By BOBBY SWEENEY
YORK HAVEN, PA – Stewart Friesen kept Matt Sheppard at bay in the Short Track Super Series race at BAPS Motor Speedway, collecting $10,000 for the York County Nationals victory.
“This one was tough,” Friesen said of winning at BAPS. “We had two runner-ups and gave away the win the last two years, so this feels awesome. We had motor problems in the car we wanted to run, and this one has been our backup for about two months now. We have a lot of depth in our program right now, and we were bad fast all night.”
Rick Laubach launched out to the lead at the start of the 50-lap main, with Stewart Friesen flying from sixth to second in the opening lap and a half. A couple early yellows kept the field together, and Laubach continued to hold steady out front. After the second restart on lap six, Sheppard clawed his way into the top five from twelfth, battling with Jared Umbenhauer, Jeff Strunk, and Duane Howard from 18th.
Throughout the early stages of the race, Laubach continued to hold a steady gap over Friesen, even with restarts mixed in. On lap 15, Laubach’s car abruptly came to a halt, handing the lead over to Friesen. Umbenhauer gave chase to Friesen over the next few short runs, as Sheppard, Strunk, and Howard all swapped spots continuously.
On a lap 25 restart, Howard worked past Umbenhauer for second, and Sheppard followed into third a few laps later. Just after getting to second, Howard started showing smoke, dropping off pace and surrendering to the pits after a few slower laps. Now, Sheppard was in second, but a ways behind Friesen.
When Sheppard took over second from the slowing Howard on lap 31, Friesen’s lead was nearly a full straightaway. This lead slowly shrunk, cut down by over a second with ten laps remaining. However, as lap 40 hit the scoreboard, Friesen was able to stabilize the gap as the top two hit some traffic. Once Friesen cleared the traffic and put some cars between him and Sheppard, it seemed like the win was a lock.
The track had more bite at the end of the main than many do at the end of warmups. This included a big curb on both ends of the track for drivers to lean on, and Friesen found a home up high during the feature.
“The track was awesome tonight,” stated Friesen. “Ripping that cushion in turns one and two was wild, we haven’t gotten a chance to race a track like that since Volusia. I have to thank all the Sprint Car fans down here for coming out and supporting the mud turtles (Modifieds).”
With five laps to go, Billy Pauch Jr. slowed with a flat tire, and Friesen’s lead was erased. Over the final five laps, Friesen hit his marks flawlessly and didn’t give Sheppard any chance to steal the lead. When the checkered flag fell, it was Friesen winning $10,000.
Sheppard reached second with nearly 20 laps to go, but chasing down Friesen isn’t always a task that can be done in that time frame. Sheppard ended up settling for second on the evening.
“We were too equal in open track,” noted Sheppard. “I thought we were catching him pretty good for a while, but I don’t think I was going to get to him. We had a pretty good car, but the redraw (12th) kind of did us in for the night. Can’t complain with a 10th to second, so we’ll roll it on the trailer and head north.”
Umbenhauer was the lone Pennsylvania driver on the podium, backing up his first win at Big Diamond on Friday with a third against the STSS stars.
“Finishing third behind the top two guys in dirt Modifieds is definitely an accomplishment,” Umbenhauer said. “Nothing to hang your head about, this feels like a win to me. I moved around a little in turns three and four as I was having some trouble down there, but we ended up staying up there the whole race and got third.”
Strunk ended up getting fourth while Bachetti regrouped late to complete the top five.
YORK COUNTY NATIONALS RACE SUMMARY – BAPS MOTOR SPEEDWAY JULY 14, 2019
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Velocita South Region Event No. 5 Modified Feature Finish (50 Laps): STEWART FRIESEN, Matt Sheppard, Jared Umbenhauer, Jeff Strunk, Andy Bachetti, Ryan Watt, Billy Pauch, Craig Von Dohren, Billy Pauch Jr., David Van Horn, Jordan Watson, Ryan Krachun, Richie Pratt Jr, Mike Gular, Duane Howard, Brian Hitz, Frank Cozze, Jimmy Horton, Anthony Perrego, Joseph Watson, Brandon Grosso, Rick Laubach, Danny Bouc.
Did Not Start: Nick Mady.