By KEN BRUCE
OSWEGO, NY – Unlike years past when the New Jersey, Pennsylvania Modified circuit would send a large amount of big-blocks up to Super DIRT Week, in the past few years the amount of participants in our area has dwindled. Why you ask? Most of it has to do with the cost of fielding a competitive Modified at the year’s biggest race. The cost to field a big-block Modified has continued to increase year to year and for some it is not worth the effort it takes to be able to compete at a high level.
However, there is a small contingent of drivers from our area that continue to compete yearly at the Super Bowl of Modified racing. That group is lead by two-time winner Jimmy Horton, one-time winner Frank Cozze, Rick Laubach, Ryan Godown and Dominick Buffalino. These six drivers have continued to support the event, with maybe an exception or two along the way. Even though the event has changed venues form the historic “Moody Mile” at the New York State Fairgrounds to its current venue at The Oswego Speedway, these drivers love to compete for Dirt Modifieds biggest prize.
If you asked Rick Laubach about his 2017 season, he would definitely say it hasn’t been the best of seasons for the driver out of Hellertown, Pa. Laubach started out the season on a great note winning two early season races in the Ryan Kerr #1K only to be derailed when the aluminum block motor the team was running was banned from the local competition.
“We started off the season with the Ryan Kerr #1K very well only to have everything go haywire when they wouldn’t let us run our motor anymore,” mentioned Laubach. “That set us back and we just seemed to never be able to get back on track. We had a bad year at Big Diamond in the (Doug Fleuer No. 16) and at Bridgeport in Gary & Lori’s (Herrman) No. 7. We were fast at times but Ryan Watt had the fastest car all year there for sure. We thought we were back on track later in the season with the #1K but we just had things happen that you never think of happening. We won our heat at Georgetown only to have the battery go bad before the feature. Then we had more of the same troubles at the next race. It hasn’t been a very good year for sure.”
Laubach has always looked forward to competing at SDW although he still misses the mile track at the fairgrounds very much.
“It’s just not the same anymore since we are not running at the mile,” stated Laubach. “However it is still the biggest race of the season and I want to be there if at all possible. We weren’t sure about this year until this opportunity with Ryan Alsdorf came along.”
The No. 8A that Laubach is driving this year is a combined effort between car owner Ryan Alsdorf and Gary & Lori Herrman (owners of the No. 7 that Rick drives at Bridgeport) who are providing the powerful Morrison motor that is bolted under the hood of the new 2017 Bicknell Chassis. Laubach wasn’t sure how things were going to play out at Oswego this year after last year’s rough and tumble track but all indications so far are that the track should remain smooth throughout the race.
When Laubach went out for practice on Wednesday he knew he had a good piece under him but the team needed to make some adjustments to get it where he needed it to be for time trials. It looked like whatever adjustments the team made were the correct ones as Laubach went out and set second fastest time of the day to lock him into Sunday’s race. As you would think, Laubach was very happy with the team’s effort.
“To qualify second in a race like this is really special. The best effort I have ever had qualifying for this race was a seventh so to get the outside pole spot for Sunday is really good. This team worked really hard on this car between practice and qualifying to get it better and it paid off. We went out right in the middle of time trials and there were some very fast cars after us when the track had gotten a little better and we were still able to hang on to second. Being in the top six means we can relax a little bit before Sunday and just work on the car to keep getting it better. It definitely takes a lot of pressure off of us.”
I asked Laubach about how the track will be on Sunday and how it will be during the 200 lap main event.
“I think the track should be nice and smooth come race time but I think it’s going to get really slick. Probably even slicker than Utica-Rome gets at times, but that should be okay and we should be able to adapt to it very quickly. It leaves us at a disadvantage because most of these guys are used to running on tracks like that and we’re not, but we’ll be okay. My biggest concern is getting used to this new car. I have a different steering wheel I am using and this is the first time I am using a full containment seat. That certainly takes some getting used to so tonight’s heat races will be good for me to see if there are any adjustments I need to make.”
Unlike last year where tires didn’t come into play at all, Laubach thinks that tires will definitely be a factor in the outcome of this year’s race.
“Tires are going to play a big part in the race on Sunday. There will be a lot of grinding and tire siping before the race I can guarantee you that. With tonight’s heat races running at night, it probably won’t give us a great read on what the tires will do on Sunday since we will be running during the day. We’ll sit down as a team before the race and figure out a strategy and come up with a plan.”
Laubach would like nothing better than to come up with win on Sunday but if not at least a great finish for the new team as they look forward to the balance of the seasons ending big money races.
As always, I can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.