Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – SWEDESBORO, NJ – That was fun to watch…period.
Anyway you look at it, the Modified feature Saturday night at Bridgeport Motorsports Park had something for everyone.
Unfortunately, you had a multi-car pileup on the very first circuit of the 30-lap affair. That accident took out the some very big names like Jordan Watson, Brett Ballard, multi-time champion Ryan Watt and 2021 track titlist Ryan Godown.
Both Ballard and Watt ended up flipping their machines in the wreck that started when the 31 of Tommy Beamer, who was leading, slowed off of turn two and everyone piled in.
All drivers were okay. For Godown, though, it was a tough way to begin his title defense at the Swedesboro, NJ track.
“Our night ended before it started,” Godown said. “I’m just glad all drivers were okay in the wreck. We’ll be back at it next week.”
Except for the wreck, what people will remember the most from the feature Saturday night will be the battle between two heavyweights in the sport who just happen to be father and son.
Billy Pauch Sr. & Jr. put on a whale of a race that came right down to the wire. Throw in young Matt Stangle for a handful of laps and you had all three drivers running all over the 4/10th mile track, in and out of lap traffic, making moves that the fans loved to see.
In the end, it was Pauch Sr. getting the best of his son on the very rough yet racy surface in a battle for the opening night win at Bridgeport.
“Tonight was a pretty demanding track,” Pauch Sr. said. “It was was rough and bouncy. My head was going from one side of my seat’s head rest to the other like a ping pong ball.”
How much did the veteran like racing with his son for the win?
“I knew the kid was there,” he said. “He’s tough and he’s going to be tough here (at Bridgeport) this year.”
After winning his heat, Pauch Sr. was lucky enough to get into the opening night draw for feature starting positions and he drew inside the top five. However, when pole sitter Richie Pratt Jr. switched to his backup car, that moved the yellow #1 in to the third position.
“We were fortunate to have a good starting spot tonight,” he said. “That helped us out.”
From the drop of the green, Pauch drove forward, narrowly missing the multi-car accident on lap one, going back and forth with JoJo Watson for the runner-up spot and then, getting the best of leader Jim Britt on a lap nine restart.
“Britt was pretty good there early on,” he said. “I watched him. He was pretty tough but on that restart, he spun his wheels and that was all I needed.”
That caution is what won the race for Pauch.
“Restarts are key here,” he said. “Once you get strung out, we all seem to be the same. It’s really hard to pass but restarts are how you make moves.”
Once out front, Pauch Sr. could dictate where he wanted to go and how hard he wanted to run. However, there was the one equalizer in the feature event, and that was lap traffic. Inevitably, that is what allowed Jr. and Stangle to close in late in the main event.
“I guess they (lap cars) don’t see that move over flag or like to move down a little bit,” he said. “They were up in the preferred grove where I wanted to be and it kind of messed me up. I had to slide those guys. I’m not sure who it was but I didn’t quite get by one car and he stayed in there and I clipped him with my right rear. I just hoped I didn’t get a flat.”
Pauch Sr. was very appreciative to everyone who helped him get to victory lane.
“I have to thank my crew,” he said. “Without them, and Kevin, my owner, we wouldn’t be here. This is just a great start to the year and with all these sponsors, they are the people that make this car go around.
The win was also very special to Pauch and his team, as they lost a member of their team during the off-season.
“Tonight’s the first race we’ve been together as a team,” he said. “We lost a big part of our team, Debbie, to cancer this winter and we’ll dedicate this win to her.”
Pauch Jr. drove from eighth starting spot to come home in the runner-up spot, right behind his dad, with Matt Stangle coming home third. Stangle was charging in on the top two in lap traffic only to jump the cushion in the first corner with three laps remaining.
JoJo Watson came home fourth with Ryan Krachun rounding out the top five.
Ryan Godown Jr. made it back-to-back wins to start the season in Sportsman competition at Bridgeport, taking the victory over Travis Hill, Wayne Weaver, Howie Finch and Matt Ellery.
Mike Hughes captured the Street Stock feature event win with Joe Garey Sr. winning in 4-Cylinders.
MODIFIEDS: 1. Billy Pauch Sr., 2. Billy Pauch Jr., 3. Matt Stangle, 4. Joseph Watson, 5. Ryan Krachun, 6. Alex Yankowski, 7. Jim Britt, 8. Dominick Buffalino, 9. Richie Pratt Jr., 10. Neal Williams, 11. Sam Martz Jr., 12. Sam Martz Sr., 13. Davey Sammons, 14. W.B. James, 15. Ron Roberts, 16. Clay Butler, 17. Sean Metz, 18. Mike Barone, 19. Matt Peck, 20. Matt Smith, 21. Tommy Beamer, 22. Jordan Watson, 23. Ryan Watt, 24. Ryan Godown, 25. Brett Ballard, 26. Roger Manning
SPORTSMAN: 1. Ryan Godown Jr., 2. Travis Hill, 3. Wayne Weaver, 4. Howie Finch, 5. Matt Ellery, 6. Jim Dallett, 7. Greg Hummelhanz, 8. Stephen Yankowski, 9. Billy Chester, 10. Brandon Shipley, 11. Thomas Prychka, 12. Brian Rogers, 13. Isabella Van Orden, 14. David Jenkins, 15. Anthony Sisco, 16. Ethan Young, 17. Brian Papiez, 18. Scott Hulmes, 19. Bryan Brobst, 20. Nick Desantis, 21. Pete Serra, 22. Eric Kormann, 23. Howard Huepful, 24. Ethan Bill
STREET STOCKS: 1. Mike Hughes, 2. Kyle Saylor, 3. Tom Wills Jr., 4. Jeramy Doerr, 5. Jeff Dirkes, 6. Lee Allen, 7. Mike Creamer, 8. John Parker, 9. Nick Sandone III, 10. Ken Moren DNS: Drew Brocklebank
4 CYLINDERS: 1. Joe Garey Sr., 2. Ed Ford, 3. Chris Carroll, 4. Chris Gall, 5. Bobby Johnson, 6. Jonathan Pitcher