2018 NJ/PA/DE Summary and Awards: Mother Nature Once Again the Big Winner in 2018 – DTD Exclusive

By KEN BRUCE

The 2018 Southeastern Modified season can be summarized in one word “Rain.” We all thought 2017 was bad, but 2018 turned out to be even worse as Mother Nature once again showed that she is not a racing fan.

Every track in the NJ/PA/DE region was adversely affected by the weather to a great extent. Grandview Speedway alone had over 10 races cancelled due to the wet stuff. But it didn’t end there, season ending points races at New Egypt and Grandview along with the STSS South series championship were all decided by rain. Only Big Diamond Speedway, Bridgeport and Delaware International were able to get in their final points events of the year. We all know that is part of the business but it still makes it anticlimactic for the fans. It does however provide a lot of fodder on the social media side of things for sure.

Through it all, we had some very good racing along the way at all tracks. First off Congratulations to the 2018 track champions Duane Howard (Big Diamond), David VanHorn (New Egypt), Ryan Watt (Bridgeport & STSS South Series) Mike Gular (Grandview) and Jordan Watson (Delaware). With the exception of Bridgeport where Ryan Watt once again dominated the big-block division every points race came down to the last race of the season.

At Big Diamond Speedway, Duane Howard lived up to his long time moniker of “The Diamond Cutter” by winning four races in 2018 including the “Money in the Mountains” race in April to edge out Ryan Godown for the title.




At New Egypt Speedway it was a barn burner of a duel between David VanHorn and Billy Pauch Jr., with VanHorn edging out the 2017 champion to win his first ever New Egypt title.

At Grandview Speedway the seemingly impossible happened as a driver not named Von Dohren, Strunk or Howard captured the season ending title for the first time since 1999 as veteran driver Mike Gular sat up top the standings at seasons end to win the crown. Gular was a model of consistency throughout the year to win the championship despite not visiting Victory Lane.

At the Bridgeport Speedway in South Jersey it was once again the Watt show as the driver out of Boyertown, Pa., known as the Electric Company simply dominated the season on the big 5/8’s mile oval. A resurgence by Billy ‘the Kid’ Pauch put some pressure on Watt early on but in the end Watt was just too strong for the field and easily took his fourth Bridgeport big block title and third in a row.

Down in the the lower slower state of Delaware at the Delaware International Speedway it was a battle of brothers as Jordan Watson and younger brother Joseph Watson went toe to toe on the last night of points for the title with Jordan coming out on top to win the championship.

In the STSS South region it was once again the ever impressive Ryan Watt taking the coveted title for the third time in the four year history of the series. Watt had a season long battle with Super Matt Sheppard as the two battled hard throughout the season.

Unfortunately for the fans Sheppard had to miss the scheduled race at Port Royal Speedway due to a commitment in the Super DIRTCar Series robbing the fans of a fantastic finish to the year. Watt won two series races and with the exception of the Bridgeport series race which was run on the new 3/8’s mile never finished out of the top five.

Now onto the 2018 season ending awards.

Scariest crash of the year: That award goes to Jared Umbenhauer who crashed hard at Grandview Speedway and landed on his roof on the backstretch. The car then burst into flames just after Umbenhauer exited the car causing a very scary scene…

Upset of the year: Danny Bouc is always fast wherever he races but has never had that much luck while running at the Big Diamond Speedway so when Bouc unloaded his car for the season ending Coalcracker 72 no one gave the young driver much of a chance. At night’s end however it was the New Egypt track regular standing in victory lane taking home the big $10,000 first place prize over a talented field of drivers. The ironic thing is that Bouc crashed this same car hard the night before at New Egypt and didn’t even know he would be able to make repairs in time to compete…

Closest finish of the year: Anthony Perrego edged out Craig Von Dohren to win the “Beach Blast” at Georgetown Speedway as part of the STSS South series…

Comeback driver of the year: After being shut out of victory lane in 2017, Billy ‘the Kid’ Pauch had a resurgence in 2018 by winning three feature races at Bridgeport Speedway and also winning his first career “Thunder on the Hill” Modified feature race at Grandview Speedway…

Biggest surprise of the year: Hands down that award goes to Mike Gular in winning the track championship at the Grandview Speedway over Von Dohren, Strunk and Howard…

Hard luck driver of the year: Ryan Godown, definitely not the year the “Ringoes Rocket” had envisioned as a gallon of gas halted his march to the Big Diamond title. Things went even worse at New Egypt Speedway as Godown went winless all year until the season ending race. Godown was also two laps away from at worst a third place finish in the 200 at Super DIRT week until his engine let go…

Breakout driver of the year: Winning his first ever Grandview Speedway title plus hitting the road for both the North and South Series on the STSS, Mike Gular had a breakout season. The driver out of Boyertown, PA finished fourth in the STSS North standings which was very impressive as Gular tackled tracks he had never raced on and also won the biggest race of his career in winning the “Hard Clay Finale” at Orange County Fair Speedway in only his second appearance at the famed dirt oval. It was truly a great season for the veteran dirt driver…

Driver of the year: This was an easy choice with the coveted DOTY title going to the “Electric Company” Ryan Watt. All Watt did was win multiple races at his home track Bridgeport Speedway along with his fourth career big-block title. Watt also ventured to Grandview Speedway on occasion and won 2 feature races and if that wasn’t enough. Watt also won 2 races on the STSS South series at Georgetown and at Port Royal. Watt also won the STSS South title for the 3rd time in it’s 4 years history. Watt also qualified for the 200 during SDW by putting on a show coming from the back to win one of the last chance races. Despite being named DOTY Watt still didn’t win as many races as his son Logan!

I’m looking forward to 2019, it is shaping up to be another awesome racing season in the NJ/PA/Del region. Improvements to the lighting at Big Diamond Speedway along with a new red clay surface plus some really good paying races is attracting new drivers along with some returning drivers to call Big Diamond their Friday night home in 2019. The vibe at New Egypt Speedway seems to be turning around as the management team has put together a nice schedule of events and has tweaked the rules to allow for better competition among the Modified teams. Grandview Speedway returns in 2019 as arguably the most competitive track in the area with an jam packed season planned. At the Bridgeport Speedway after much contemplating the track management has decided to stick with the 5/8’s mile oval as their bread and butter track for 2019 which makes this writer very happy. Their is nothing like seeing the mighty big block Modified racing around the big track.

I would like to wish a Happy New Year to everyone and thank you all for making DirtTrackDigest.com the number one source for all your dirt track news and photos.

As always, questions and comments can be emailed to me at dirtracefan25@hotmail.com or sent to me on Twitter @dirtracefan25