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Decker Survives Coffey Break For 3rd ‘Salute To The Troops’ 358-Mod Win

Billy Decker
Billy Decker - Chris Dolack Photo

Syracuse, NYOctober 11, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast PR Director

Already a four-time titlist in the Big-Block portion of Super DIRT Week, track record-holder Billy Decker survived a race-long battle with Vic Coffey to capture a coveted third trophy in the 29th Annual ‘Salute To The Troops’ 150 Championship for 358-Modifieds on Saturday afternoon at the New York State Fairgrounds.

Racking up a DIRTcar best 22 Big-Block Modified feature wins in 2008, Decker’s lone victory in the sister Small-Block class was the biggest on the circuit this season as the Unadilla, New York veteran earned $20,000 for the LJL Racing no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers/Bicknell Race Team.

“I knew doggone well Vic was gonna be on the gas so I was gonna be on the gas all I could, too,” exclaimed Decker, after holding off pole-sitter Coffey by 1.1-seconds under the checkered flag as the Leicester, New York speedster had chased him for 117 laps with the final 57 scored at the head of the pack. “When you’re coming around with five to go you’re not giving in much at all and staying right with it.”

“I knew Vic was gonna be real strong at the end so I stayed right with it. You leave a little door open and you know he was going to take advantage of it. The car was really good and the track was good. Obviously, it’s a little faster than it was for qualifying. (Rite Aid 200) is our big picture, that’s what we’re looking forward to and would certainly like to make it two in a row tomorrow,” remarked Decker, who was clocked on the final lap with his best time of the entire week in the 358-Modified division.

Following Decker and Coffey across the line in the 150-mile main were Gypsum teammate Pat Ward, reigning Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified points king Mario Clair and ’04 Syracuse Small-Block winner Wayne Jelley. 2003 Salute To The Troops victor Matt Sheppard advanced from 23rd starting position to finish sixth ahead of Pennsylvanian Rick Laubach, Massachusetts invader Andy Bachetti, local driver Jimmy Phelps from nearby Baldwinsville, New York, and legendary pilot Jack Johnson to round out the top-10.

Action got underway with the first of a dozen yellow flags unfurling even before a half-lap was completed. A replay showed Tim Fuller scraping the turn one inside barrier and crossing over into the car of current Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified points leader Pete Bicknell, with Fuller looping his JL Motorsports no. 19 Street Wise Fight Wear/TEO machine exiting the first corner. The end result was a multi-car slamfest with those of rookie Mitchell Jock, Rick Richner, Bicknell and Fuller sidelined in the pits for the remainder of the event.

A complete restart followed the clean-up and fast timer Coffey out-dragged Clair to the initial turn with Decker securing runner-up status at the conclusion of one lap. Jelley nipped the wall high in turns three and four to ground his Bedell motor-powered no 45 K&F Modular Homes mount, although the Pittsfield, Mass. driver benefited from an ‘Easy Pass’ on the 28th circuit, which allowed him as the first driver down a lap to rejoin the back of the pack following an extended caution.

Decker continued to shadow Coffey in the early stages and when Phelps slowed in turn one to bring out a yellow flag for the third time on lap 27, the lead pair was the first to turn pitside and a host of top running drivers followed suit. Another Frenchman, Martin Roy, started ninth in the 44-car field and was in position to inherit the point at that juncture. Yet on the ensuing restart, Sheppard darted low across the stripe to grab a lead that he would maintain for the next half-dozen circuits, until making his only visit to the pits on lap 39.

Probably going unnoticed by the majority of onlookers at the time —except for the Decker/Coffey contingent— Decker sped around Coffey on lap 33 and as the frontrunners among those to make the initial pit stops, they fell in line just outside the first 20 cars. Up front, Roy headed the new group that included Sheppard, Larry Lampman Jr., Mike Adderley and past Syracuse winner Kenny Tremont. Right behind Decker and Coffey mid-pack were Bachetti, Brett Hearn and Clair and that same order would remain intact almost the entire remainder of the way as each driver scratched and clawed their way to the front.

