Drought Over: Billy Decker Ends Seven-Year Hiatus from Utica-Rome Speedway Victory Lane

Written by Chris Moore

VERNON, NY – Billy Decker raced to the lead on lap 11 and led the remaining 19 laps in Friday’s Sunoco Modified non-stop feature for his seventh career win at Utica-Rome Speedway.

The win was the first for the ‘Franklin Flyer’ in nearly seven years, with his last triumph coming on June 24, 2015. The Unadilla, N.Y., native came from the outside of the third row to best the Sunoco Modified field in front of a packed grandstand on $5 Night at the ‘Home of Heroes.’

“We’re glad to be back here, it seems like it took forever to win here again,” explained Decker of his near seven-year hiatus from Victory Lane. “I can remember some big wins here in the past and it’s good to get back here.”

Norwich, N.Y.’s Alan Barker and East Greenbush, N.Y.’s Bobby Hackel occupied the front row when the green flag fell on the 30-lap main event.

Barker quickly raced out to the lead at the start. Plattsburgh, N.Y., native Nick Heywood quickly raced underneath Hackel for the runner-up spot and Billy Decker was wasting no time challenging Hackel for third.

Decker raced by Hackel by the end of the third circuit and set his sights on the top two. One lap later, Decker raced by Heywood for second after Heywood bobbled on the cushion, moving Decker into the runner-up spot to chase down Barker.

Savannah, N.Y.’s Matt Sheppard was on the charge in the early going, as well. After starting in the 12th position, Sheppard was into seventh by the end of seven laps and was quickly closing in on the top five.

Two laps later Sheppard took the fifth spot away, cracking the top five with still 21-laps to go. While Sheppard was navigating his way through traffic, Decker began to apply the pressure to Barker for the lead.

Decker used the inside groove to slide underneath Barker and take the lead away with 19 laps remaining.

“You’ve got to have a maneuverable car here, at least the guys that are winning sure do. We’ve been maneuvering our way backwards but tonight we had it dialed in,” explained Decker.

Johnstown, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner was quietly marching through the field, after falling back to seventh on the initial start, Warner was up to third at the halfway point, while Sheppard was working to get by Heywood for the fourth spot.

Covington Township, Pa.’s Alex Yankowski moved into sixth place and was closing in on the duo of Sheppard and Heywood battling for the fourth spot. Sheppard finally got the run he needed on the 19th circuit to clear Heywood. One lap later, Yankowski made the same move, following Sheppard as the duo raced to the front.

With Decker leading by over three seconds with 10-laps remaining, the battle was on for the runner-up spot. Warner was closing in on Barker with Sheppard and Yankowski running down the pair in front of them.

Sheppard used the inside groove to drive underneath both Warner and Barker and into the runner-up spot with four laps remaining. Sheppard’s charge from 12th would end there, as Decker’s advantage was too great up front.

The Hall-of-Famer would go on to collect a $2,400 payday and his first Sunoco Modified win of the 2022 campaign at Utica-Rome Speedway. Sheppard continued his streak, making it six consecutive races to open the season finishing in the top two.

Yankowski followed Sheppard for much of the 30-lap feature and wound up behind him at the finish coming home third. Warner grabbed the fourth spot in his Jason Simmons Racing No. 98 and Heywood rounded out the top-five.

Genoa, N.Y.’s Pat Ward quietly collected a sixth-place run with Hackel hanging on to seventh. Sheffield, Mass., driver Andy Bachetti rallied for an eighth-place finish after struggling in his heat race. Masonville, N.Y.’s Shaun Walker finished in ninth and Duanesburg, N.Y.’s Ronnie Johnson rounded out the top-10.

South New Berlin, N.Y.’s Payton Talbot continued his hot streak, winning his second consecutive Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman feature worth $1,000.

After starting 13th, Talbot found the outside lane around the halfway mark and began charging through the field. Once Talbot got to fourth, it appeared his charge would end, as the lead trio was well out in front.

A yellow on lap 21 reshuffled the deck and gave Talbot the chance he needed. David Hackett Jr. a Limited Sportsman graduate in his first year was seeking his first career win, was on his way to claiming it before the yellow flag flew.

When racing resumed, the lead trio all fought for track position on the bottom, while Talbot sailed around the outside. Talbot drove around all three cars in one lap and paced the final three laps for the win.

Fultonville, N.Y.’s A.J. Miller grabbed a runner-up finish (his best of the season) and Hackett Jr., of Baldwinsville, N.Y., rounded out the podium. Oneonta, N.Y.’s Brad Alger finished in the fourth spot and Mexico, N.Y.’s Addison Bowman rounded out the top five after starting 15th on the grid.

Grand Gorge, N.Y.’s Beau Ballard joined Talbot as a four-time winner this season in the Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks 20-lap feature. It wasn’t easy for Ballard as Bridgewater, N.Y.’s Dan Slosek appeared to have the car to beat.

