By KEN BRUCE
After spending many days and nights pondering the situation Short Track Super Series owner and promoter Brett Deyo has decided to make the aluminum block motors being run by Rick Laubach and his Ryan Kerr #1K team illegal in his series effective immediately.
The Laubach/Kerr team caused quite a stir back in March when they showed up to Bridgeport’s 358-Modified race, which was run as part of the Doug Hoffman Memorial weekend, with their new aluminum block motor. It was the talk of the pits before the race and after the race especially after Laubach came from 19th to win the race. The controversy continued to dominate the pits in the coming weeks and once again came to the forefront after Laubach won round #1 of the Delaware International Speedway’s Full Throttle Series last Saturday.
Although the motor was completely legal in the STSS, talk in the pits was that certain Modified owners would refuse to run the series if the aluminum block motor was allowed to compete in its present form. After going over a few different options it was decided to make the motor illegal in the series to hopefully avoid any other conflicts as a result.
I contacted STSS owner and promoter Brett Deyo to get the reasoning behind his decision.
“I think there was a concern that if there was one over competitive car then the total car count could drop and my concern is that we need to have a product that goes to the racetrack as an option that brings cars. If people get discouraged and one car that’s outside the box and wins all the time and we go to say Bridgeport with 24 cars and the next race after that we go to Delaware with 16 cars then our series isn’t a viable product anymore. Already we pay the most money so we are the biggest expense for a promoter to have. We are leaps and bounds above a Poker Series Race or any of the other midweek specials. We are the most expensive series to book in this area so we need to make sure we have a strong field to go with it so we stay in business. If I don’t adjust and the car counts drop down then nobody’s going to race. I explained that to Ryan Kerr and he was really understanding of the situation. I said if we don’t make adjustments here to keep the series going strong at the end of the day if the series goes away you are still not going to be able to race that car and motor. We’ve had to make adjustments before over the years for various things, little tweaks here and there. DIRT makes adjustments every year, NASCAR makes adjustments every year.”
It’s a decision that didn’t come easy for Deyo but after consulting with his series tech officials and other trusted individuals regarding other possible options, including adding weight to the car, the decision was made to deem the motor illegal.
“I didn’t make this decision quickly. I spent pretty much two solid weeks going over this. I was trying to keep up with all my research and do the best I could to make the right decision. I looked into adding weight and that was definitely a possibility in my mind, but the problem is with way these cars are built anymore there is already so much lead on the cars that it gets to be a point where it’s unsafe. Its unsafe to a point that something is going to fly off and a competitor will get hit it or its so unsafe that something will fly off into the spectator area. You don’t want to get to the point that you are putting so much lead on the car that its 2700 pounds and it gets to be dangerous. That was a big part of my research. I talked to George McKelvey, who is our tech guy for the series, he’s also very involved with the New Jersey Safety advisory board and I talked to him yesterday about adding weight and he said that their car already has so much weight on it because of the aluminum engine block that if you put another 150 to 200 pounds on that car it’s going to get to the point where if you’re running a spec motor car that weighs 2275 lbs and you spin out and get hit by a 2700/2800 pound car that is not a safe thing. My original gut feeling was to add weight but upon really thinking it out and talking to some people that wasn’t the answer cause it was only going to put people at risk.”
Deyo went on to say that the owner of the #1K Ryan Kerr has been nothing but understandable through their many conversations and that he respected the situation Deyo was in.
“I have talked to Ryan (Kerr) mainly and he took it all very well. He understood where everybody was coming from. So they are going to go back and adjust their program and be back. They are not quitting or anything which I think was Rick’s (Laubach) fear. They found a loophole and built something that’s pretty far outside the box in Modified racing. Obviously it was a good combination and it was one of those things that you have to adjust to. I have to say throughout this whole process, and we talked on the phone many many times, and each time Ryan was very understanding where we were coming because he is a business man. He has businesses and he understands. It’s just one of those things when you go that far outside the box you kind of know that something might come down the line as well.”
To be fair to both parties involved I reached out to driver Rick Laubach and his car owner Ryan Kerr to get their views and perspective on the situation and decision. Laubach declined to comment on the issue at this time. He wanted to let his car owner Kerr speak to the situation.
Kerr has been involved in racing going back many years and after leaving the sport for number of years has jumped back into with both feet to provide topnotch equipment for his driver Laubach to compete with. The team went into this year with a plan of attack and everything seemed to be working to perfection as the team already has two wins under their belt in only two races. As of now they’ll have to divert from their original plan and devise a new one for the balance of the season.
For someone who had their season disrupted so early this season, Kerr was still upbeat and was looking forward to getting back to it.
