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Billy Decker Crowned 2008 Advance Auto Parts Series Big-Block Modified Champion


Verona, NYNovember 15, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Bill Moore Photo – Championship Team (L-R): Owners John & Laura Wight and Billy Decker with World Racing Group CEO Brian Carter.

Ten years doesn’t figure to be a very long time as one moves on in age and all the seasons seem to suddenly mesh together. For Billy Decker, the past decade chasing points on the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series rolled on at a snail’s pace as that’s exactly the amount of time its taken for the Unadilla, New York driver to climb back to the top of the DIRTcar Racing world in the no. 91 Gypsum Express.

For the second time in his career, Decker moved to the forefront in Big-Block Modified racing as he was honored Saturday night as the overall Advance Auto Parts Series Mr. DIRTcar Champion to officially bring the curtain down on the 2008 race season.

“Yes, it sure did seem like a very, very long time since the last (title),” remarked a charismatically low-key Decker, now 43, and firmly entrenched in the DIRTcar record book as one of the best ever to turn a wheel in the Northeastern Modified ranks. The seasoned open-wheel chauffeur finished his 23rd season of Big-Block competition atop the list with 22 feature wins after matching all-time Advance Series winner Brett Hearn’s single-season tour mark of 10 victories. “Every year we always had some good portions, just couldn’t put something together and keep it there for a whole season.”

“We were definitely better prepared this year. We focused more on the Big-Block program, I think the late model events we ran a year ago took away from what we wanted to accomplish. And combined with a lot of different mechanical failures and some unlucky circumstances, it was just a frustrating time for everybody on the team. We certainly believe in Big-Block racing. The respect from everybody and the ability among all the competitors makes winning a championship like this so special. I feel blessed to be part of such a quality program,” Decker said.

On Saturday, November 15 a solid turnout of over 450 drivers, owners, crew members, officials, media members and corporate VIPs filled the Turning Stone Casino Resort Events Center in Verona, New York to celebrate during the 33rd Annual DIRTcar NorthEast “Night of Champions” Awards Banquet. Customary inclusion of four Mr. DIRTcar winning cars —parked triumphantly near center stage of the spacious dining room floor— once again served as a formidable backdrop, offering plenty of photo opportunities both before and after the festive stage production.

Familiar ‘voice’ of the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series Shane Andrews emceed the program that was highlighted by captivating interviews with every major award winner throughout the night. World Racing Group Chief Executive Officer Brian Carter and WRG President and Chief of Operations Tom Deery also addressed the audience alongside Cory Reed, Director DIRTcar NE Competition & Track Sanctioning, while acknowledgements went out to Director of Operations Josh Wells, VP Public Relations Chris Dolack and Broadcast Services Manager Brian Dunlap that were in attendance from the World Racing Group on this special occasion.

Straying slightly from the norm in this year’s festivities, recognition for many of the 2008 DIRTcar NorthEast touring division track champions kicked off the banquet agenda with Regional Racing Series Champions honored before the standard 6:30 p.m. dinner fare.

Continuing in ‘08 with DIRTcar Northeast sanctioned tracks divided into regions for the Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified and Sportsman classes, Regional Racing Series point funds rewarded the top-15 drivers in each class, with total payouts equaling $45,150 for all nine open-wheel divisions. Recently crowned Regional champions earning $1,800 in the Big-Blocks were Decker (central), Brett Hearn (east) and Brian Swartzlander (west).

Top point-getters in the Advance Auto Parts Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman, Pro Stock and Street Stock classes were recognized during this popular seasonal celebration and in the end more than $400,000 in cash and contingency awards were handed out to over 200 drivers in DIRTcar NE’s five major touring divisions.

Motorsports Marketing Supervisor Mike Paris presented awards on behalf Advance Auto Parts, Bicknell Racing Products Vice-President Randy Williamson rewarded teams in the name of Hoosier Racing Tire while Larry Bishop was in attendance from Dig Safely New York, a long standing supporter of DIRTcar Racing and sponsor of the Modified Non-Qualifiers race at Super DIRT Week. Bill Shay from Ferris Industries was also a special guest of DIRTcar Racing in this season-ending event.

