By KEN BRUCE
The past two seasons for Rick Laubach haven’t been typical seasons for the veteran wheelman out of Hellertown, Pa. The 47-year-old father of one had his share of ups and down in 2018 and 2019 while having to deal with situations both on and off the track. With those issues behind him, Laubach is looking forward to a strong year in 2020.
“My parents have been a problem the past couple of year, in a sense when it comes to their health,” mentioned Laubach. “For me it was all on my shoulders and I just didn’t want to give up on them. I think I did the best I could for them, and I think they’re happy. Unfortunately, my mom passed away last year but she was happy up to the end and my dad is happy at home and he has something to look forward to now.”
Laubach was also dealing with other off the track issues which made concentrating on racing that much harder.
“With my old girlfriend Beth, we just weren’t getting along and there was a lot of stress probably because of my parents and things. It really wasn’t going good and I was more worried about Matthew obviously, than anything and just talking with him, he realized it will be okay. That was big when we split up.”
Adding on to Laubach’s issues was the death of longtime car owner Lori Hermann who was co-owner of the No. 7 car with her husband Gary. It made for a couple of tough seasons, but Laubach started to return to his old self late last season with a couple of strong runs. He ended 2019 with a win in the last big block race ever run on the five-eights mile track at Bridgeport. With a new girlfriend and a renewed confidence, Laubach is anxious to get back on the track in 2020.
“I’ve known Tara (Wean) for a long time and honestly she is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me, “said a happy Laubach. “Tara and her family are tremendous and have welcomed Matthew and me in with open arms. They do everything they can to help me out. Her dad has taken over for what my dad used to do for me in running around and picking things up for me. He’s been involved with racing all his life and still enjoys it and it’s been really good.
“Both Ryan (Kerr) and Gary (Hermann) have stuck by me through the rough stretches there and now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I know we will be strong again. I know what we have, I know what all went on and we all came through it. I just can’t ask for anymore.”
Laubach will have a fleet of cars at his disposal to take on the new season from three long-time and well-known car owners. Once again, Laubach will be back in the Hermann No. 7 and the Kerr owned No. 1K. In addition to those two rides, Laubach and legendary car owner Dick Biever have reunited once again for 2020.
It will be a busy year for Laubach as he is set to tackle a rigorous schedule that has him racing regularly on Friday nights at the Big Diamond Speedway. The team’s Saturday night track has yet to be determined. A return to Grandview Speedway might be in the cards, but Laubach wants to check out the new track at Bridgeport Speedway before a final decision is made. Whatever Saturday track Laubach decides to call home in 2020, it will be behind the wheel of the Gary Hermann No. 7.
“The No. 7’s will have a big-block and a small-block ready to go,” cited Laubach. “We will take the No. 7 to Florida for the DIRTCar shows at Volusia and then when we come back, we’ll take both the big-block and the small-block cars to Bridgeport for their opener. The next week Grandview opens, and we’ll go there with the No. 7 and then decide after that where the No. 7 will run. Gary’s car will definitely run on Saturday nights, that’s that cars night no matter where we end up racing.”
The team plans to chase the Bob Hilbert Sportswear / Velocita Short Track Super Series South trail in 2020 where Laubach has two career wins. They plan to race selected Halmar Int STSS North races. There will be many other special events during the year the team will enter as well.
Laubach and his team are slated to enter selected DIRTCar series events throughout the year and he is looking forward to the series returning to Bridgeport Speedway. One of Laubach’s favorite weeks each year is Super DIRT Week and even though he loved the racing at the “Moody Mile” in Syracuse, it is still a must race in event for Laubach and one he looks forward to each year.
The Hermann car will also be the car that Laubach will uses when he attends any of the DIRTCar shows in the area and will also be his car of choice for Oswego, Eastern States and any of the other big Modified shows in the Northeast.
Laubach and the Kerr team have two cars available. There is both a small-block and big-block engine ready to go.
“Ryan’s (Kerr) cars will be mostly used for the Delaware races,” explained Laubach. “We might use it as well as Bridgeport, but mainly for the Delaware race, I think. We will also run the No. 1K at the Deyo races at Orange County and that’s about it for that car.”
Coming as a surprise to many when it was announced a few weeks ago is that Laubach is returning to the seat of legendary car owner Dick Biever’s No. 14S for Friday night’s at Big Diamond. This will be the second go around for the Laubach/Biever combination and Laubach is looking forward to the reunion. Laubach talked about how the reunion came about.
