PLOVER, Wis. (July 19, 2013) – By the time the final chapter is written for the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series 2013 season Paige Decker’s name will be all over the history books.
On Friday night in Round Four at Golden Sands Speedway Decker recorded two feats which will never be washed from history becoming the first female and first rookie to win a TUNDRA event.
“I knew I was the first female, but then when they said I was the first rookie, that just topped it off. It feels awesome. I’m speechless,” the 20 year old from Eagle River said.
The elder Decker sister was the first female to record a top ten finish (Round One), the highest qualified female (second in Round One) and the best finishing female (seventh in Round Three at LaCrosse) prior to besting a field of 30 Friday night.
Decker said the win may have looked dominating in nature, but there were still nervous moments, even after seizing the lead from outside-pole-sitter Amanda Ferguson at the drop of the green.
“I was really nervous the whole time. I was nervous even with two to go,” she said. “Toby [Nuttleman, Paige’s crew chief] was really just trying to calm me down. I knew the car was good, and it wasn’t falling off at all.”
The feature event got off to an unfortunate start for Decker Racing as a team, however. After setting the second fastest time of the evening, Claire Decker made it no further than the start/finish line at the outset of the 60-lap feature. With cars checking up and scurrying to avoid one another, Claire’s machine darted off the track into the outside retaining wall and protective barrels. Jeff Weinfurter was also collected and sustained heavy damage to his machine. Both drivers were unharmed.
After red flag conditions and a cleanup on the front straight, the field was shown the green flag without incident. Paige Decker pushed ahead on the inside line of Ferguson on the first lap. Ferguson was left to deal with Tim Hintz, Matt Pyburn and Eugene Gregorich Jr. in the top five.
As Ferguson and Hintz scrapped for second, Decker began to stretch out her lead. Ferguson fought off the advances of Hintz by lap five and slipped away from the third-place battle. Hintz slowly regressed after the battle with Ferguson and watched Pyburn, Frank Nitzke, Mike Egan and Brandon Selle move past by lap 10.
Behind those battles TUNDRA point leaders Dalton Zehr and Nick Panitzke moved toward the top five. By lap 20 Zehr had begun to slide back and fell into a battle with Tom Lindquist for tenth. Panitzke, who earlier in the evening set fast time, quickly closed the gap on Selle. Before he had the chance to challenge the caution fell as fluid was spewing from Jordan Ives’ machine.
The TUNDRA barrel was placed and Ferguson decided to rejoin Decker in the front row for the restart. Once again Decker held the advantage through turns one and two over Ferguson. This time Decker’s rookie counterpart Matt Pyburn kept pace and stole second from Ferguson.
While Decker and Pyburn separated themselves from the rest of the pack, Ferguson fell back on the high line. In the five laps following the restart Egan, Selle and Panitzke all took advantage of the inside line to swoop past Ferguson and round out the top five.
Just past the halfway point Decker continued to grow her lead over Pyburn. By lap 37 Pyburn had company in the runner up spot. Egan surveyed his options for several laps before sliding to the outside of Pyburn and taking the second spot on lap 40. Just two laps later Selle made the same move and grabbed third.
Egan seemed to have a machine that could contend with Decker, but it became clear he would need the help of a caution to make up the track position Decker had gained while Egan was scrapping for second with Pyburn.
“If we would have got a caution I would have taken the high side and we would have had a gloves-off competition,” Egan said. “It would have been a lot of fun.”
However, the opportunity never came for Egan, Selle and Panitzke to battle Decker and she cruised to a win that sent a charge through the crowd. When she emerged from her machine in victory lane a large cheer roared through the grandstands.
“This feels good because it’s a TUNDRA race, bigger than a local show, and it was a good feeling when I heard the crowd going wild. All smiles the rest of the night,” Decker said.
The win erased Decker’s one-point deficit to Pyburn in the Dean’s Satellite Rookie of the Year battle. She now has a three-point advantage over Pyburn and sits in a tie with Gregroich for sixth in TUNDRA standings.
When asked how much more history she expects to make this season Decker commented, “We need to win one more. That’s what we need to do.”
For Egan, one of only two drivers to compete in every TUNDRA event, the second place finish was a best for him in TUNDRA action.
“I was ecstatic. We qualified third. I’m not the world’s greatest qualifier so that’s a big feat in itself,” said the veteran from Slinger, Wis. “To run second to Decker, it was awesome. She had a good car.”
Egan’s strong effort pushed him into a tie for third with the team of Frank Kreyer and Ferguson. They sit 30 back of Panitzke in TUNDRA standings.
After sour luck in TUNDRA Rounds Two and Three, Selle was happy to get the chance to come home and secure a podium finish.
“It was really good to actually finish a race,” Selle said. “We always come here to win, but the way our year has been going, just to finish is pretty good.”
Behind Selle, Panitzke cruised to a fourth-place finish in his first ever trip to Golden Sands. His main opponent in the TUNDRA points battle, Dalton Zehr, struggled with a tight race car. Zehr pitted under caution on lap 25 to make some adjustments. He came back from 17th to recover for a seventh place finish. The advantage was enough for Panitzke to turn a one-point deficit to Zehr into an 11-point lead.
Pyburn was able to hold off Eugene Gregorich Jr. to round out the top five after a dazzling side-by-side display between the de facto teammates over the final five laps.
After three races in less than a month TUNDRA teams will have three weeks to prepare for TUNDRA Round Five at Marshfield Motor Speedway. Nearly another month will pass after Round Five before the Championship Round at Slinger Speedway on Sunday, September 8.
The Unified Northern Drivers Racing Association (TUNDRA) Super Late Model Series was formed in 2011 as the Alive For Five Super Late Model Series at Dells Raceway Park. TUNDRA’s business plan is based on a sustainable program for promoters and race teams alike, while still providing high-quality Super Late Model entertainment to fans.
For more information on TUNDRA including news, results and standings, archived results and standings, the 2013 schedule and more visit http://www.tundrasuperlates.com. Also, interact with us on Facebook (facebook.com/TundraSuperLateModels) or Twitter (@TUNDRAslms).