FULTON, N.Y. – Billy Decker used a dominant second-half performance to score his third-straight Highbank Holdup 100 win on Saturday night at Fulton Speedway, opening the Super DIRTcar Series points season with a bang yet again.
Decker raced forward from sixth to take the lead from outside polesitter Brett Hearn on lap 46, holding off a surging Matt Sheppard to claim the spoils of victory at the Fulton
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 event.
“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 race car. 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.”
Phelps rounded-out the podium, with Hearn and Larry Wight completing 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 fast time award with a lap of 16.485 seconds around the three-eighths-mile oval, but Hearn bested Decker by one spot to win heat one. Whittaker, Wight and Pat Ward were the other heat winners.
Alan Johnson won the first Last Chance Qualifier, while Chad Phelps won the second.
Full results can be viewed on the next page…