REWARD: $5,000 for BILLY “THE KID”
It was an unusually pleasant day in March… temperatures around the 70 degree mark. Typically we are used to wearing our winter jackets to this event. This year, Mother Nature decided to let the racers have their day and what a day it was. The first official Race of Champions event couldn’t have had a nicer setting with a huge crowd; and the 51 gladiators that signed in would have their battle in the dirt arena.
Duane Howard seemed to be on a mission this weekend. Everything was going his way. Howard, driver of the #4 modified and the former Grandview track champion, put on a clinic Friday evening in the small block modified portion of the weekend. A commanding victory in which he was about 5-seconds ahead of the 2nd place car by the end of the race says it all.
Saturday, Howard continued to see his weekend get even better in the big block. He dominated his heat race, again opening up a sizeable lead over 2nd by the time the checkered flag dropped.
After the heats were completed, a redraw for the dash for cash was to be had for the heat winners. This group included Kevin Hirthler, Duane Howard, Billy Pauch Sr., Jimmy Phelps, Jeff Strunk, and Larry Wight. Howard drew the pole position. However, he never made it out for the dash as the #4 remained on jack stands. Kevin Hirthler, driver of the #117 and Grandview Speedway regular, claimed the dash from the pole.
Later in the event, 12 drivers from the heat races (top 2 finishers from each heat were eligible for the redraw) congregated at victory lane to redraw for the feature. Keeping his good fortune alive, Howard again drew the pole. However, a wily legend drew the outside pole. Billy “The Kid” Pauch Sr. (2011 American Racer Cup Points Champion), who seemed to have quite the quick car in his very own heat, became Howard’s temporary neighbor for the start of the A-Main.
Anticipation built for the final race of the evening, which included some very impressive résumés from across the northeast. Turned World of Outlaws Late Model driver, Tim Fuller, made his presence known hopping back into a modified for the day. Driving the #74 Smith Bros. car, Fuller was very fast in his heat. The 2011 Big Diamond and Grandview Speedway Champion, veteran Jeff Strunk, who pilots the #357 for Norm Hansel, is fast no matter where he seems to go with this car. The Gypsum Express triple threat of Billy Decker (The 2011 RoC Champion), Pat Ward and youngster Larry Wight can never be counted out. The marvel Brett Hearn, “The Doctor” Danny Johnson and young guns Stewart Friesen and Matt Sheppard were in the dance as well. This could very well be anyone’s race, as 40 laps on the big and fast half-mile clay oval should be anything but predictable.
Twenty-eight modifieds came thundering down the front stretch to take the green flag. Billy Pauch Sr., took the early advantage over Howard. Pauch opened up a sizeable lead until he caught the traffic and Howard was able to make up some ground. Jimmy Phelps and Jackie Brown Jr., battled for 3rd place. Eventually Phelps took over 3rd. Pauch still commanded 1st place by himself, without any real threat from Howard yet, weaving through traffic. Almost at the halfway point, Howard’s luck came to a stunning halt. Howard pulled his machine off the backstretch as a result of some mechanical misfortune. The race remained under green until lap 22 when the first caution of the event came out. Pauch Sr. leads Jimmy Phelps, Jackie Brown Jr., Tim Fuller and Jeff Strunk.
Pauch Sr. throttled down for the restart and wasted no time opening up the lead. By lap 25 it was Pauch Sr., Phelps, Fuller, Strunk and Brown Jr., at the top 5. The 6x of Jackie Brown Jr. is running a heck of race staying up there with the heavy hitters. A lap 26 caution came out for Brett Hearn who was slow going down the backstretch. Hearn pulled off into the pits but quickly returned to the track. The Doctor cracked the top 10 at this point of the race.
Restart commenced again with Billy Pauch Sr., quickly opening up his dominating run so far in the race. Phelps couldn’t seem to catch him. Lap 27 had a nice battle for 3rd starting to brew between Tim Fuller and Jeff Strunk. The laps ticked off one by one as no one seemed to have anything for Billy Pauch Sr., but the last thing “The Kid” wanted to see was a caution with only laps to go. On lap 38, Tim Fuller, who was having a great race sitting in 3rd, came to a stop on the front stretch. This bunched up the field again now with Phelps, Strunk, Horton, and Wight as the top 5.
The crowd was on edge as the green flag dropped for the final time of the race. Pauch Sr., again cruised out ahead and made it look easy for the final circuits on speedway, as the dirt track legend took the checkered flag with a huge pop from the crowd while he crossed the finish line. Strunk tried getting under Phelps, but couldn’t make it stick. Danny Johnson made a last second pass of Larry Wight, edging him by what seemed like a bumper to claim 5th.
One of the most recognized legends of dirt track racing dominated a standout field. No one seemed to have enough to make it a challenge as Pauch ran away from the second the green flag flew.
Pauch Sr. made it quite clear in victory lane that he was tuning up for one of the biggest races of the year -- the Freedom 76er at Grandview Speedway, which is paying an unprecedented $50,000 to win. If this race is any precursor to what’s in store later in the season, Pauch Sr., should be on everyone’s radar. “The Kid” has struck again.
SELINSGROVE SPEEDWAY RESULTS – 40-Lap A-Main:
1. 1 Billy Pauch Sr.
2. 98H Jimmy Phelps
3. 357 Jeff Strunk
4. 5 Jimmy Horton
5. 27J Danny Johnson
6. 99L Larry Wight
7. 117 Kevin Hirthler
8. 42P Pat Ward
9. 1F Stewart Friesen
10. 6X Jackie Brown Jr.
11. 14 Doug Manmiller
12. 91 Billy Decker
13. 20 Brett Hearn
14. 7L Rick Laubach
15. 34 Andy Bachetti
16. 14W Ryan Watt
17. 74 Tim Fuller
18. 711 Mike Iles
19. 20D Jerry Higbie
20. 10 Michael Storms
21. 29 Sammy Piazza
22. 9S Matt Shepard
23. 88C Ryan Godown
24. 4 Duane Howard
25. 11 Danny Creeden
26. 6N Kevin Bates
27. 51 Mike Colston
28. 99 Wade Hendrickson