Schutz gets first win of sea­son

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Ernie Sax­ton

BECH­TELSVILLE » Jeff Strunk, 10-time NASCAR T.P. Trail­ers Mod­i­fied point cham­pion, de­fend­ing NASCAR Late Model point cham­pion Chuck Schutz and NASCAR Sports­man de­fend­ing cham­pion Brian Hirth­ler were in vic­tory lane for the first time this sea­son on Satur­day night at Grand­view Speed­way when they each won their re­spec­tive fea­ture. The ac­tiv­i­ties were spon­sored by K&N Fil­ters and broad­cast by RCNTV, Al­len­town.

Strunk, the fourth dif­fer­ent Mod­i­fied win­ner of the sea­son, held off the late stage chal­lenges of Mike Gu­lar, cur­rently sec­ond in the point stand­ings, for his 68th career win in the 30-lap event. Strunk ded­i­cated the win to for­mer pro­moter Bruce Rogers, who passed away last year, and to Ben Moyer, a long­time sup­porter of rac­ing that re­cently lost his bat­tle to can­cer plus Strunk also thanked all the sup­port­ive fans.

Schutz got by leader Kyle Merkel for the lead with five laps to go in the 25-lap Late Model fea­ture to be­come the fourth dif­fer­ent win­ner thus far.

Brian Hirth­ler be­came the sea­son’s fifth dif­fer­ent NASCAR Sports­man 25-lap fea­ture win­ner by hold­ing off the chal­lenges of run­nerup Ryan Beltz.

Pro­vid­ing all win­ners met the nec­es­sary re­quire­ments, they re­ceived mon­e­tary awards from T.P. Trail­ers, prod­ucts from VP Gas. Strunk, Kyle Merkel and Hirth­ler were the re­cip­i­ents of the Dan’s Deli ½-way hoagie award.

The on­set of the Mod­i­fied fea­ture saw Jared Um­ben­hauer out­gun pole sit­ter Chris Es­pos­ito to take the early lead and im­me­di­ately out­dis­tanced him­self from the re­main­ing 27-car start­ing grid.

Steve Swine­hart’s sev­enth lap spin be­tween the third and fourth turn re­grouped the pack, but that didn’t ham­per Um­ben­hauer leav­ing Eric Biehn, Es­pos­ito, Justin Grim and Strunk, who started third, first, sev­enth and 13th in pur­suit.

Strunk ad­vanced to sec­ond on the 10th lap restart caused when Mike Kellner and Kevin Hirth­ler tan­gled along the back­stretch.

On the 14th lap yel­low brought out when Chris Gam­bler spun in the fourth turn, Strunk got the edge on Um­ben­hauer to be­come the new leader.

Within no time Strunk opened day­light leav­ing Um­ben­hauer, Gu­lar, Biehn and Duane Howard to give chase.

The red had to be thrown on the 24th lap for a fiery crash that in­volved Um­ben­hauer. Strunk had just squeezed by the spin­ning cars of Bobby Trapper Jr. and Ron Kline in the third turn. Um­ben­hauer wasn’t as for­tu­nate as he hit the two. Flipped and the car erupted into a huge fire­ball. He quickly ex­ited the in­ferno in which fire­fight­ers had a tough time ex­tin­guish­ing, but they fi­nally got it un­der con­trol. Um­ben­hauer was un­in­jured, but the car was heav­ily dam­aged. On the restart Strunk chose the in­side lane leav­ing Gu­lar to take the out­side path to chal­lenge. Strunk wasted no time keep­ing the Glenn and Bonita Hyne­man-owned No. 126 at the head of the oth­ers. Be­hind the pair Howard, cur­rent point leader Brett Kress­ley and Biehn jock­eyed for the re­main­ing top five po­si­tions.

Strunk never sur­ren­dered the lead and went on to re­turn to the win­ner’s circle – a place he was shut out of since Septem­ber 2017 when he won the Free­dom 76. Fin­ish­ing sec­ond for the sec­ond race in a row was Gu­lar fol­lowed by Kress­ley, Howard and de­fend­ing point cham­pion Craig Von Dohren.

Um­ben­hauer, Kevin Hirth­ler, Kyle Weiss and Strunk won the heats. The con­so­la­tions went to Brett Gil­more and Dan Waisem­pacher.

Af­ter sev­eral in­ci­dents to get the first lap of the Late Model fea­ture in the books, pole sit­ter Drew Weisser set the early pace for five laps be­fore he spun in the fourth turn re­lin­quish­ing first to Kyle Merkel. The bat­tle be­hind Merkel on the restart for sec­ond through fifth was com­prised of Chuck Schutz, Brian Shuey, Lou Egrie and brother Sean Merkel.

K. Merkel and Schutz put on a fierce side-by-side dual for the lead as the race pro­gressed. With Merkel stick­ing to the high side and Schutz down low.

