MINERSVILLE, Pa. — Billy Pauch Jr. took advantage of Jimmy Horton’s battle with lapped traffic and the cushion, stealing the lead late in Tuesday’s Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco ‘Anthracite Assault’ at Big Diamond Speedway.
The $5,250 win is Pauch’s third with the STSS, going along with victories in 2016 and 2019.
Pauch’s total payout included the $5,000 posted purse, $200 in cash plus product from Mat Mike Tools LLC and $50 as the Bill Brown & Company Heat-Race Hard Charger.
A large crowd took in the event, which features the only combined STSS Modified Velocita-USA South Region presented by Design for Vision and Sunglass Central and Halmar International North Region point event of the season.
Horton and Pauch led the field to the green for the 50-lap main event, with Horton getting the best of Pauch at the start. The early stages of the event were slowed by cautions, notably a lap three red flag for Stewart Friesen flipping, and a lap seven yellow for Matt Sheppard breaking. Following a lap 11 multi-car tangle, the race finally got a green flag feel.
Horton and Pauch separated themselves from third place Mike Gular, who was under heavy pressure from Ryan Godown. After a battle, Godown took third from Gular on lap 16, but was already three seconds behind the top two. Up front, Horton had a steady one-second lead as the race neared halfway, but traffic on the three-eighths-mile oval was soon to plague the frontrunners.
While Pauch initially closed in at halfway, Horton worked traffic masterfully to reestablish a comfortable gap. A bobble on lap 30 erased any comfort Horton had, but as before, Horton pulled away. With fifteen laps left, Horton looked strong and steady out front.
On lap 39, Horton hopped the cushion while working over a lapped car, and Pauch jumped at the chance. Pauch dove low while Horton struggled to regain his footing, with Pauch taking the lead.
Pauch’s Rick Holsten-owned No. 96 ran away once he got clean air, but a lap 41 yellow for third place Godown halted his pace. This put Gular back in third, and Horton was left to fend off Gular on the restart. Pauch darted away, but a final yellow on lap 46 set up a single-file restart.
Pauch went high, Horton higher, and Gular low, but all three cars were essentially matched on speed.
Pauch was flawless during the closing laps of the 50-lap event.
“I was starting to catch him a little bit, I was riding around for a while there saving my stuff,” Pauch Jr. said. “Jimmy is phenomenal, him and my dad (Billy Sr.) are the best in the business in my book, so it was awesome to see him run well and battle with him. I knew I had to get on it after Mike Mallett (from Dirt Track Digest) was telling me how hard I’ve stepped on it twice this week. There’s a lot of people here tonight, I’m glad dirt racing is continuing to thrive though all of this. I’m thankful for a lot of people, I’m just happy to be here.”
Horton was credited with 39 laps led on the evening.
“We got a little loose at the end,” Horton stated. “We got into traffic and they were in our way some. We had to search for a way by, and we killed our tires searching. Sometimes it’s better to be second, and we have to get a little better ourselves. Even then, this is the best we’ve been in some time.”
Tim Hartman Jr. took an unexpected victory in the accompanying 25-lap STSS Crate 602 Sportsman main event. Hartman Jr. started 18th and was involved in an early race tangle. However, a number of cautions played into the Niskayuna, N.Y., driver’s hands as he advanced back through the field in a rough-and-tumble 25-lap main.
Feature (50 laps): Billy Pauch Jr., Jimmy Horton, Mike Gular, Tyler Dippel, Richie Pratt Jr., Jeff Strunk, Andy Bachetti, David Van Horn Jr., Jared Umbenhauer, Mike Mahaney, Larry Wight, Mat Williamson, Danny Creeden, Allison Ricci, Craig Hanson, Ryan Watt, Danny Bouc, Shawn Fitzpatrick, Billy Van Pelt, Alex Yankowski, Ryan Godown, Rick Laubach, Jordan Watson, Erick Rudolph, Danny Tyler, Matt Sheppard, Anthony Perrego, Stewart Friesen, Brett Kressley.