By Ron Hedger
WEST LEBANON, N.Y. — Point-leader Brett Hearn may have drawn the pole for Thursday’s Mr. Dirt Track USA Super DIRTcar Series event, but Billy Decker took home the $17,500 top prize.
Hearn led from the start, but had wheel-bearing problems and dropped out just after the halfway point in the 100-lap event, handing the lead to Jimmy Phelps.
But with the checkered flag about to wave over the half-mile dirt track, Phelps’s mount spit out its rear end, coating turn two with oil and promoting Decker to the lead.
“I kept trying to make something happen,” offered Decker, who was the fast qualifier, “but nothing worked. It took me three or four laps after each restart to get my tires going, then when I got beside Jimmy I’d push up and lose ground. I kept trying him, but I didn’t expect to win.”
Local hero Eddie Marshall, cruising a half lap behind the leaders, claimed second with Matt Sheppard, who led the last Lebanon Valley tour event flag to flag, third. Donnie Corellis and Jeff Brownell, Jr. rounded out the top five and were the last cars on the lead lap.
“I was good early, but it went away,” commented Marshall. “I thought I’d settle for third as I didn’t even see Phelps drop out.”
With Hearn leading easily, the fans enjoyed the battle between Phelps and Decker from lap 30 on, much of it in lapped traffic. Phelps got alongside Hearn on lap 49, though Hearn soon built his advantage back up.
Decker kept diving inside Phelps once he took command, but as they lapped into the top 10, they took turns struggling with the faster lapped cars. The race went green from lap 16 on, so the leaders ran in traffic the entire race and some cars, like Rich Ricci, Jr., gave them fits as they tried to get around them.
“I appreciate the noise the fans made when I got the lead,” said Decker. “When I won this race the last time, in 1991, I had a lot more hair and I appreciate them remembering me.”
Billy Decker, Eddie Marshall, Matt Sheppard, Donnie Corellis, Jeff Brownell, Jr., Mark Flach, Jr., Jerry Higbie, Andy Bachetti, Justin Haers, Kory Sandstedt, Keith Flach, J.C. Flach, J.R. Heffner, Larry Wight, Paul Gilardi, Jimmy Phelps, Rich Ricci, Jr., Brian Berger, Brett Hearn, Rich Laubach, Dale Planck, Jeff Trombley, Alan Johnson, Kyle Sheldon, Ryan Phelps, Gary Tomkins, Danny Johnson, Kenny Tremont, Ryan Larkin, Michael Storms, Guy Sheldon, Billy Dunn.