By KEN BRUCE
Billy Pauch Jr., has not had quite the start to the 2020 season he would’ve like to have had. While showing lots of speed in the abbreviated season whether it be in the Rick Holsten No. 96 or his own No. 15, Pauch has not been able to go that extra step and make it to victory lane. Bad luck and untimely mechanical issues have seemed to plague the team and sometimes it has been self-admitted driver error that have prevented Pauch from entering the win column in 2020.
Tuesday night in the running of the annual “Anthracite Assault” at the Big Diamond Speedway as part of the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series fueled by Sunoco, the team put a complete race together and at the end of it all were standing in victory lane on his capping off a perfect day for Pauch.
It was the perfect way for Pauch to celebrate his 33rd birthday and to make it even better, Billy and his wife Michelle along with Billy Pauch III announced earlier in the day that the Pauch’s are expecting their second child in December. Pauch could not have asked for a better day!
“It was good, we had a great day,” said an exuberant Pauch while having a beer afterwards in the team’s trailer. “We came out here really strong today, we’ve been good all year but just haven’t hit on all eight cylinders. Tonight, everything went our way. This car is awesome, and I am very proud of Rick and all the guys. We’ve struggled a little bit, but we all keep chugging on and hopefully now we can hit our stride and get back racing and see what happens this weekend.”
Starting from the outside pole in the 50-lap main event, Pauch settled in and ran second to race leader Jimmy Horton for a majority of the race. Horton was able to maintain a safe distance between himself and Pauch for the first half of the race. As the leader Horton started to approach lapped cars that is when Pauch was able to inch closer to Horton every lap.
“Lapped traffic definitely helped me there on that side of it,” explained Pauch. “Jimmy was good. I actually thought I was catching him there. I knew better than to run too hard and tried to pace myself through the middle there and once he made that mistake I capitalized on it. I told Jimmy in victory lane he will always be the best to go down in history along with my dad so that it always cool when we get to run with each other. My hats off respect to him.”
As Horton attempted to go around the car of Billy Van Pelt to put him a lap down, he was forced to go up the track. He went too high and that is where Pauch made his move for lead as he was able to work the lower lane and come out ahead of Horton exiting turn two. Horton was not giving up and stayed within striking distance of Pauch waiting for him to make a mistake. Pauch was forced to fight Horton off after a yellow slowed the action late but was up to the challenge and held to grab the win along with the over $5000-dollar first place prize.
“We finally put one together,” mentioned Pauch. “I thought we should have three or four wins already this year. I thought we should’ve won down south but we had an ignition coil go bad. I thought we had the best car in the small block race at Georgetown and we didn’t get that one. It’s a good win, we finally got it. Hopefully, this clicks and the driver can get his head out of his rear end and stop making mistakes and see what happens.”
I asked Pauch if he thought that without the lapped traffic, he would’ve had a shot at Horton and the win.
“It would’ve been interesting, I thought I could roll the bottom better in three and four. He looked like he was starting to hang the rear end a little bit coming off of four. I think I probably could’ve got em but it definitely would’ve been a good race. Early on, I thought I was in trouble, but my car stayed pretty good and it looked like his was starting to get loose. Jake did an awesome job with track. It’s a different style racing here than it used to be and it’s definitely cool. Like I said in victory lane, this track, besides New Egypt, is like my home track. I’ve been here since I was a kid, it’s a big win for us. I think we’ve won every big race here but the Coalcracker. Maybe one year we’ll get that.”
Horton Night Ends in Disappointment
If any team needed a good run to get their season back going in the right direction, it was the Halmar Racing No. 43 team of Jimmy Horton. After starting out the season at Georgetown with a solid top ten run in the Melvin Joseph Memorial, the team has had nothing but bad luck. Debuting two new DKM cars since racing has resumed, Horton has had good speed but wasn’t able to get the finishes they deserved.
At the Orange County Fair Speedway opener two weeks ago with the team’s big block car, Horton walked away with his heat, but in the feature Horton got to low and hit the inside wall giving himself a flat left front tire forcing him to pit putting him at the rear. He still managed a mid pack finish. Just last week at OCFS, Horton was once again fast as he led most of the feature until Anthony Perrego and Matt Sheppard were both able to get by Running third with two laps to go, bad luck struck again as the something broke in the rear ending his night.
