By KEN BRUCE
It had been over nine months since Billy Pauch Jr., parked a Modified in victory lane, August 13, 2022, to be exact. Since then, the Frenchtown, N.J., driver has had many top fives but just hasn’t been able to have that perfect night to get to the winner’s circle. Wednesday night in the running of the Delaware State 50 Short Track Super Series at Delaware International Speedway, Pauch finally had the performance he knew he and his team were capable of and to be honest expected.
Starting from the outside pole in the 50-lap main event, Pauch took the lead from polesitter Rick Laubach on lap one and held off all challengers to take the checkered flag aboard the Rick Holsten owned No. 96. It was a much-needed boost for the team after a dismal performance on Saturday night at their home track of New Egypt.
“Man, this is a relief” said a happy yet relieved Pauch after the race. “I think I was the last one of the bunch here to get a win and I was starting to get pretty down on myself. Saturday at New Egypt was pretty rough, and I am just glad that these guys all stand behind me and keep digging and working hard to give me what I need. This was a total team effort tonight. That was probably the longest drought between modified wins in my career and it was not because we were running bad. I have had so many top fives during that span but for some reason it just never came together like it did tonight.”
“After a while, you start to question yourself and start thinking like what I am doing wrong. But tonight, there was none of that and I am very very proud of what we did tonight. It was the shot in the arm we all needed, and we are getting there.”
The shift from running torsion bars to coils has taken over modified racing and Pauch will be the first to admit that it has taken time for him and his team to make the total transformation to the coils.
“We had such an amazing year two years ago and we were probably the last team on bars,” explained Pauch. “Doing that hurts me right now. We went all in and I truly believe they are right and you have to be on the coils now but you have to figure it out, so I think that has hurt us but hopefully now we are to the point where we are there but I still think we have a little more to figure out.”
Pauch had a good night with the draw allowing him to start near the front in both his heat and in the feature and that always helps but the Holsten No. 96 was on point this night and he was able to drive away from the field each time the race had a restart.
“These modifieds are a game of restarts and aero, I swore that the late models were a game of aero, but it is that way with the modifieds too nowadays,” cited Pauch. “Clean air is everything these days and everything has to go your way to win one of these things and thankfully tonight was one of those nights for us. There have been many nights where we have drawn badly and that just makes your night that much tougher. But tonight, it all went our way, and we will take it for sure.”
The last time Pauch had won a Short Track Super Series race was back in October of 2021 when he won the Mid Atlantic Championship race at Georgetown Speedway. It was something that weighed on his mind.
“This win was pretty sweet. It has been over a year and a half since I had won one of these Short Track Super Series races,” mentioned Pauch. “Starting the year off in the south series with a first and a second is a good way to start the year. We have a long break right now until we get to the next one at Bridgeport or wherever it ends up being run at.”
More so than anything else, Pauch was happy for car owner Rick Holsten who put so much into this deal to give his driver what he needed to compete for wins.
“Ricky and I have been together nine years now and that is a long time in this sport,” said Pauch. “We both get at each other once in a while but that’s going to happen. I am very happy for Rick; he gives up a lot to do what he does, and a lot of people give up a lot to make this happen. This put a smile on his face because after Saturday night, he was down, I was down, and it was probably one of our lowest points since we’ve been together, and tonight was something we both needed.”
“You know and we have talked about this before. I preach roller coasters, not get too down or get too high but God is it easy to get down but tonight it went back up high, and we got a big win tonight and we just have to keep it there now.
Yankowski Drives from 14th to Second
Alex Yankowksi just missed the redraw in his heat race as Matt Sheppard drove by him on the last lap to claim the last redraw spot putting Yankowski starting deep in the field for the 50-lap feature. The kid from Covington Township, PA drove a masterful race to get to second but had nothing for the winner Pauch.
“I just made a bad mistake there on the last lap in the heat race, just kind of stupid and silly,” explained Yankowski. “Unfortunately, Matt got by me there and we didn’t make the redraw. Missing the redraw definitely changed the way I had to drive the feature and hopefully I will learn from it and not make the same mistake again.”
Yankowski charged towards the front from the drop of the green and was moved into the top three by lap 18 and followed second place running Danny Bouc until late in the race when he was able to move by Bouc and into second. A couple of late race restarts gave Yankowski a shot at the leader Pauch, but he was unable to mount a challenge having to settle for second place.