“One week at Big Diamond Dick was walking around the pits and he always stops by to say hi and see what’s going on,” commented Laubach. “I guess I was complaining about my motors because they really weren’t running very good and he said I have a motor if you want to use it. I said if I could borrow it for a week or two while our motor is getting redone that would be great. So, we put Dick’s motor in and ran it for two weeks. I had a second place with it the one week. Then I took it out and it sat here until he called and said he needed it back for Craig (Von Dohren) to use a Bridgeport.
“They sent a guy down to pick it up and then he said that Craig might be leaving and that he didn’t know what he wanted to do. So I said if you want to run Big Diamond, let me talk to Ryan (Kerr) because he really wanted to get out of Big Diamond and just go back to the big block/open motor stuff. If he says it’s cool I’ll drive for you at Big Diamond because it’s close to home for you and we did good in the past there together. When Craig said he wanted to move on, Dick called me and said it’s all good if you want to run it. It was that simple. I went out and had a meeting with him to go over things I thought we needed, and he agreed to everything and then we settled on races and it worked out perfect.
Laubach will drive the Biever No 14S when the STSS heads south to race next week at the All-Tech Speedway in Florida as part of the Sunshine Swing.
“I have to thank Dick (Biever) for the letting us take the car to Florida to race the Deyo shows at All-Tech,” said an appreciative Laubach. “Unfortunately, Dick won’t be able to go but at least he can watch them on TV. I go to Florida every year to race at Volusia, it is like a vacation for me with a little racing thrown in on the side. With the Deyo races now a week earlier we can go down early and race then take some days off to vacation and then race again.
“Realistically I am only leaving a day earlier than I usually leave so it works out good for us. My crew guys Eugene and Steve will drive down with the No. 14S and Tara and I will drive down the No. 7. After the races at All-Tech, those guys will return home with Dick’s car while Tara and I will stay down to race at Volusia. Ryan (Kerr) will be down there to help us out along with Tara’s dad. I work like hell over the winter trying to do what I can for everybody else and get my own cars built, so this is my vacation. I don’t go to the Bahama’s; I don’t go to the Jersey Shore because we are always racing so this is what I look forward to each year.”
It is imperative for Laubach to have great car owners that provide him with the best equipment for him to succeed. Laubach has driven for some of the best owners around and feels it is important to not burn bridges with his former car owners because as it happens, more often than not in Modified racing, things tend to come full circle when it comes to reuniting former drivers and owners. Laubach talked about his reuniting with Dick Biever and the importance of how to treat an owner right.
“Dick and his family have always been like family to me. I used to go on vacation with them, we went to Key West, Florida and to the shore at different times. We went our separate ways for a few years, but I never burned any bridges with him and now we are back together. I’ve tried not to burn bridges with any of my previous car owners and I feel like I could probably drive for any of my previous owners with the exception of a couple who are not around anymore.
“I’ve driven for some of them twice like Dieter Schmidt, Doug Flurer and now Dick Biever. Keith Roussey always says down the road that he’ll be back in it if I need him. Cliff Krause was an unbelievable friend of mine and took care of me in racing, unfortunately Cliff passed away and is not around anymore. I try to treat it like these are my own cars and respect the money the owners put into it. I know what it costs to race a Modified and it’s not cheap. I try to do everything I can to save them money and that’s how I’ll always be.”
Another change for Laubach in 2020 is that all the cars he will be driving for all three teams are Bicknells. In the past, the Hermann cars have been TEO chassis but those have been sold and replaced with 2020 Bicknells.
With a schedule that will keep Laubach very busy throughout the year, it is important to Laubach to also make time for his son Matthew whom Laubach hopes to have racing in the not too distant future.
“We have a quarter midget that we race out here at my track at the shop,” explained a beaming Laubach when talking about his son. “We don’t race professionally per say, but we race here which I think might be better because he’s racing against me and some older guys. I’m not sure if we’ll have him out racing yet this year because we are in the process of trying to get things going to build a new house and race shop. So we have a lot in the works this year, but for sure he’ll be racing in the near future.
“I think I want it more than he does. It’s going to be cool to watch him race, I’ve talked to some veteran race drivers and tell them about Matthew racing and they ask me if I am crazy wanting to get my son involved in this. It takes up your whole life and I always answer them that’s right, this is my life. I don’t play softball, I don’t bowl, I race. I want to be involved in racing, it’s what I do. I am a racer! There’s a new regime coming along like Cole Stangle and others and I want Matthew to be a part of that. He seems to want it and I look forward to helping him.”
As always, I can be reached for any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25