ROSSBURG, Ohio — Billy Decker started from the pole and proved track position was the key to winning Tuesday night’s Super DIRTcar Series race at Eldora Speedway, wiring the field for a $6,000 payday and his first-career Eldora victory.
Decker led all 75 laps around the half-mile dirt oval owned by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart for the win in the series’ second-consecutive year appearing alongside the Camping World Truck Series.
“This is a great night,” Decker said of his 68th-career series win and third of the season. “It was killing me not winning a race here several years back when Tim Fuller and I had a great battle. I talked to (Fuller) tonight about speed here at Eldora and how to maintain it and he helped me out a little bit. It feels really good to be here.”
“(This win) ranks right up there (in my career), being at such a marquee place like this. We’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve left a little bit on the table here and there but I think everybody has. It’s shaping up to be a pretty tight series. Tonight we were fortunate enough to have a great car and a great draw.”
Decker led the field to green from the pole, but the early stars of the show were Sheppard and Friesen. ‘Super Matt’ charged from fifth to third almost instantly as he gave chase for the lead, while Friesen motored forward from 12th and was in the top five after just nine rotations.
The first caution of the night flew on lap 14, when Erick Rudolph slowed to a halt on the backstretch, and after a short cleanup period green flag action resumed with Decker out front for a lap 21 restart.
Though Jimmy Horton got a brief jump on the gun, Decker soon swallowed him back up and resumed command before a slowing Shaun Pangman brought out the second yellow of the night less than a lap later.
It took two more cautions, on the 28th and 34th rounds, before a decent racing rhythm returned to the speedway. All the while, Decker maintained a roughly one-second margin out front each time the green flag was displayed.
A restart on lap 50 after a debris yellow was exactly what Sheppard needed to climb back into form, charging past Britten into third as Decker again escaped out in front of the field. Six more laps clicked off before a blown right rear tire caused Tim Fuller to spin the Graham Racing No. 19 in Turn 4 and drew the sixth caution of the night.
With 19 to go, Decker continued to lead as Stewart Friesen and Peter Britten traded sliders for fifth, but the field was bunched up one final time after Max McLaughlin lost a right-rear tire to bring out the final caution of the night and set up a 12-lap sprint to the checkered flag.
Though Pat Ward, who ran second the entire way after starting from the outside pole, stayed briefly with Decker on the race’s final restart, he was helpless against Decker’s prowess on the top groove of the track.
“Once he got to the top in (Turns) 1 and 2, I could almost drive up even with him … but I’d lose him on the other end trying to run the bottom. He’d just drive away after that.”
“Early on, I had a line where I was gaining a little (on Decker) before we got into heavy lap traffic, but it got so top-fast that he would just pull away from me. He was able to run the cushion a lot better than I was all night.”
Sheppard completed the podium in third, marking his first race back after a two-race suspension for an altercation with Larry Wight at Utica-Rome Speedway on July 2. He was followed by Brett Hearn and Britten.
Friesen finished sixth after being unable to advance any further than what his early-race charge allowed, while points leader Larry Wight was ninth.
RESULTS: Super DIRTcar Series; Eldora Speedway; July 18, 2017
A-Feature (75 laps): 1. Billy Decker, 2. Pat Ward, 3. Matt Sheppard, 4. Brett Hearn, 5. Peter Britten, 6. Stewart Friesen, 7. Jimmy Horton, 8. Keith Flach, 9. Larry Wight, 10. Ryan Watt, 11. Brandon Walters, 12. Mike Maresca, 13. Rich Scagliotta, 14. Mat Williamson, 15. Kyle Coffey, 16. Josh Hohenforst, 17. Jimmy Phelps, 18. Chris Hile, 19. Billy Whittaker, 20. Rex King Jr., 21. Cody Bleau, 22. Erik Martin, 23. Max McLaughlin, 24. Tim Fuller, 25. Shaun Pangman, 26. Erick Rudolph, 27. Frank Cozze, 28. Gary Tomkins, 29. C.G. Morey.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
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