Column By: TOM WENNER / RPW – BECHTELSVILLE, PA – Jesse Hirthler is the son of Stephanie and Kevin Hirthler and is beginning his first full season of Sportsman racing in 2022.
Jesse started racing at 5 years of age in a quarter midget at Phoenixville and BAPS Motor Speedway. You can say that Jesse was born into a racing family. Stephanie comes from the Swinehart racing family and Kevin & Brian Hirthler grew up at the track themselves.
Joyce and Craig Hirthler, Kevin and Brian’s parents owned Modified Race Cars dating back into the 80’s. Doug Pannepacker and Duane Howard are some the prominent names who wheeled the Craig Hirthler owned Modifieds.
The Hirthler family is a tight knit bunch, They do everything together and racing is a big part of it. Jesse and Kevin are in the garage every night working on the fleet of 117 race cars in their Boyertown shop. Kayla Hirthler, Jesse’s younger sister has a few Quarter Midgets that are prepared for her racing action this season at Phoenixville. Mom, Steph keeps everyone grounded and focused on where to be and when.
Kevin leads the well established Green Lane Wm. Penn Auto and Towing located in Green Lane, PA. Brian owns the successful Four Star Lettering business which has become a leader in race car design and lettering.
Jesse has driven the Quarter Midget from age 5 to 15. Many of the young guns in racing have earned their racing badges behind the wheel of a quarter midget, Jesse is no different. In 2021 Jesse was in the pits at Grandview turning wrenches on the fleet of 117 Modifieds.
His Dad, Kevin on most nights had his #117 Spec 358 Modified, A #117 Sportsman was fielded for Adrianna Delliponte,
The 4* Sportsman for Brian Hirthler, and some nights another pair of Sportsman/Modified cars for Brian and Kevin. Jesse learned every aspect of setup, tire prep, maintenance, adjustments and changes both in the shop and at the track.
This “on the job” training proved to be extremely valuable for Jesse as he learned the ropes from the mechanical side of the race team.
Late in the ’21 season, Jesse was able to strap into the Sportsman car and take some laps. A Grandview Track rental session for the team before the ’21 season began was Jesse’s first taste of the big car and Jesse knew immediately that he was hooked. Later in the ’21 season, Jesse was able to run a few events to get comfortable in the car before the season ended. He was given specific instructions from Kevin to start in the back of the pack and focus on learning the car and how it feels and reacts.
This experience went hand and hand with the season long job of turning wrenches for the #117 team. This helped Jesse to understand what each adjustment did and how it felt on the track from a racer’s perspective. Jesse logged more laps and got more comfortable behind the wheel in those few opportunities before the season ended.
In the off-season Jesse keeps himself racing sharp participating in the online racing platform IRacing. While Jesse enjoys the racing aspect of the IRacing platform, He enjoys creating custom skins for the IRacing platform racers.
Jesse is so successful at it that he has started his own business – IPAINTS Virtual Graphic Designs. To date, Jesse has designed over 700 IRacing designs for customers all over the USA and Europe.
For the ’22 season Jesse has a Bicknell Sportsman Modified that has a successful history, It is a 4x time winning chassis that his father steered in 2020 the Grandview Speedway to 4 feature wins. This car selection allows Kevin to help Jesse with adjustments as the season progresses.
Jesse has an Open Sportsman engine and a 604 Crate in a spare car at his disposal for the ’22 season. The plan for Jesse in ’22 is to race weekly in the Open Sportsman events at the Grandview Speedway. As time and resources allow when 602 Crates are on the schedule, you may see Jesse run both divisions on those nights.
The 117 Team has plans to do some traveling during the summer on the Short Track Super Series. Kevin can take his new Bicknell #117 Modified with a fresh 430 engine for Modified competition and the plan is to bring Jesse along to race in the companion Short Track Super Series 602 Crate events.
An upcoming event at Georgetown Speedway on May 13 is marked as the 117 Team’s next travel event. Kevin has purchased a new InTect Enclosed Trailer so the team can safely haul 2 Modifieds to the travel series events.
Ron Seltman has joined the 117 team for the ’22 season. Ron owns Fast Four Racing Shocks that services many of the racers in the industry. Ron’s Fast Four Racing Shocks are considered a leader in shock technology and performance. This season Ron will be helping Team 117 as a crew chief at the track and in the shop. His leadership will help Kevin, Jesse and Brian every night that the Hirthler team pulls into the race track.
Ron will be taking care of weekly shock service and maintenance for the Hirthler stable of Modifieds. Ron’s biggest impact to the team is his vision at the track, his watchful eye on Jesse, Kevin and Brian while in competition. Ron can study behavior characteristics of the cars at the track and help with changes that can lead to performance gains for all 3 of the Hirthler Racing stable of Modifieds.
With a few races into the season Jesse has certainly proved he deserves that “Young Gun” label. Jesse is 3 for 3 in qualifying for all of the Sportsman / 602 Crate events run at the Grandview Speedway. At the Bruce Rogers Memorial event, Jesse made a stunning late race drive in the consolation to put the Sportsman 117 into the A main.
On Saturday April 23, Jesse finished 8th and ran in the top 5 in the early part of the A Main. Brian Hirthler in the 4* Modified won the feature and raced Jesse for several laps before moving forward and scoring a popular win in the Open Sportsman Point Series Opener.
In the companion 602 Crate event run later in the evening, Jesse qualified and did a start and park in the A main. It will not be long before we see Jesse in victory lane this season at the Grandview Speedway.
The next generation of quarter midget graduates are here. Jesse Hirthler, Kaitlyn Bailey, Tanner VanDoren, and Logan Watt are quickly a few that come to mind. If you are at the track, Keep an eye on these kids. They are the future of the sport and will soon be names that we are all talking about.
The Team 117 is very appreciative of the support that they receive in racing. Joyce and Craig Hirthler, Brian and Kevin’s parents continue to support the entire team. Special Thanks to all of the people who turn wrenches on the 117 / 4* cars in the pit area on race day.