By Dave Medler
For Jimmy Phelps who started 27th heart break turned into victory for Billy Decker Saturday night at Fulton Speedway for the 24th Annual Fulton 200 presented by SUNY Canton. Decker dominated the race till lap 161 when Jimmy Phelps blasted by Decker and seemed headed for victory lane. A late caution with a handful of laps left was Phelps undoing. On the final lap Decker was able to wrestle the lead back and be the first under the checkers. The win was worth $20,000 plus for Decker as he collected the halfway point $1,000 from Bicknell Racing Products plus lap money.
“That was a lot of work right there let me tell you. We had nothing for Jimmy, if it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t for that last caution,” Decker said after getting out of his Gypsum Wholesalers No.91 Bicknell. That last caution allowed us to cool that right rear and gave the car drive off the turns. I feel I got away with one.”
It was reported after the race that Phelps drove most of the 200 laps with no breaks and couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get slowed down enough on crucial points of the speedway or in lapped traffic.
Dave Rauscher and Billy Decker led the 44 car field down to the green flag to start the 200 lap main with Decker blasting into the lead. Just as the field completed the first lap Tim Kerr brought out a quick yellow.
When the green came back out Decker once again took off as Rauscher, Matt Sheppard, Brett Hearn and Bobby Varin tried to keep pace.
By lap 12 Decker enjoyed a half a straightaway lead as he just started to get into lapped traffic, Sheppard was running 2nd as he tried to narrow the gap as Decker fought the lapped cars.
On lap 16 Billy Pauch Jr brought out a yellow as he spun in turn four. Pauch was able to continue at the rear of the field.
With Decker and Sheppard still occupying the top two spots Jimmy Phelps brought out another caution period as he slowed and went to the pits, but he would be a factor in the race. On the same yellow Larry Wight slowed and had to be pushed pit-side.
At the lap 30 mark Decker was still setting a torrid pace but Sheppard and Hearn started closing in for the top spot. Decker and Sheppard would swap the lead back and forth before Decker started getting away from the field again on lap thirty-five.
Tim Fuller one of the pre-race favorites broke a front end on lap 42 on the front straight ending his night. Another quick yellow flew on lap 48 as Pauch also broke a front end ending his run.
When the green came back out Decker still led as Sheppard and Hearn ran right in the leaders tracks as Dale Planck and Varin ran a distant fourth and fifth.
On lap 56 just before a yellow Hearn was able to wrestle 2nd away from Sheppard as he set his sights on Decker.
When the green came back out on lap 59 Decker was able to horsepower away from Hearn, Planck was able to get around Sheppard to run in third.
Frank Cozze brought out a yellow on lap 61 as he came to a stop high in turn two. Cozze was able to get to the pits and return.
On lap 69 Tim Sears came to a stop in turn four to bring out the yellow. While the track safety crew pushed Sears to the pits Sheppard pulled out of line and headed to the pits.
When the green came back out on lap 74 Decker and Hearn ran side by side, Varin took over 3rd with Planck and Ryan Phelps showing in the top-five.
With 80 laps showing on the lap counter a wild scramble happened in turn one involving multiple cars. The only cars that couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t continue were Sheppard and Tommy Sears.
At lap 90 Decker still showed the way as Hearn, Planck, Varin and Ryan Phelps tried to keep pace.
Decker was the first under the checkers by two-seconds at the halfway break and received $1,000 from Bicknell Racing Products.
After the break, and track grooming Decker once again drove away from the field as Planck a former winner of the race behind the wheel of the Jeff Brownell Jr. No 29 ran second. Jimmy Phelps who came from the back of the field after an early pit stop got around both Hearn and Varin to run third.
A heavy contact yellow would come out on lap 104 for an incident in turn one. Out of the six cars involved only Chris Hile and Chad Phelps didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t continue.
On the restart Jimmy Phelps got yet another great restart moving into 2nd and then took off after Decker.
By lap 120 Decker once again held commanding lead, Phelps ran alone in second, with Varin, Planck and Hearn had a tight battle for third through fifth.
Shane Donath had the most serious incident of the night on the 128th go round. Between turns three and four Donath took a wild flip and a hard landing bringing out the red flag. Fortunately Donath was okay.
When the green came back out Decker quickly opened a five-car-length advantage over Phelps, Varin, Planck and Danny Johnson in the Gary Tomkins back-up car showed in the top-five.
The top-five suddenly changed on lap 142 as Bobby Varin headed to the pits, but he would be a factor at the finish.
On the restart Decker drove away, Planck was able to get around Phelps for second, Danny Johnson and Alan Johnson who started 40th occupied the top-five.
On lap 153 after a quick yellow Phelps was able to grab second back as he tried to keep pace with Decker, this time Decker didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t drive away.
Using the extreme top side of the speedway Phelps in the J&B Installations No.99j Troyer blasted around Decker to be scored the new race leader.
With 20 laps to go Phelps built up a lead of two seconds on the field. Decker, Planck, Danny Johnson and Ryan Phelps were the top-five.
Planck suddenly headed to the pits ending his bid for a top finish on the night.
When the starter gave the 10 laps to go sign Phelps still led, but his car was handling wildly as everyone wondered if he could hold on.
Two laps later Phelps almost saw his night end. Phelps got involved with the lapped car of Billy Dunn on the top of turn three. Phelps made hard contact bending his front bumper, somehow Phelps straightened the car out and kept the lead.
The final caution would come out on lap 193 setting up a shootout to the $20,000 checkers involving Phelps, Decker, Danny Johnson, Alan Johnson and Varin.
Phelps with no breaks to slow the car down to set it up for the entry of the turns still held a slim lead. On the final lap Decker somehow found bite on the bottom and was able to drive by Phelps to be the first under the checkers. Phelps, Danny Johnson, Bobby Varin and Alan Johnson rounded out the top-five. Ryan Phelps, Chuck Bower, Rob Bellinger, Mike Mahaney and Brad Alger completed the top-ten.
“He almost had a straightaway on us he was checking out. He was a lot more versatile than us from lap 150 on, he was trucking. He went by us (Phelps) I was digging and clawing and digging and clawing and he was driving away. Again if it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t for that late yellow we would of never caught him, I thought I was running for second,” said an exhausted but happy Decker.
FULTON 200 PRESENTED BY SUNY CANTON – Billy Decker, Jimmy Phelps, Danny Johnson, Bobby Varin, Alan Johnson, Ryan Phelps, Chuck Bower, Rob Bellinger, Mike Mahaney, Brad Alger, Dave Rauscher, Matt Janczuk, Billy Dunn, Dale Planck, Tim Kerr, Michael Storms, Brett Hearn, Frank Cozze, Gary Tomkins, Shane Donath, Steve Paine, A.J. Romano, Wade Decker, Chad Phelps, Chris Hile, Alan Barker, Dave Axton, Paul Kinney, Billy Pauch Jr., Matt Sheppard, Tom Sears Jr., Tim Sears, Pat OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Brien, Tony Steiner, Pat Ward, Eric Fisher, Tim Fuller, Randy Chrysler, Jim Davis, Tom Juhl Jr., Larry Wight, Roy Bresnahan, Adam Roberts, Jim Witko Jr.
HEAT WINNERS – Matt Sheppard, Brett Hearn, Ryan Phelps, Pat Ward, Billy Decker, Dave Rauscher, Bobby Varin, Dale Planck.
CONSOLATION WINNERS – Danny Johnson, A.J. Romano, Jimmy Phelps, Brad Alger, Alan Barker.