Dominant Decker Rules Rolling Wheels
ELBRIDGE, N.Y. — For this year’s NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLIII, Billy Decker hit the ground running, winning Tuesday night’s Stars & Stripes 100 at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park.
“It’s been way to long,” said Decker, whose claimed his last Super DIRTcar Series win in June of 2011. “We pride ourselves in these Super DIRTcar Series races. We weren’t the best car, but it feels good to win tonight. I’m doggone tickled-to-death.”
The event picked up on lap 25 where it left off when rain hit the speedway Sept. 1.
In the September portion of the race, Decker wrestled the lead from polesitter Dave Rauscher in lap eight. He started on the pole for the Tuesday’s continuation of the feature race, but lost the lead to Brett Hearn in lap 30.
Hearn started the race third and charged ahead at the first green flag to take second. He wrestled the lead from Decker using the inside groove after a double-file restart in lap 29. By lap 31 Hearn, the series point leader and last year’s NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLII Big-Block Modified champion, had established a significant lead over Decker.
The race seemed to be Hearn’s for the taking, with the Madsen Motorsports No. 20 almost effortlessly cruising ahead of the field on every restart. A caution in lap 31 slowed the pace as Danny Johnson’s No. 66 slowed to a stop in turn one, but Hearn wasn’t threatened.
Hearn flew ahead, leaving Decker, Matt Sheppard and Billy Dunn to battle for the next best positions. The three were nose-to-tail heading into lap 37, all looking for their opportunity to get ahead. Justin Haers rounded out the top five in the Phelps Cement Products No. 3. Yellow conditions slowed the pace in lap 44 and again in lap 47 with no changes in the top-five off the restarts.
Early race leader Rauscher slowed in turn 3 to bring a lap-49 caution and Justin Wright brought another caution in lap 54. Off the lap 58 restart, Dunn claimed third over Sheppard and Brachmann fifth over Haers, but Hearn remained unchallenged in the front.
More yellow laps brought by Matt Billings in lap 64 and Tim Currier in lap 69 gave some drivers the chance to gain ground. Danny Johnson, who started tail after a mechanical issue in lap 31 took him to the pits, had made his way to fifth after Sheppard in fourth and Dunn in third.
The race gained momentum, with Hearn claiming a growing lead over Decker, until cautions in laps 81 and 84 brought the field back together. Off the lap-84 restart, Danny Johnson lost a tire on the front-stretch, nearly flipped, and collided with the No. 43 of Keith Flach. Both drivers were able to walk away unharmed, but both cars were too heavily damaged to continue racing.
In lap 87, another top-five racer took to the pits when Dunn’s No. 49 popped a flat to bring out the yellow flag. Caution conditions returned in lap 94 when Dunn and Tim Currier came together in lap 94. he Through all the commotion, Hearn kept the lead, and by lap 90 Decker was still in second, followed by Sheppard in third, Haers in fourth and Jimmy Phelps in fifth.
With just five laps to go, and still able to keep a significant lead over his competitors, Hearn looked ready to claim the Stars & Stripes 100. However, in lap 96, the No. 20 slowed to a stop in the backstretch to bring the final caution of the race. Hearn pitted, leaving Decker in first and Sheppard in second to take the checkered flag.
“We were way too tight, had to wrestle the car all night,” Decker said. “I guess it paid off to just stick with it.”
Finishing second over Hearn puts Sheppard in a good place in Super DIRTcar Series point standings with only a few events left in the season.
“It was a good points night and we had a great race car tonight,” said Sheppard, the three-time defending series champion. “Track position was a little bit at a premium tonight. I think we had as good a car as Bill did tonight, but passing him would have been a different story.”
Rounding out the top five were Haers, Phelps and Chris Hile.
In the DIRTcar Sportsman Modified division, Nate Reynolds cruised to an initial lead and led all 30 laps to take home the night’s feature race trophy.
Reynolds was followed by Tyler Dippel.
Billy Decker, Matt Sheppard, Justin Haers, Jimmy Phelps, Chris Hile, Dale Planck, Chad Brachmann, Ryan Susice, Brett Hearn, Rich Scagliotta, Dave Marcuccilli, Alan Johnson, Justin Wright, Pete Britten, Dave Rauscher, Billy VanInwegen, Tyler Siri, Tim Currier, Billy Dunn, Danny Johnson, Keith Flach, Matt Billings, Tim Sears Jr., Derrick Podsiadlo, JaMike Sowle, Steve Paine, Tom Sears Jr., Rob Bellinger, Gary Tomkins, Brian Swartzlander.