By KEN BRUCE
It was a comeback for the ages. Timmy Buckwalter who trailed Duane Howard by 182 points after the Friday July 16th slowly put himself back in contention for the Insigner Performance Modified championship with a strong run over the remaining weeks, including his second win of the season on July 30th. Combine that with some subpar runs by Howard over the remaining weeks of the season had Buckwalter come into the season ending points race trailing Howard by only nine points. After the heat races were run, Buckwalter had narrowed the gap to only five points going into the feature event. Essentially, whatever driver finished ahead of the other would be crowned the champion.
Buckwalter and Howard started alongside each other in the sixth row and at the drop of the green. Buckwalter was on the move and easily moved ahead of Howard and towards the front. At the end of the 25-lap race, Buckwalter had advanced up the fifth spot with Howard only being able to make it up to as high as ninth. When the final points were tallied up, Buckwalter was your champion by 35 points over Howard. For Buckwalter it was his first ever modified championship in his career.
“This all comes down to my team,” said a happy Buckwalter standing alongside his Norm Saxton owned No. 23X with the championship trophy perched on the hood. “We never really want to race for points, we want to go for wins and money. This year we said this is where we were going to run full-time and see what happens. It’s good when you can keep you team together and I have been with guys forever and they know what I like in the car, and I know what they like and at the end of day it all worked out.”
Originally, the final points race was supposed to be last Friday, August 27th but with that show getting rained out, track promoter Jake Smulley added the Modifieds to this week’s schedule so the title could be decided on the track instead of by mother nature.
“I didn’t really know what to think after last with the rainout,” explained Buckwalter. “That was a tough decision for Jake to have to make, but I think the fans appreciated it so we could race it out on the track. Going up against Duane (Howard), who is one of the best, was extremely tough. Honestly, here on a Friday night, it has to be some of the toughest competition at any track. You have a mixed breed of Saturday night guys who all come here to run on Friday nights. It’s hard place to win at, and for a little team like we are, I don’t want to say we are a little, little team but it is a small team, and we are happier than hell to do what we did here all year. To get two wins and many top fives and a championship is incredible.
Most teams who race as much as Buckwalter does have at least two cars and motors to choose from. Not the No. 23X team, this team has done what they have all year with one car and one motor up until tonight.
“You know, this was tough,” cited Buckwalter. “We started out last season with a fresh motor and we ran it 14 times before I got hurt. We started this with the same motor and have run it all year up until tonight. We had a fresh motor being built by Pat Morrison and you know, Pat has been busy like everyone else is and we finally were able to pick it up and put it in for tonight. This one definitely feels better than the old one and hopefully that’s a sign for these big money shows coming up. Now that we can stop worrying about the points, we can concentrate on working on out set-up for these longer races and try to pick up some cash.”
For a driver that doesn’t normally run for points, Buckwalter wasn’t going to change his normal routine when it came to tonight’s feature event.
“My plan coming into tonight was to do what we normally do,” explained Buckwalter. “We tried to keep our nose clean in the heat and come feature time when the green flag dropped, I went hard. I seen that Duane was going hard, he was coming down on me and we were battling wheel to wheel so I said we’re going for it, and I started going to the front. If I wreck, I wreck and I was going to try and win it and not points race. I have to say that the last five laps I started to points race and tried to stay in a little rhythm there with the leaders. At that point there was no reason to push it and I was getting close to the yuke tires and there was no sense in that and taking the chance of clipping one of them because if you do, then it’s over.”
Laubach Wins First Race at Big Diamond in Over Two Years
August 16th, 2019. That was the last time that Rick Laubach stood in victory lane at Big Diamond Speedway, a span of over two years. Laubach promptly put an end to that streak on Friday night by dominating the 25-lap Insigner Performance Modified feature event.
Laubach hasn’t had the best of seasons this year on Friday nights as witnessed by his outside pole starting spot by virtue of the track’s handicapping procedures. I don’t think that would’ve mattered at all on this night as Laubach has his Shaker Motorsports No. 20 TEO chassis Modified on rails this night. Laubach’s biggest challenge was when the lapped car of Corey Renninger ran over his right rear tire after Laubach had to make a hard right turn as Dan Hineline slowed to pull into the infield. Luckily, Laubach came out of it with only sheet metal damage. For Laubach, this was a well needed win.
“This one honestly feels really good, especially with what Tara (Rick’s wife, Tara Laubach) is sliding into her purse right now (Friday night’s winnings),” cited a happy Laubach. “Normally we are giving most of that away, but tonight we get to keep it all.”
Getting this win was extra special for Rick and Tara as this was the first win with their new Shaker Motorsports team which they started over the offseason.
“Like I said before, this is a new car, new motor guy and a new suspension that we knew nothing about,” explained Laubach. “It just took some time and now we are starting to get it all figured out. We have been slowly picking at it. We have been racing a long time and we know not to change everything the first week and we keep working at it. If it doesn’t work, we move on to the next thing and that takes time, but now that we are there, we ain’t going back. Tara and I are determined to do this the right way and it’s taken time, but I am okay with that.
“If I am not running good I am going to pull it in instead of taking a chance to tear the car up, plus save the motor, and I am okay with that. Tara and I are determined to do this the right way and build this team up slowly and we are starting to get there, it just takes time.”
Laubach’s only scare of the night is when he was run over by Renninger around the halfway mark, but instead of being upset about having to rebuild the right rear corner panel, Laubach choose to look at it another way.