In a special presentation made near the end of the night by Reed, Paris was recognized with a career achievement award. Paris received just the third-ever Glenn Donnelly Award of Excellence which was created in 2006 to honor individuals, teams, associates, sponsors and others within the DIRTcar Racing Northeast community who exemplify characteristics that Glenn himself displayed. Pride, professionalism, dedication, loyalty and a genuine desire to excel are some of the attributes that qualified Paris to receive this year’s prized award.

“I might have received a lot of accolades from Cory (Reed, presenter) I’m not quite sure I deserve, its really all you guys that have made this program easy,” said a modest Paris, a native Virginian, whose devotion to Big-Block Modified racing has kept Advance Auto Parts in a prominent position within the Northeast automotive industry while many other company projects have come and gone since the DIRTcar association was formed in 1999. “There have been a lot of individuals with DIRTcar that have been able to make my job so much easier by watching over the program when I can’t be around. Without you, the fans —our customers— wouldn’t be coming out to the tracks.”

A custom trophy was given to Paris and his name will also be inscribed next to 2006 award winners John Holland and Al Heinke from H&H Motorsports and ’07 recipient Tim Burger from Rite Aid on a special plaque that will be put on display in the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame & Classic Car Museum located on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, New York.

Along with the $50,000 Mr. DIRTcar cash jackpot collected by Decker, the Southern Tier speedster received an additional $1,000 “Gater Leads The Way” prize package from Gater Racing Photo News editor Joe Patrick after the ‘Franklin Flyer’ led the most laps during the Advance Auto Parts Series which included 26 extra-distance feature races held from April through October.

“I have to start by thanking John and Laura Wight and the whole LJL Racing Team, they’ve provided us with a great foundation to build from,” Decker added. “And with any good program you’re surrounded by a good team and mine is led by Scott (Jeffery, crew chief). Everybody in this room needs no further proof of his abilities, they already know. He’s been a great team manager and just a lot of good people make things happen.”

“Sometimes there’s a good second-place finish, maybe even a good third, but we always show up to win. That’s all we really think about and I’m probably speaking for the rest of the guys on tour so that’s what makes this (Advance Series) so competitive. We really don’t want to points race, we want to race each and every one to win and let the points take care of themselves.”

For the first time since teaming with Decker and Jeffery in 2004, John and Laura Wight were called up to the podium and the Phoenix, New York couple accepted the coveted car owner’s award. The 2008 presentation marked their second Mr. DIRTcar Championship trophy with the first coming in ’04 when Pat Ward was the overall 358-Modified high points man.

“I knew we could do it, I was actually a little disappointed we hadn’t done it the last three years so I kinda expected it,” divulged John, who settled for fourth-place Mr. DIRTcar runs with Decker behind the wheel in 2004-05 and climbed to second in ’06 then stood third last season with 11 Advance Series wins scored those previous four years. “But we just didn’t come through and we had some problems. This year things started rolling our way and everybody did a great job.”

“It’s been a great season, really have to thank the crew for all the hard work they put into this. All I did was try and convey a desire to be number one, to win at whatever you do and to be the leader. I’m not someone who looks back and worries about what anybody else is doing and I think that’s the same for Billy. He never turns around to see who was just passed, he’s always looking ahead to see who he can get by next. Racing is just like business in that regard, it’s important to do the best with what you have control over and keep moving forward,” added Wight, a former owner of Can-Am Motorsports Park from 2001-03 before turning over the keys to current landlords Charlie and Billy Caprara.

In addition to his many monetary accolades, the World Racing Group provided a commemorative ring for the newest Mr. DIRTcar Modified Champion. Decker also carried off a rare and unique 38-pound hand-crafted “Tribute Trophy” that only World of Outlaws champions Donny Schatz (Sprint), Tim McCreadie (Late Model), Steve Francis (LM) and Darrell Lanigan (LM) plus 2006 Big-Block points king Hearn possess today for their own divisional championships.

