Gular Wins 49th Freedom 76’er

By: Mark Hackett/NRN

The crowd arrived early on Saturday and the tailgating lasted into the night on the grounds of Grandview speedway as a packed house was in attendance for the 49th annual Freedom 76er.  63 modifieds were in the pits for this year’s events.  At the end of the night it was returning home town favorite and last year’s Grandview champion Mike Gular taking the checker on lap 76 for the $25,000 check.

Frank Cozze and Rick Laubach led the 31 car field to green.  Cozze was able to hold off an intense charge from Laubach for the first 18 laps.  The move of the race was on lap 19 as the battle for the lead between Cozze and Laubach reached lap traffic when third place Mike Gular saw his opportunity and jumped to the outside and was able to pass both Cozze and Laubach for the lead just before a yellow flag came out.  From there Gular checked out from the field as he negotiated lapped traffic while the second place battle between Laubach and Cozze continued to rage on for 70 laps of the 76er.  Laubach made it past Cozze twice only to have both taken back by in opportune yellow flags.  Finally on a lap 69 restart Laubach made 2 for 1 pass from the outside of both Manmiller and Cozze to get back into second place.  A couple of restarts bunched the field but Mike Gular was ready and maintained his 1 second lead on all the single file restarts and took the checkered on the biggest win of his life for the $25,000 Freedom 76er.  In victory lane an overwhelmed Gular stated “winning this race has been dream since I was a little kid.  I grew up here and this means a lot.”

Gular was followed by Rich Laubach, Doug Manmiller, Frank Cozze, Duane Howard, Craig Von Dohren, Jeff Strunk, Jared Umbenhauer, Mike Liskowski and Bobby Varin to round out the top 10.

The 6 qualifying heat races were won by Brett Kressley, Colt Harris, Nick Rochinski, Ryan Beltz, Ray Swinehart and Bobby Varin.  

The 10 lap cash dash was won by Duane Howard over Frank Cozze and the 6 heat winners.  Unfortunately Nich Rochiniski was unable to make the call for the cash dash or the 76er feature event which put an end to an outstanding effort from the Big Diamond Regular.

The Minuteman 20 B Main was won by Bobby Varin in Brett Kressley’s backup 19V car.

76er Footnotes

Craig Von Dohren overcame a bad pill draw and qualifying position to make an outstanding run through a tough field of competitors.  Von Dohren started dead last (10th) in Heat 2 and finished 7th on the heavy track.  He won his 10 lap consolation race from the 2nd position to get 13th position in the 20 lap Minuteman B main.  In the Minuteman Von Dohren got the 4th position which secured him the 29th starting position in the 76er.  From the 29th starting spot Von Dohren was able to negotiate to a 6th place finish.  Von Dohren ran 118 laps and front to back all night long to a 6th place finish in the 76er capping an outstanding effort by the 1C driver and team.

Grandview had 4 of their new young gun rookie drivers qualify at their very first 76er.

Alex Yankowski qualified for the 76er in dramatic fashion by making a last lap pass for the 6th position in the Minuteman 20 B main.  He was 1st alternative but got the 31st position when Nick Rochinski broke in the 20C.  Yankowski added a 24th place finish in Grandview’s biggest race to his 10th place finish in the 2019 season points standings.


Dylan Swinehart started in the 8th position in the 1st heat and finished with a strong 2nd place qualifing position to move into the 76er feature from the heats.  In his first 76er he was able to finish 21th place and add that to his first modified feature win during the 2019 season.

Richie Hitzler drew 3rd in the 3rd heat and qualified for the 76er with a 2nd place finish in his heat race.  Hitzler in the Geezer Fanelli #22 started his first 76er in 15th position.  He was able to hold 15th for 50 laps but ran out of fuel and finished his first 76er with a 20th place finish.  Hitzler reflected “We drew 3rd on the pill pull and jumped right to 2nd in the heat, car got a little free so went into defense mode and held on to second.  As I was pulling over the scale I was screaming with joy.  This is my first year in anything bigger than a 600.  This is an awesome way to finish my first year.”

Nate Brinker had a very eventful weekend and ran both his 14 sportsmen entry and his brand new 14b modified entry.  On Friday night Nate started on the pole of the 38er but had a tight setup and finished a disappointing 21th position.  In addition to racing the sportsmen 14 on Friday night, he also ran the 14b modified for the first time in 3 practice sessions which turned out to be the key to getting the new car setup for the 76er.  Brinker noted “We picked up this car from Syracuse last week, got the motor in on Wednesday, fire the car on Thursday and brought it to the test session last night.  This was my first time in a 358 and we had no expectations for the 76er.  We pulled pill # 1 and our goal was to finish top 4 and we qualified for the 76er with a 3rd in the heat.  Running with these big guys at Grandview is an honor and a privilege.”

2019 Freedom 76er Results

Grandview 9/14/19 Modified Feature Results

1.) Mike Gular ( started 7th)

2.) Rick Laubach (started 2nd)

3.) Doug Manmiller (23)

4.) Frank Cozze (1)

5.) Duane Howard (5)

6.) Craig Von Dohren (29)

7.) Jeff Strunk (21)

8.) Jared Umbenhauer (9)

9.) Mike Lisowski (8)

10.) Bobby Varin (26)

11.) Danny Erb (24)

12.) Brandon Grosso (20)

13.) Kenny Gilmore (25)

14.) Briggs Danner (12)

15.) Richie Pratt (28)

16.) Jimmy Reppert (18)

17.) Billy Osmon (27)

18.) Ray Swinehart (13)

19.) Brett Kressley (14)

20.) Richie Hitzler (15)

21.) Dylan Swinehart (16)

22.) Neal Williams (5)

23.) Ryan Lillick (11)

24.) Alex Yankowski (31)

25.) Nate Brinker (19)

26.) Colt Harris (22)

27.) T.J Lilly (17)

28.) Ryan Watt (28)

29.) Billy Pauch Jr (3)

30.) Matt Stangle (6)

31.) Ryan Beltz (4)



Nick Rochinski



Ryan Grim

Clay Butler

Tim Buckwalter

John Willman

Kyle Weiss

Kevin Hirthler

Glen Strunk

Ron Kline

Don Norris

Dave Dissinger

Keith Hoffman

Ryan Anderson

Mike Laise

Dave Dissinger

Danny Bouc

Frank Yankowski

Louden Reimert

Craig Whitmoyer

Kyle Lillick

Bobby Gunther Walsh

Dominic Buffalino

Jesse Leiby

Steve Swinehart

Ron Meyers

Joe Funk

Justin Grim

Kory Fleming

Brian Hirthler

Steve Young

Ryan Kratchun

Glen Owens

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