By CAMDEN PROUD
Billy Decker the ‘Franklin Flyer’ from Unadilla, NY drove around a lightning quick Erick Rudolph on a restart with fourteen to go and captured the DIRTcar 358 Modified Series Salute the Troops 150 accompanied by a $20,000 payday. It was Decker’s seventh win in the 150 and his first since 2011 at Syracuse.
“I am so thrilled to be here,” Decker said in victory lane. “I got a really good opportunity this year and can’t even begin to tell everyone how much I appreciate it. This team won a really big race here a year ago with the 200 and this year we were able to get it done in the Salute the Troops 150. I am really happy for all of the LJL Gypsum Racing guys.”
Leading the field to green for the 150 were Rudolph and first time small block polesitter Jimmy Phelps. Phelps lead the first ten laps before Rudolph reeled the Bandit in and took the lead coming to lap 11. The eleventh circuit was also when the first caution flag came out for Mike Maresca, whose week of good luck ran out with issues. He ended up pitside on lap 22.
On the restart, fifth starting Williamson shot around Phelps for second on the high side, and one lap later was followed by last year’s Billy Whittaker Cars 200 race winner Larry Wight, dropping Phelps back to fourth. With twenty laps in, Rudolph lead Williamson, Wight, Phelps, and Tim Fuller.
The second caution flag came out on lap 22 when Lance Willix, Yan Bussiere, and Kyle Dingwall all got together in turn one. It was this incident that resulted in Bussiere’s night ending on the hook.
When Rudolph lead the field back to green on lap 23, he was able to pull away from Williamson and quickly reach traffic a mere eight laps later, but when he got there, that halted his momentum. On lap 35, Williamson pulled to Rudolph’s back bumper and one lap later, took the lead around the outside.
Before much longer, Wight was able to throw his hat into the ring and a three car battle for the lead ensued on lap 36. With Williamson, Rudolph, and Wight all even keel, as soon as Williamson drifted high through traffic, Rudolph pounced and was able to go down low and back to the lead on lap 38.
From there, Rudolph once again was able to open up his advantage leading Williamson, Wight, Fuller, Decker, Justin Haers, Dave Marcuccilli, Billy Dunn, and Mario Clair – but another caution would the No. 25 car on yet another occasion.
It was lap 54 that brought the third yellow flag of the race, this time for Lindberg slowing on the banking in three and four. This happened just as Wight had closed on Williamson and mounted a run for second. Now, he would have to try it all over again, but it would turn out that this caution flag proved to be in Wight’s best interest.
On the restart, Wight shot out of a cannon up high to go around both Williamson and Rudolph in one move to take the lead. At lap 60, it was now Wight leading Rudolph, Decker, Williamson, Phelps, and Fuller.
It only took Wight eleven laps to catch the back of the field, and once again the lapped traffic pattern would repeat itself, but this time with roles reversed. Almost instantaneously, Rudolph was able to close the gap between first and second. All of a sudden, Williamson and Decker; who started all the way back in fourteenth, were in striking distance as well.
As Williamson and Decker swapped positions back and fourth for the four spot, it seemed that Decker had come out of nowhere, creeping around the bottom portion of the speedway to get around the likes of Dunn, Fuller, Perrego, and Hears to be able to challenge for a spot on the podium.
Finally, Rudolph was able to pressure Wight for the lead on lap 85, and when Larry drifted out a little too high off turn four, it gave Rudolph an opportunity to take it back. The pair battled side by side for three laps before a yellow flag halted this exciting duel for the number one spot.
The field would run five laps under caution before Wight paced them back to green on lap 96. Larry was able to hold on until lap 105, but as soon as he caught traffic again, Rudolph proved too strong. Despite a valiant effort to hang on up high, Rudolph was able to sneak around the bottom and back into the top spot past Wight.
Fast forward twenty laps and it was with thirty to go that Williamson began to fade, but Decker had just begun to pick up the pace. Both Decker and Fuller snuck under Williamson’s No. 6 around lap 115. While Fuller seemed to stall as he reached fourth, Decker was just getting started. The driver of the Gypsum Wholesalers No. 91 reeled in his teammate Wight in next to no time.
The Gypsum duo battled side by side for second beginning on lap 127 and once again Wight put up a tremendous fight, but he finally had to surrender position two to Decker with 23 to go.
Although Decker had made it up to second, he was nowhere near race leader Rudolph at lap 130. In fact, Rudolph was over a half straightaway ahead. That is when the worst possible case scenario took place for the race leader; a caution flag for the No. 111 of Demetrios Drellos, was displayed. This literally changed everything.
On the ensuing restart, it would seem that the top two had two entirely different race cars. Decker drove around Rudolph for the lead as if he were sitting still, and rode right off into the sunset away from the No. 25 and the rest of the field. However, with four laps to go, caution lights were illuminated again when both Phelps and Mario Clair fell off the pace.
Discussing the bold restart move; Decker joked that he”learned it from Larry.” Billy said, “I started to roll the middle and it seemed when I did that I drove away from everyone. I watched Wight on a restart and the same thing happened to him. He was able to open up some distance. It worked for him, so I figured I’d give it a shot and it paid off for us.”
Would another restart shake the field up with a green-white-checkered finish on tap? Not this time! It was all Billy Decker as he beat out Rudolph for the win followed by Wight, Fuller, Williamson, Perrego, Susice, Dunn, Haers, and a rather hard charging Steve Bernier in the top ten.
2019 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for Decker. He has three wins on the season; two with John Wight at Volusia Speedway Park and Brewerton Speedway, and one with Jeremy Smith at Thunder Mountain. Perhaps that’s what made this small block 150 victory a little extra sweet.
“We have chased our tails with these cars all year and it seems like we’ve never been happy,” Decker continued. “Scott (Jeffrey) and the boys decided to free us up a fraction with about fifty to go, and we got a winner out of this baby. I have never swept the weekend at Super DIRT Week and maybe it’s about time we did.”
Results – 2019 DIRTcar 358 Modified Series Salute the Troops 150 (Oswego Speedway):
- 91 BILLY DECKER ($20,000), 2. 25R Erick Rudolph, 3. 99L Larry Wight, 4. 3rs Tim Fuller, 5. 6 Mat Williamson, 6. 18 Anthony Perrego, 7. 38RS Ryan Susice, 8. 49 Billy Dunn, 9. 3 Justin Haers, 10. 25st Steve Bernier, 11. 124 Alan Johnson, 12. 9J Jordan McCreadie, 13. 15 Todd Root, 14. 25p Michael Parent, 15. 1 David Hebert, 16. 35 Mike Mahaney, 17. 47s Corey Wheeler, 18. 109 Billy Whittaker, 19. 98H Jimmy Phelps, 20. 1z Jessica Friesen, 21. 71 Mike Bowman, 22 83 Danny Johnson, 23. m1 Dave Marcuccilli, 24. 42p Pat Ward, 25. 20 Brett Hearn, 26. 17 Tyler Meeks, 27. 66 Kyle Dingeall, 28. 2 Jack Lehner, 29. 32R Ron Davis III, 30. 22c Mario Clair, 31. 28zt Gary Lindberg, 32. 19m Jessey Mueller, 33. 111 Demetrios Drellos, 34. 33h Chris Hile, 35. 9x Tyler Trump, 36. 31 Lance Willix, 37. 115 Kenny Tremont, 38. 39x Alex Therrien, 39. 7m Mike Maresca, 40. 21 Yan Bussiere.