NorCal Racing

Kyle Larson wins Thunder on Hill event; Jeff Strunk also gets victory

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Written by By Randy Kane

NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson made it back-to-back victories, again capturing the Pennsylvania 410 Sprint Car Speedweek checkered flag in the special 35-lap $7,000-to-win Thunder on The Hill Racing Series main event Tuesday evening in front of a capacity crowd at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville.

In the companion 30-lap $3,000-to-win 358 modified main event, 10-time track champion Jeff Strunk, the 49-year-old from Boyertown, authored a win that was most impressive after starting from 23rd spot in the 25-car field.

“It was an awesome crowd tonight and it seemed like a pretty exciting race, as well, at the least from my seat,” said the 25-year-old Larson. “This race track is a place I liked racing at since the first time I came here. Tonight you could race up high or go low and even down the middle if you needed to. It’s just awesome to be racing here. I love coming to Pennsylvania. It’s a great place to race.”

After a blind redraw, Greg Hodnett started outside the front row and became the race leader with the green.

Larson, a native of Elk Grove, Calif., started fourth in the 24-car field.

By Lap 6, Larson went to the bottom lane in lapped traffic, with Hodnett up high on the high-banked third-mile dirt track promoted by the Rogers family.

A strong run off the second corner saw Larson take command down the back part of the speedway.

A Lap 9 restart saw Larson and Hodnett thrilling the fans, running side-by-side, clicking off the laps, as Larson ran his Finley Farms Special No. 57 Priority Aviation-backed entry rim-riding up at the outside boiler plate fence.

“There was such a fine line there,” Larson said. “Running up that high, there was always a risk I’d get it into the wall, plus it seemed like every time I went up high I’d see Hodnett right there on my inside. It had me a little bit nervous. I did get stuck behind a couple of lapped cars, but things worked out.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series racer Christopher Bell, 23, reeled in the leaders and turned things into an exciting three-car race for the lead, but Bell headed pit side after bringing out a caution due to a flat tire with three laps left.

Larson outran Hodnett to the checkered, with Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart and Danny Dietrich following.

In the 358 modified main, Ryan Watt of Boyertown jumped to the early lead, followed by Jared Umbenhauer. On a Lap 4 restart, 10-time track champion Craig Von Dohren, the 54-year-old from Oley, made it a three-car race for the lead.

Watt remained in front until a Lap 21 restart, with Strunk joining the battle for the top spot.

When racing resumed, Strunk slipped by Von Dohren and drove by Umbenhauer on Lap 22. Strunk, behind the wheel of the Glenn Hyneman-owned No. 126, took to the high side on Lap 23 and went around Watt to steal the top spot. It was Strunk’s first Thunder on The Hill victory since 2015.

Watt settled for the runner-up finish, with Von Dohren, Umbenhauer and Shoemakersville resident Doug Manmiller rounding out the top five.

Racing continues Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Grandview Speedway, featuring the 48th annual Firecracker 40 for the late model racers, along with the weekly 358 modified and sportsman regulars.

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