“At that stage things were a little dicey and we knew we were racing Vic and the no. 32 car,” figured Decker, who won his first Super DIRT Week Small-Block Championship in 1991 (50 laps) and followed up in 2002 (75 laps), although neither feature required a fine-tuned pit stop strategy. “(Vic) got trapped a little bit behind a car getting into turn one and I snuck by on the outside and got lucky. Then I pretty much had to keep the wheels on it to have a chance the rest of the way.”

Miles and miles of experience at the Syracuse fairgrounds allowed the four-time Rite Aid 200 champion to do just that as Decker methodically marched toward the front as all those in his way made their own pit stops to send them to the rear. With 35 on the scoreboard Decker moved into 15th-place followed by Syracuse winners Coffey and Hearn, and 10 laps later the ‘Franklin Flyer’ broke into the top-10. Roy assumed command of the lead for a second time when Sheppard ducked into the pits and held on tight through a pair of cautions until making his own stop for tires and fuel on 77.

When recently crowned Airborne Speedway points champion Patrick Dupree took over at the top, Decker was resting solidly in third directly in front of Coffey and Hearn, with ’06 DIRTcar 358-Modified rookie of the year Lance Willix II clinging to second-place in time for the lap 80 restart. It then became Willix’ turn to fill in the lead role when Dupree’s Outback Steakhouse no. 24 Boomerang Vodka/TEO ride sputtered exiting turn two on lap 89. Decker successfully completed his mission to the front four more times around the Moody Mile as Willix relinquished the point and later came to rest in the second corner with an empty tank thirsting for fuel.

At the century mark Decker and Coffey remained out front with Hearn, Clair and Ward unable to mount any serious challenge even after four more caution periods afforded ample opportunity to put pressure on the lead machines. Any chance Hearn had to defend his ‘Salute To The Troops’ title came to a sudden end on lap 127 when he popped a left-front tire while attempting to navigate Vinny Salerno’s no. 4 Four Star Transmissions-Kruger-Kosakowski Plumbing/TEO entry low in turn three admittedly too close to the fence. The Sussex, New Jersey star reluctantly received the Budd Olsen Speed Supplies Hard Luck Award as an after thought, dropping to 16th on the final scoresheet.

The final yellow flag flew on lap 141 after Carey Terrance first grazed the front stretch wall then rammed the cement high between turns one and two before calling it a night. With one more glimmer of hope given to his closest challengers, Decker mashed the gas over the final five-lap dash and cruised on to convincing eight car-length margin of victory over Coffey at the line.

“Everybody did a great job, all the guys worked their tails off and we’ve got some karma back in the pits now,” commented Decker, who scored his last main event win for owners John and Laura Wight on the Syracuse Mile in the 2005 Rite Aid 200 that was completed in November due to untimely October rains. “There was never any concern over tread wear, we were more worried about cutting a tire. I think those guys that had tire issues punctured them. We’ve got a lot more laps left on these, but I’m glad its finally over so I don’t have to find out.”

Post-race accolades went to Midstate Golf Cars Rookie of the Race Award winner Jeremy Wilder (12th) while Roy collected the Dig Safely New York hardware for leading at the halfway point (lap 75). The only female competitor in the Saturday afternoon show, Kim LaVoy accepted the Gater Racing Photo News Best Car & Crew Award in the customary pre-race ceremonies and Ward’s New York State Stock Car Racing Association affiliation provided him the benefit of receiving the groups ‘Top Member’ Award when it was all over.

Super DIRT Week XXXVII concludes Sunday with the prized jewel of DIRTcar Racing in the Northeast — Rite Aid 200 for Big-Block Modifieds paying the winner a whopping $50,000 from the raceday purse. The ‘Dig Safely New York Modified Last Chance Qualifier rewards the top-three finishers with starting positions 42-44 in 200-mile main event with overall top finisher Chad Brachmann in Cayuga County Fair Speedway’s ‘Win And You’re In’ Twin 25s held on Saturday night earning the 45th starting spot in the 200-mile fairgrounds finale.

