By KEN BRUCE
In an era of Modified racing when driver and owner combinations usually do not last more than a few years, 2022 will mark the ninth year that Billy Pauch Jr., and Rick Holsten have combined forces. The previous eight years have produced a total of 44 wins with 33 of those wins coming at New Egypt Speedway where the pair have called home since they started racing together in 2014.
After a tumultuous ending of the season in 2021 at New Egypt that saw Pauch being disqualified after winning a late season race that ended his championship hopes, the team decided to go in a new direction for 2022.
The No. 96 team had their choice of tracks to call home on Saturday nights with Orange County Fair Speedway, Bridgeport Motorsports Park and Grandview all within driving distance of their home base in New Jersey. OCFS was ruled out quickly as the team does not have a big-block engine in the arsenal, so the choice was down to either Grandview or Bridgeport.
The final decision was made and the team decided to call Bridgeport Motorsports Park their home for Saturday nights. It will mark the first time for both Pauch Jr., and Holsten that they have raced weekly at any track besides New Egypt. When all was said and done it was an easy choice to call Bridgeport home for 2022.
“We looked at Grandview and we looked at Bridgeport,” said Pauch while explaining the team’s decision. “Grandview is a very great track, but it takes a ton of time to be successful there and with everything else that’s been going on with the Short Track Super Series and stuff, we just thought it was going to take a lot to take on Grandview this year as well.
“Honestly, we actually sat down with Doug Rose (Bridgeport owner and promoter) two years ago when he built the place, but it the timing wasn’t right to go down there. Doug has been a friend of mine forever and it is kind of enticing to go down there. Bridgeport is one of those places that is fun to race. I was good there last year in Joel’s car. We didn’t win, but I don’t think we ran worse than eighth or better than third, so we were very steady.”
Car owner Holsten is excited about the teams new Saturday night home and about the busy season ahead for the No. 96 team.
“We are looking forward to it as a team and I am looking forward to as well,” said Holsten as the team was loading up their trailer in preparation for their trip to Florida in a couple of weeks to race in the Sunshine Nationals. “After what we went through last year, we were looking for a change to get away from what happened. I am very excited to be going to Bridgeport, it will be very tough, but I think we can adapt well after a little time there we will get it together.
Holsten also added that the team is ready for the busy season ahead of them and looks forward to getting the season going in only a few weeks, especially with the new STSS Elite series on the horizon.
“We do have a busy schedule this year, but we are ready for it,” explained Holsten. “The guys are ready for it and I cannot thank them enough for being here. They are all here now getting the trailer loaded for Florida. The car is ready to go, other than scaling it. We are all looking forward to the time away as well. The Elite series is very exciting also and bringing it to Georgetown where we have won five in a row is good for us. We might struggle a little bit on the tracks up north where we don’t have a lot of notes for, but it will be the second or third time we have been to a some of those tracks so we will get it together.”
Leaving New Egypt Speedway was not an easy decision, but it was one that was made easier due to the circumstances of last season.
“It was a bad deal that happened last season,” explained Pauch. “I wish it didn’t happen the way it did, but nobody ever reached out to me to have a conversation on that side of it so that makes the world go which way and you hate to see it go that way, but you can only do so much.”
With the teams Saturday night plans solidified, that will just be one small part what looks to be a busy season ahead for the Pauch/Holsten team. As has been done in the past, Pauch will race his own No. 15 in certain events to give the Holsten team a break and to be better prepared for every race.
“We might start off the season at Bridgeport running my car in the Hoffman race,” mentioned Pauch. “You know we will start out the season running Ricky’s car in Florida, Cherokee, Georgetown, then Selinsgrove and Port Royal so that is a lot of racing and to be on the road for a lot of these guys we will figure that out as we go. It is a lot of racing to start the season and that is what always has made us successful bouncing back and forth between the two teams. We will run Ricky’s car at Bridgeport in all the points shows and some of the special shows there. Between Bridgeport, the Short Track Super Series South Region, the STSS Elite Series and Georgetown, we will be running for four championships in the No. 96 so that is a lot of racing. So, by running my car in the Hoffman race at Bridgeport, that will give Ricky an extra week to get the car ready to race the Elite Series race at Middletown.”
You would think all the racing mentioned above would be enough racing for anyone, but lest forget we are talking about Pauch Jr., here who, despite having a full-time job, can never seem to get enough racing on his schedule. 2022 will once again be a busy season for the Frenchtown, N.J., driver.
Pauch, who has called Big Diamond his home on Friday nights for many years, will still visit the track, but it will be on a part-time basis.
“I will pick and choose my races at Big Diamond,” cited Pauch. “I probably have five races penciled in on my schedule for Big Diamond. We are so good at Georgetown that it would be foolish not to race there when they race and if I miss one race at Big Diamond then I have to start behind everyone.
“To be honest, in the next year or two I have to take a shot at this on almost a full-time basis,” explained Pauch. “We have our motor program so set towards Deyo’s STSS rules, it’s tough not to take a shot at it. We’ve kept building our stuff towards it so now is the time to take a shot and see what happens. It is too enticing to not take a shot at it. I am sure I’ll be back at Big Diamond in a couple of years, but it just doesn’t fit the bill for this year.”
It is a good time to be running Modifieds right now with all the big money shows set to take place in 2022 including the new STSS Elite Series. It makes it very enticing to want to race full-time, but for Pauch it is just not in the cards at this point.
“It is a good time right now and I am trying to do the best with what I got,” mentioned Pauch. “I am very lucky; I am going to Florida, but I will be working from Florida for the first couple of days because of the timing with this being my busy time of the year for me. As a Modified driver, and we had this conversation the other day, I said in my time, this year and next year will probably be the best years we will see as far as money and payouts go so it is tough not to take a shot.
“You read the stories and see that Bridgeport’s Modified field will be the toughest in the northeast and yes it will be tough but if anybody remembers Flemington back in the 80’s when my dad won a lot of races, that field was stout. That’s what makes you a better driver, and that’s what I look forward to. I am that type of person who sits down at the end of the year and say where my weaknesses are and where do I need to get better. I feel like we addressed all of our weaknesses and we can be better this year than we were last year.”
Despite a busy season behind the wheel of a modified, Pauch will again be racing the Mike Heffner SpeedSTR this season at the Action Track in Kutztown, Pa., and will also race the Tim Hogue No. 39 Wingless Sprint Car when his schedule permits.
“I will be back running the SpeedSTR again on Wednesday nights at Kutztown,” explained Pauch. “With what it pays to win a race there, I would be a fool not to. I sat down the other day and made myself a rule that I am not going to race more the three days a week except for I think one week when I am going to take off a couple of days at work so when I make out my schedule and I say wait I am still running the same amount of races, but then I realize that I am racing from February to November, so the season just got longer. Back to your question and yes, I will be running Tim’s car in about 12 to 15 shows, mostly when they are at Bridgeport because the Sprints are at Bridgeport quite a lot this year. I will probably come up to Big Diamond when they are there and to other tracks, I am comfortable with.”
It will be another busy year for the Kid’s Kid but with the support of his family, owners and sponsors it is sure to be another successful season.
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