Lap cars came in to play in the clos­ing stages and with five laps to go Schutz used them to his ad­van­tage and took the lead from Merkel.

Shut out of the win­ner’s circle since Au­gust 5, 2017, Schutz kept this fel­low com­peti­tors be­hind him as he went on to claim his 49th career win. Fol­low­ing him across the line were K. Merkel, Shuey, S. Merkel and Egrie.

An­drew Kreis and K. Hirth­ler diced for the lead for three laps be­fore Hirth­ler took to the high side and pro­ceeded to take con­trol of the Sports­man fea­ture.

While Hirth­ler showed the way, the ac­tion be­hind him was hot and heavy be­tween Kreis, Beltz, Louden Reimert and Dy­lan Swine­hart with Brad Arnold try­ing to get into the thick of the mix.

Beltz took over the sec­ond spot on the 14th lap and set sail af­ter Hirth­ler, who had a size­able lead built up.

A one-lap shoot-out was set up when B.J. Joly spun into the home­stretch in­field and was at a very dan­ger­ous spot. This re­grouped the field.

Hirth­ler, ab­sent from the win­ner’s circle since April 8, 2017 kept every­one be­hind and went on to cap­ture his sec­ond career tri­umph. Chas­ing him across the line were Beltz, Reimert, Kreis and Arnold.

Heats were won by Kreis, Beltz and Hirth­ler. Kyle Lil­ick won the con­so­la­tion race.

On Thurs­day, June 14th, 7:30 p.m. the trav­el­ing United States Auto Club non-wing Sprint cars will be in ac­tion in the an­nual Jesse Hock­ett Me­mo­rial fea­tur­ing sev­eral top name rac­ers from across the na­tion. In ad­di­tion the al­ways pop­u­lar 358 Mod­i­fieds will be in ac­tion with a num­ber of vis­it­ing tal­ents ex­pected to take part. The Mod­i­fied race will be a NASCAR point race.

RACE RE­SULTS

K&N Fil­ters Night Mod­i­fied Fea­ture (30 Laps): 1. Jeff Strunk, 2. Mike Gu­lar,

3. Brett Kress­ley, 4. Duane Howard, 5. Craig Von Dohren, 6. Eric Biehn, 7. Tim Buck­wal­ter, 8. Kevin Hirth­ler, 9. Kenny Gil­more, 10. Justin Grim, 11. Ryan Brim,

12. Ryan Lil­ick, 13. Steve Swine­hart, 14. Ron Kline, (pro­vi­sional), 15. Sky­lar Sher­iff, 16. Kyle Weiss, 17. Chris Es­pos­ito,

18. Brett Gil­more, 19. Chris But­ler, 20. Chris Gam­bler, 21. Joe Fanelli, 22. Dan Waisem­pacher, 23. Jared Um­ben­hauer,

24. Bobby Trapper Jr., 25. Ron Selt­mann Jr., 26. Doug Man­miller, 27. Mike Kellner,

28. John Will­man. DNQ: Bobby Gun­ther, Steve Young, Car­roll Hine III, Jor­dan Henn, Briggs Dan­ner, Bobby Trapper, Mark Kratz and Ron Myers.

K&N Fil­ters Night Late Model Fea­ture (25 Laps): 1. Chuck Schutz, 2. Kyle Merkel,

3. Brian Shuey, 4. Sean Merkel, 5. Lou Egrie, 6. Draw Weisser, 7. Steve Wilson,

8. Steve Todorow, 9. Danny Snyder, 10. Dirk Rim­rott, 11. Pa­trick Robin­son, 12. Shawn Horn­ing, 13. Dustin Fitzcharles,

14. Bryon Sipe, 15. Todd Ravel, 16. Dal­las Brei­den­bach.

K&N Fil­ters Night Sports­man Fea­ture (25 Laps): 1. Brian Hirth­ler, 2. Ryan Beltz,

3. Louden Reimert, 4. An­drew Kreis, 5. Brad Arnold, 6. Dy­lan Swine­hart, 7. Brad Grim, 8. Jack But­ler, 9. Mike Lisowski,

10. Brad Bright­bill, 11. Kenny Bock, 12. Jesse Lan­dis, 13. Kyle Lil­ick, 14. Mike Mam­mana, 15. Der­rick Smith, 16. Jim Hous­worth, 17. Gary Wag­ner, 18. Andy Clem­mer, 19. Josh Adams, 20. B.J. Joly,

21. Craig Whit­moyer, 22. Nico Flam­mer,

23. Kurt Bet­tler, 24. Mark Kem­merer (pro­vi­sional), 25. Nathan Mohr. DNQ: Lex Shive, Mike Kof­fel, Mike Florito and Ryan Higgs.

RICK KEPNER - FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Chuck Schutz raises the check­ered flag af­ter gain­ing his first Late Model win of the 2018 sea­son Satur­day night at Grand­view Speed­way.

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