Weedsport, NY — March 20, 2009 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Jay Fish Photo
It took reigning Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar points king Billy Decker exactly one decade to capture his second overall crown. Fresh off a career campaign in last season’s Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series, the Unadilla, New York veteran is eager to make shorter work of the field when competition on the nation’s premier Big-Block Modified tour is rekindled next weekend in Maryland.
“Sure as heck don’t want to wait another 10 years, definitely have even less hair by then,” grinned Decker, 44, who racked up a record-tying 10 Advance Series wins and a series-best 18 Top-Five finishes a year ago to clinch the title after Super DIRT Week. When the season came to a close in October, he had led more than twice as many feature laps as any driver while setting a tour-high five Integra Shocks Fast Times.
“We made some slight adjustments to close the gap a little and have a new engine program in place to start out ’09. Just want to do more of the good things and less of the bad, pretty much improve wherever we can and stay ahead of the game,” Decker said.
Decker will be looking for his first tour triumph at Frank Plessinger’s legendary half-miler
when he begins his 26th season of Modified racing in the 2009 Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series opener at Hagerstown Speedway on Saturday, March 28. Back buckled in behind the wheel of the potent LJL Racing no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers-Stadium Int’l-Quality Hardwoods/Bicknell entry, he’ll also be in search of a milestone 50th series victory against an all-star cast vying for the $6,000 top prize in the 7th Annual North-South Shootout 100.
“So far we’ve had very limited success at Hagerstown, but at the same time, enjoyed night racing there as its always been a lot of fun,” remarked Decker, who scored his only other win in the Old Line State at Hagerstown to close out the Small-Block Modified portion of Octoberfest ’06. “We’re always able to start out well in qualifying, just seem to miss a little something somewhere and somebody else has ended up just a tad better.”
Despite falling just short in six previous tour attempts at Hagerstown, Decker has tallied four Top-Five finishes and also set the Integra Shocks Fast Time on four occasions. The last time the Advance Series stormed into Hagerstown was 2007 and the ‘Franklin Flyer’ was clocked quickest in qualifying then led seven laps before fading to fourth at the stripe behind winner Tim Fuller.
“We’re expecting to have to beat those same tough guys on the series again, but if we worry about anybody else at this point we’re really in big trouble,” remarked Decker, who will have to fend off past North-South champs Brett Hearn (2006), Alan Johnson (2005), Gary Tomkins (2002, ’04) and inaugural victor Steve Paine (2001). “The problem with our deal is that all the really good drivers never go away, the same guys you cut your teeth against working your way up are still there and just as sharp.”
“We’ll do the normal amount of experimenting this season, but we don’t want to stray too much as last year was pretty successful. If things go well we’ll stay on course unless somebody else comes out and raises the bar. If someone starts winning a lot and we’re still in the hunt we’ll just have to figure out why we got beat and do better. We’re always looking for a little something extra year to year to up the program anyway,” Decker said.
Decker knows the competition won’t be giving in as the initial six events staged at Hagerstown have chronicled 19 drivers among the front-five finishers with five —Decker, Tomkins, Alan Johnson, Hearn and Fuller— able to repeat. Decker set the one-lap tour speed record (19.016 sec./94.657 mph) around the ultra-smooth Hagerstown half-miler in 2005, the same season the race was won by Alan Johnson when the event was rain-delayed until June. Prior to last year’s freeze-out, Advance Series events in 2000 and ’03 were lost altogether due to early spring precipitation.
Joining in on the trail activity south of the Mason-Dixon Line will be Empire State wheelmen Matt Sheppard and teammate Jeff Brownell Jr., Frankie Caprara, Steve Paine, Ryan Phelps, Billy Dunn, Danny Johnson and ’08 Rookie of the Year Larry Wight, along with Canadian veteran Pat O’Brien and rising star Michael Storms. Sheppard already won a Small-Block special at Hagerstown on March 15.
“Last year we had a super solid program going in, started out hot and stayed strong most of the way through,” added Decker, who won back-to-back Advance Series openers in 1999 (Bridgeport) and 2000 (Rolling Wheels), immediately following his inaugural Mr. DIRTcar Championship in 1998. “We tailed off a little bit at the end, missed a few small things while motor trouble came at some of the most inopportune times. Although its still unproven out on tour, we’re excited about our engine program and keeping everything pointed in the right direction on race day. It’s a long season and a lot can happen, hopefully that means a lot of winning for the Gypsum Team.”
Joining the mighty Advance Auto Parts Modifieds in the doubleheader program will be the Late Models. Pits gates are scheduled to unlock at 3:00 p.m., grandstands open at 4:00 p.m. with warm-ups starting at 5:30 p.m. followed by Integra Shocks Big-Block Time Trials. Hagerstown Speedway is located on U.S. Route 40, four miles west of I-81.
For additional information, contact DIRTcar Racing Northeast Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning Cory Reed via cell (315/224-9009) or in the DIRTcar Northeast Office (315/834-6606). Also log into www.superdirtcarseries.com, phone the speedway office at 301/582-0640 or visit the track website at www.hagerstownspeedway.com.
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds www.cayugacountyfairspeedway.com, home of the 2009 DIRTcar All-Star Weekend, July 17-19, featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Sportsman and Big-Block Modifieds in the richest short-track show of its kind in the nation — the $20,000-to-win Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series “DIRTcar All-Star 100” on Sunday, July 19.
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 www.advanceautoparts.com.
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 www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include Rite Aid Corporation www.riteaid.com, Dig Safely New York www.digsafelynewyork.com and the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks www.barsproducts.com, Bert Transmission www.berttransmission.com, Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, Brodix Cylinder Heads www.brodix.com, Ferris Industries www.ferrisindustries.com, Integra Shocks www.integrashocksandsprings.com, Intercomp www.intercomp-racing.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Rislone Oil Stabilizer www.barsproducts.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.