By KEN BRUCE
Ransomville, New York’s Erick Rudolph made the long drive south very profitable and worthwhile on Sunday night. Rudolph, who ran in the second spot most of the race behind leader Stewart Friesen, was able to grab the lead on a late race restart from Friesen and went on to take the big win for his Randy Chrysler owned team. Friesen rallied back from the pass to put on a late race charge to try and grab the lead back but it was to no avail. Rudolph held off Friesen’s challenge to race under starter Warren Alston’s checkered flag to win the big $10,000 first place prize.
The 50-lap feature saw Wade Hendrickson and Rudolph lead the 26 car field to the green under a picturesque beautiful chamber of commerce type day. Hendrickson quickly jumped to the lead but it was very short lived as Friesen made quick work of the three drivers in front of him to take the lead on lap two. Rudolph quickly followed suit and made his way by Hendrickson to take over the runner-up spot and set his sights on the leader Friesen.
Friesen set the quick pace throughout the first half of the race and it looked like the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver had the race in hand even though the race was slowed by multiple caution flags for mostly minor reasons. Friesen was able to get the jump on each restart every time but was never able to shake Rudolph completely. Rudolph seemed always to be in striking distance of the leader.
While the two leaders went about their business in the front of the field the battles going on behind them were intense. Billy Pauch, Jeff Strunk and Craig Von Dohren put on a battle for the ages all vying for the third spot. The three crafty veterans went at it tooth and nail each and every lap sometimes three-wide as their battle waged on, never once touching each other. It was racing at its best for sure. Von Dohren eventually won out as Pauch faded in the late stages of the race. More on that later.
Just as it looked like Friesen was cruising to yet another STSS victory the caution came out on lap 38 for debris. This caution proved to the game changer as on the restart Rudolph was able to stay even with Friesen going down the front straightaway and he used the preferred outside line in turns one and two to surge out ahead and take the lead. Once in front, Rudolph looked like he was starting to put some distance between himself and Friesen when once again the caution flew with eight laps to go.
A happy Rudolph talked about the race in victory lane. “He (Friesen) would jump out ahead on the restarts there by several car lengths there but we could always keep our distance close so I knew that we were just as fast as him. I knew it was just a matter of how the race unfolded and how the cards played out. This time we won, maybe the next time we do it all over again he might’ve won. Hats off to the top three here and Stewie ran me clean and we had a lot of fun there.”
Rudolph was able to maintain the lead on the restart but this time Friesen was staying with the leader and was mounting a charge to regain the top spot. Friesen would go low thru the turns each and every lap and would challenge Rudolph, but the outside line was the fast way around the track and Rudolph would fend off the challenge each and every lap to take the well-earned and crowd-pleasing win.
A very disappointed Friesen would finish second with Von Dohren, Jeff Strunk and Frank Cozze rounding out the top five. Finishing sixth thru tenth were Rick Laubach, Jimmy Horton, Andy Bachetti, Jordan Watson and Billy Pauch Sr.
Rudolph went on thank his team and the effort they put forth to allow him to travel all over and enabling to do what he loves to do and to be at Susquehanna for the first time ever.
“I was really excited about getting down here. We’ve been having a lot of fun hitting the road and visiting different tracks. This is probably right up there with one of my favorites we’ve hit this year. The success we have comes from my team, the crew chief and all of the people that help out on this along with all the sponsors we have on the car. I would like to thank Randy Chrysler for letting me drive for him the last handful of years. This is probably our biggest win to date and I couldn’t be happier for him and our team.”
Friesen Ends Tough Stretch with a Second
Friesen closes out his busy stretch of racing with a disappointing second place finish. It all started back on Tuesday and Wednesday when the SDS made their annual trip to Canada for two shows. After a short break on Thursday due to a rain-out at Rolling Wheels Raceway, Friesen was back at it on Friday with his Halmar NASCAR Camping World truck team at Pocono for a couple of practices. Saturday Friesen was back at Pocono to qualify and race the NASCAR truck which he finished a very respectable 12th and then when that was over he had to hightail it to Orange County Speedway to race the #1Z 410 Sprint car in the All-Star Circuit of Champion series. Friesen was the show after getting an early race flat and coming from the rear to finish in the seventh spot. After racing at OCFS, Friesen stayed with his parents in their camper and then drove the team’s hauler to Susquehanna to compete in yesterday’s event. You could see the relief in the eyes of the Sprakers, N.Y., driver when it was all over last night as he was looking forward to going home and spending a couple of days off with his family.
The look in Friesen’s eyes probably would have probably been a lot different if he was able to hold onto his lead and win the race. However, it did not end up that way as Erick Rudolph was able to get by him on a late race restart to steal the win away from the now STSS South region points leader.
“Man, we had the dominant car tonight and I let him jump me on the restart and that’s about it to be honest. He beat us off of (turn) four and all the way down the front stretch and was able to beat me to the cushion in turn one and that was the race. I was able to make a charge down low on him there the last few laps but the outside was the way to go tonight with a cushion dominated track. The track was really good tonight and we thought we had it there, but I made a mistake and let him jump by me so we’ll go on to the next one.”
