Kutztown, PA – One could not help but notice that there was a special vibe, a certain magical feeling in the air on Wednesday night at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds.
It was Kenny Brightbill Appreciation Night, and his legion of fans turned out in droves to help the “Shillington Slingshot” celebrate his 50th (and most likely, his final) year of driving race cars. It’s surprising that Brightbill could even grip the steering wheel of his No. 19 SpeedSTR because his hand had to be cramping from signing so many autographs during the evening’s festivities.
Always known for his toughness behind the wheel, Brightbill did race on Wednesday. He was collected in a few tangles during the 30-lap main for the SpeedSTRs, but survived to finish fourth as Billy Pauch Jr. earned his second win of the season. The triumph propelled Pauch Jr. into the number one position as Action Track USA’s all-time feature winner in the SpeedSTR division, breaking a tie with his dad, Billy Sr. “The Kid’s Kid”, Pauch Jr. now has 11 SpeedSTR wins at the Berks County oval, one more than his dad and just two more than third-place Tim Buckwalter.
“It’s pretty cool to win on Kenny Brightbill Night,” said Pauch in victory lane. “He was one of my heroes growing up; he and my dad had some great battles over the years. He’s one of the greats, so it’s an honor to win on his night and in front of such a great crowd.”
Steve Buckwalter shot to the lead in the USAC All Pro SpeedSTR main event, with Steven Nederostek on his tail tank in the early laps. Lined up outside Buckwalter on a restart with five circuits complete, Nederostek throttled into the top spot and it was S. Buckwalter’s turn to become the hunter.
After another caution period with seven tours in the books, Nederostek and S. Buckwalter raced side by side for the lead, with Buckwalter attempting to slide up in front of the No. 769 in turns three and four. They hooked bumpers, with Buckwalter spinning as the bumpers unhooked, enabling Nederostek to drive away as the leader.
On the ninth revolution, Brad Brightbill grabbed the top spot from Nederostek. Brad soon had company at the head of the pack, however, as ninth-starting Billy Pauch Jr. sliced his way into the runner-up position on the 12th trip around the clay.
Pauch Jr. gassed his Heffner Motorsports/ Lelands.com No. 27 to the lead at the halfway point of the 30-lapper. While he didn’t run away and hide from the field, Pauch Jr. did maintain a somewhat comfortable advantage for the remainder of the event.
Jason Rochelle, who began the race in the 12th starting spot, weaved his way to second after a pile-up with 11 to go involved Brad Brightbill and several others.
At the finish, it was Pauch Jr. recording his first win since the May 14, season-opening Dick Tobias Classic. Rochelle, in his first year of SpeedSTR competition, registered a season-best second-place effort. Also notching a season-best finish, TJ Mayberry placed third ahead of the night’s sentimental favorite, Kenny Brightbill. John Bockhorn scored his best finish of the season with a fifth-place payday.
SpeedSTR Feature (30 Laps) — 1. Billy Pauch Jr. 2. Jason Rochelle 3. TJ Mayberry 4. Kenny Brightbill 5. John Bockhorn 6. Earl Paules 7. Tim Iulg 8. Gary Hieber 9. Brad Brightbill 10. Dylan Hoch 11. Briggs Danner 12. Steve Nederostek 13. Mike Bednar 14. Tom Mayberry 15. Tim Buckwalter 16. Steven Drevicki 17. Steve Buckwalter 18. Matt Janisch 19. James Morris 20. Keith Brightbill 21. Matt Westfall 22. Louden Reimert 23. Ray Nemeth 24. Kyle Hieber 25. Ed Kenderdine.