Weedsport, NY — April 29, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Boris Rudzinski Photo
The DIRTcar Racing NorthEast circuit is just getting underway and Billy Decker has already established himself as a favorite in the mighty Big-Block Modified ranks. The next test for the Unadilla, New York veteran comes this Thursday when the 2008 Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series officially opens at Virginia Motor Speedway.
The 2nd Annual Paul Sawyer Memorial is slated for May 1 with Decker ready to lead a caravan of Modified of teams into the Old Dominion State in their quest for the lucrative $10,000 top prize.
“I’ve been around long enough now to know you can go from hero to zero pretty quick, but right now we’re enjoying a nice roll on the weekend,” said Decker, 43, who doubled up recently with opening day victories at both Brewerton and Canandaigua speedways, then returned to Brewerton on Friday to score a second straight triumph. Since joining owner John Wight’s Gypsum Team in 2004, the ‘Franklin Flyer’ has now logged 38 Big-Block feature wins with 11 coming in Advance Series competition.
“The Series brings all the top teams together but there’s still good competition around here on a weekly basis. And I know Virginia will be even better with the big purse. As far as I’m concerned we race against probably the best guys week in and week out all season so we’re ready go right now,” added Decker, who registered his last opening round tour win exactly eight years ago at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park, the only time the Advance Series led off with a 200-lap main event on April 30, 2000.
Decker will have to bring his ‘A’ game to the Sawyer Family facility as nearly 50 of the top teams in Big-Block Modified racing today have already signed up. The list of Advance Auto Parts Series regulars includes defending overall Mr. DIRTcar Champion Brett Hearn, rivals Alan and Danny Johnson, Jimmy Phelps, Steve Paine, Gary Tomkins, Dale Planck, Matt Sheppard, Justin Haers, Vic Coffey and Tim Fuller.
The field will be filled by talented newcomers Ryan Phelps, Billy Dunn, Kevin Bates, Sean Beardsley, Larry Wight and Joe Isabell, as well as Canadian Pat O’Brien in his first full-fledged Series assault. February Florida tour winners Billy Pauch and Jimmy Horton will also be gunning for the lion’s share along with prominent national entries Kenny Wallace (Cup Series) and Josh Richards (WoO LM).
“You still have to prepare hard no matter who you race against if you want to win,” Decker said. “It’s always a battle trying to stay on top of this game. Win or lose, you just have to keep working at it to make any gains and try to stay ahead. When you run into trouble bad things can compound in a hurry so you can never rest. You’re always looking to find any little advantage to keep the car up front.”
Serving as Vice-President and Operations Manager of the family business Quality Hardwoods during the day, Decker spent very little time up front last May under the lights at VMS. He posted the second-fastest time trial before drawing the pole to start the 60-lap Modified main yet the Gypsum Wholesalers no. 91 Stadium International-Quality Hardwoods/Bicknell machine www.gypsumracing.com only lasted 15 laps as a front panhard bar mount broke to end his day 30th on the final scoresheet.
“We’ve raced a few times at Virginia but I’ve never come away too happy,” noted Decker, who placed 15th in his most recent trip to VMS steering a WoO LM on April 11. “We run a similar set-up at most tracks in the Advance Series but what we did everywhere else didn’t seem to apply there. Last year we always had one of the top cars, that wasn’t the case at Virginia. We just haven’t figured the place out yet.”
“The second half of last season we thought we had the best ride at almost every show, just couldn’t get the deal done. We’ll be running the same car we finished out the year so we’re more confident heading south. When you’ve got an experienced team with all the pieces in place you can’t help but expect to win. Mr. DIRT is our goal every year so we go out there wanting win every race. Everybody else is trying to do the same thing so that’s the biggest challenge. But it’s the competition that keeps us motivated to do even better the next time out,” added the four-time Syracuse Rite Aid 200 winner, who secured his lone Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Championship in 1998.
Pit gates at Virginia Motor Speedway will swing open Thursday at 4pm and grandstands are scheduled to open at 5pm. Integra Shocks Time Trials for the Big-Block Modifieds follow 6:45pm practice with qualifying heats coming immediately afterwards.
Contact Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning Cory Reed at the DIRTcar NorthEast Office (315/834-6606) or log into www.superdirtcarseries.com for additional Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series information. Virginia Motor Speedway www.vamotorspeedway.com (804/758-1867) is located on U.S. Route 17, eight miles north of Saluda and 25 miles south of Tappahannock in Jamaica, Va. The speedway is just a short drive from Richmond, Fredericksburg, Southern Maryland and the Hampton Roads areas.
2nd Annual Paul Sawyer Memorial – Virginia Motor Speedway
Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Driver Roster (April 29)
1 Darwin Greene/Susquehanna,PA
1w Billy Pauch/Frenchtown,NJ
fx1 Frankie Caprara/Watertown,NY
r2 Rusty Smith/Bethlehem,PA
3 Justin Haers/Phelps,NY
5 Jimmy Horton/Neshanic Station,NJ
6 Pat O’Brien/Kingston,ONT
6j Joe Isabell/Pennellville,NY
7a Chic Cossaboone/Petersburg,NJ
7j Jeff Isabell/Pennellville,NY
7x Steve Paine/Waterloo,NY
8 Rich Scagliotta/Bound Brook,NJ
9s Matt Sheppard/Waterloo,NY
10 Kyle Strickler/Mooresville,NC
14 Rick Laubach/Quakertown,PA
14j Alan Johnson/Middlesex,NY
15 Brett Tonkin/Carbondale,PA
16 Mike Bowman/Baldwinsville,NY
18 Sean Beardsley/Central Square,NY
19 Tim Fuller/Edwards, NY
20 Brett Hearn/Sussex,NJ
20j Josh Richards/Shinnston,WV
27j Danny Johnson/Rochester,NY
29 Kenny Wallace/St.Louis,MO
29b Jeff Brownell Jr./Waterloo,NY
32c Vic Coffey/Leicester,NY
37x Tom Scheetz/Boyertown,PA
39w Steve Downs/Georgetown,DE
m40 Mark Forte,Jr./Blue Anchor,NJ
42b Kevin Bates/Lake Ariel,PA
43 Jim Horton IV/Neshanic Station,NJ
45 Wayne Jelley/Pittsfield,MA
47 Bob Sarkisian/Woolwich,NJ
48too Dave Rauscher/Waterloo,NY
49 Billy Dunn/Watertown,NY
55 Jamie Mills/Milford,DE
56 Vince Vitale/Phoenix,NY
66 Chris Knopp/Jarrettsville,MD
71 David VanHorn/Phillipsburg,NJ
77x Dale Planck/Cortland,NY
79 Mike Storms/Wantage,NJ
83 Brian Swartzlander/Leechburg,PA
84 Gary Tomkins/Clifton Springs,NY
91 Billy Decker/Unadilla,NY
98h Jimmy Phelps/Baldwinsville,NY
99 Ryan Phelps/Fulton,NY
99w Larry Wight/Phoenix,NY
357 Stewart Friesen/Niagara-o-t-Lake,ONT
777 Kevin Bolland/New Brighton,PA
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts is the second-largest retailer of automotive aftermarket parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, based on store count and sales. As of October 6, 2007, the company operated 3,228 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The company serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets.
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 and Hoosier Racing Tire. Rite Aid Corporation is a promotional partner and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks, Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Crane Cams, Dig Safely New York, Holley HP Carburetors, Integra Shocks, Intercomp, KSE Racing Products, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks, Rislone Oil Stabilizer and Wrisco Industries.