PETALUMA, Calif. (September 12) - In nearly every sport winning the "big one" is often the template for measuring success. Regular season achievements and home-town reputations become meaningless when everything is on the line for one final showdown where only the winner is remembered, which is why winning Petaluma Speedway's heralded M. Maselli & Sons Late Model Classic carries so much prestige.
Since it's inception in 1980 only eight drivers have won the event more than once. Last Saturday night, Jeff Decker, of Morgan Hill, joined an even more select group, becoming one of just five drivers, and the first since Larry Damitz accomplished the feat in 1999-2000, to win back-to-back races.
"This win is much more fun than the first one," said Decker, amid congratulatory handshakes and backslaps, and after being presented the $3000 winner's check following his second straight Maselli victory. "Just seeing my name on the list of great drivers who've won this race, and to think I've won it twice makes this one very special."
Decker, who has a reputation for running well at Petaluma Speedway, including first, second, and third place finishes in three races this season, led every lap of the 22-car, 35-lap feature race, and out-dueling fellow front row starter and four-time Petaluma champion Rod Arnold in a close race to the finish.
Arnold, a 32-year racing veteran who holds the all-time Speedway record for Late Model victories, became the sentimental favorite to win his first ever Maselli race after capturing his heat and earning the pole position with his trophy dash triumph. Arnold persistently pursued the speedy Decker the entire race, searching for room to pass, and waiting for a mistake that never came, before chasing the winner across the finish line by less than one second.
A six-car stack-up, and an eight-car melee, on laps 16 and 17, dropped several top competitors from contention including third and fourth place drivers Kellen Chadwick and Shawn DeForest, and Southern California drivers Ron and Nick Bartels. The incidents lifted 12th starting Ryan Shafer and 16th starting Paul Gugleilmoni up several spots with Shafer eventually finishing third, Guglielmoni fourth, and B-main transfer Chevy McGinnis, who started in the 11th row, fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 were 2009 Petaluma track champion John Silva in sixth, followed by B-main winner Rob Sanders of Bakersfield, Mark Abouzeid of Durham, Petaluma's Nick Perivolaris, and Dino Napier of Corona.
Thirty-one entries made for an eager and competitive field. Sanders led all 15 laps of the B-main to hold off Nick Bartels and transfer to the feature along with Bartels, McGinnis, Richard Papenhausen, Perivolaris, and David Lindt Jr.
Along with thanking Petaluma Speedway and race sponsors M. Maselli & Sons Hardware, BRC Race Cars, Finish Line Towing, and Sayf-Tee-Bar, Inc., Decker extended gratitude to his wife Mary, Ed and Karen Sans, John Cipperoni, Don Wanser, Jaibury Matt, and his sponsors the Pink Poodle, Joe Waddell Backhoe Service, E-3 Designs, Kaeding Performance, and S&S Automotive for making the victory possible.
Results for September 12
M. Maselli & Sons
LATE MODEL CLASSIC
Fast time--Chris Shannon 14.964.
Heat 1--Kellen Chadwick; Dino Napier; Joel Hannagan; Tom Malcolm; Rob Sanders; Chevy McGinnis; Rod Huckabee; Johnny Cardoza.
Heat 2--Rod Arnold; Anthony Restad; John Silva; Matt Michelli; Nick Bartels; AJ Kirkpatrick; Johnny Malcolm; Nick Perivolaris.
Heat 3--Shawn DeForest; Ron Bartels; Mark Abouzeid; Ken Michelli; Richard Papenhausen; Mike Meazell; David Lindt Jr.; Zack Forster.
Heat 4--Jeff Decker; Chris Shannon; Ryan Shafer; Paul Guglielmoni; Dennis Souza; Steve Johnson; Reldon Hatch.
Dash--Arnold; Decker; Chadwick; DeForest.
B-main (15 laps)--Sanders; N. Bartels; McGinnis; Papenhausen; Perivolaris; Lindt; J. Malcolm; Huckabee; Meazell; Johnson; Cardoza; Kirkpatrick; Forster; Souza.
A-main (35 laps)--Decker; Arnold; Shafer; Guglielmoni; McGinnis; Silva; Sanders; Abouzeid; Perivolaris; Napier; Hannagan; Papenhausen; Restad; Lindt; T. Malcolm; Chadwick; DeForest; N. Bartels; R. Bartels; K. Michelli; Shannon; M. Michelli.