.P. Truck Equipment backed 25-lap Sportsman main event and immediately was the early rabbit everyone was chasing, with Kyle Lilick, Dean Bachman and Brad Brightbill in hot pursuit, as the 24-car starting field got the initial green.
The Phillipsburg, N.J. teenager remained out in front with the laps clicking off, as Brightbill ducked underneath Bachman to move into third by lap 6. Former Sportsman track champion Brian Hirthler got by Bachman to move into fourth-place on lap 11 and by halfway it was still Butler in the top spot, with Lilick, Brightbill, Hirthler and Bachman in tow.
On lap 14, exiting turn 4, Brightbill drove by Lilick to advance to the runner-up position, but on lap 16 Sportsman rookie Brandon Edger saw his ride go up in smoke bringing out the first caution of the race.
Butler assumed the top spot on the restart over Brightbill, Hirthler and Lilick for lap 17. Brightbill got up high near the outside boiler plate wall in the loose stuff racing through turns 3 and 4 on lap 19, but continued on, dropping to the tail of the field, allowing Hirthler to take second spot, with Lilick third.
Butler easily built up a safe advantage and won his first career Sportsman feature event at the track, claiming the $800 top prize. Rounding out the top five were Hirthler, Lilick, Mark Kemmerer and Brad Arnold.
“I got a little nervous on that late race restart with Brightbill outside of me,” explained Butler. “I got lucky and got my lane going into turn one. Believe me, it feels pretty sweet to finally win one of these races here for a change.
“My dad (former racer Gary Butler) told me to keep looking ahead to see where the lapped cars were and I tried, but they were double-wide. I kind of waited and followed other cars through the heavy traffic. I was kind of glad we got that late race caution. Those lapped cars would’ve been a real mess to get through.
“I have to give all the credit to my dad. He gave me the best car out here tonight. We kind of hit on something that worked last Saturday night and it worked for us tonight. Everything’s working right, right now,” said Butler.
Wins in the 8-lap heat races, with 27 cars in the pit area, went to Butler, Lilick and Bachman. Winning the 8-lap consolation race was Josh Adams.
The entire 12-event card of racing was completed by 9:30 p.m.
Next Saturday, April 20th, the T.P.Trailers 358 Modifieds, T.P.Truck Equipment Sportsman and Blast from the Past Vintage racers are featured in a triple-header starting at 7 p.m. There is no increase in the admission prices with adults paying $15 while youngsters under 12 admitted free.
Then on April 27th the Mid Atlantic Sprint Series 305 Sprinters will join the Modifieds and Sportsman in another triple-header show.
For information check in at www.grandviewspeedway.com, Facebook or telephone 610.754.7688.
358 Modified (30-laps) – 1) Brett Kressley, 2) Jeff Strunk, 3) Duane Howard, 4) Eric Biehn, 5) Rick Laubach, 6) Doug Manmiller, 7) Frank Cozze, 8) Jared Umbenhauer, 9) Kyle Weiss, 10) Craig Von Dohren, 11) Meme DeSantis, 12) Ryan Grim, 13) Mike Lisowski, 14) Loudon Reimert, 15) Ryan Lilick, 16) Frank Yankowski, 17) Danny Erb, 18) Craig Whitmoyer, 19) Kevin Hirthler, 20) Colt Harris, 21) Briggs Danner, 22) Jordan Henn, 23) Keith Hoffman, 24) Bobby Trapper Jr., 25) Skylar Sheriff, 26) Justin Grim, 27) Brett Gilmore, 28) Steve Swinehart
Sportsman (25-laps) – 1) Jack Butler, 2) Brian Hirthler, 3) Kyle Lilick, 4) Mark Kemmerer, 5) Brad Arnold, 6) Dean Bachman, 7) Brad Grim, 8) Lex Shive, 9) Andrew Kreis, 10) Jesse Landis, 11) Scott Kohler, 12) Josh Adams, 13) BJ Joly, 14) Kyle Smith, 15) Nate Brinker, 16) Brad Brightbill, 17) Mike Koffel, 18) Brandon Edger, 19) Andy Clemmer, 20) Kenny Bock, 21) Mike Mammana, 22) Parker Guldin, 23) Derrick Smith, 24) Warren Floyd Jr.