Macungie, PA - Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie, Pa provided the setting on Saturday, January 10, as a crowd of 220 gathered to salute the 2014 champions of Speedway Entertainment's three Touring Divisions, along with the top point earners at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA.
The Pauch family of Frenchtown, NJ certainly enjoyed the festivities, as Billy Pauch Sr. was crowned USAC SpeedSTR National Champion while his son, Billy Jr., accepted the hardware and cash for his SpeedSTR point title at Action Track USA. The elder Pauch was also named as the SpeedSTR division's Driver of the Year.
"At this point in my career, I'm only concerned with winning races," said Billy Pauch Sr. "But this championship is special because these cars are so difficult to drive...they're a handful, and all the drivers will tell you that. But that makes them fun to drive, and the caliber of the competition in this class is unbelievable. I get to race against my heroes like Kenny Brightbill and Jeff Strunk, so that makes it (the National Championship) pretty special, too. And I'll tell you what, you can make money racing these cars. An entire SpeedSTR, race ready, is about $18,000, and we race for $2,000 or $3,000 to win every week. That's why I'm involved in this division."
Joining Pauch Sr. as the Speedway Entertainment National Champions for 2014 were Dylan Hoch (All Star Slingshots) and Damon Paul (Junior Slingshots). Both teens were well-spoken and poised as they addressed the banquet attendees and posed for photos.
Hoch, from Mertztown, Pa, thanked his sponsors and family for all their support and assistance throughout the season. He rallied late in the year and clinched the National Tour's title by winning the Fall Jamboree at Grandview - which was the final race of the campaign. "I'm so pumped up and anxious for the new season," related Hoch, "I just want to get out there and try to win this thing again."
Paul, the driver from Stony Point, NY, credited his dad for working tirelessly on his No. 144 so it was always fast and ready for battle on the Junior Slingshot Tour. Paul triumphed in four of the Junior Tour's nine events in 2014. During his championship speech, the diminutive but charismatic racer revealed his plans for '15...he'll move up to the All Star Slingshot Class and also make his debut in a SpeedSTR at Action Track USA.
The All Star Slingshots Regional Tour Champions were also recognized at Saturday's awards gala. Picking up the big hardware and cash prizes were Louden Reimert (Mid-Atlantic Silver); Dylan Hoch (Mid-Atlantic Gold); Brian Toby (Empire); and Jim Chisholm (Great Lakes). Larry Raifsnider was saluted as the Slingshot Speedweek Champion.
Hoch was named as the All Star Slingshot Driver of the Year, while Paul received the same award in the Junior Slingshot division.
The S.E. Rookies of the Year included Tim Buckwalter (SpeedSTR's); Jared LaBagh (All Star Slingshots); and Kyle Smith (Junior Slingshots).
Rich Tobias, President of Speedway Entertainment and Action Track USA, completed his second season as a race promoter along with partner Doug Rose at the oval located on the Kutztown Fairgrounds. Their weekly classes - SpeedSTR's, Wingless 600cc Sprints, and All Star Slingshots - produced another year of outstanding competition and constant wheel-to-wheel action during the Wednesday night racing programs.
After a close runner-up finish in the 2013 point standings, Billy Pauch Jr. claimed the '14 USAC SpeedSTR title. He narrowly defeated his dad, Billy Sr., for the crown, as both father and son notched three victories to lead all other drivers in the SpeedSTR division.
"To be successful in racing, you've got to surround yourself with good people. I've got a great car owner in Bob Lesko and a great crew...they are the reason I'm standing here right now," summed up Pauch Jr.
Jay Hartman of Flagtown, NJ registered his second consecutive point title in the always exciting and extremely popular Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Sprint class. He and brother Jeff have now captured the last five track championships on the Kutztown clay in the Wingless 600cc division. Hartman was best in class as 107 drivers earned points in 2014, and 13 Wingless 600cc features produced nine different winners.
Another of the Action Track USA's point chases that went right down to the wire occurred in the NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshot division. The Rockaway Rocket, Danny Buccafusca, prevailed on the final night of racing to win his second straight point crown at the Berks County speedway. Driving Randy Smith's S&S Speedways No. 55, Buccafusca outpointed Larry Raifsnider and Brett Bieber for the title.
The Junior Slingshots competed at Action Track USA on five occasions during the '14 slate of events, with Damon Paul winning the last four of those races. That was more than enough to wrap up the Junior Slinger track championship, a nice compliment to his Junior National title.
Jeffrey Hogue, who owns the naming rights to the hugely successful oval, addressed the crowd and thanked Tobias and Rose for all their hard work and efforts to make the Wednesday night events so popular with racers and fans. He pledged his continued support because he's loved the sport ever since he attended races at the Reading Fairgrounds as a youth. "I was hooked immediately, and I've been a dirt track fan ever since," he admitted.
Rich Tobias also presented his annual "State of Speedway Entertainment Address", stating that there will be some cosmetic changes to the facility in Kutztown and the entry to turn three (at the end of the backstretch) has been widened to hopefully lessen the chances of cars being "pinched" into the wall at that point.
Tobias also expressed his admiration for all of the 2014 Champions and thanked all of the race teams for their support of Speedway Entertainment and Action Track USA. He expressed great optimism over the growth of the SpeedSTR division as orders for new cars - from drivers who have terrific credentials in other classes - continue to pour in to S.E. Headquarters in Myerstown, Pa.
While details of the 2015 Action Track USA schedule will be released at the upcoming Motorsports Show in Oaks, Tobias did inform the banquet attendees that the Wingless 600cc Sprints will have three events that will pay $1,000 to win.
The complete schedule will be available at Motorsports 2015 and on the speedway's website, www.actiontrackusa.com.