“I had to slow because the No. 15 (Dan Hineline) was pulling in and turned the car right to avoid him, but then this guy comes racing like he is in the Daytona 500 and runs over me. But, that is how our year has gone, but that might be what will put us to the good side now. We overcame something tonight and still won!”
Doug Hendricks Wins Open Sportsman Title and Goes Out on Top
Winning the U.S.S. Achey Open Sportsman title on Friday night was the goal of veteran Doug Hendricks and he did manage to accomplish the feat, but it did not come without some trepidation. Coming into the feature event, Hendricks only had to finish seventh or better to claim the title, and normally that would not be a question, as Hendricks has had his No. 80 car humming lately.
But on this night, Hendricks was forced to run a different car for the feature as his car experienced engine troubles in his heat putting it out for the night. Hendricks thought his night was over along with his title aspirations. But a member of his team was able to work a deal with the No. 4R of Blake Reber for Hendricks to drive their car in the feature and see if he could close the deal.
Both teams thrashed to try and get the car the way Hendricks likes which included changing shocks and wheels. After taking it easy in the early portion of the 40-lap feature so he could feel the car out, Hendricks started to make his way through the field and at the end of the race Hendricks found himself finishing fourth to seal the deal on the championship.
“It wasn’t the way it was intended to go, but we did it,” said a happy Hendricks in his trailer afterwards while the crews switched the cars back. “And I don’t know how many years that we’ve been using Morgantini engines, but we have never had any problems. It happens. I really thought the night was over was going to call it a career with a blown motor. But my brother started asking around and one of our other friends know them (Rebers) and he asked them, and he said that we could use it. They brought the car over here and we started changing the tires and the shocks.
“I really did not know what we were going to have, so you just go out there and just test the car to see what it is going to do. Then we started passing a couple of cars and it felt good, it was a little different motor than what we have, but it was a good car and I can’t thank those guys enough for letting me use their car.”
Unbeknownst to me. Win or lose, Friday night was the last race Hendricks was going to race. With work commitments and kids who play sports as well a son that is starting to race himself, Hendricks had decided to call it a career.
“It’s really good to go out with a championship, this is probably the last time I will be on the track,” explained Hendricks who is a crane operator by trade. “It’s getting to be too much, especially with my son racing. I think tomorrow we have to be up at 7:00 AM to leave by 7:30 AM for soccer all weekend so it’s getting to be a lot especially with him racing Slingshots and it’s getting to be a lot having to do this week in and week out. It feels good to go out a champion, I knew before the season that this was probably going to be it for me, it gets tiring with work having to get up and work on race cars, then getting home and working on race cars. With my job, some days I don’t know when I am going to get home all of the time and some days, I end up working twelve hour days and that makes it even harder.”
Big Diamond Coalcracker Friday Night Gems:
21 Modifieds signed in for action on Friday night with heat race wins going to Corey Renninger and Rick Laubach. All cars qualified…
Craig Von Dohren, Brett Kressley, Dominick Buffalino & Billy Pauch Jr all decided to take Friday night off in order to save their cars for Sunday’s $17,000 to win Coalcracker 72…
On the opposite side, Ryan Godown and the Danny’s Pizza Pizzaz No. 51 decided to take advantage of the extra night of racing to try and dial in their car for the Coalcracker 72…
Ryan Watt was aboard the Shawn Fitzpatrick No. T102 on Friday night trying to help Fitzpatrick get the car dialed in while Fitzpatrick was attending his son’s high school football game. Watt did well after starting 14th and driving to an eighth-place finish. Ryan will be back in his No. 14W for the Coalcracker as he goes for his second Coalcracker win in a row…
Congratulations to Timmy Buckwalter (Modifieds), Doug Hendricks (Open Sportsman), Steve Lyle (Crate Sportsman) and Andrew Fayash III (Roadrunners) for winning the Big Diamond track titles…
Bill Brown & Company handed out the Driver of the Month awards for June, July and August on Friday night all worth $50. Mike Gular (June), Doug Hendricks (July) and Kyle Kania (August) were the worthy recipients…
The Bill Brown & Company Driver of the Year award will be presented before the night’s activities get underway on Coalcracker 72 night. This year’s inaugural $250 cash award goes to Timmy Buckwalter for winning the Insigner Performance Modified Championship at Big Diamond which boasts arguably the most competitive Friday night modified field in the northeast…
The season at Big Diamond winds down this Sunday (now Monday) with the running the Jack Rich, Inc. Coalcracker 72. The race will pay $17,000 to the winner for the second year in a row and the list of drivers who could take home the big check numbers at least 12 deep. Anthony Perrego, Max McLaughlin, Ryan Watt, Sam Martz, former Coalcracker winner Doug Manmiller are just a few outsiders expected to be in attendance looking for the big bucks…
Final thought, everyone please take a moment in your day to say a prayer for all of those that have been affected by the remnants of hurricane Ida including a member of the Big Diamond racing family. If you haven’t heard, Ryan Krachun and his family have been devastated by the floods. The Krachun family, Mike, Trisha, Ryan and their daughter are some of the nicest people you could ever meet in racing and in life itself. The Krachun family has always been there to help people in the past and now they could use our help. The fleet of No. 29K Modifieds were all under water and the team is waiting to see what can be salvaged to use again. The motors were all under water and are now at the engine builder to be checked over for water damage. Let all say a prayer for the Krachun family and we hope to have Ryan back on the track soon…
If you have any questions or comments. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25.