By: Bobby Sweeney
YORK HAVEN, PA – Rick Laubach kicked off the central Pennsylvania 358-Modified season in style, scoring the win in a rare Modified appearance at BAPS Motor Speedway.
Following some pre-race drama that involved polesitter Duane Howard breaking a front end before the race began, it was Jeff Strunk commanding the field in the early stages. Pressure from fifth-starting Laubach was early and often for Strunk, with the pair side-by-side for the lead multiple times in the first ten laps.
Just as Strunk got rolling up top and put space between himself and Laubach, the yellow waived on lap 11, canceling any buffer Strunk had built up. With Strunk’s momentum halted, Laubach darted to the bottom on the restart and snatched the lead away. Strunk wasn’t going away quietly, hanging right off the rear deck of Laubach for the following circuits.
Tim Buckwalter started ninth and had his right foot rooted into the floorboard. By halfway, Buckwalter had climbed to third and was all over the lead duo, looking low as both Laubach and Strunk opted for the top. On lap 18, Buckwalter’s persistence on the bottom paid off, as he rolled under Strunk and into the runner-up spot. Just as Buckwalter was beginning to make headway down low, Laubach also adjusted his lane and headed to the bottom as well.
Cautions with six and four laps remaining set up a late dash to the end of the 30-lap main. While Laubach and Buckwalter remained constants up front, action was still prevalent just behind the top two, with Strunk, Frank Cozze, and Ryan Watt using all available racetrack while dueling for third.
A solid restart and steady, fast pace in the final laps meant Laubach was the first to reach the checkered flag, grabbing the win in the first Spec 358-Modified feature of the season. Buckwalter settled for second, while Strunk, Watt, and Cozze completed the top five.
“I have a lot of history at this track,” Laubach said after his first BAPS win since 2003. “It’s a nice, racy track, I’m glad they laid some water on the top before the feature. At the start, I knew Jeff was faster than me, so I settled in and waited for a yellow to try something on the restart. Once I was out front, I just tried to be unpredictable, high one lap, low the next, then the middle. I was hoping to shake them up, then I settled in on the bottom.”