RPW Column: Grandview Opens 61st Season With 78-Car Practice Thursday; Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker On Deck
Column By: TOM WENNER / RPW – BECHTELSVILLE, PA – On Thursday, the Grandview Speedway opened the gates for the 61st season of racing with their annual practice night.
The weather was outstanding during the day with the sun shining bright and a cool breeze in the air.
Grandview Speedway was given a new lease on life when the deal with Copart fell apart over the winter. The entire Rogers family should be applauded for their efforts this offseason after the deal broke down and the family decided to keep the race track operational.
The track has continued their offseason improvements by installing new LED lighting in the pit area. The track pit area is noticeably brighter and I am sure that the racers and owners will appreciate the added improvements made by the Rogers family.
There is something about the smell of race fuel at the start of the season that gets your juices flowing. As cars were being called to the track at 600pm, That smell of VP Race Fuel was in the air. A sign that spring is here as race car engines were firing up.
Kenny Rogers, Brad Missimer and the entire Grandview Speedway track crew had the race track in amazing condition for the start of the season. When the clock ticked towards 600p, the call was made for the racers that the track was ready. This started a non-stop 4 hour practice session.
With 78 cars lining the pit area, There was a constant flow of cars coming from the pit area. The practice session is a free to the public event, while many race fans braved a chilly evening to catch a glimpse of the new cars before the Saturday Bruce Rogers event.
23 Grandview Speedway Spec 358 Modifieds and 31 602 Sportsman cars spent time on the track. Mike Gular had the 2a, Jeff Strunk had a new Keystone Racing 126, Doug Manmiller had the Jason Miller 44 flying, Louden Reimert was pitside with the Don Grebe 33 Big Block Modified, Eddie Strada had a beautiful new Numedia Dragway 33, Kevin, Brian and Jesse Hirthler were in their usual spot with 3 brand new beautiful rides, and Frank Cozze had the famed 44 pitside.
Kenny Gilmore debuted a new throwback Dennis Bailey orange and white 81, Nate Brinker debuted the new Keith Hoffman Racing #4rent Hoffman Discount Parts Bicknell, and Bobby Gunther Walsh was on track with a new car that continues to be loaded with marketing support from all over the region.
Ray Swinehart was practicing a pair of Weller #942’s, A Spec 358 and 602 Sportsman that will be used for travel duty. The Leiby family had the usual army of race cars in the pit area. Jesse’s 456, Jimmy making the move from Sportsman to Spec 358 racing this season in the 9L, and Molly Struss was behind the wheel of #10 Leiby 602 Sportsman.
Some other Spec 358 Modified drivers in attendance were Craig Whitmoyer, Justin Grim, Chris Esposito who is making a move to a Spec 358 Modified this season, Tommy Scheetz Sr., and Mike Laise.
Frank Cozze clocked the best lap at 14.312 followed by Ray Swinehart 14.543, Nate Brinker 14.569, Jimmy Leiby 14.585, and Kevin Hirthler 14.592.
The 602 Sportsman had a full field of sail panel sportsman drivers. Decker Swinehart, TJ Mayberry son of Tom Mayberry making the move from Speedstr’s over to 602 Sportsman, Andy Ressler, Former modified racer Addison Meitzler who was driving the Rick Fenstermacher owned #712, Cody Manmiller, Ronnie Soloman, grandson of former racer Ron Soloman, Kenny Bock, Nate Horn, Katelyn Bailey, Troy Gibson, Mark Gaugler, and Mark Kemmerer are just a few who were on track.
Cody Manmiller turned the fastest lap of the 602 practice sessions at 14.827, followed by Mark Kemmerer 15.054, Decker Swinehart 15.073, Nathan Mohr 15.114, and Kevin Olenick 15.157.
Briggs Danner had his USAC Midget on hand and was turning quality laps during the night. Danner will see duty in USAC East Coast 360 Sprint open wheel competition this season with the Hogue #39 Race Team.
2 Winged 305 Sprint Cars were in attendance. 2 600 Modified turned laps as well. A pair of vintage cars were shaking down their rides. Right from the 1960’s was an original 1937 Ford owned by Blandon, PA’s Russ Delp.
The Outlaw Racing Series Enduro group was wheel represented as they had a good dozen cars turning laps all night.
All of this sets the stage for amazing night of racing to come on Saturday, April 1st – The Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker 50 with $7500 to Win, $1000 to start. The Sportsman will race on the card as well. You can expect a great field of cars as invaders who are slated to compete include Rick Laubach, Mike Maresca, Alex Yankowski and Mike Mahaney.