FONDA, N.Y. – This weekend marks the first three of 36 northeast dirt modified races this year that will pay $10,000 or more to win.
Two of them will take place at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and the other will be at Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway.
Saturday is the Montgomery County Open, which pays $12,000 to win in remembrance of Fonda legend Jack Johnson, who passed away recently. It marks the first of three races paying out $10,000 or more to win at the half-mile facility.
The winner’s payout has drawn the eyes of many invaders, including reigning New Egypt Speedway and Georgetown Speedway champion Billy Pauch Jr.
It wasn’t a cut-and-dry decision for Pauch and his team to make the trip to Fonda, but one that they are looking forward to with New Egypt having the weekend off.
“The only thing that was tough is Delaware (International) is on Tuesday, it makes a little bit of a short flip around for cars,” Pauch said. “We enjoyed our time up here last July. We got a flat running 10th, which doesn’t sound impressive, but I don’t have many laps there.
“I was kind of looking forward to going back to it. It worked out well that we could go.”
Fonda is one of the most historic tracks in the northeast. As fairground-style tracks have slowly been dying off, Fonda is going strong and has become a place Pauch wants to win at, for several reasons.
“What’s cool about Fonda is that it reminded me of Flemington (Speedway), and that’s why I’d love to win there,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons that I’ve been there. I think we won a couple races at different tracks in New York, but not a lot, because I don’t really visit much. The problem is that it’s tough for me to travel a lot because we run for $3,000 or so to win every week down here.
“It’s got to be worth our while to travel north anymore.”
While many of the northeast’s biggest names will be down in Tennessee this weekend, the level of competition won’t take a hit up north at Fonda.
“I’ve run with a lot of them. You see Mike Maresca, Josh Hohenforst … they’re running stronger and they’re good people. Obviously Stew(art Friesen) is the best you’re going to get a Fonda right now. He’s your Jack Johnson at this time at Fonda … and maybe even better, to be honest with you. It makes a difference, but you also want to beat the best. It’s like my dad back in the day, he was phenomenal. And I feel we’re not that dominant, but we’re pretty close to New Egypt.
“You want to beat the best when you go in, but you also want to take advantage of every opportunity you can.”
When it comes to the Pauch family, Billy’s father paved the way. ‘The Kid,’ as Billy Pauch Sr. is called, is one of the legends of the sport.
The pressure to win doesn’t get to Billy Pauch Jr., despite his father having two wins in 1985 at Fonda.
“He’s got his name in the book there, which means I need to get mine in there as well,” Billy Pauch Jr. joked. “You always want to be better when you get on the road. We struggled for a couple of years on the road and it’s nice to come in and run well. I got that flat (tire) last year, but I would have been okay with a top 10 coming into my first-ever time to Fonda. You always want to win, but sometimes reality sets in too.”
While Pauch runs for solid money in his home state of New Jersey every week, when he does get to travel, he wants to do the best he can.
“You want to do the best you can every time you hit the place and no matter where you’re at, that’s just what you strive for. You don’t want to go in and look like a schmuck,” Pauch tipped. “I’ve gone all the way to Albany (Saratoga Speedway) one night and flipped in warm-ups … where it pretty much ended my night, so I’ve been down every road.”
Coming off the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are 36 races for modifieds in the northeast paying $10,000 or more. Pauch is excited to be part of one of those this weekend.
“One of 36 races that pay over $10,000 … that’s a pretty good stat this year,” Pauch Jr. said. “I think it’s very healthy right now, I really do. I think the only downside to a little bit of it is that we’re running against each other. You want to race the best competition, but you also don’t want the same people to win the big money because the big money is what keeps people coming back as well.
“It’d be nice if we can spread it out a little.”