Story By: JEFFREY AHLUM / GRANDVIEW SPEEDWAY – BECHTELSVILLE, PA – The 61st anniversary season of auto racing action at Grandview Speedway moves into the biggest weekend of competition for Modified and Sportsman competitors with the running of the 53rd annual Freedom 76, and the race weekend is the most lucrative of the year for competitors.
On Saturday, September 16 the winner of the Freedom 76 for T.P. Trailer Modifieds will receive $30,061 plus a $1000 bonus from the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series increasing the winner’s take to a cool $31,061, and if the driver competed in all the Saturday NASCAR point races at the track this season, an additional bonus of $1000 will be awarded, making it possible for a driver to win $32,061 in this year’s Freedom 76!
On Friday September 15 the winner of the Freedom 38 for T.P. Truck Equipment Sportsman will earn $2000 plus receive a $500 bonus from Lisa’s Landscaping of Hatfield, Pa., in addition to the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series also posting a $500 bonus, increasing the winner’s share to $3000, and if the driver competed in all the Saturday NASCAR point races at the track this season, an additional $500 bonus will be awarded, making for a possible $3500 to win the Freedom 38!
Lap sponsorships have been collected from generous fans and local businesses that have totaled over $3000 for drivers leading laps in the Freedom 76. In addition, over $4200 in bonus money has been posted for the big race, bringing the total to over $7200 in lap and bonus money for drivers running the Freedom 76.
Posting a bonus for the drivers this weekend, Bob and Ann Oliver from Competition Carburetion have posted a $100 voucher for both the T.P. Trailer Modified and T.P. Truck Equipment Sportsman divisions. The bonus will be given to the driver turning the fastest lap at any time during each division’s respective feature event during the Freedom weekend.
Throughout the season Competition Carburetion awards cash to racers who turn the fastest lap in their main event. All winners of the Competition Carburetion Fast Lap Award are entered into a random drawing at the end of the season. Over $1200 in cash and prizes will be given out, and the Grand Prize winner will receive a check for $500!
For the race drivers and teams, the Freedom 76 has become a must attend race, as the prize money for winning the prestigious race can make the year for the winning driver along with the bragging rights to say they won the Freedom 76. To put what winning the Freedom 76 means into perspective, it means so much to the driver who wins it each year, as it is like winning the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, World Series, Super Bowl, or the Stanley Cup. It takes so much work, preparation, strategy, planning, and all the fortunes of a good race night to win the Freedom 76, especially since you only get ONE chance each season to grab the grand prize.
Promoter Bruce Rogers started three big money extra distance races for his drivers for the 1971 season, to give his loyal racers some extra cash as a reward for their support. One of these special events was the very first Freedom 76. Run as a 50-lap race the season before, Rogers wanted to give his fans and racers something more, and with the soon to be celebrated United States Bicentennial coming in 1976, the idea was created to have a race based on that theme, and so the birth of the Freedom 76.
This year’s 53rd annual race will be paying the race winner $31,061, with the number 61 signifying the anniversary year of the track’s operation. The first race in 1971 paid winner Ed Mumford a large at the time $1000 to win, with the first five figure winner’s share coming in 1987 with Davey Wenger taking home a pay envelope for $10,000. The largest winner’s purse came in 2012, when Bruce and Theresa Rogers celebrated Grandview Speedway’s 50th anniversary season by paying the Freedom 76 winner Jeff Strunk $50,000!
The list of drivers that have picked up a win in the Freedom 76 is long and varied, with the names on the list a who’s who in northeast Modified racing. All time there have been 27 different drivers in the 52 events to date that have reached the hallowed ground of Freedom 76 Victory Lane. Of the 27 different drivers, only seven of those drivers have scored more than one victory in the classic event.
Jeff Strunk has become the man to beat in Freedom 76 competition, as he has won the prestigious event more than any other driver scoring the win eight times, including winning the race five times in the last eleven years. Strunk’s wins have been in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2012 (Grandview’s 50th season of operation), 2013, 2016, 2017, and most recently in the race’s 50th anniversary running in 2020.
Second most in Freedom 76 wins is a tie between two drivers, Craig Von Dohren and Billy Pauch. Von Dohren, the track’s all-time leading feature winner, scored his first Freedom win in 1985, but did not get the second win until sixteen years later in 2001. Other wins followed in 2006, 2008, 2015, and his most recent was last year’s 2022 championship event. Billy Pauch is tied for second most Freedom 76 wins also with six and is a driver who was only a Grandview regular for a short time in his career. Pauch picked up his wins in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998, and his final victory was in 2000.
Third most in Freedom 76 wins is Duane Howard with five Freedom 76 checkered flags. For Howard, a six-time track champion, his wins have also been spread out over a period of time, with the first Freedom win coming in 1993, followed with wins in 1997, 1999, 2011, and his most recent in 2018.
The very first race in 1971 saw track champion Ed Mumford score the win in what was at the time the longest race in track history. It was Mumford’s 13th win of the fourteen he would win that season on his way to the title. Mumford would come back in 1975 to claim his second and final Freedom win.
Other multi-time winners of the event include Meme DeSantis who is a three-time winner, with wins coming in 2002, 2009, and 2010. The now Sprint Car Hall of Famer Fred Rahmer also scored two Freedom wins early in his career, with wins in 1981 and 1983.
Drivers that have recorded that one precious win in a Freedom 76 include Glenn Fitzcharles in 1972, Roger Knappenberger in 1973, Mike Erb in 1974, Pete Damiani in 1976, Doug Carlyle in 1977, Bobby Hauer in 1978, and John Blackley in 1979 completing the decade of the 1970’s.
