Sheppard Earns Runner-Up Spot After Starting 11th
Story By: CLAYTON JOHNS / DIRTcar SERIES MEDIA
Photos By: JAY FISH / RACERSGUIDE.COM
FULTON, NY – April 30, 2017 – Billy Decker raced from the sixth-starting position to take the lead from outside polesitter Brett Hearn on lap 46 and held off a surging Matt Sheppard to claim his third straight Highbank Holdup 100 victory with the Super DIRTcar Series at Fulton Speedway on Saturday night.
After taking the lead, Decker battled through lapped traffic to build a lead over Hearn. He then had to contend with Sheppard, who rallied from the 11th starting spot to take the runner-up position on lap 56. Decker defended against the reigning champion’s efforts, particularly over the final 10 laps, to secure his first Series win since last year’s edition of the event on April 30, 2016.
“It was tough sledding,” Decker said of the battles throughout the race. “I think if you were rolling you could go pretty good. Matt (Sheppard) came a long way and there was a lot of dicing. I could really carry some speed through the center of the turn and I think that’s what did it.”
Before Decker paced the field, Billy Whittaker and Hearn brought the 30-car field to the green flag for the Series’ season opening points race. Whittaker paced the field over the first four laps until Hearn assumed the point on lap five.
Decker quickly made his presence felt though, as he immediately jumped into the top-five and by lap 12 was challenging Jimmy Phelps for second. At lap 30, Hearn, Phelps and Decker raced nose-to-tail in a thrilling three-car battle for the lead.
Meanwhile, Sheppard methodically paced his way forward and took third from Phelps before the halfway point and set out to track down the leader Decker and second-place runner Hearn.
The only caution of the race came on lap 62, after Sheppard had taken over the second spot, when Tim Sears Jr. spun his No.83 at the bottom of turn two. Sheppard wasn’t able to use the outside lane on the restart to get by Decker, but Phelps rallied to retake the third spot and relegated Hearn to fourth.
From there, Decker enjoyed a five car-length lead under the watchful eye of Sheppard until 20 laps to go when Decker wandered back into lapped traffic Inside the final 10 laps, Decker nearly gifted the win to Sheppard when he slipped up the track in turn three, but regrouped without losing the top spot.
“The last 20 laps I got a little bit tight,” Decker said. “I went to put a move on the 22-car (of Brandon Walters) in lapped traffic and Matt got underneath us. I learned my lesson pretty quick there.”
Sheppard made a final push over the last five laps after the top two had separated from third-place Phelps by a half lap. Sheppard couldn’t muster enough momentum to steal the victory.
“He was a little better at times and I think I was a little better at times,” Sheppard said of Decker. “We didn’t draw the best redraw number tonight, but we had a really good racecar. It’s a great night for us and a great start to the series. It was a fun race and the track was really nice tonight.”
Sheppard nearly capitalized on a $100 bonus as the eleventh starter courtesy of 811 Dig Safely New York. Eighth starting Bobby Varin was the other driver eligible for the award.
Phelps rounded-out the podium while Hearn and Larry Wight completed the top-five.
“We missed it a little bit, but this was our first race of the year,” Phelps said. “We did a bunch of testing, but we haven’t gotten to apply it. We were close. We took off pretty decent, but we just needed to be better about 30 laps in after everybody’s tires cycled in. To be able to start the season off on the right foot close to home in front of the best fans on dirt is good.”
Decker nearly started the season with a perfect night. He earned the Pole Position Raceway Fast Time award with a lap of 16.485 seconds around the 3/8-mile oval. Hearn bested Decker by one spot to win heat one. Whittaker, Wight and Pat Ward were the other heat winners.
Alan Johnson earned the KSE Hard Charger award after racing from 21st to 8th. Johnson won the first Last Chance Qualifier while Chad Phelps won the other. Garry Tomkins, the first driver to exit the race on lap 22, was the recipient of the Speedy First Aid Hard Luck award.
While the Super DIRTcar Series does not return Fulton Speedway in 2017, the series will be close by at Oswego Speedway during the 46th NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week October 4-8, 2017. The Super DIRTcar Series’ next event is at Bridgeport Speedway in Sweedsboro, NJ on Tuesday, May 16.