The 25-lap BNC Motorsports Pro Stock Championship is the first feature race slated to go off at 12noon following the Dig Safely NY last-chance qualifier which takes the green flag at 11:15am. The 37th Rite Aid 200 headline event is set to roll off the line Sunday afternoon at 2:15 p.m.

Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Series Race #9 – New York State Fairgrounds, Oct. 11, 2008 29th “Salute To The Troops” 150 Event Summary
FIN STR CAR# DRIVER
1 3 91 Billy Decker/Unadilla,NY($20,000)
2 1 32C Vic Coffey/Leicester,NY
3 11 42P Pat Ward/Genoa,NY
4 2 22C Mario Clair/St-Edmond,QUE
5 16 45 Wayne Jelley/Pittsfield,MA
6 23 1X Matt Sheppard/Waterloo,NY
7 13 14 Rick Laubach/Hellertown,PA
8 5 4 Andy Bachetti/Great Barrington,MA
9 8 98H Jimmy Phelps/Baldwinsville,NY
10 43 76A Jack Johnson/Duanesburg,NY
11 9 90 Martin Roy/Napierville,QUE
12 14 22J Jeremy Wilder/Fort Plain,NY®
13 46 21 Yan Bussiere/Drummondville,QUE®
14 19 99 Mike Adderley/Charlotte,NC®
15 15 3B Chad Brachmann/Sanborn,NY
16 6 4* Brett Hearn/Sussex,NJ
17 4 22L Larry Lampman Jr./Port Colborne,ONT®
18 32 51 Jim VanAnden/Stormville,NY®
19 28 16 Lance Willix II/Theresa,NY
20 41 7A Al Blanchard/Fenwick,ONT®
21 36 9 Mark Smoke/Akwesasne,NY
22 18 66X Carey Terrance/Hogansburg,NY
23 12 83 Tom Sears Jr./Clay,NY
24 35 1NY Greg Atkins/Clintonville,NY®
25 38 8 Jimmy Horton/Neshanic Station,NJ
26 34 34 Steve Hough/East Greenbush,NY®
27 21 115 Kenny Tremont/West Sand Lake,NY
28 45 99L Larry Wight/Phoenix,NY®
29 25 19 Joe Williams/Scotia,NY®
30 24 24D Patrick Dupree/Saranac Lake,NY
31 17 55J Danny Johnson/Rochester,NY
32 31 22 Eric Gauvreau/Chelsea,QUE
33 22 220 John Ferrier/Middletown,NY
34 33 4B Dan Burl/East Nassau,NY®
35 27 72 Tommy Flannigan/St.Catharines,ONT®
36 39 44 Casey Swamp/Akwesasne,NY®
37 20 24 Chris Shultz/Pawling,NY
38 29 3 Kim LaVoy/Nassau,NY®
39 26 7star Tim Jones/Sanborn,NY®
40 40 87 Shawn Donath/S.Onondaga,NY
41 37 14M Mitchell Jock/Akwesasne,NY®
42 7 19F Tim Fuller/Edwards,NY
43 10 42 Pete Bicknell/St.Catharines,ONT
44 30 26 Rick Richner/Niagara Falls,NY
DNS 42 4S Brad Shova/North Bangor,NY®
DNS 44 41B Brian Gagliardo/Bethel,PA®
DNS 47 1J Stewart Friesen/Niagara-o-t-Lake,ONT
EVENT SUMMARY:
LAP LEADERS: Coffey (1-26), Roy (27-31), Sheppard (32-38), Roy (39-76), Dupree (77-88), Willix (89-92), Decker (93-150).
TOTAL LAPS LED: 58-Decker, 43-Roy, 26-Coffey, 12-Dupree, 7-Sheppard, 4-Willix.
LEAD CHANGES: 6 among 6 drivers.
CAUTIONS: 12 for 60 laps.
ELAPSED TIME: 2 hr. 2 mins. 54 secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 73.230 mph.
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.120 sec.
MIDSTATE GOLF CARS ROOKIE OF THE RACE: Jeremy Wilder.
DIG SAFELY NEW YORK HALFWAY LEADER AWARD: Martin Roy.
GATER RACING NEWS BEST APPEARING CAR & CREW: #3 – Kim LaVoy.
NYSSCA ‘TOP MEMBER’ AWARD: Pat Ward.
BUDD OLSEN SPEED SUPPLIES HARD LUCK AWARD: Brett Hearn.
TROYER RACE CARS POLE AWARD: Vic Coffey (32.000 sec/112.500 mph).
TROYER RACE CARS OUTSIDE POLE AWARD: Mario Clair (32.097 sec/112.160 mph).
PULLEN’S TRUCK CENTER TWIN-20 RACE WINNER: Billy Decker.
PULLEN’S TRUCK CENTER TWIN-20 RACE WINNER: Brett Hearn.
RACE ROOKIES®: 18.
ENTRIES: 56.