“Its always exciting celebrating the champions,” said Brian Carter, as he addressed the banquet gathering in the popular Turning Stone showroom. “This year we have some first-time champions, some long-time champions, some with their careers budding and others in their twilight. The common denominator is that all of these successes are shared by friends and families tonight which is what makes this so special.”

“Our racing family continues to grow and our future looks quite strong. The numbers don’t lie showing so many new winners in all of our divisions and I’m darn happy about it. Racing has continued to survive and we’ve kept it entertaining by embracing our fans, sponsors and all the families that got us here. I’ve always felt what doesn’t kill you makes you that much stronger and with the weather this year we truly grew a lot stronger together. We’re very proud to carry forward the tradition begun by Glenn Donnelly. We have a lot of respect for what’s happening in the Northeast and DIRTcar Racing is a big part of what we have planned for the future beginning with 2009,” Carter concluded.

Added WRG President Tom Deery, “People still seek to be entertained and our track operators continue to provide fabulous avenues of entertainment as (DIRTcar) certainly maintains a very strong presence in this area.”

“Whenever there’s a challenge, racers always seem to reach out. This is our extended racing family here tonight and that’s what this sport is really all about. The great family that we are all a part of. We all have the same passion, we share the same love for dirt short-track racing and tonight is like our big family dinner. Above all, we care about each other and that’s what makes it so special getting together here tonight,” Deery noted.

Four rookie drivers were honored at the banquet and presented special achievement awards for their first-year success. An additional $7,000 in cash and prizes, including Extreme Mufflers and a ButlerBuilt Seat, were shared by the 2008 Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE Racing Gear DIRTcar Northeast Rookies of the Year award winners led by Larry Wight, who garnered both Big-Block Modified and 358-Modified awards the first time ever in the same season.

‘Llive’ entertainment provided by the band Phatalyss closed out the gala evening in the events center while race teams, sponsors, track operators and guests were all invited back up to DIRTcar’s 4th Floor hospitality room for an after hours soiree to officially draw the curtain on DIRTcar’s 33rd season of auto racing promotion.

The start of 2009 is now only 88 days away as Volusia Speedway Park leads off down south with the 38th Annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH opening for Big-Block Modifieds on February 11. Check out often as further information for Volusia’s popular Winter tour events will be posted right up to race time.

Skidmarks: AARN Editor & Publisher Lenny Sammons made a rare appearance to present the annual ‘Area Auto Racing News Hard Luck’ award to Billy Dunn. Holley Carburetor ‘Hard Luck’ Awards were also handed out during the evening, with Advance Series follower Dunn rewarded for his perseverance throughout the season. Winnings continued to pile up for Dunn as he accepted a special Sportsmanship Award after making every event in the Advance Series despite numerous misfortunes plaguing his best efforts ….. An informal Saturday afternoon media gathering in DIRTcar’s 4th Floor lounge pre-empted the dinner banquet with Cory Reed offering some brief notes about what transpired during the promoters’ meetings held Friday while corporate VP Media Chris Dolack and DIRTcar Racing Northeast PR Director also remained available to answer questions regarding the upcoming race season.


….. presented to Motorsports Marketing Supervisor for Advance Auto Parts MIKE PARIS
Introduced in 2006, the Glenn Donnelly Award of Excellence honors individuals, teams, associates, sponsors and others within the DIRTcar Racing Northeast community who exemplify characteristics that Glenn himself displayed. Pride, professionalism, dedication, loyalty and a genuine desire to excel are some of the attributes that qualify recipients for this most prestigious award. Inaugural winners car owners JOHN HOLLAND & AL HEINKE (2006) and Rite Aid Corporation Senior Vice-President TIM BURGER (2007) are great examples. These qualities separate DIRTcar members apart from the others and it’s the dedication and love of this sport set in motion by Glenn, that make this great image of DIRT racing possible. This award is earned, not won.

