SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Australian Peter Britten had his Bruneau-powered Troyer modified on the provisional pole for most of Thursday afternoon’s big-block qualifying session at Super DIRT Week.
But with four cars left of the 69 that took time, he knew he wasn’t safe yet.
“I figured all day that if anyone beat my time, it would be Billy Decker,” offered Britten with a broad smile. “And from the sound of his car when he went by, I knew I was in trouble.”
Trouble indeed, as Decker, long the premier driver at the New York State Fairgrounds mile, cranked out a 33.260 second lap on his first try, eclipsing Britten’s best lap of 33.330. Then he dug deep and posted a 32.997 his second time around the “Moody Mile” in his Kevlar-powered NAPA Auto Parts Bicknell.
“I got sideways between one and two but I got it back to traction quick,” offered Decker in his usual understated manner. “Then I bounced around in the hole between three and four but I think everybody did. I think I still left a tenth or two on the table but it’s a good start on the week.
“I thought the track would slow down a lot but it stayed OK and we were happy that the track was pretty much the same when we went out as during the last practice session.”
Britten then suffered another letdown when Canadian David Hebert, who missed his time trial spot and got one lap in his Finger Lakes Machine fired Bicknell at the end, also beat his time to claim the outside pole for Sunday’s VP Small Engines Fuel 200. The second row will consist of Britten and Brett Hearn with Bobby Varin and Gary Tomkins rounding out the “locked in” top six.
“I wanted the front row but I’m happy with this,” beamed Hearn. “I haven’t been up here in a couple years. I really didn’t want to start eighth or tenth in one of the heats, because the further up you are, the safer you are.”
Varin was as surprised as he was happy, saying, “The car felt terrible and the racetrack was horrible. I felt like I left three seconds on the table, but I must have been way better than it felt. I think this is my third time in the top six. Now we can get ready to race Sunday.”
Tomkins was also surprised to make the top six after struggling on lap two, explaining that “My fastest lap was my first but I didn’t think it was all that good, though it turned out to be good enough.”
Pat Ward, who had been on the bubble after Decker’s run eliminated Tim McCreadie from contention, was pushed out by Hebert’s quick lap and will start at the front of one of tonight’s qualifying heats. He looked to be a lock until Hebert rolled out late.
“Now I’m worried,” declared Ward prophetically. “He’s pretty good here.”
Trailing Ward in the final rundown were contenders McCreadie, Justin Haers, Jimmy Phelps, Matt Sheppard and Ronnie Johnson.
Rain Wednesday eliminated all on-track action and postponed Thursday’s start until well after lunchtime. This caused 358 time trials to be pushed back to Friday morning before the regular program, though weather is expected to play a part in activities through the remainder of Super DIRT Week.