Stewart Friesen picked up HRT’s first win of 2018 at Grandview Speedway
Story By: ERNIE SAXTON / GRANDVIEW SPEEDWAY – BECHTELSVILLE, PA – Mother Nature finally cooperated with the racing community on Saturday night and produced beautiful weather and the 56th racing season at Grandview Speedway got underway in front of a very large turnout of fans. Close to 50 small and big block Modifieds lined the pits to participate in the events leading up to the first annual Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker 50-lap race sponsored by VP Racing Fuels. The race was run in honor of the late Bruce Rogers, who passed away last March. Bruce, along with his father Forrest, built the track close to 60 years ago.
Three laps shy of a victory in the prestigious memorial event, Stewart Friesen wrestled the lead away from Mike Gular as the front runners had to deal with lapped traffic. Friesen held on and went on to collect the $7,500 top prize money along with beautiful hardware signifying the victory. In 2014 Friesen, now a regular in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition, won the season opener along with the rich Freedom 76 Classic.
Kevin Hirthler, doing double duty in the Modified and Sportsman divisions, took the lead when leader Ryan Lilick dropped out of action and chalked up the victory in the 25-lap Sportsman feature.
Through a heads-up draw, Don Norris Jr., returning to action after a year hiatus, started on the pole in the 50-lap Memorial feature, but it was second-place starter Tim Buckwalter that took the early lead and Gular followed through for second.
Buckwalter and Gular were bumper to bumper for several laps while back further Norris Jr., Friesen and Jordan Henn diced for positions.
Gular dove underneath Buckwalter for the lead along the homestretch on the 12th lap and heading down the backstretch Buckwalter pulled into the infield out of contention.
With 15 laps in the books Gular, Norris Jr., Friesen, Craig Von Dohren and Matt Sheppard, the third, first, fourth, 12th and sixth-place starters continued to hold down one through five as they encountered slower moving traffic that were also racing for positions.
Kevin Hirthler, who had just broken into the top ten, spun in the fourth turn on the 22nd lap and went pit side. Gular held his line on the restart, but Friesen was right there leaving him no room to slip-up and Friesen knew Von Dohren was pressuring him too.
Sheppard’s solid fourth place run ended on the 24th lap with a right rear flat tire. After a pit stop he rejoined the pack, but was only able to get back to 11th until the end.
At the half-way marker Gular, Friesen and Von Dohren, who all ran the top lane; Watt and Frank Cozze completed the top five.
In the final stages of the event, lap cars hampered the front runners and Friesen had a full head of steam built up even though he abused his tires and was coming on strong as it appeared Gular was having problems getting through turns one and two.
On the 47th lap, three short of a victory for Gular, Friesen passed him. Gular didn’t surrender easily and tried to regain the top spot.
Friesen continued his pace and pulled into the winner’s circle for his third win at the oval followed by Gular, Von Dohren, Watt and Cozze. Rounding out the top ten were Duane Howard, Meme DeSantis, Rick Laubach, Billy Pauch Sr. and Mike Mahaney.