Fulton Speedway Notebook
CONTINGENCY WINNERS: VP Racing Fuels ($50 Cash): Alan Johnson; Pole Position Raceway Fast Time ($100 Cash): Billy Decker; Bicknell Racing Products ($100 Product Certificate): Billy Decker; Cometic Gasket ($50 Cash): Pat Ward; Comp Cams ($50 Cash): Erick Rudolph; Comp Cams ($50 Product Certificate): Billy Decker; Edelbrock ($50 Cash): Stewart Friesen; Fox Racing Shox ($50 Cash): Brett Hearn; JE Pistons ($50 Cash): Larry Wight; JE Pistons (Product Certificate): Brandon Walters; JE Pistons (Product Certificate): Chris Hile; KSE Racing Products Inc. ($50 Product Certificate): Stewart Friesen; MSD Ignition ($50 Cash): Billy Decker; MSD Ignition ($25 Cash): Chad Phelps; SuperFlow Dynos & Flowbenches ($50 Cash): Peter Britten; Wrisco Aluminum (Product Certificate): Billy Decker; JRI Shocks ($50 Cash): Peter Britten; Speedy First Aid (Product Certificate): Gary Tomkins; ASi Racewear ($50 Cash): Billy Whittaker
SEASON WINNERS: Billy Decker – 1 (Fulton Speedway on Apr. 29)
Super DIRTcar Series Statistical Report; Highbank Hold-Up 100 at Fulton Speedway; Fulton, NY; April 29, 2017
Feature – (100 Laps) – 1. 91-Billy Decker ; 2. 9s-Matt Sheppard ; 3. 98h-Jimmy Phelps ; 4. 20-Brett Hearn ; 5. 99L-Larry Wight ; 6. 49-Billy Dunn ; 7. 109-Billy Whittaker ; 8. 14J-Alan Johnson ; 9. 44-Stewart Friesen ; 10. 25-Erick Rudolph ; 11. 62s-Tom Sears Jr. ; 12. 42p-Pat Ward ; 13. 19-Tim Fuller ; 14. 76-Bobby Varin ; 15. 21a-Peter Britten ; 16. 22-Brandon Walters ; 17. 88-Mike Mahaney ; 18. 6h-Max McLaughlin ; 19. 8-Rich Scagliotta ; 20. 43-Keith Flach ; 21. 7m-Mike Maresca ; 22. 83x-Tim Sears Jr. ; 23. 5h-Chris Hile ; 24. 8r-Rob Bellinger ; 25. 93-Danny Varin ; 26. 16-Mike Bowman ; 27. 66x-Carey Terrance ; 28. 21y-Yan Bussiere ; 29. X-Chad Phelps ; 30. 84-Gary Tomkins ;
Qualifying Group 1 – 1. 91-Billy Decker, 16.485; 2. 20-Brett Hearn, 16.694; 3. 21a-Peter Britten, 16.794; 4. 24-Jimmy Witko, 16.799; 5. 48t-Dave Rauscher, 16.826; 6. 1s-Beth Bellinger, 16.877; 7. 49-Billy Dunn, 16.911; 8. 8r-Rob Bellinger, 16.912; 9. 14j-Alan Johnson, 16.935; 10. 43-Keith Flach, 17.033; 11. 25h-Katelyn Hile, 17.209.
Qualifying Group 2 – 1. 8-Rich Scagliotta, 16.583; 2. 109-Billy Whittaker, 16.801; 3. 16-Mike Bowman, 16.963; 4. 62s-Tom Sears Jr., 16.965; 5. 21r-Ryan Jordan, 16.983, 6. 21y-Yan Bussiere, 17.058; 7. 6h-Max McLaughlin, 17.105; 8. 88m-Mike Mahaney, 17.160; 9. 66x-Carey Terrance, 17.161; 10. 02 Roy Bresnahan, 17.555; 11. 88a-Joe August Jr., 18.072.
Qualifying Group 3 – 1. 76-Bobby Varin, 16.812; 2. 42p-Pat Ward, 16.817; 3. 93-Danny Varin, 16.856; 4. 83x-Tim Sears Jr., 16.871; 5. 22-Brandon Walters, 16.909; 6. 25r-Erick Rudolph, 17.044; 7. 96-JF Corriveau, 17.232; 8. 5h-Chris Hile, 17.332; 9. 21g-Cody Graham, 17.840; 10. 19-Andy Noto, NT.
