Decker Rules Syrcause 358 Mod Show Again
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Saturday’s Salute to the Troops 150 for 358 modifieds ended just as the 2008 and 2009 editions did, with Billy Decker clutching the trophy and oversized check in victory lane at the New York State Fairgrounds.
Decker’s fifth overall win in the Super DIRT Week classic came at the expense of visiting WoO LM star Tim McCreadie, who got his Four Star Motorsports No. 4 alongside Decker’s Gypsum Wholesalers Bicknell on a lap-128 restart, but couldn’t quite put him away.
“I made him work for it,” declared McCreadie. “There was no way I was just going to let him ride it out. If he’s leading with 20 to go, he’s ready to put it away. Rick was pressuring me and I had to get going or end up third.”
The “Rick” McCreadie referred to was New Jersey modified hero Rick Laubach, who claimed third after a strong run that saw him beat brothers-in-law Ronnie Johnson and Andy Bachetti to the checkers.
“We were hitting the (rpm limiting) computer chip at the end and it was overheating, so we’re pretty happy to be third,” declared Laubach. “This is my favorite track and after seven years we’re getting to know what we have to do to run up front.”
That experience is the advantage Decker has over the field, as he always plays his time-proven “be the first to refuel and get back out” strategy to perfection, though this time it almost didn’t work.
“This year we had to race some of these guys more than normal,” admitted the winner. “We found out that we couldn’t make it by riding and waiting for others to run out of fuel like in the past.”
Fast-timer Decker led easily early on as the fans watched his teammate, Larry Wight, use the extreme outside of the treacherous one-mile track to advance from 14th into the top five.
But a few cars, including contender Brett Hearn, had pitted on a lap-five yellow flag and it soon became apparent that a variety of strategies were in play. Decker, with most of the field following behind him, made his fuel stop on lap 44 after John Lazore tagged the wall to draw another yellow, with Matt Billings inheriting the lead. Hearn was 10th at that point, with Decker settling in on his rear bumper after leading the charge out of the pits.
The crowd then split their attention between Hearn and Decker and following the battle for the lead, which Marc Johnson finally won on lap 59. A red flag to retrieve the mount of Alex Friesen, which landed on its side near the pit gate after a turn-four scramble on lap 64, interrupted the action but shortly after the green reappeared, Decker passed Hearn off turn four to become the first car that had refueled.
Up front, Bobby Varin took command when Johnson pitted on lap 77 with Tim Fuller second and Decker third. Seven laps later Decker shot into second and with Varin on a ‘pit late and race back to the front’ strategy, it appeared that the money was Decker’s to lose.
Decker got the lead as planned when Varin finally went pitside on lap 104 and the finishing order seemed pretty well set until Jimmy Horton and Matt Sheppard, both running in the top eight, crashed on lap 125. A melee on the restart saw Varin get collected, ending his day.
“We lucked out,” declared Decker. “We thought about pitting on that first yellow but finally decided against it. We might have made it if the track stayed like yesterday but it was way faster today. I’m really glad we didn’t try it! We were lucky twice, as we weren’t going to hot lap but then it looked like the track was starting to change, so we went out and ended up changing a bunch of things for the race.”
Ryan Susice won the companion SUNY Canton 30 for Sportsman, with Brandon Sweet, Shane Jablonka, Jesse Cotriss and Dale Caswell trailing.