Beltz, Smith win fea­ture races at Grand­view

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - SPORTS - By Ernie Sax­ton For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

BECHTELSVILLE, PA » Sea­soned vet­eran Ryan Beltz fought it out with young­ster Ryan Lil­ick right down to the wire to go on and claim a very pop­u­lar win, Fri­day night at Grand­view Speed­way in Bechtelsville, PA, pock­et­ing $1,500 for his tri­umph in the fourth an­nual Sports­man Free­dom 38’er. With his win, the 43-year-old Beltz be­came the 13th dif­fer­ent driver to earn a Sports­man fea­ture win this sea­son, tak­ing his first win this sea­son, the sec­ond of his ca­reer and his first since May 28, 2016. The win makes Beltz the fourth dif­fer­ent driver to win the event in its fouryear race his­tory.

In a com­pan­ion 25-lap fea­ture event for the Mid-At­lantic 305 Sprint Se­ries at the high-banked third-mile dirt track, a dom­i­nat-

ing tri­umph was scored by Kyle Smith in his first visit ever to the track.

“I am cer­tain I drove the only four coil car at the track tonight to vic­tory,” an­nounced Beltz, fol­low­ing a roof dance in vic­tory lane. “I’ve got to give thanks to Ryan Watt for all the help he has given us this sea­son, plus Bick­nell Race Cars. We just went back to ba­sics tonight. We had a dif­fer­ent en­gine in and just haven’t had a lot of luck here the last few weeks. We had a good race car and ev­ery­thing just came to­gether for us here tonight.”

Fol­low­ing the heat races the top 20 qual­i­fied cars, all, picked for spots in a blind draw, with Brian Hirth­ler, 35, out of Perkiomenville, PA pick­ing the pole to start, with for­mer 358 Mod­i­fied racer Doug Pan­nepacker pulling out­side the front row. Beltz picked third to start in the 26-car start­ing field.

With the green waved by starter Ray Kemp it was Hirth­ler set­ting the early pace aboard his self-owned No. 4* Four Star Let­ting Sports­man mount over Pan­nepacker and Beltz through the first five tours. On lap 6 it was Beltz mov­ing into the run­ner-up role, drop­ping Pan­nepacker to third.

With seven in the record books, Hirth­ler had nearly a full straight­away lead over Beltz, steer­ing his self­owned

KAM Fu­eled Rac­ing No. 221 en­try.

Craig Whit­moyer, 42, of Ham­burg, PA, who won the event back in 2015 and started from eighth Fri­day night, was on the move and by lap 13 he ad­vanced into fourth-place behind Beltz and Pan­nepacker. A lap 19 cau­tion slowed things and re­grouped the field, eras­ing the big lead held by Hirth­ler.

When rac­ing re­sumed it was Hirth­ler out in front again over Whit­moyer, who ducked un­der­neath Beltz through turn 3 on the restart, and Beltz now run­ning in third. Pan­nepacker fell back to fourth, with Lil­ick, who started four­teenth, mov­ing to fifth.

By lap 25 Hirth­ler again started to pull away, hold­ing a com­fort­able lead.

Lil­ick be­gan to pick off po­si­tions and took fourth with seven cir­cuits to go. A lap later, Whit­moyer saw his night come to an early end when his mo­tor ex­pired in a huge cloud of smoke to bring out the cau­tion with six to go.

On the dou­ble-file restart Hirth­ler se­lected to start from the out­side, putting Beltz on the bot­tom. With the green, it was Beltz out­gun­ning Hirth­ler and be­com­ing the new race leader for lap 33. Lil­ick ad­vanced to third and took sec­ond a lap later, as Hirth­ler dropped back to third.

“He kept pick­ing the top on the restarts and I just kept pray­ing, even­tu­ally, I’d get the jump and we did,”

Beltz said. “Every­body was go­ing to the top and I fig­ured, even­tu­ally, they’d rub ev­ery­thing away up on top and I still had good grip on the bot­tom. I got a good run on him the pre­vi­ous restart, but he held on.”

With a lap re­main­ing, Lil­ick hit Beltz hard, but Beltz held on, as they bat­tled for the win.

“When he hit me I wound up los­ing my brakes. That last lap I was driv­ing it balls to the wall or else without brakes,” ex­plained the driver out of Sch­wenksville, PA. “I fig­ured at the end if he went high I’d go low and if he stayed low I’d go high. I wasn’t about to give it away and set­tle for sec­ond.”

Rac­ing through turns 3 and 4 with the check­ered wav­ing, Lil­ick drifted up to the top to pro­tect, as Beltz drove it in on the bot­tom. Beltz had the edge ex­it­ing turn 4 and crossed the line first, win­ning by a nar­row mar­gin over Lil­ick at the line.

Third went to Hirth­ler, trailed by Brad Grim, Brett Gil­more and Brian Papiez, who started the event from 21st with the orig­i­nal green.

Heat races for 50 Sports­man en­tries were won by Hirth­ler, Mike Lisowski, Ryan Higgs and Beltz. Twin con­so­la­tions went out to Papiez and Matt Stan­gle.

In the 25-lap Mid-At­lantic Sprint Se­ries (MASS) fea­ture race it was Brian Krum­mel, who started out­side the front row tak­ing the early lead over pole sit­ter Steph Car­berry and

third-starter Austin Bishop. By lap 6, Krum­mel held a safe lead.

Lap 12 it was still Krum­mel set­ting a tor­rid pace, as Bishop slipped into sec­ond, as the lead­ers raced through heavy slower, lapped traf­fic. Car­berry fell into third. A lap later, Sa­man­tha Lieber­man spun out in turn 3, as Bishop tried to avoid the spin­ning car. Bishop darted to the out­side and smacked the boiler plate wall hard to bring out the red at the crossed flags.

With the restart it was Car­berry out­rac­ing Krum­mel off turn 4 to be­come the new race leader. Smith roared into sec­ond spot, with Krum­mel fall­ing to third. Smith quickly went by Car­berry to be­come the new race leader, with Car­berry drop­ping to sec­ond on lap 15. A lap later Krum­mel spun it out in turn 2 to bring out a cau­tion.

Smith re­took the top spot in front of Car­berry and by lap 21 Smith was nearly a full straight­away out in front of Car­berry. Ed­die Wag­ner was run­ning third, with Dave Brown now fourth.

Smith eas­ily se­cured the win, with Car­berry, Wag­ner, Ed­die Strada and Tim Tan­ner Jr. chas­ing him.

Heat races for 30 Sprint Cars were claimed by Wag­ner, Bishop and Krum­mel. The con­so­la­tion win went to Stephanie Dod­son.

Some 25 358 Mod­i­fied cars were also on hand for sev­eral prac­tice ses­sions through­out the evening of rac­ing.

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