Single winners in the 1980’s include Paul Lotier in 1980, Smokey Warren in 1982, Doug Hoffman in 1984, Tom Mayberry in 1986, Davey Wenger in 1987, and Billy Schinkel in 1989.
Moving to the single winners in the 1990’s, the drivers to win include Kenny Brightbill in 1990, Chip Slocum in 1994, and Donny Erb in 1995.
More recent winners of one Freedom 76 in the 2000’s include Ray Swinehart in 2005, Stewart Friesen in 2014, Mike Gular in 2019, and the 2021 winner Ryan Godown.
The 2022 edition was a classic Grandview duel that went down to the wire, with 2022 Track Champion Craig Von Dohren holding off a furious late race challenge from this season’s 2023 Track Champion Brett Kressley to score the Freedom 76 victory. Jeff Strunk, Billy Pauch Jr., and Kyle Weiss rounded out the top five finishers.
Drivers who have won this season who will be in action this Saturday include Mike Gular who is the leading feature winner with four checkered flags to his credit, Brett Kressley with three wins, Craig Von Dohren, Doug Manmiller and Jeff Strunk (1 Thunder win) with two wins each, along with one-time winners Eric Biehn, Nate Brinker, Ryan Watt, Jared Umbenhauer, Tim Buckwalter, and Brian Hirthler (I Thunder on the Hill win).
Last season over seventy drivers competed in the Freedom 76, and this year’s event should see the Grandview regulars battle it out with a whole host of invaders for the big championship prize. It should be another edge of your seat night of racing action for the final T.P. Trailer Modified race of the season.
As has been a tradition for many seasons, lap money will be paid to the drivers leading the laps in the Freedom 76, along with several extra special awards to include:
FEATURE WINNER’S BONUS – $1000 – From NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series
FEATURE WINNER’S BONUS – $1000 – From NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series if winner has competed in all Saturday NASCAR point races at Grandview Speedway during 2023 racing season.
LOW DOWN & DIRTY CASH DASH – $1276 – Sponsored by the Low, Down & Dirty Radio program for qualifying heat winners and guaranteed starters.
HARD CHARGER – $661 From Bobby Gunther-Walsh and his sponsors – The following sponsors have contributed to the Hard Charger Award – Res Q Natural Supplements, Just Born Candies makers of Mike & Ike candies, Hot Tamales, and those famous marshmallow Peeps. The driver advancing the most positions in the Freedom 76 from their scheduled starting spot to their finishing position receives the Hard Charger Award.
BOB HILBERT SPORTSWEAR CUSTOM WINNER’S JACKET – To the Freedom 76 Feature Winner from Bob Hilbert Sportswear, Boyertown, Pa.
LYNN HIMES GREAT EFFORT AWARD – $100 Sponsored by T.P. Trailers & Truck Equipment & the Perkins Family (presented to the highest finishing driver NOT in the top 10 in Grandview Points) in memory of Carole Lynn Himes, a long-time familiar face at Grandview Speedway
TRACK OFFICIALS HARD LUCK AWARD – $225 Free Engine re-sealing for 2024 season from Grandview track officials (must be within 50-mile radius)
GRANDVIEW SPEEDWAY WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING PERSONS FOR THE BONUSES FOR THE 10th ANNUAL FREEDOM 38 SPORTSMAN CHAMPIONSHIP……..
FEATURE WINNER’S BONUS – LISA’S LANDSCAPING – $500 From Lisa’s Landscaping, Hatfield, Pa.
FEATURE WINNER’S BONUS – $500 From NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series
FEATURE WINNER’S BONUS – $500 From NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series if winner has competed in all Saturday NASCAR point races at Grandview Speedway during 2023 racing season.
BOB HILBERT SPORTSWEAR CUSTOM WINNER’S JACKET – To the Freedom 38 Feature Winner from Bob Hilbert Sportswear, Boyertown, Pa.
The Freedom 76 weekend begins this Friday, September 15 with the 10th annual Freedom 38 Sportsman Championship race, along with qualifying events, plus practice time for Modified drivers wishing to participate in the Freedom 76.
Friday’s program will be known as Fans for Five Friday as management has rolled back the grandstand admission to just $5, while children ages 9 and under will be free of charge.
On Friday, pit gates open at 3 pm with grandstand gates opening at 5:30 pm. drivers meeting at 5:30 pm. with the pill draw following the drivers meeting. Warmups are at 6:15 pm. and racing at 7:30 pm. Pit admission on Friday is $40, and no license is required. There is no rain date for the Friday event.
On Saturday, September 16, the 53rd annual Freedom 76 will be run for the 358 Modifieds. The program will include qualifying heats, consolation races, Low Down and Dirty cash dash, along with the Schaeffer Racing Minuteman 20 leading to the 76-lap championship feature.
Pit gates open at 9 am for inspections, fans will be able to enter the Grandstand areas between 9 am. and 12 Noon to reserve seats with blankets, grandstand ticket windows open at 3 pm. pill draw for position is at 4:30 pm. with the drivers meeting at 5 pm. warm-ups are at 6 pm. with racing starting at 7 pm.
Adult Grandstand tickets on Saturday will be $40, while students ages 10-15 with ID are $20, with children ages 9 and under admitted for free. Pit admission will be $45, and no license is required. There will be no advanced tickets sold for this event, and the rain date is Saturday, September 23.
For the Freedom 38 & 76, the tire rules for the event are as follows, ANY American Racer tire and compound, but it must be the Grandview Speedway tread pattern. Further rules are available on the speedway website or again, any questions please call Cliff Quinn at 484-357-2587 or Ed Scott at 610-298-2408. Entry forms for the Modified competitors are available on the speedway website under the Freedom 76 tab.
All race teams are reminded that, as has been the case all season, there is no fuel truck on site so plan accordingly. American Racer tires will be available at the racetrack this weekend.