The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series is recognized not only throughout the Northeast but around the entire country as the premier traveling tour for the mighty Big-Block Modifieds, pitting some of the premier race teams against each other in one of the most competitive point chases encompassing many of the most storied speedways in the region today. The recipient of the 2008 Glenn Donnelly Award of Excellence has not only continued to enhance the status of this nationally respected series, over the past decade he has emerged as the single-most influential person responsible for solidifying the ongoing relationship between DIRTcar Racing and the Advance Auto Parts mainstream.

The introduction to motorsports came early as our award winner’s father took him to nearby Bowman-Gray Stadium at the age of 4 and interest was instantly instilled in the Modified division that was the headline class at this legendary oval in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Although a native of Martinsville, Virginia, his hometown track only hosted special events, thus prompting the weekly 50-mile excursion south to enjoy the Saturday night Big-Block battles. Interest deepened as one of his first assignments for the Martinsville High School student newspaper was to take Modified pictures at Martinsville Speedway, where he captured former NASCAR Cup crew chief and successful car owner Ray Evernham behind the wheel in an action sequence highlighted by a fiery crash. After graduation he attended Martinsville Community College —working at a camera store during semesters— and followed up with a degree in Business Administration from James Madison University in 1990. While at JMU he joined up in a PR capacity with some childhood friends and the Riggs Bros. Racing Team fielded top-notch rides for Bowman-Gray’s all-time Modified champion Junior Miller with tour travels taking him to New York for the first time. Soon after earning his college diploma, our award winner was contacted by Advance Auto Parts Company President and CEO, Garnett E. Smith, and thus began his current affiliation with the prominent auto parts chain dealing directly with store merchandise in 1992.

The Advance Stores Company, then a chain of two stores in Roanoke and one in Lynchburg, Virginia, originated in 1932 and his father served as a store manager beginning in 1952 before retiring after 36 years of service to the company — one that has since emerged as the second-largest auto parts supplier in the nation, boasting more than 3,200 retail stores with over 800 dealer stores in 48 states. Following in the “tire tracks” of his dad, he quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder training personnel, setting up and remodeling stores while maintaining his pasttime to become the official company photographer as well as chief track photographer at Martinsville. But even before the millennium came to a close, he faced one more opportunity, and this offer was greeted by great enthusiasm as it offered him a chance to return to his Modified racing roots. A letter of intent was submitted to DIRTcar Northast Marketing Director Jim Hillier in February and an official signing on March 12, 1999 brought instant notoriety in the world of short-track racing as the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series was suddenly born. DIRTcar Northeast has been the primary beneficiary ever since, with 2008 marking the 10th consecutive year of Advance Auto Parts affiliation which remains one of the longest continuous partnerships in motorsports today.

In recognition of our appreciation to the Advance Auto Parts Company for “Keeping The Wheels Turning” and to a man who has been instrumental in the success and continuity of DIRTcar Racing, tonight we would like to present the 3rd-ever Glenn Donnelly Award of Excellence to MIKE PARIS!

Since 1976, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast has been declaring an overall Advance Auto Parts Big-Block Modified champion. Over the past three decades the point fund has grown to reflect the magnitude of this championship and with nearly 30 tracks participating in this year’s title chase, a combined point fund in excess of $200,000 awaits the top 15 Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar point getters, with over $50,000 in cash and contingency awards going to the 2008 overall champion.

In a turnaround from the previous year that featured a change in the point standings at the final event, the outcome of the 33rd edition of DIRTcar’s premier Big-Block Modified title chase was determined even before our champion suited up for the Eastern States Weekend finale at Orange County Fair Speedway. But that’s the way the season went from day one for BILLY DECKER as he won early and often before latching onto to his second Mr. DIRTcar title trophy when the 2008 campaign came to a close in October.