UPCOMING EVENT
The final Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified event of the season comes in one week during the 47th running of Eastern States Weekend, Oct. 19-21, at Orange County Fair Speedway with valuable points on the line towards the overall Hoosier Tire-Sunoco Race Fuels Mr. DIRT 358-Modified Championship finale.

SUPER DIRT WEEK XXXVII EVENTS SCHEDULE: October 12, 2008
*All times and events subject to change.
DAY-DATE TIME EVENT
Sun-10/12
8am Pit Gates Open;
9:15am BNC Motorsports Pro Stock Driver’s Meeting (in pit building);
9:30am AAP Rite Aid 200 Modified Driver and Crew Chief Meeting (in pit building);
10am Grandstands Open, Track Open for Pro Stock Final Practice;
10:20am Advance Auto Parts Series Rite Aid 200 Final practice;
10:45am Dig Safely New York Pro Stock Last Chance Qualifier;
11:15am Dig Safely New York Modified Last Chance Qualifier;
11:45am Mandatory Advance Auto Parts Modified Top-30 Autograph Signing under grandstand (Top 30 in Thursday Time Trials);
12:00pm BNC Motorsports Pro Stock Championship (25 laps, 30 cars to start);
12:45-1:45pm Rite Aid Cold Pit Tour of Pit Row;
1:30pm Rite Aid 200 Modified Championship Pre-Race ceremonies;
2:15pm Rite Aid 200 Modified Championship (200 laps, 44 cars to start)

Mon-10/13
-TBA- Rain Date for Saturday or Sunday events.

2008 Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Championship Series Schedule
*All events subject to change.
DAY-DATE LAPS TRACK LOCATION/WINNER
Sat-Apr 26 100 Merrittville Speedway Dale Planck
Fri-Aug 1 68 Ransomville Speedway Todd Burley
Thr-Aug 21 100 Mohawk Int’l Raceway Mario Clair
Sun-Aug 31 100 Cornwall Motor Speedway Danny O’Brien
Sat-Sep 12 75 Brockville Ont Speedway Rain-Cancelled
Sat-Sep 13 152 Autodrome Drummond Danny O’Brien
Fri-Sep 19 75 Canandaigua Speedway Jimmy Phelps
Fri-Sep 26 75 Rolling Wheels Raceway Rain-Cancelled
Wed-Oct 8 75 Can-Am Motorsports Park Rain
Thr-Oct 9 84 Brewerton Speedway Gary Tomkins
Fri-Oct 10 100 Rolling Wheels Raceway Brett Hearn
Sat-Oct 11 150 New York State Fairgrnds Billy Decker
Sat-Oct 18 100 Orange Co Fair Speedway Middletown,NY ($7,500 to win)

Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets As of April 19, 2008, the Company operated 3,291 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional information about the Company, employment opportunities, customer services, and on-line shopping for parts and accessories can be found on the Company’s web site at www.advanceautoparts.com.

The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Advance Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tire and Sunoco Race Fuels. Promotional partners include AMB i.t., Rite Aid Corporation and the University of Northwestern Ohio and the contingency sponsors are Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Crane Cams, Integra Shocks, MSD Ignitions, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks and Wrisco Industries.