BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. — official release — Rich Kepner photo — Stewart Friesen started and ended the Grandview Speedway season in victory lane.
Friesen won the season opener in Norm Hansell’s No. 357 and on Saturday he won the 44th annual Freedom 76 Modified feature driving the Jeff Bailey & Sons sponsored/Teo No. 44F for a $25,000 plus payday.
In addition to the top prize money Friesen, the second Canadian to win the prestigious event – Doug Carlyle doing it in 1977 — collected the lion’s share of lap money leading laps 32 through 76. Next to winning Syracuse, Friesen said this was his biggest triumph. He commented that Grandview was a “cool track and to be out front was a real privilege.”
The race, billed as the “Battle of Bechtelsville,” pitted New York racers against Pennsylvania Racers with Friesen, who is a winner on a regular basis at New York tracks, claiming the win for the New York contingent. Close to 70 racers took part in the 44th annual running of the Classic.
At the wave of the green by starter Ray Kemp, Duane Howard, starting on the outside of the front row outgunned polesitter Ryan Watt to grab the front spot.
Howard held the lead for six laps before Watt charged ahead on the seventh lap restart needed when John Willman slowed with a flat tire.
Watt ran the highest line coming close to the boilerplate on occasion, while Howard stayed low trying to wrestle the lead away.
While these two diced for the lead and approached the obstacle of lap traffic, it allowed Friesen and Danny Johnson, the guaranteed starter for winning the Forrest Rogers Memorial, sixth- and tenth-place starters to close in and make it a four way dual for the lead.
New York invader Andy Bachetti slowed along the backstretch for the 31st lap caution. It took two attempts to complete the next lap, but when it finally counted Friesen was at the front of the pack trailed by Watt, Howard, Johnson and Anthony Perrego.
Howard regained second on the 35th lap and set sail after Friesen who was distancing himself from the competition.
Nate Christman regrouped the pack when he spun between turns three and four on the 44th lap. At this time a mandatory fuel stop brought out the red. When service was completed and racing resumed, it was still Friesen, running the inside groove, first while Howard, Watt, Johnson and Craig Von Dohren completed second through fifth.
The final caution was on the 50th lap when something on Rick Laubach’s car broke and he headed into the first turn wall collecting Keith Hoffman, who was left with no place to go, in the process. Friesen held his own on the restart, but Watt emerged with a full burst of speed running the outside lane and gave him a run for the money.
Once Friesen saw Watt’s front end, he picked up his pace and moved his path to the outside lane as opposed to staying low.
Howard was back in second on the 62nd circuit and set his sights on Friesen. The battle for fifth was a heated one between Doug Manmiller, Von Dohren and 2014 Modified point champion Jeff Strunk, who started 15th, 17th and 26th, respectively.
No one was able to close in on Friesen as he wheeled through the lapped traffic and no more yellows were needed after the 50th-lap restart and at the drop of the checkered Friesen was in victory lane for a well-deserved win to be the 25th different winner of the event.
Following Friesen across were Howard, Johnson, Manmiller and VonDohren.