Busy Week Ahead For Grandview; Practice Thursday, Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker Saturday
Story By: JEFFREY AHLUM / GRANDVIEW SPEEDWAY – BECHTELSVILLE, PA – The wait is finally over. The opening of a brand-new season is always one of the most anticipated events of each year.
So, when the green flag drops on Saturday night April 1 at Grandview Speedway, it will begin the 61st consecutive season of stock car racing at the one-third mile high banked clay raceway, all under the direction of the founding Rogers family.
The special Opening Night event will be the 6th annual VP Racing Fuels Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker, featuring Big Block/Small Block Modifieds racing 50-laps for $7500 to win and $1000 to take the green flag. The winning driver will also get a guaranteed starting spot in the September 16 Freedom 76.
Prior to the Opening Night festivities, the annual Free-to-the-Public practice session will be held on Thursday evening, March 30. An all-day rain last Saturday, March 25 forced the open practice session to be rescheduled to the mid-week date, ensuring drivers some track time to test their racer cars before the official beginning of competition on Saturday, April 1.
For the practice on March 30, pit gates will open at 3 pm. and the practice, open to all classes, will run from 6 until 10 pm. Pit admission is $35 and no license is required. Grandstand admission is totally free for spectators wishing to catch some of the new race cars in preparation for the opener.
Anyone who purchased a season pass may also mark their seat on Thursday evening starting at 6 pm.
The VP Racing Fuels Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker is run annually to honor the late track owner and promoter who helped his father build the track, then along with his family run it for over 50 years, taking it to national prominence before his death in 2017.
Scoring a win on Opening Day has always been considered a special event, as first of all it is a traditional race being one that is always remembered, and for the driver who wins, a great start to his season. In recent years, the driver who wins has the honor of winning the race run in remembrance of Bruce Rogers, the man who made it happen at Grandview Speedway for over five decades.
Taking a look at the history of Opening Day at Grandview, there have been 37 different drivers that have reached victory lane, and the story can be told in two separate chapters. No driver was able to repeat as an Opening Day winner from the first race in 1963 won by Lauden Potts until 22 seasons later, when Fred Rahmer won the 1984 opener after winning in 1981.
The list of names that won in the early years included Potts, Dick Grimley, Red Coffin, Chris Skias, Bucky Williams, Charley Gilmore, Warren Mutter, Paul Fitzcharles, Ed Mumford, Dave Kelly, Mike Erb, Ronnie Peck, Mike Geiser, Francis Hardner, Pete Damiani, Russ Smith, Larry Solomon, Rahmer, and Doug Hoffman.
These drivers were tops in their era and were very important in building the foundation of Grandview Speedway history. After this era, the list of winners became shorter, as several drivers began to dominate the winner’s circle on Opening Night.
Leading the list with the most Opening Night wins is Duane Howard, who has recorded eight first night victories. Howard won an incredible four in a row (2006-2009) and six out of seven openers between 2006 and 2012. His streak was interrupted by a John Willman win in 2010. Howard was also an Opening Night winner in 2015 and 2021.
Craig Von Dohren has seven victories in the season opener and is the defending Bruce Rogers Memorial winner. Von Dohren’s wins have been spread out over a period of time. Von Dohren’s first win in the opener was in 1982, and followed it up with wins in 1990, 1992, 1995, 1998 and eighteen seasons later in 2016, as well as last season in 2022.
Jeff Strunk has six opener wins, the first coming in 1996. He also dominated at the beginning of the new century when he won five out of six season openers between 2000 and 2006. Only a Meme DeSantis win in 2003 stopped his streak.
Other drivers with multiple wins in the opener include Tom Mayberry (1980, 1999), Davey Wenger (1987, 1988), Meme DeSantis (2003, 2013) and Stewart Friesen (2014, 2018).
Drivers who also took single wins since 1985 include Dennis Thomas, Charlie Eckert, Rick Schaffer, Billy Schinkel, Kenny Brightbill, Paul Koch, Randy Bailey, John Willman, Kevin Hirthler, Matt Sheppard and Tim Buckwalter.