Friesen talked about his weekend and jumping back and forth between multiple cars and divisions and how grateful he is to have what he has.
“We had a good solid weekend with the Halmar team. Jumping between Truck, Sprint car and the Modified is not easy but with these Halmar teams it makes it easy. The truck guys did a good job putting a solid truck underneath me for Pocono. We had a good run in Jess’s Sprint Car last night after getting a flat early and coming back for a decent finish and Eric (Mack) and these guys always have these Modifieds prepared for me. We decided to use our DKM chassis tonight with a big-block and it almost paid off. That’s it, on to the next one at Fonda on Wednesday.”
Well Earned Third Place for Von Dohren
Even though the battle up front was intense for the lead, the best battle of the night had to go to the fight that was going on for third between Von Dohren, Pauch Sr and Strunk. The three drivers swapped spots so many times you would need a calculator to keep score. Lap after lap those three drivers went at it without ever touching one another. It was a scintillating battle to say the least.
When it was all said and done, Von Dohren emerged as the third-place finisher with Jeff Strunk right behind him right up to the end. Unfortunately, Pauch Sr faded during the last ten laps to finish in the tenth spot.
Von Dohren talked about the race for third and how much fun it was to race
“It was tough racing tonight; the top was fast. The bottom was pretty good for me, they couldn’t roll the bottom quite as good as I could so we’ll take it. Everybody ran each other really clean and it was fun, tough but fun.”
Godown Salvages 13th Place Effort
Defending champion of this race Ryan Godown was surely looking forward to a repeat performance of last year. But as the saying goes, sometimes you need to make chicken salad out of chicken s**t and last night that is what Godown and his Searock Fabrications team was able to do.
With expectations high going into their heat race, the night turned ugly early as Godown and Dave Dissinger got together coming out of turn four to complete lap two and up and over his #26 Troyer chassis went. By the looks of the car as it was being towed off the track one would’ve thought Godown’s night was over or at the least having to pull out their back-up car.
Not this team, after it was determined most of the damage to the car was just sheet metal damage the crew dug deep and went about fixing what they could and checking over the remainder of car for any other damage. The crew led by Godown’s brother Butch and Steve Searock along with help from Brian Papiez and Sam Wescott got at it hard and on a night where there were pushing the show along quickly the car was ready for the first modified consolation race.
Godown took a few minutes to talk to me as he was directing his team on last minute things he wanted done before jumping in to run the consi.
“I don’t know really what was the deal there in the heat race. Little Billy (Pauch Jr) got under me there and forced me up the track and when I was coming back down they said Dave Dissinger just never let up and ran me over forcing me up and over the cushion and after that I don’t remember too much. Believe it or not, the car is not too bad. Mostly all sheet metal damage, the panhard bar was bent a little so we fixed that but other than that we don’t see too much wrong. We’ll keep going over it before the consi and I’ll jump in it and ride it around the pits a little to make sure it is okay. Then we’ll see what we’ve got I guess. I am okay, just a little sore right now.”
Godown and the crew were correct with their assumption on the car as they came from way back in the consi to grab a qualified spot locking them into the feature event. Starting in the 23rd position Godown steadily work his way through the field and was all the way up to the seventh spot when the red flag appeared due to a multi-car pileup in turn one. When the green flag came back out Godown started to slide backwards in the field ultimately finishing in the 13th spot. Not the finish they were hoping for but for everything they went through, it was at least a finish.
“That red flag just killed us tonight, after that the car just wouldn’t go. The tires went away and it was all I could just to hang on to it. Definitely not what we were hoping for tonight but I’ll tell you what, see those guys over there, they busted their butts tonight to get this car back out and we finished the race so we’ll take it.”
As I was starting to walk away, I told Godown he better take a couple of Advils before he goes to bed tonight and he kindly responded. “I’ll be okay after I drink a couple of Coors Lights on the way home in the back of the toter.”
There were 40 Modifieds signed in for the night actions, up from 27 at last year’s race. Craig Von Dohren, Stewart Friesen, Jimmy Horton and Wade Hendrickson won the four heats with the two consi’s being taken by Jeremy Smith and Ryan Watt…
Tough night for New Egypt regulars Billy Pauch Jr and Danny Bouc who were involved in multiple on track tangles throughout the night. Bouc’s night ended early in the first consi while Pauch Jr’s night ended early in the feature when he ran into Brett Kressley who had spun to avoid another wreck…
Going into the night Ryan Watt was the STSS South points leader but Watt’s car blew apart the shock in the feature causing him to head to the pits. Watt was able to return but not before losing a lap to the field. Watt ultimately finished 16th…
The second-place driver in the STSS South points race Duane Howard also suffered thru a bad night. Howard who had to pit out of a qualified spot in his heat race due to a flat tire qualified through the consi and was moving up very quickly in the feature until pulling out with a broken steering box…
With couple of the top point getters having bad nights last night, the points race has been shuffled. Stewart Friesen is now the STSSS South points region leader over Ryan Watt, Jimmy Horton, Duane Howard and Ryan Godown…
The next event on the STSS South series is at the Georgetown Speedway on Tuesday August 29th when it hosts the “Blast on the Beach 4”…
As always, I can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.