By: BOBBY SWEENEY
CENTER LISLE, NY – Billy Decker fended off late-race challenges from Mike Maresca and Shawn Walker to storm Victory Lane in an exciting Open Modified feature event, taking his first track championship at Thunder Mountain Speedway in the process.
Marc Goodwin led Nick Nye and Chris Stull in the early stages of the 35-lap Open Modified main, holding a slim lead over Nye in the first handful of laps. As the field settled in, Nye progressively got quicker, diving under Goodwin to lead with seven laps in. Stull and Walker followed in Nye’s draft, pushing Goodwin back to fourth by lap ten.
By halfway, the top three of Nye, Stull, and Walker had all made their home on the bottom, but the front trio were separated by less than a second. A small gap of a couple car lengths separated Nye and Stull, but Stull was under heavy fire from Walker. On lap 19, Walker pried his way under Stull, but light contact sent Stull sideways, stalling on track and forcing a yellow.
Prior to the yellow, the front group had about a two and a half second advantage over Decker. On the restart, Decker went to the cushion and disposed of both Walker and Nye, taking the lead on lap 21. Behind Decker, Maresca was also making hay up top, powering from fourth to second in a set of turns on lap 24. A caution on lap 26 erased Decker’s lead, placing Maresca right on his bumper.
Maresca wasn’t social distancing from Decker, planted in Decker’s decklid from the drop of the green. The pair traded lanes, with Decker high in one corner, Maresca in the middle, and Decker to the middle the next turn with Maresca on the cushion. With four to go, Maresca was as close as one could get to Decker without actually passing, but that’s about where Maresca’s fun bucket filled up. Maresca caught the cushion, bounced, and spun to a stop on lap 31, forcing a final restart with Walker lining up behind Decker.
With his primary challenger gone, Decker seemed to be free and clear for the win, but Walker had other plans. Walker went to the bottom on the restart, hunting Decker who still rode the middle and top. With two laps left, Walker nearly pulled even with Decker, but Decker slammed the door shut and held on. With the checkered waiving, it was Decker picking up the win over Walker, Brandon Walters, Nye, and Alan Barker. With the win, Decker also snagged the 2020 Thunder Mountain track title, holding off Walker in the points battle starting later than normal in June.
“We had a real good car, but I was getting tight at the end,” Decker said. “I know Shawn was putting pressure on me at the end of that one, but the JSR car held on. I saw him get low with a couple laps left after I pushed in one and two and lost some time, but I kept on it and kept him behind me. The title is a product of everyone at JSR and them working hard every week. I think the racing was closer than the points, Shawn had a couple bad weeks. Take those out, and its a lot closer, but again that’s a product of this JSR team and giving me great stuff week in and week out.”
Open Modified Feature: BILLY DECKER, Shaun Walker, Brandon Walters, Nick Nye, Alan Barker, Bob Hentshel, Eric Leet, Chris Stull, Danny Tyler, Bailey Boyd, Landon Cummings, Michael Maresca, Greg Moran, Rick Wilk, Marc Goodwin, Arthur Bray, Jesse Velez, Corey Cormier, Jeff Sheely and Jerry Higbie.