The last five seasons, the opener has been expanded to include Big Block Modifieds in addition to the track’s regular Small Block Modifieds running in a combination event. Winning the first five VP Racing Fuels Bruce Rogers Memorials were Stewart Friesen, Matt Sheppard, Timmy Buckwalter, Duane Howard, and last year Craig Von Dohren. All the other openers were for the 358 modifieds except the very first race in 1963 which was a Big Block event.
In addition to the Modifieds, the Sportsman will also be a part of the Opening Night activities running a full program with qualifying and feature action.
Jared Umbenhauer won the first two for the class (2012, 2013), followed by Brett Kressley winning the next two in (2014, 2015). Craig Whitmoyer was a winner in 2016 before the Hirthler brothers took over the next four seasons, with Brian winning (2017, 2020) and Kevin (2018, 2019). For the 2021 season it was Kyle Lilick grabbing the opening victory, followed by Jordan Henn scoring a win in 2022.
VP Racing Fuels is the sponsor of the Season Opener and will have a VP fuel truck on hand at the track for this event, fully stocked. The VP Fuel truck will be on hand selling fuel as well as VP lubricants and apparel.
VP Fuels is advising all race teams that for this program they can do pre-orders with distributor Road Runner Fuels by contacting them at 717.587.1693. There will be free shipping charges for this day.
Grandview Speedway management has announced that new for this season, the Opening Night program will now be sanctioned by NASCAR and will be the first point race of the new campaign for both the Modified and Sportsman divisions toward both the track and NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Championships.
As was announced earlier, only the driver is required to hold a NASCAR license for competition during the season, with owners and crew members having the option to enter the pits as members or pay a non-member fee. Management does encourage purchasing the NASCAR license for the additional insurance coverage.
For the Bruce Rogers Memorial event, all drivers are welcome to compete as in years past, and if any driver is not a track regular, the Speedway will cover the cost of the $25 temporary NASCAR driver license for this one night of competition.
The feature event will qualify 24 cars to start. There will be no provisional or guaranteed starters added of any kind. Heat races will be lined up by a straight draw, consolation qualifiers will follow to set the field for the 50-lap championship feature.
There is no entry fee for this special event, however drivers are encouraged to pre-enter by calling or texting 484.256.4375, providing the driver’s name, contact information and phone number. Drivers are also reminded to visit the speedway website to print and fill out a W-9 form and bring it with them to the track on Opening Night. The W-9 form must be provided to the pit office to be eligible for drivers to draw for heat race starting spots.
The T.P. Truck Equipment Sportsman will also begin their point season on the Opening Night program in a full show which includes qualifying events and a 25-lap feature race.
Information and car rules are listed for the VP Racing Fuels Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker on the speedway website under the Bruce Rogers Memorial tab.
Rev. Don Kerns will present Da Rev’s tailgate worship and communion service from 4-4:45 at the meet and greet area outside the main gate on April 1. Bring your own tailgate and chair and join in the worship service. Pastor Don will be on hand starting at 3:45 pm. There will not be a meet and greet with the drivers for the opener.
Race time on Opening Night is 6 pm, which will be the starting time for all Saturday night programs for the month of April. Pit gates open at 1 pm, grandstand gates open at 4 pm, followed by the drivers meeting and position draw at 4 pm, then warm-ups at 5 pm.
Grandstand admission for adults is $30, students 12-16 with ID are $20, while children 11 and under are admitted free. Pit admission is $40 for NASCAR members, and $45 for non-members, and again no license is required.
Saturday, April 8 is set aside as a rain date if needed for the opener. However, if not needed, then it will be a two-division program under the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series banner for the T.P. Trailer 358 Modifieds and T.P. Truck Equipment Sportsman. The program will consist of qualifying races leading up to the 30-lap Modified and 25-lap Sportsman main events.