New Jersey dirt racing, seen through the eyes of a great

We’re in 2022 now, which means that the events of the 1970s and 1980s qualify as history to be debated, dissected and viewed with delighted respect. This entry is about a book that marries the golden era of dirt racing in the Northeast with one of its biggest stars and one of the era’s most able chroniclers, who experienced the Modified world as both a journalist and race official. With a galaxy like that in alignment, you just know the end result is going to be good. The Last Cowboy is the story of Billy Pauch, a guy who valued driving race cars for big money more than sitting for interviews, and who was standing on 744 career feature wins when he stepped away from the seat for good a few weeks ago. That was when author Buffy Swanson was gathering her notes and photos on Pauch’s racing life, which got underway when his late father was still running homebuilt stock cars and dated to when Gerald Ford had just moved into the White House.

The NASCAR Hall of Famer Ray Evernham, who contributed the foreword to Pauch’s life story, once publicly described Billy the Kid of having all the same stuff, talent wise, that propelled Jeff Gordon to greatness. Pauch is a money racer who tended to stay close to home but still amassed wins in Sprint cars and pavement equipment, not just the upright dirt Modifieds. Growing up near the lazy Delaware River in Frenchtown, New Jersey, he holds more than 100 feature wins at three different tracks, two of them now gone. Pauch has won in blacktop Modifieds, holds two World of Outlaws feature triumphs and turned the fastest Sprint car lap in auto racing history. The production values of the 268-page softcover book are exceptional, and the research by Swanson, herself an honoree of the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame, is without peer. And it’s the closest thing to a history of the fabled Flemington Fair Speedway that yet exists. You can order this outstanding book by going here to the author’s website. The narrative, photo selection and design excellence make this vital work of history everything we’d hoped it would be.

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