Billy Pauch returns for Nazareth

Billy Pauch of Frenchtown, N.J. returns to Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway this weekend to compete in the "Bully Hill Vineyards 100" USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown event, but he'll notice a big difference from the last time he competed in these cars at ...

Billy Pauch of Frenchtown, N.J. returns to Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway this weekend to compete in the "Bully Hill Vineyards 100" USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown event, but he'll notice a big difference from the last time he competed in these cars at Nazareth! The track surface is no longer dirt!

One of only two drivers entered who competed at the track when it was a 1-1/8 mile dirt oval (Gary Hieber is the other), Pauch is one of several Eastern stars who will be fan favorites in this weekend's Nazareth activities. The Indy Racing League's "Firestone Indy 225" weekend also includes all three USAC National Series, with a 100-mile Silver Crown race on Sunday and 30-mile Valvoline Sprint Car and Midget Car features on Saturday.

Pauch recorded his best-ever Silver Crown finish in the first of two 1983 USAC Silver Crown races at the historic oval. He finished second behind winner Gary Bettenhausen, one of five "top-10" finishes he recorded in 11 series starts between 1982 and 1985. It's been 19 years since he started a Silver Crown race and he looks forward to the challenge.

"I hope this time things go a little smoother," he admits. In the 1983 race when he finished second, he hit the first-turn wall and bent an axle and lost his brakes but still managed to fight the car to a runner-up finish. He also competed in asphalt modifieds and NASCAR Craftsman Trucks on the Nazareth pavement and says the track is similar. "The racing line hasn't changed much," he continues. "The shape and contour of the track are still close to what they were when it was dirt and I can use that knowledge. Actually, the dirt track got pretty hard and was not much different than pavement at times."

Pauch hopes to spend more time in the Silver Crown cars next year. "I'd like to run the entire schedule," he says. "I wanted to run at Syracuse last year but the team ran short of equipment late in the season. My 17-year-old son is now racing modifieds and looking toward advancing his career too."

Pauch will team with 2001 USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Champion Paul White of Temple, Texas in a pair of cars entered by Mucci/Matczak Racing of Liverpool, N.Y. Billy actually made his Silver Crown pavement debut at Phoenix, Ariz. in 1995 but an ill-handling car forced him to park before the feature event.

The winner of more than 600 races and numerous track championships during his storied career, Pauch earned acclaim as the winningest driver in the history of the Flemington (N.J.) Fairgrounds dirt track prior to its paving and recent closing. He's one of America's most accomplished modified pilots, winning races at numerous tracks, and in 1994 established a World's record of 144.590 mph in a Sprint Car at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. That record stood until last year when it was eclipsed by Jay Drake at Fountain, Colo. (on pavement), and this year by Dave Steele at the same track.

Pauch will be joined in the Nazareth field by Pennsylvania stars Gray Hieber of Langhorne, Rich Tobias, Jr. of Annville and John Heydenreich of Bloomsburg. Tobias and Heydenreich finished second and fourth in last Saturday's "Tony Bettenhausen 100" Silver Crown race at Springfield, Ill. Tobias won last year's 100-miler at DuQuoin, Ill. and Heydenreich won a 100-miler at the aforementioned Colorado oval in 1998. Hieber, who won the prestigious "Hoosier Hundred" in Indianapolis, Ind. in 1990, holds the 1-lap Nazareth Silver Crown track record of 139.524 mph in 2000. Hieber, like Pauch, has competed on the Nazareth dirt, finishing eighth in 1982 and 12th in 1983.

Pennsylvania drivers Tom Capie (Trevose) and Michael Roselli, Jr. (Pocono Heights) are also entered, as is Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass., who scored a great second-place finish at Fountain, Colo. in July.

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Series USAC
Drivers Dave Steele , Jay Drake , Paul White , Michael Roselli , Tom Capie , Bobby Santos III , Billy Pauch , Gary Hieber , Tony Bettenhausen