FRENCHTOWN, N.J. — With a new racing year upon us, let’s look back on a few memorable highlights we enjoyed from the 2018 season.
– The Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals should be a highlight for anyone in attendance but what made mine so special was my brother qualifying for the Saturday night finale.
My brother, Billy Pauch Jr., has competed there maybe a handful of times throughout the years and the farthest he ever made it was the C main. As soon as that checkered flag waved on the B main, I broke out in tears. To compete against more than 300 drivers and qualify for the 24-car field is surreal. I’ll forever cherish that moment.
– It’s rare to get to say you experienced a new race track, at least in this day and age. It seems if anything, tracks are closing, not being built.
Bridgeport (N.J.) Speedway opened a three-eighths-mile dirt track inside the existing five-eighths-mile oval.
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I was a very big fan of it. I like big tracks, but this one was close enough that you could see all of the action up close. The first race they had on it I felt like I was a part of history.
Yes, there were some complications with placement of lights, guardrails, banking, etc. A few drivers weren’t too pleased. But as they say; Rome wasn’t built in a day. People can’t expect to have a track to be perfect right out the gate. Good things take time.
Hopefully, they’ll be able to get the hang of the new track and make something big of it.
– This one will always hit home for me. My dad has won more than 700 features and for the first time in his career he went winless in 2017. That was a difficult pill to swallow.
Well, in true fashion, a real racer never gives up.
Fast-forward to the beginning of 2018.
It was a Friday evening at Delaware’s Georgetown Speedway during a heat race when my dad got clobbered into a pile-up. The car was mangled. We had to tear it apart just to get it into the trailer. I thought for sure it was junk.
My dad was running for points at Bridgeport Speedway on Saturdays, so we didn’t think there was any way he’d be able to get the car fixed in time for the following night.
On our three-hour ride home that Friday night, my dad made a few phone calls to round up the troops. Saturday morning, it was all hands on deck. We had everyone helping, even my 2-year-old nephew. Anyone who saw the car on Friday night never would have thought we’d be able to get it together in time for my dad to make it to the track on Saturday. Well, we did it —and you’ll never guess what happened that night.
I smiled, I laughed, I cried. I couldn’t believe it.
I look back on that day with such astonishment. It goes to show incredible things can happen when you don’t give up.
– My brother has competed at Action Track USA in Kutztown, Pa., the last few years. He’s won some races there and a couple of championships but he’d never been able to claim two titles in the same season. Last year, he decided to set his sights on just that.
Like most seasons go, he ran into some major ups and downs, but he and his team never gave up. I’d like to say, ‘I don’t know how he did it,’ but I do — dedication and determination. He set out to tackle something and he did just that. He pulled away with the USAC SpeedSTR championship and the 600 micro sprint championship. It’s a feat only one other person has been able to accomplish there.
– It’s very rare to hear that a man with more than 700 victories won something for the very first time. Well, mid-summer my dad did just that.
My dad holds the record for most Thunder on The Hill victories at Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway in a sprint car, but he’d never won a Thunder on The Hill modified feature until August.
As the years go by, it’s sad knowing my dad is gradually slowing down in his racing career. I hate to even accept it, but knowing that, each win is a bit sweeter. Man, oh man, was that victory sweet. It was the first time in a very long time where we were the last trailer in the pits after the races celebrating a victory. It felt like the good old days again.
– For the first time in more than 30 years, the modifieds raced at Pennsylvania’s Port Royal Speedway.
Growing up in sprint car country, Port Royal has always had a special place in my heart.
Watching the modifieds ride down the backstretch with their left-front hiked up and dive into the turns gave me chills. I was literally jumping up and down, I couldn’t contain myself. It’s something you don’t get to see every day, at least not in the last 30 years.
Having the modifieds compete in sprint car country was a questionable action, but after the incredible racing they put on, the modifieds gained several new fans that night.Looking ahead, I can only imagine what 2019 has in store for us.