“I understand the position Deyo is in, majority rules and its racing. I don’t want to do anything to hurt his series or anything like that. It is kind of frustrating when they outlaw something before you even get a chance to even race. It is what it is and you can’t fight city hall so you just go back to the shop and work harder and you just comeback and race. Honestly, I’m bothered but I’m not bothered, I’ll just put my head down and go back to work. Brett has been very good to me and there’s not one thing I can say bad about him at all.”
Kerr went on to explain some of the economics of the motors they were running and why it’s not what a lot of people think it is.
“People just don’t understand the economics. Everyone thinks my God you just went out a and bought two motors and this and that and spent all this money. The economics is that it is half the money to build an aluminum block than a steel block. It’s hard to get people to understand that because nobody likes change but you could talk to any motor builder throughout the country. We spend $2,800 to buy a steel block and then we spend $3,200 to have that steel block lightened so for $3,000 I can buy an aluminum block and put a motor together so it’s the mentality which is frustrating. But it’s fine; they want steel blocks so we’ll build steel blocks. We do have a big-block coming from Morrison. Pat (Morrison) has been very good to us and is working hard on our big-block. You know I’m the type of person that doesn’t want what everybody else has. Whatever everybody else is doing, I am doing the opposite. If you buy what everyone else has you are just going to run as fast as they are. There is a lot of great drivers out there and there are a lot of guys out there with great equipment, so unless you do something different you’re never going to beat em.”
Kerr offered his thoughts on the Northeast Modified circuit and how he thinks the owners are missing the boat by still going with the big-blocks and not switching over to the aluminum blocks in attempt to save money and still be just as fast.
“To me ,and you can go over and over about, but what these guys don’t understand and this is just my opinion. The more rules you have, the more money it takes and the more things you have to do to try to get an advantage. They think they are saving money by restricting the rules and doing all these things with the spec motors its nuts. These guys are spending $40,000 for a spec motor. I bought a five year old late model motor for $23,000 and we’ve won close to $10,000 in two races so I got almost half my money back. Honestly it’s like anything. If people were educated and knew what was going on, I mean I said to everybody go on these late model sites, go on racingjunk.com and see what you can buy. The problem is the Northeast Modifieds is a small little niche thing. Our big-blocks are so antiquated that everything for our big-blocks are custom made. Because everything else in the big-block racing world, whether it be drag racing, monster trucks, boat racing and all those things that use big=blocks are big cubic inch stuff. So if you want to buy anything, everything for our motors has to be custom made. You want a crank it has to be custom made, you want this it has to be custom made because everything in the big-block world is all 500 plus cubic inch. If you think about it there are probably only about 200 good Modified teams here in the Northeast and in the Late Model world there are probably around 4000 so if you want to buy something used there is plenty of stuff available.”
I asked Kerr what he is going to do with the aluminum motors he know has that are no longer legal for him to use.
“To be honest with you, the reason I bought my 358 and my 415 aluminum block motors is that I didn’t have a worry in the world if they did this to me. Matter of fact, my 415 motor is already spoken for. I received a deposit for it already this morning. I had no worries whatsoever about moving the motors because that is what the Late Model guys are using but now when I build a steel block motor, I am stuck because this is all we can use it for. So if they change the rules again I am stuck with the motor this time and that’s the frustrating part. Brett has been good so far about not changing the rules, but if he does I am screwed. I understand his point and I have never been a crier my whole life, if we get beat at the racetrack I put my head down, walk out of the pits and figure out how to get better. I am not going to say this guy has that, that guy has this. It’s just not my style.
“What gets me and its funny really is that I laugh walking through the pits and we are using Rick’s very first race trailer that he ever bought and it’s probably worth $2,500. You walk through the pits and these guys got these great big haulers costing around $350,000 / $400,000 and I said you’re complaining about motors and money. I said you guys got more money in your truck and trailer than ten guys have in their entire race teams.”
With everything that has happened to this race team already this season one would think that both the driver and owner would be discouraged and not sure where to turn but not this team. Ryan Kerr and his driver Rick Laubach are a determined bunch now and aim to prove it was the car and the talents of his driver that made them as fast as they were.
“I could’ve raced with anybody when I decided to get back into racing. Jimmy Horton is one of my best friends, Billy (Pauch) and all them guys and I could’ve went with any of them but I went with Rick. Rick is probably one of the hardest working guys that I know and he does everything himself. Rick is always working and I can’t take anything away from the guy. Rick is totally disgusted right now and I’m just like, ‘take it easy and don’t worry it’ll all work out.’ Honestly I really hope he goes out this weekend and runs good with (Doug) Flurer and the seven car. They have really good stuff and probably for the first time in his career Rick has all the pieces of the puzzle he needs. It’s all okay though. I love this side of the sport. The competitive aspect is what makes us all want to do this. I didn’t come into this to win a couple of races; I want to win them all”
Hopefully all of this controversy and chaos can be put in the rear-view mirror and we can start talking about the racing itself. If you look at the small sample we’ve had already this season has been pretty good.
As always, I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.