Watt get long-sought 1st Thunder on the Hill win
It was a chilling fall night of racing when Boyertown’s Ryan Watt scored the victory in the 21st running of the Modified Traffic Jam, the season finale of the NAPA Auto Parts Thunder on the Hill Racing Series events at Grandview Speedway Saturday night. Watt has been haunted from winning a Thunder show for years, so how appropriate that his first win came in the Halloween House of Thunder event. Craig Whitmoyer and Kyle Smith claimed victories in the Sportsman and MASS Sprint Car Series events, as part of the thrilling three-division show.
“I can’t believe we won, I’ve tried to win a Thunder on the Hill Race so many times – I finished second at the August race, and I’m glad to get one of these Thunder wins finally,” an ecstatic Watt said in victory lane while surrounded by family, friends and crew members. His first win earned him $5,000 in a very lucrative payoff that offered $1,000 to finish tenth and $500 just to start the feature event.
Forty-six modifieds attempted to qualify for the big event and it was Ryan Watt who rolled off second in the 24-car starting lineup, alongside 2018 Grandview Speedway Modified Champion, Mike Gular. Watt won the drag race down the front stretch taking the top spot despite strong attempts from Gular. Battling for the lead, the top two dueled side-byside for the initial stage of the race, followed by Frank Cozze and Kenny Gilmore.
Meanwhile, Craig VonDohren charged forward from an eighth-place start into the fifth position on lap 4, leading a train that included Jared Umbenhauer and Doug Manmiller.
The lead pack closed in on lapped cars by the tenth circuit, and the aptly named ‘Traffic Jam’ bunched the field with multiple two and three-wide battles. Relief came after a close call for the leaders when two cars tangled directly in front of them.
“Lapped cars made things tricky tonight,” Watt said in victory lane. “You never know which way anyone is going to go and when they are side-by-side, it gets tricky.”
Opting for the outside lane on the restart, Watt left the door open for Gular, who pulled alongside challenging for the top spot. Jared Umbenhauer charged into the third on the restart and swapped the second position with Gular just two laps later.
Ryan Watt pulled away in the later stages of the 40lap event, weaving in and out of slow traffic and maintaining the top spot as laps clicked off.
It was all Watt as the checkered flag waved, Mike Gular finished in second – holding off a late race charge from Jared Umbenhauer, who settled for third. Craig VonDohren finished in fourth, and Doug Manmiller finished in the fifth position.
Craig Whitmoyer claimed the victory in the 25-lap Sportsman event – his 13th Grandview Speedway victory. Mike Lisowski started on the outside pole and led the early stages of the race– but Lisowski was forced pitside on lap 15 when officials discovered missing right front lugnuts on his No. 15 machine. Brad Grim inherited the lead on the restart and lost the lead to Whitmoyer after a threecar battle for the top spot that also included Kevin Hirthler. A lap 22 yellow slowed the field for the final time and Whitmoyer engaged in a three-car race to the finish with just three circuits remaining. Whitmoyer held on for the win with Grim and Hirthler settling for second and third, respectively. Dean Bachman finished in fourth, and Kyle Kania finished in the fifth position.