In a rare occurrence, opening race winner MATT SHEPPARD at Virginia Motor Speedway did not top the points chart as round one runner-up Duane Howard set the Integra Shocks Fast Time and copped his qualifying to take an early lead using bonus points to his advantage. Reigning Mr. DIRTcar points king BRETT HEARN settled for third at VMS and tallied two more front-five finishes at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park and the New Jersey Jet remained highest in the points standing as May came to a close with the Hall of Fame Classic at Cayuga County Fair Speedway. Decker and DALE PLANCK split the winner’s circle at DIRTcar founding member tracks Rolling Wheels and Cayuga County, and when they finished first and third at Fulton Speedway in June, this time they even shared the Advance Series lead as the top two approached the busiest month of the season dead-locked in points with two victories each.

But that was the closest anyone got to Decker as returned to victory lane in the July lid-lifter at Ransomville Speedway and scored his third straight tour win on Canadian soil at Brockville Ontario Speedway. He continued to build a commanding lead, returning from Quebec with an 81-point advantage despite Hearn winning at Autodrome Granby and Planck registering his first career Big-Block victory at Autodrome Drummond. And Decker remained dominant back in the states, adding his fifth win while pushing his lead to 93 points over Hearn, who became the first driver to reach the century mark after his 100th career Advance Series triumph was taken at Orange County to bring July to a close.

The month of August was even better yet for the ‘Franklin Flyer’ as Decker captured half of the eight Modified main events, with only one finish out of the front-four in his most consistent run of the season. In what would turn out to be his 10th and final tour triumph of ’08, Decker closed out Labor day Weekend with a decisive performance at Rolling Wheels and his lead ballooned to 189 points with just a handful of events waiting in the wings. And fortunately for him it was all that he needed as just one more top-five was tallied at Canandaigua Speedway with 6th-place at Rolling Wheels and 9th at Orange County his best outings in the “200s” that made up the Grand Slam segment of the Advance Auto Parts Super Series.

In the final chapter of DIRTcar Racing’s 33rd successive season, 43 year-old Decker parked the Enders-powered LJL Racing no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers-Stadium Int’l-Quality Hardwoods/Bicknell entry in the winner’s circle on a single-season record-tying 10 occasions, figuring in 18 top-5 and 24 top-10 finishes in the 26 tour races staged along the way. Decker concluded his 25th season of open-wheel competition by capturing a division best 22 DIRTcar Big-Block feature wins at nine different tracks to extend his career count to 172; with another dozen victories registered in 358-Modified racing. The Unadilla, New York star also ranks 5th all-time on the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series win list with 49 extra-distance Modified victories with seven more logged in the Mr. DIRTcar Small-Block Champ Trail.

Top-15 Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Championship
15. PAT O’BRIEN 1049 Pts.
14. LARRY WIGHT 1242
12. BILLY DUNN 1599….. *Holley / Area Auto Hard Luck Award Winner ….. *Sportsmanship Award Winner
1. BILLY DECKER 2495….. *Gater Racing Photo News Lap Leader Award Winner

For the third straight time in 2009 both the Len Sammons Motorsports Productions’ Atlantic City Indoor Race and Motorsports 2009 events will be run in conjunction with each other the weekend of Jan. 16-17. Area Auto Racing News Editor & Publisher Lenny Sammons presented the ‘Area Auto Racing News Hard Luck’ award winner Billy Dunn two tickets to the shows, which includes Saturday night luxury hotel accommodations in Atlantic City.

Billy Dunn’s Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series highlights in the no. 49 Number One Speed-American Traditions-Fast Lube Watertown/Bicknell entry include 12th in the final 2008 overall Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block point standings with three Top-10 finishes in 26 starts.

The ‘Gater Leads The Way’ awards recognizes the Big-Block Modified driver that led the most laps during Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series feature race competition. Award winner Billy Decker, who led 618 laps in 10 main events & winning all 10, earned a $1,000 package from Gater News for leading the most laps.