Slosek drove by Ballard for the lead on lap 11 and appeared well on his way to the victory. A restart in the waning laps gave Ballard the shot he needed to race around Slosek for the win. Slosek would spin racing for third in the late stages, costing him any chance he had to get back to the front.

Josh Coonradt threw everything he had at Ballard in the final laps but came up short and took home a runner-up finish. Bret Belden led laps early, before ending up on the podium with a third-place finish. Jay Corbin took home fourth and Jason Morrison raced from 14th to round out the top five.

Hamilton, N.Y.’s Alex Hughes was triumphant for the third time this season with the Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman on Friday night. An early wreck that involved all of the top three cars at the time, handed Hughes a lead he would never relinquish in the 15-lap main.

Seth Martin, who was involved in the early melee, rebounded for a runner-up finish. Matt Backus, who entered the night as the point leader, rounded out the top three.

For the second consecutive week with the Fonda Fair Four Cylinders, Corey Valade and Hunter Tarbania were victorious in the 12-lap feature. Corey Valade claimed his third Dual Cam win of the season while Tarbania crossed the line in third, good enough to win the Single Cam portion of the event.

Scott Sprague held off a hard-charging Brett Putnam and Chris Darrow for the Senior Services Inc. All-Star Slingshot 20-lap victory, his first of the season. Putnam and Darrow, the only two winners this season entering the night, closed quickly in the final laps, but ran out of time.

Blake Banek was dominant in the D&S Landscaping Junior Slingshot 15-lap event, claiming his third victory of the season over Corky Warner and Ayden Goodier.

Racing resumes Friday, June 17 at Utica-Rome Speedway as Broedel Fuel Group and A-Verdi Storage Containers present the first appearance of the season for the Patriot Sprint Tour 360 Cars. All the weekly divisions will join the Sprint Cars for a full night of racing at the ‘Home of Heroes.’

Utica-Rome Speedway is located at 5591 NY-5 (Seneca Turnpike) Vernon, NY 13476. The official website is www.uticaromespeedway.com and can be reached by phone at 315.953.4097.  Like Utica-Rome Speedway on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @UR_Speedway.


Sunoco Modified Feature Finish (30 laps): BILLY DECKER, Matt Sheppard, Alex Yankowski, Rocky Warner, Nick Heywood, Pat Ward, Bobby Hackel IV, Andy Bachetti, Shaun Walker, Ronnie Johnson, JaMike Sowle, Erick Rudolph, Alan Barker, Willy Decker, Darren Smith, Joe Beyea, Alan Johnson, Brent Cross, Aaron Jacobs.

Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (25 laps): PAYTON TALBOT, A.J. Miller, David Hackett Jr., Brad Alger, Addison Bowman, Mike Richmond, Rocco Leone, Dave Richer, Shawn Frost, Chris Mackey, Jeremy Slosek, Brent Joy, Stephen Gray, Kyle DeMetro, David Dickey, Gordon Smith, Dave Moyer, Stephen Denton, Ed Lukas, Jimmy Moyer, Blake Sarpriacone, Dana Camenga, Willy Decker Jr., Ed Downing, Matt Richardson, Matt Janczuk, Clayton DuMond, Allan Hodge, Steve Kotary.

Next Generation Grafix Pro Stock Feature Finish (20 laps): BEAU BALLARD, Josh Coonradt, Bret Belden, Jay Corbin, Jason Morrison, Bill Knapp, Ken Griffen, Dan Slosek, Mike Kazlauskas, A.J. Walters, Randy Cosselman, John Holmes, Jim Normoyle, Ivan Joslin, Jerry Streeter.

Did Not Start: Ed Kotary

Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman Feature Finish (15 laps): ALEX HUGHES, Seth Martin, Matt Backus, Ernie Staelens, Timmy Wilmot, Mike Haman, Dylan Piersall, Amber Jacobs, Eric Jensen, Zack Welch.

Senior Services Inc. All-Star Slingshot Feature Finish (20 laps): SCOTT SPRAGUE, Chris Darrow, Brett Putnam, Tyler Vadney, Kirsten Swartz, Josh Persse, Dustin Sehn, Andrew Millard, Tadd Granger, Jim Pollard, Nicholas Jenkins, Eymarah Bowman.

Did Not Start: Joel Vadney

D&S Landscaping Junior Slingshot Feature Finish (15 laps): BLAKE BANEK, Corky Warner, Ayden Goodier, Chase Spoor, Sullivan Dickey, Jayden Wust, Kolt Gamble, Maddy Broedel, Brody Janczuk, Savannah Simmons.

Fonda Fair Four Cylinder Cruiser Feature Finish (12 laps): COREY VALADE (DOHC), Matt Bukovan, Hunter Tarbania (SOHC), Austin Vanderhoof, David DeNova, Rudy King Jr., Hank Wedgren, Kyle Coley, Dan Valade, Jacob Kimball, T.J. Marlitt, Donald Kimball.