Qualifying Group 4 – 1. 9s-Matt Sheppard, 16.878; 2. 99L-Larry Wight, 16.892; 3. 98h-Jimmy Phelps, 16.962; 4. 19-Tim Fuller, 17.031; 5. X-Chad Phelps, 17.052; 6. 84-Gary Tompkins, 17.075; 7. 7m-Mike Maresca, 17.127; 8. 44-Stewart Friesen, 17.237; 9. 55-Matt Hulsizer, 17.338; 10. 34-Andrew Ferguson, 17.502.
Heat 1 (8 Laps – Top-5 Finishers Transfer to A-Feature; Top-3 Redraw) – 1. 20-Brett Hearn; 2. 91-Billy Decker; 3. 49-Billy Dunn; 4. 21a-Peter Britten; 5. 8r-Rob Bellinger; 6. 14j-Alan Johnson; 7. 43-Keith Flach; 8. 24-Jim Witko; 9. 48t-Dave Rauscher; 10. 25h-Katelyn Hile; 11. 1s-Beth Bellinger.
Heat 2 (8 Laps – Top-5 Finishers Transfer to A-Feature; Top-3 Redraw) – 1. 109-Billy Whittaker; 2. 62s-Tom Sears Jr.; 3. 21y-Yan Bussiere; 4. 88-Mike Mahaney; 5. 8-Rich Scagliotta; 6. 16-Mike Bowman; 7. 66x-Carey Terrance; 8. 21r-Ryan Jordan; 9. 02-Roy Bresnahan; 10. 88a-Joe August Jr.; 11. 6h-Max McLaughlin.
Heat 3 (8 Laps – Top-4 Finishers Transfer to A-Feature; Top-2 Redraw) – 1. 42p-Pat Ward; 2. 76-Bobby Varin; 3. 25-Erick Rudolph; 4. 5h-Chris Hile; 5. 93-Danny Varin; 6. 83x-Tim Sears Jr.; 7. 22-Brandon Walters; 8. 96-Jean-Francois Corriveau; 9. 21g-Kory Graham; 10. 19x-Andy Noto DNS.
Heat 4 (8 Laps – Top-4 Finishers Transfer to A-Feature; Top-2 Redraw) – 1. 99L-Larry Wight; 2. 9s-Matt Sheppard; 3. 98h-Jimmy Phelps; 4. 19-Tim Fuller; 5. 44-Stewart Friesen; 6. X-Chad Phelps; 7. 84-Gary Tomkins; 8. 7m-Mike Maresca; 9. 55-Matt Hulsizer; 10. 34-Andrew Ferguson.
Last Chance Qualifier 1 (10 Laps – Top-3 Finishers Transfer to A-Feature) – 1. 14j-Alan Johnson; 2. 66x-Carey Terrance; 3. 16-Mike Bowman; 4. 43-Keith Flach; 5. 21r-Ryan Jordan; 6. 24-Jim Witko; 7. 02-Roy Bresnahan; 8. 25h-Katelyn Hile; 9. 1s-Beth Bellinger; 10. 88a-Joe August Jr.
Last Chance Qualifier 2 (10 Laps – Top-3 Finishers Transfer to A-Feature) – 1. X-Chad Phelps; 2. 83x-Tim Sears Jr.; 3. 84-Gary Tomkins; 4. 55-Matt Hulsizer; 5. 22-Brandon Walters; 6. 6h-Max McLaughlin; 7. 96-Jean-Francois Corriveau; 8. 7m-Mike Maresca; 9. 21g-Kory Graham; 10. 34-Andrew Ferguson.
DIRTcar Racing is brought to fans by many important sponsors and partners, including: Hoosier Racing Tire (Official Tire), VP Racing Fuels (Official Racing Fuel), Chevy Performance Parts and NAPA Auto Parts (SDS). Contingency sponsors include: ASI Race Wear (SDS), Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Cometic Gasket (SDS), COMP Cams (SDS), Edelbrock (SDS), Fox Shocks (SDS), Henry’s Exhaust Systems, Intercomp, JE Pistons (SDS), JRi Shocks (SDS), KSE Racing Products (SDS), Mike’s Racing Heads (SDS), Number One Speedway (SDS), MSD (SDS), Pole Position Raceway (SDS), Superflow Dynos (SDS) and Wrisco Aluminum (Exclusive Racing Aluminum) (SDS); along with manufacturer sponsors, including: Beyea Headers, Racing Electronics and TNT Rescue.