SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Billy Decker turned a leisurely ride into a $20,000 payday by winning the Salute to the Troops 150 for 358 modifieds Saturday afternoon at the New York State Fairgrounds mile.
Following his usual game plan, Decker rode just off the pace for the first 30 laps, then capitalized on a lightning-fast pit stop by his Gypsum Wholesalers team to get out of the pits first among the contenders.
After moving to second when everyone ahead of him, with the exception of Martin Roy, pitted on subsequent yellows, Decker again rode off the pace until Roy stopped on lap 100.
Once in command, Decker ran just fast enough to stay ahead of challengers Matt Sheppard, Brett Hearn and Tim Fuller. It was his second triumph in a row and fourth overall in the Super DIRT Week event.
“I never ran harder than I had to,” offered Decker with a sly smile. “I was only concerned twice — once when Andy Bachetti beat me back on the track before being set back for passing on pit road, and late in the race when the No. 95 blew a tire right in front of me on the backstretch. I thought he was going to take me out, too.”
Polesitter and second-place finisher Hearn, who led Kenny Tremont, Jr., Larry Wight and Larry Lampman, Jr. to the stripe, had an entirely different day as his Madsen Motorsports mount’s left-rear suspension collapsed with 30 laps to go, causing the body to ride on the tire and smoke to billow out.
“That’ll make you sweat a little bit,” said Hearn. “I was just pacing myself until it collapsed, then I was thinking of going in. I slowed down and it kept going without the rear end falling out, so I picked it back up. That frontstretch bump killed us, but we made it to the end.”
Tremont, who picked up a spot off the last turn when Wight ran out of gas, was the only one of the contenders who didn’t pit at lap 30, the earliest that the mandatory pit stop could be made. After stopping on lap 65, he moved steadily back through the field.
“We didn’t have any idea what kind of mileage our new Ford engine would get, so why chance it?” Tremont said.
His strategy proved to be right on, as Sheppard ran dry while running second on lap 143 with Fuller suffering a similar fate just before the checkered flag waved.
Sheppard moved into second after a hard crash eliminated second-place Bachetti on lap 71, challenging Decker on every restart, but he could never get alongside on the bumpy frontstretch.
“Turns three and four got treacherous later on, as the sun went down, but turn one was the biggest problem,” said Decker. “Matt ran down on the bottom, but I stayed outside and ran the left tire through the hole rather than the right side, because the car handled it better that way. I hope they do something with it by tomorrow. It was really bad by the end.”
Billy Decker, Brett Hearn, Kenny Tremont, Jr., Larry Wight, Larry Lampman, Jr., Martin Roy, Patrick Dupree, Rick Scagliotta, Marc Johnson, Mat Williamson, Jimmy Horton, Tony Steiner, Michael Chicoine, Greg Atkins, Tim Fuller, Brian McDonald, Brian Swarthout, Mario Clair, Jeremy Wilder, Roy Tarbell, Pat Ward, Matt Sheppard, Mark D’Ilario, John Flach, Jr., Mike Perrotte, Rick Laubach, Ronnie Johnson, Dve Rauscher, Doug Faulkner, Tim McCreadie, Andy Bachetti, Erick Rudolph, Sebastien Gougeon, Wayne Jelley, Lance Willix II, Pete Bicknell, Chris Shultz, Tom Sears, Jr., Chad Brachmann.