By Robby Knowles
OSWEGO, NY — Oct. 12, 2019 — If you’re going to win your first DIRTcar 358 Modified Series race of the season, there’s no better time than during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway. That’s exactly what the “Franklin Flyer” Billy Decker did on Saturday night, driving from 14th to victory in the Salute to the Troops 150.
A restart on lap 136 set up Erick Rudolph and Decker to square off. Decker aced the restart and was able to power around the outside of turns one and two to take his first and only lead of the night.
The green flag run lasted only two laps, however, as Gary Lindberg slowed in the middle of the backstretch, bringing out the yellow flag. A single file restart on lap 140 allowed Decker to pull away from Rudolph, only to see the yellow flag fly once again, setting up a green-white-checked finish.
Decker fired at the VP Racing Fuels Making Power Point and left the field behind him to collect the $20,000 top prize.
“I learned what I needed to do on the restart from Larry (Wight) a couple laps earlier,” Decker said. “It feels good to be here, I have to thank Gypsum Racing and the entire LJL Racing team.”
The victory was Decker’s seventh in the DIRTcar 358 Modified event during NAPA Super DIRT Week, but was the first since the event moved to Oswego Speedway four years ago.
Jimmy Phelps and Rudolph led the 40-car field to the drop of the green flag and Phelps was able to get the early advantage. Mike Maresca’s left rear flat brought out a yellow flag on lap 11, allowing Rudolph and Mat Williamson to take advantage of the restart. Rudolph took the lead away and Williamson found the second spot.
Wight was rim riding around the outside of the “Clay Palace” as he drove from the 10th to third by lap 15. Wight would make another impressive power move on the outside of Williamson to take away the second spot on lap 54.
Wight continued to run the outside and utilized a lap 57 restart to take the lead away from Rudolph.
The leaders would run into heavy lapped traffic on lap 84, with Wight trying to find a way through. Rudolph closed in on lap 88 and was searching on the outside of Wight. A lap later, Rudolph crossed over to the inside, but couldn’t find a way by. Wight made a three-wide move in traffic, splitting Mike Mahaney and Chris Hile to gain separation from Rudolph.
The yellow flag flew on lap 92 and the lap counter would be frozen on lap 96 for the mandatory pit stop.
During the pit stop, several teams took rear tires and topped off on fuel. Eventual race winner Decker took two tires and fuel as well.
“We freed up the car just a fraction,” Decker explained. “[Crew chief] Scott [Jeffery] and the boys made an adjustment and gave me a winning car.”
Wight would lead the field after the restart, but Rudolph found a way by on lap 106. Rudolph began to extend his lead and pull away as Decker began challenging Wight for the second spot. The two teammates were locked into a see-saw battle for five laps with Decker eventually clearing Wight.
The yellow flag on lap 133 setup the restart on lap 136 where Decker took the lead for good.
Rudolph finished in second, while Wight completed the podium. Tim Fuller and Williamson finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Anthony Perrego, Ryan Susice, Billy Dunn, Justin Haers and Steve Bernier rounded out the top 10.
LAST CHANCE SHOWDOWNS: Earlier on Saturday, Steve Bernier won the first 20-lap Last Chance Showdown in dominating fashion. Lance Willix II took the early lead, but was eventually passed by Bernier, forcing Willix to settle for second. Alex Therrien, Kyle Dingwall and Mike Bowman completed the top-five and qualified for the Salute to the Troops 150. … Jordan McCreadie took advantage of his first place starting spot to win the second Last Chance Showdown. Tyler Meeks used a restart to slip by Mike Mahaney to take the second position. Mahaney hung on for third, while Tyler Trump and Yan Bussiere finished fourth and fifth, respectively and qualified for the Salute to the Troops 150.