Kyle Smith of Great Barrington, Mass., picked up the victory in the 25-lap Mid-Atlantic Sprint Car Series event, holding off Jeff Geiges and a slew of late race caution flags. Geiges of Hamilton, NJ took the early lead and led the initial eleven circuits before a lap 11 yellow slowed the field. With a double-file restart, Geiges opted to restart on the top side opening the door for Smith, who powered down the front stretch overtaking the top spot. Geiges slid inside Smith but couldn’t stick the attempted slide job. Geiges would settle for second, Ryan Stillwaggon finished in third, Jon Haegele coming home in fourth and Tyler Reinhardt rounding out the top 5 finishers. Results Modifieds Heat 1 (10 Laps) – 1. Ryan Grim 2. Kenny Gilmore 3. Mike Gular 4. Don Norris, Jr. 5. Richie Pratt, Jr. Heat 2 (10 Laps) – 1. Kyle Merkel 2. Doug Manmiller 3. Jared Umbenhauer 4. Meme DeSantis 5. Eric Biehn Heat 3 (10 Laps) – 1. Steve Swinehart 2. Ryan Lilick 3. Frank Cozze 4. Kevin Hirthler 5. Craig Whitmoyer Heat 4 (10 Laps) – 1. Craig VonDohren 2. Ryan Watt 3. Rick Laubach 4. Jeff Strunk 5. Danny Bouc Consi 1 (10 Laps) – 1. Ray Swinehart 2. Frank Yankowski Consi 2 (10 Laps) – 1. Chris Esposito 2. Brett Gilmore Feature (40 Laps) – 1. Ryan Watt 2. Mike Gular 3. Jared Umbenhauer 4. Craig VonDohren 5. Doug Manmiller 6. Frank Cozze 7. Kevin Hirthler 8. Rick Laubach 9. Jeff Strunk 10. Ryan Grim 11. Kenny Gilmore 12. Danny Bouc 13. Ryan Lilick 14. Ray Swinehart 15. Richie Pratt, Jr. 16. Don Norris, Jr. 17. Chris Esposito 18. Meme DeSantis 19. Kyle Merkel 20. Craig Whitmoyer 21. Frank Yankowski 22. Brett Gilmore 23. Steve Swinehart 24. Eric Biehn DNQ: Matt Stangle, John Willman, Ryan Godown, Justin Grim, Ryan Beltz, Billy Osmun, Jason Miller, Aleah Geisler, Scott Albert, Gary Hager, Steve Young, Louden Reimert, Brian Hirthler, Mark Kratz, Brandon Grosso, Bobby Gunther Walsh, David Hunt, Ron Myers, Brian Houseknecht Sportsman Heat 1 (8 Laps) – 1. Kyle Kania 2. Brad Grim 3. Mike Lisowski 4. Nathan Mohr 5. Dean Bachman 6. Derrick Smith Heat 2 (8 Laps) – 1. Kevin Hirthler 2. Craig Whitmoyer 3. Brian Hirthler 4. Joseph Brown 5. Kenny Bock 6. BJ Joly Feature (25 Laps) – 1. Craig Whitmoyer 2. Brad Grim 3. Kevin Hirthler 4. Dean Bachman 5. Kyle Kania 6. Joseph Brown 7. Mike Mammana 8. Derrick Smith 9. Kenny Bock 10. Andy Clemmer 11. Ray Cost 12. Scott Kohler 13. Dylan Swinehart 14. Mike Lisowski 15. Nico Flammer 16. Nathan Mohr 17. Brad Arnold 18. Lex Shive 19. BJ Joly MASS Sprint Car Series Heat 1 (8 Laps) – 1. Jeff Geiges 2. Tom Carberry 3. Ryan Stillwagon 4. Rick Stief 5. Zack Burd 6. Dominic Melair 7. Devin Adams 8. Craig Pelligrini Heat 2 (8 Laps) – 1. Larry McVay 2. Jon Haegele 3. Dave Brown 4. Tyler Reinhardt 5. Eddie Wagner 6. Scott Frack 7. Kassidy Kreitz 8. Ian Detweiler Heat 3 (8 Laps) – 1. Mike Haggenbottom 2. Kyle Smith 3. Austin Bishop 4. Joe Kay 5. Tim Tanner Jr. 6. Bobby Scherff 7. Chad Connor 8. Daniel Leaper Feature (25 Laps) – 1. Kyle Smith 2. Jeff Geiges 3. Ryan Stillwaggon 4. Jon Haegele 5. Tyler Reinhardt 6. Scott Frack 7. Tim Tanner Jr. 8. Joe Kay 9. Devin Adams 10. Larry McVay 11. Dave Brown 12. Kassidy Kreitz 13. Craig Pellegrini 14. Dominic Melair 15. Daniel Leaper 16. Chad Connor 17. Tom Carberry 18. Bobby Scherff 19. Eddie Wagner 20. Zack Burd 21. Rick Stief 22. Austin Bishop 23. Mike Haggenbottom
Ryan Watt raises the winner’s check alongside son Logan and wife Leslie after winning the Mods at the Madhouse event at Grandview Speedway on Oct. 13.