* 2008 Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE DIRTcar NE Big-Block Modified Rookie of the Year:
LARRY WIGHT – Phoenix, N.Y. (16 yrs.)
– driver of the no. 99 Gypsum Express-Gypsum Wholesalers-Tracey Road Equip/Bicknell entry;
– competed at Cayuga Co. (13th pts/1 win, 1 top-5, 2 top-10), Brewerton (11th/2 top-5, 6 top-10);
– finished 14th in overall Mr. DIRTcar Modified points (8th-place best at Virginia Motor Speedway);
$3000 award; G-FORCE Helmet, 6-Pt Safety Belts/Driving Gloves; $225 HANS gift certificate;
and Extreme Muffler package ….. plus $2,000 ButlerBuilt Racing Seat!

DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Track Champions
Brewerton: Art Halliday Billy Decker
Can-Am: Charlie & Billy Caprara Frankie Caprara
Canandaigua: Jack Deery Steve Paine
Cayuga County: Jack Deery Alan Johnson
Fulton: Art & Liz Halliday Tom Sears Jr.
Lebanon Valley: Howard Commander J.R. Heffner & Mark Flach Jr.
Lernerville: Gary Risch Jr. Brian Swartzlander
Orange County: George Johnson & Ken Sands David VanHorn Jr.
Tri-City: Mike & Margaret Graham, Roger & Susie Crick Kevin Bolland

Collecting a fourth points title at Brewerton Speedway and leading the entire DIRTcar NorthEast circuit with 22 feature wins, Billy Decker easily separated himself from the pack during the summer and cruised on to the Central Region crown in convincing fashion. All-time DIRTcar Modified feature winner Brett Hearn, a six-time Big-Block victor in ’08, was the class of the Eastern Region for a second straight year, as was Brian Swartzlander out West as the eight-time winner successfully defended his Lernerville Speedway season championship as well.

DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Regional Champions
No. Driver Points                      No. Driver Points             No. Driver Points
1 91 Billy Decker 900               20/74 Brett Hearn 554   83 Brian Swartzlander 704
2 14J Alan Johnson 850         4 Andy Bachetti 534        777 Kevin Bolland 700
3 9S Matt Sheppard 844         19 Chuck McKee 518     37MD Jeremiah Shingledecker 686
4 77X Dale Planck 832           77F Mark Flach Jr. 512  20D Del Rougeux Jr. 626
5 99J/98 Jimmy Phelps 824 115 Kenny Tremont 510 61 Dave Murdick 602
6 84 Gary Tomkins 822         74 J.R. Heffner 508         28 Tom Winkle 578
7 7X Steve Paine 816             47 Jerry Higbie 492         25 Joe Crawford 571
8 FX1 Frankie Caprara 770   71 David VanHorn 488 17H Kevin Hoffman 544
9 24 Jim Witko Jr. 740             66 Jeff Heotzler 472         2 Mark Flick 514
10 6 Pat O’Brien 738               98 Eddie Marshall 464  41 Andy Priest 500
11 99 Ryan Phelps 714         79 Michael Storms 462  66 J.R. McGinley 488
12 3H Justin Haers 712         42 Guy Sheldon 462     12T Tim Doran 484
13 1X Willy Decker 706          33-1/3 Tommy Meier 446 38 Phil Evans Jr. 468
14 62S Tom Sears Jr. 694    25 Mike Kolka 442          96 Mike Turner 466
15 99B Chuck Bower 688     43 Keith Flach 436           6 Carl Murdick 456

Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets As of April 19, 2008, the Company operated 3,291 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional information about the Company, employment opportunities, customer services, and on-line shopping for parts and accessories can be found on the Company’s web site at

The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Advance Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tire and Sunoco Race Fuels. Promotional partners include AMB i.t., Rite Aid Corporation and the University of Northwestern Ohio and the contingency sponsors are Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Crane Cams, Integra Shocks, MSD Ignitions, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks and Wrisco Industries.