“I am just very proud of our race team, we are all working really hard here to give me comfortable race cars,” cited Yankowski. “We just need to put together some clean races and I think we can win some races here. There are just a couple of small things we need to clean up, myself included. I thought I might have a shop on the restarts there but needed to execute just a little better and for him (Pauch) to slip up a little. I think when we both ran our best laps, we were equal but when you have clean air like he did it just makes it a little bit harder. We will take our second-place finish, you know you have to finish good in these travel races for the finances and just am really proud of everybody.”
Yankowksi went on to talk about the track and how happy he was with how the racetrack was.
“The track was good tonight,” explained Yankowski. “I told Chad (Chad Cathell) that the heat race was a little hard to get through but once you get to the feature the track was awesome. This is the second time we were here this year, and it was great. We used to be wary of driving far and not knowing if you were going to have a great racetrack or not but not when we come here. We know it is going to be a good racetrack. Hats off to these guys, they are doing a great job and it’s really cool to see a racetrack really thrive and we are glad to be here. I think a lot of racetracks are working hard, Thunder Mountain put a new surface on and oh my god, I watched the highlights, and it was night and day from what it was before, and I haven’t talked to the Spoonhower’s yet but to see that was just awesome.”
Second Race at Delaware Provides Better Outcome for Ryan Watt
Wednesday night’s race at Delaware International Speedway was the second time this year that Ryan Watt has ventured south to the Delmar, DE track to race. If you recall, on his first visit Watt took a wild ride in his heat race going into turn one that destroyed his brand-new Troyer chassis which only had a total of ten laps on it.
Not one to give up, Watt returned on Wednesday with another brand-new Troyer chassis modified that his Ron Roberts owned No. 14W team had just taken delivery of a week earlier. This race had a much better outcome as Watt crossed under the checkered flag in the sixth position but due to Danny Bouc’s disqualification moved him up to fifth which was a good debut for the new car.
“Yeah, we’ll take it. I didn’t feel too good with it in the heat race with the track being so slimy, but we made some changes it raced a lot better in the feature. I got up to third there and then I hit a hole going into turn one there and from then on, I picked up a vibration. I am not sure if I twisted an axle or broke something on the driveshaft, but it had a pretty bad vibration the rest of the race. It was shaking so bad that my hands were going numb. Honestly, I was waiting for something to break and couldn’t believe it made it to the end, but we’ll take a top five. I thought Sheppard shouldn’t have got back by me, but I slipped up and it was hard to get spots back after losing them. But after the way it went the last time here, I would’ve been happy with a top ten so a fifth is good,” said Watt.
The race at Delaware was also the first chance to race with the new Wegner Weekend Warrior motor since the last race here ended so abruptly in the heat.
The Wegner motor felt really good in the feature,” explained Watt. “It was hard to tell in the heat because the car wasn’t hooked up enough but in the feature I felt that I had plenty of motor to run with those guys but I need to get the car a little bit better through the corners and once we do that I will be right there.”
There were 29 Modifieds signed in with heat wins going to David Schilling, Ryan Godown and Pauch. The consi was won by HJ Bunting…
Provisional starters were Ryan Krachun, Ryan Riddle and Bobby Watkins…
Danny Bouc had another good race crossing under the checkered flag in third only to be 10 pounds light at the scale after the race resulting in a disqualification…
Jeff Strunk, aboard the Hyneman No. 126, only made it one lap in the feature before he was forced to pull off with steering issues…
Michael Maresca had a troublesome night. The No. 7MM suffered driveline issues during the track packing process. The team worked hard to get the car fixed for the heat and Maresca raced to a redraw spot. In the feature, Maresca suffered a DNF…
Mike Gular who had finished second and first in the two race runs so far at Delaware this season had a strong top five run going until four laps to go when the pulley sheared off of the oil pump ending his race…
Four-time winner of this race Stewart Friesen was not in attendance due to his NASCAR truck racing responsibilities…
Matt Sheppard did the unthinkable early in the feature and spun on his own after clipping the wall in turn two. After a quick pit stop to change a left front flat tire, Sheppard returned and raced to a third-place finish with a bent up-front end…
Ryan Godown has had a less than stellar start in the STSS south region. Godown dropped out of the first race at Selinsgrove with mechanical problems and at Delaware flipped the No. 26 hard in turn one…
Jimmy Horton, driving his dad’s No. 76 still adorned with the Jimmy Blewett colors drove a strong race and had a seventh-place finish sewed up until the radius rod broke right after taking the white flag…
Nice run for Danny Hieber finishing in 10th after pitting early to change a tire…
Top five engine choices, Pauch Jr – Small Block, Yankowski – Big Block, Sheppard – Big Block, Schilling – Pro Power Small Block, Ryan Watt – Wegner Weekend Warrior…
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