Monday, October 4, 2010
Laubach Among Leaders of Penn/Jersey Charge to Super DIRT Week in Syracuse
by Kevin Kovac
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Rick Laubach started making his annual October pilgrimage to Super DIRT Week from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley when he was four years old.
Now, at age 37, Laubach is heading north again for the 39th installment of DIRTcar Modified racing’s most prestigious event – and this time he’ll drive up Interstate 81 more confident than ever about his chances to realize his childhood dream of winning at the famed Syracuse Mile.
Quakertown, Pa.’s Laubach is armed and ready for this year’s extravaganza of speed at the New York State Fairgrounds, which runs from Oct. 6-10. He has top-notch equipment prepared for the SEF Small Engine Fuels 200 Presented by Ferris/Snapper/Simplicity Big-Block Modified Championship on Sun., Oct. 10, as well as the ‘Salute To The Troops 358-Modified 150’ on Sat., Oct. 9, fueling his hopes for a memorable trip to the Salt City.
“I feel like we can do it,” Laubach said when asked if he’s capable of standing on the Moody Mile’s homestretch stage as a Big-Block or 358-Modified winner. “We’ve been close before in both races. We know what it’s like to run up front and we know how to get there. We just have to make it happen this year.”
This will be the seventh consecutive Super DIRT Week assault for Laubach, who attended the autumn activities as a fan with family and friends for nearly three decades before finally testing his skills behind the wheel at the venerable track. But while he’s made some noise in past 200s and 150s, he’s never arrived at the ‘Cuse with quite as much stature as he does this season.
Thanks to a sterling 2010 campaign that has seen him win a second consecutive Big-Block Modified championship at New Egypt (N.J.) Speedway and capture a career-high 11 features at five different tracks, Laubach is firmly established as a divisional star. He ranks among the top Super DIRT Week contenders from the Pennsylvania/New Jersey circuit, a contingent that this year also includes former SEF Small Engine Fuels 200 winners Jimmy Horton of Neshanic Station, N.J., and Richie Tobias Jr. of Annville, Pa.
“Considering how things have gone for us this year, I almost feel like we might potentially be leading the charge to Syracuse from down this way,” said Laubach, who also is on the verge of winning a third straight title on the Tri-Track Series that comprises special events at New Egypt, Bridgeport (N.J.) Speedway and Georgetown (Del.) Speedway. “You have the DIRT guys from up in New York and then we should be right up there with the ‘invaders’ who have a shot – that’s kind of what some people are saying.
“It’s definitely an honor to be thought of that way,” continued the owner and operator of Lightning Bodies. “It’s neat to get up there and see people who read about you in the paper all year but never really get a chance to see you race, and here they are considering you one of the guys with a chance to win. It gives you confidence about the stuff you’re doing. You go in there optimistic.”
Laubach’s potent arsenal for Super DIRT Week also gives him a boost of confidence. His Big-Block ride is a brand-new Teo-Pro car/Enders engine combination owned by Gary and Lori Herrmann, a couple from Quakertown, Pa., who fielded the No. 7 machine that Laubach drove to victories this season at New Egypt, Bridgeport, Georgetown and Delaware Int’l Speedway. For the 358-Modified event, meanwhile, Laubach will run the Cliff Krause-owned Teo-Pro mount that he campaigned as a Big-Block for most of 2010 at New Egypt. It has been reskinned and renumbered (from Laubach’s traditional 20 to Krause’s 27) and will carry a Morgantini-built powerplant provided by asphalt Modified star Jimmy Blewett of Howell Twp., N.J., who took his first laps as a dirt racer this season in New Egypt’s Sportsman class, and Blewett’s grandfather, John Blewett Sr.
“This is definitely the best equipment we’ve ever gone (to Syracuse) with,” said Laubach, whose collaborative 358-Modified teaming with Jimmy Blewett resulted from the friendship the two drivers developed at New Egypt. “I say the same thing every year – but every year it gets better, so I can’t deny it. We just keep building up our effort.”
Laubach is hoping his performance at the Mile continues on the same positive trajectory. His previous finishes in the week’s two headlines events aren’t eye-popping – since 2004 he’s placed (in order) 16th, 43rd, 31st, 12th, 18th and 31st in the Big-Block SEF 200, and his 358-Modified 150 record shows runs of 33rd (’04), 19th (’06), eighth (’07), seventh (’08) and 26th (’09) – but he’s had some moments that would seem to indicate he has better results in him.
For instance, in 2006, Laubach spent time at the front of the pack in both Super DIRT Week events, leading laps 86-111 of the Big-Block 200 and pacing laps 85-142 of the 358-Modified 150 before running out of fuel. And while his 2009 finishes don’t reflect it, he felt that he was “in the best position we had ever been” in both races.
“In the small-block show last year we had a real good car but I got in an accident on a restart that I consider my own fault,” said Laubach, who began his 2010 season by competing in February’s DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. “Then, in the Big-Block race, we qualified well (started ninth) and got ourselves in position to be running third on that final pit stop, but a fitting loosened up in the oil system and knocked us out.
“I feel like we were in real good shape (in last year’s 200). It was gonna be good, but we just had bad luck.”
Luck, of course, makes or breaks drivers at Syracuse, and Laubach is hopeful that he’s due for a dose of good fortune. Maybe that could propel him to Victory Lane in Sunday’s marquee event – 33 years after he ran around the Fairgrounds for the first time as a toddler.
“That’s the main race, so obviously you want to win it,” said Laubach. “It’s history. It’s a big to-do. There’s no place I’d rather be every October than Syracuse – and if we could win, it would be a dream come true.”
Less than one week remains to order your tickets for the most prestigious event in Big-Block Modified racing. Advance sale ticket orders can be made online by logging into www.superdirtweekonline.com or by contacting DIRTcar Racing Northeast Headquarters at 315-834-6606. More information can also be found at www.superdirtcarseries.com and www.dirtcar.com.
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds, home of DIRTcar All-Star Weekend in July. DIRTcar Northeast’s crown jewel event ---Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse runs annually in October featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman and Pro Stock divisions. Ticket and schedule information is available by contacting the Weedsport office (315/834-6606) during the day or logging into www.allstar100weekend.com and www.superdirtweekonline.com anytime.
The Big-Block Super DIRTcar Series is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com, VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com and GM Performance Parts www.gmperformanceparts.com. Promotional partners include the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and Chizmark & Larson Insurance www.chizmarklarson.com, and contingency sponsors are Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, MSD Ignition www.msdignition.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Vicci Racing Apparel www.vicci.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.