By MIKE MALLETT
Billy Decker and Billy VanInwegen will share the front row to start the 2017 edition of the Eastern States 200 at the Orange County Fair Speedway. Stewart Friesen, Clinton Mills, Tim Fuller and Matt Sheppard also secured starting positions via their time trial laps Friday afternoon.
Decker turned in a lap time of 20.428 late in the time trial session to put himself into the number one spot. The 1998 Eastern States 200 winner was pleased with the Jeremy Smith owned Bicknell. They made all the right decisions which led to the $1,000 fast-time award.
“It’s comforting to get locked in,” commented Decker. “This Smith Site Development car is really good. The fact is we were good when we unloaded and that makes it a lot easier. We made a couple of fine tune adjustments and they made a decision on stagger and where to put the race car. It was really good. I’m very happy.”
Locking in is always a bonus, but it doesn’t guarantee Sunday afternoon success. They’ll have to be vigilant as they not only watch the racing surface but also keep track of the competition and their strategies. Decker knows that all bets are off on Sunday.
“It’s going to be relative to the abrasiveness of the race track and the speed of the race,” he said. “We are going to have a good starting spot. Sometimes that can be, not knowing what your competitors are doing at the same time, it can weigh on what you do. Sunday is going to be a crap shoot. It’s just going to be how the race unfolds, what traffic is like and what the race track is like. That will be what wins it.”
Starting alongside Decker on the front row is part-time Modified and Sprint Car driver Billy VanInwegen. The Sparrowbush, N.Y., driver debuted a brand new Teo Pro Car on Friday which helped propel him to a solid lap. It was good enough to earn him the outside of the front row.
“Now we can focus on the race,” cited VanInwegen. “This is probably my fifth or sixth 200. We’ve been getting better and better at it each year and we finally put all the pieces together. I have to thank Joey Barbagallo and Rob Sherlock. They built me a hell of a race car. This is the nicest car I’ve ever had. It was expected. There was a lot of pressure going into time trials because I knew it was that good.”
Being on the front row is special for VanInwegen as he’s been a life-long supporter of Eastern States as both a fan and now a driver. This year things finally all lined up as he secured a late time trial lap.
“This is unbelievable,” stated VanInwegen. “I’ve been coming here watching this race since I was five-years-old. I never thought I’d be able to run Modifieds. This is pretty bad ass.”
VanInwegen also thanked long-time support Danny Markle who gave the team the Precision Racing Engine to use for the weekend.
The rest of the starting field for Sunday’s event looks like this:
EASTERN STATES 200 FEATURE LINE-UP (UNOFFICIAL): 1 Billy Decker 2 Billy VanInwegen 3 Stewart Friesen 4 Clinton Mills 5 Tim Fuller 6 Matt Sheppard 7 Andy Bachetti 8 Brett Hearn 9 Brian Krummel 10 Danny Johnson 11 Tommy Meier 12 Eddie Marshall 13 Anthony Perrego 14 Jimmy Phelps 15 Craig Mitchell 16 Michael Sabia 17 Jerry Higbie 18 Rick Laubach 19 Billy Dunn 20 Kenny Tremont 21 Jimmy Horton 22 Jimmy Spellmon 23 Mike Mahaney 24 John Ferrier 25 Mike Maresca 26 Mike Kolka 27 Matt Hitchcock 28 Steve Dodd 29 Chris Shultz 30 Billy Pauch Jr., 31 Mike Ruggerio 32 J R Heffner
Spots 33-44 to be determined by consolation events on Sunday.