Column By: RUSTY RHOADES / RPW – BECHTELSVILLE, PA – A bullring the likes of Grandview Speedway, complete with their absolutely stacked field of over 40 modified regulars on average this year, is by nature going to take its toll on each and every driver and team in what surely seems to be unfair and merciless fashion.
And though that goes for each and every one of the night’s entrants equally, you primarily don’t expect to see that level of repeated misfortune land on the lap of any of the “Big 3” generational icons of the current Grandview Speedway era – Craig Von Dohren, Jeff Strunk and Duane Howard – more than one freakishly abnormal week at most.
However less than a month ago, ten time track champion Jeff Strunk was in the midst of his 3rd consecutive feature finish caught up in others’ incidents, on the hook well prior to all laps being completed and nowhere to be found within the upper tier of driver standings he’s owned property in since anyone knew a phone could have mobility!
Now those bad memories fueled by poor results are rapidly falling from notable significance after “The (Bechtelsville) Bullet” has shot back up into title contention while firing off back-to-back full show feature wins!
The only benefit, a substantial one at that, to repeated DNFs at weekly Grandview point races is the opportunity to start features much closer to the front and further ahead of the top current season performers, as the officials handicap starting grids by inverting point totals among each pool of similar qualifiers.
For example, Strunk had the extremely rare advantage of lining up just 4 rows deep in the feature he took his initial win of ’19 in two weeks back.
And as more proof of just how in the hole his Glenn Hyneman #126 team was after that win, last evening’s grid still staged him within the top 5 rows, slightly increasing the chances of falling victim to another wreck outside his control yet still giving him the clear advantage to the front over all the current top performers.
And boy did the living legend take full advantage, as after 10 feature laps wrapped around a couple of minor cautions, Jeff had already halved the cars between himself and the lead from 8 down to 4!
The next two laps counted saw a continuation of what almost seemed inevitable at this point, as Strunk moved into third on lap 11 right before race-long leader John Willman slowed with mechanical issues.
By lap 13, the super sharp, legendary maroon #126 Keystone Racing Special was at the point before another yellow completed a lap and kept him in first for the restart.
Although Strunk appeared to have this one at his disposal at this point barring something out of the ordinary, a couple short green runs broken up by cautions quickly brought one of the other Big 3 greats into the picture up front.
Craig Von Dohren, winner of more than 100 Grandview Speedway features in his illustrious career, all the sudden appeared out of thin air it seemed, and was up to 4th by lap 19 and into the runner-up spot inside of 10 to go!
Although the #1c of “CVD” did begin to eat up a small portion of the distance between him and Jeff at 5 to go, nothing ended up materializing from that and Strunk went on to win his 71st career weekly modified series feature on “The Hill in Bechtelsville” in comfortable fashion.
Afterwards at the #126 hauler, Strunk had no problem placing his finger on what he thought the biggest difference between the early season results end current surge they’re on is, and it’s no brain twister from his point of view.
“It’s honestly pure luck when it comes down to it, you know. We’re in the wrong place at the wrong time for multiple weeks,” Strunk continued. “You’d rather have luck on your side than anything, and we did, but we still had to pass 8 or 9 other cars and then hold Craig off to do it, so we’ll take it.”
Strunk then elaborated on that some more. ” We’ve had speed in the car all year however, but I feel like whether it’s been a victim of circumstances and maybe even me trying too hard in response to those circumstances, when you’re in bad times they seem to last longer, but that makes this feel even better when you get back on track and where you’re supposed to be.”