At Potomac Speedway on July 7th, Horton brought out the team’s other new DKM car fitted with a small block under the hood for the STSS races and once was looking good until a multi-car tangle ended their race early.
Tuesday night at Big Diamond Speedway, all the off-season work put in by Horton, his crew and the team at DKM paid off as Horton was quick all night.
“We had a really good car tonight,” said a disappointed Horton in his trailer after the race. “We’re pleased with how the car is going. We did a lot of work over the winter with the DKM guys and my shop. We didn’t go to Florida because I thought we needed to look at more things. We got the car ready for Georgetown and were pretty happy with it so we went back and built two more with a little bit more changes and this is one of them, the Middletown car is the other one. I think we’ve led more laps this year so far than we did last year so now we just have to win one.”
Big Diamond is one of an extremely limited number of tracks that Horton has raced at and has never picked up a Modified win. Horton does have an URC Sprint win at the track back on June 18, 1992 but that elusive Modified win just has not happened yet. Last season Horton totaled a car at Big Diamond when he flipped over the third turn wall and rolled down the bank. It is a track he sorely wants to get a win at.
“I don’t know if this track owes me a race, but I know this place owes me a race car,” mentioned Horton. “I had a real good race car here last year and sent it over the fence. I don’t care if it owes me or not, I just want to be as good as we can wherever we go. The track was very good tonight, I have no complaints with it. I don’t know how fast we really were because we started on the front row so that makes a difference. My dad always told me, if you learn how to pick you win a lot more races. If we started in the back, we might’ve ended up on double hook and maybe got tore up so, thankfully we picked good tonight and we went on from there.”
Drawing the pole starting spot for the main event, Horton took the lead from the onset and through an early rash of caution was able to keep the No. 43 in the top spot continually holding off the charges of Billy Pauch Jr. Horton looked like he had the car to get it done on this night until lapped traffic slowed his pace allowing Pauch Jr to close in. Horton was able to hold off Pauch as the leaders sliced and diced their way through the lapped cars. Only the No. 2A of Billy Van Pelt stood between Horton and open track ahead. Unfortunately for Horton, this would be his downfall. Going into turn one, Horton stayed high believing Van Pelt going to the bottom. Instead Van Pelt let the car drift high causing Horton to get on the binders. This caused him to get out of the groove. Before Horton could gather it up, the ever opportunistic Pauch slid underneath him and was able to take over the top spot.
“Yeah, we got into the lapped traffic and they needed to do something about it,” explained Horton referring to what he thought cost him the win. “They didn’t do anything, the flagger did what he could so what can you do. They were just windshield wipers out there; they would run side by side racing and see the move over flag and just keep racing side buy side. I got the one, the one that was causing the trouble and thought I was in good shape with Van Pelt. He was running the bottom, so I drove in on the outside and he drives up the racetrack. That let little Billy get me and that was the race.”
Horton never gave up but was not able to get back by Pauch having to settle for the runner-up spot holding off a hard charging Mike Gular.
Big Diamond Gems:
A total of 45 modifieds signed in for the STSS Dual Series race. Erick Rudolph, Jeff Strunk, Andy Bachetti, Rick Laubach and Richie Pratt won the five Modified heats. The two consi’s were won by Billy Van Pelt and Stewart Friesen…
It was a tough night for Stewart Friesen. Friesen had a flat in his heat race and had to pit and ended up missing qualifying by one spot. The Halmar No. 44 easily won his consi and started 22nd in the feature. Unfortunately for Friesen he was caught up in another cars spin and ended up going for a roll ending his night…
The other perennial contender is the STSS Matt Sheppard also had a rough night as the HAS No. 9S had a bolt break on the crank pulley forcing him to be pushed to the pits in the feature race…
When you think of Big Diamond Speedway, two of the names that always come to mind when you discuss potential winners are Craig Von Dohren and Duane Howard. On this night neither driver was a contender, nor did either driver qualify for the feature. Howard No. 357 suffered engine issues in warm-ups and never saw the track afterwards. Von Dohren driving the No. 30 on this night, had the front-end collapse in his heat race and ending their night…
Friday’s Big Diamond feature winner Jared Umbenhauer had to rely on a track provisional to make the field and made the most of it. Starting the feature in 29th, Umbenhauer drove the No. 88C to a ninth-place finish earning the hard charger award…
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