Strong Second for Laubach, Notes and Quotes from Freedom 76 – DTD Exclusive

By KEN BRUCE

Rick Laubach had a 2018 he would like to forget. Laubach never got up to speed last season due to a variety of issues on and off the track. It was one of worst years of his career for the Hellertown, Pa.,  driver, but dealing with stress sometimes makes you stronger and Laubach has bounced back in 2019 to look like the championship driver we have all come to know over his all-star caliber career.

Although not quite back to where he would like to be, Laubach has made great strides this season to once again become a threat wherever he races. This season, Laubach took on a new challenge as he switched his Saturday night racing venue to the Grandview Speedway for the first time in his career. Although a seasoned veteran, switching up tracks, especially one with the reputation and competition that Grandview throws at you weekly, is no small task. 

At season’s end, Laubach fashioned himself quite well and finished a very respectable fifth in the chase for the championship and also picking up a win along the way. Coming into the season ending Freedom 76 race, Laubach knew he had figured out what he needed to compete weekly at the Bechtelsville, Pa., dirt oval and parlayed that knowledge into a strong second-place finish in the track’s marquis event.

Starting on the outside pole, Laubach never dropped back further than fourth all race long and after an almost 40 lap battle with Frank Cozze managed to finally get by the wily veteran and second-place running Doug Manmiller to finish a strong second.




“It was a good finish for us, second-place pays good money so we’ll take it,” cited a happy but also disappointed Laubach standing by his car after the race. “It was a good run, obviously you want to win but finishing second in a race of this magnitude is good. I knew we could run good here and compete once I got my good motor back and tonight it showed.

“Basically we came here the first three weeks to see what we had and we ended up with three top five finishes and ended up leading the points.  Then we figured we might as well stay here and that was probably the worst position you could be in if you are racing here. Because you have to start last every week and that’s when you realize the real Grandview and how hard it is to race here weekly.”

Even after a strong maiden season here at Grandview Speedway, Laubach is unsure of what the team plans to do in 2020, but knows if they do decide to return, the team will be better prepared in knowing what they need to improve on next year.

“We accomplished every goal we set for ourselves racing here at Grandview this season, except for maybe winning the points, but in all reality that wasn’t a realistic goal,” explained Laubach. “We earned our provisionals, we were able to get a win and I think we earned respect racing here weekly so next year we can come here if we want or we can go wherever next year. We know what we need here if we do decide to come back. We’ll have two motors ready to go and we have new cars coming so we’ll definitely be geared up for it. We used this season as building season and it ended up pretty good.

“At the end of last year, we decided to call last season a write-off. You know the troubles my parents are having health-wise and we lost Lori (Herrman, car owner’s Gary Hermann’s wife). This team has had a tough couple of years and it’s still not completely over yet, but things are taking their course and so are we. I have four cars in the shop and we’ve won with all four of them so things have been pretty decent and I am looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Manmiller Happy with Third-Place Finish

After drawing the 24th starting spot for the Freedom 76, Doug Manmiller knew he had his work cut out for him come feature time. Even though it is a long race, starting that far back in a field stacked with so much talent is a tough obstacle to overcome.

Manmiller cautiously worked his way through the field and at the end of the 76 lap race found himself with a strong third-place finish.

“We’re happy with a third-place finish after starting 24th,” explained a happy Manmiller. “Starting back where we did, we made some last minute set-up changes to make it better for the end and fortunately they worked. We could’ve used the yellow at a certain point but not used the yellow at another point, but what can you do. My biggest mistake was showing them that the outside could work and that ended up backfiring on me when Rick (Laubach) went around us both there at the end but that’s what good drivers do.”

Starting that far back, you have to formulate a plan to get to the front without using up your car at the same time. Being the veteran driver that he is, Manmiller worked his to near perfection.

“You have to be cautiously aggressive,” explained Manmiller. “I mean you have to go because your not sure how the track is going to go till the end, but at the same time you have to be cautious because you have to have all four wheels on it at the end when you get there. That’s how I was.  I lifted a couple of times and a couple of guys behind me got by me and then as the race went on I got back by them. Starting position is key, but hey, we can’t all start up front.  Somebody has to start 24th and tonight it was me. All in all, it was a good run for the team and we’ll take it.”

76 Notes

A total of 63 small-block Modifieds signed in for the 49th running of the Freedom 76. Brett Kressley, Colt Harris, Nick Rochinski, Ryan Beltz, Ray Swinehart and Jared Umbenhauer were the winners of the six heats. The Minuteman 20 was won by Bobby Varin with the two consolation races being won by Craig Von Dohren and Glenn Strunk. Duane Howard and Frank Cozze were the two guaranteed starters…

Duane Howard won the $1000 Cash Dash…

Heartbreak for Nick Rochinski. Rochinski turned his first ever laps around Grandview during Friday night’s practice session. Come Saturday the team was ready and Rochinski won his heat race handily. Unfortunately, the team had to scratch the No. 20R for the feature event after motor issues developed at the end of their heat race…

Billy Pauch Jr., looked strong in the early stages of the Freedom 76 running third only to have to pull the No. 14 to the infield with motor troubles…

Possibly the move of the night goes to up and coming driver Briggs Danner. Danner was out of a qualified spot in his heat race with two laps to and found a lane on the outside that nobody else was daring to run and went around two cars to make it into the feature event…

Bobby Varin out of Sharon Springs, N.Y., made a surprise visit driving the Brett Kressley backup car. Varin was very strong during the main-event and at one time was up to seventh only to be involved in a late race skirmish. Varin rebounded for a 10th place finish…

Alex Yankowski was added to the starting field as an alternate when the car of Nick Rochinski was scratched…

The Matt Stangle racing team has all of their TEO cars up for sale and will be making the switch to Bicknell chassis over the winter…

The No. 187 Modified of Steve Young loaded up and left before the racing started when they refused to allow the Grandview tech staff to check the motor…

As always, I can be reached for questions and comments at dirtracefan25@hotmail.com or on Twitter @dirtracefan25