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PORTAGE, Wis. (September 5, 2013) - Matt Pyburn and Paige Decker haven't found much breathing room at any point in the 2013 TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Dean's Satellite Rookie of the Year battle.  Sunday's Round Six at Slinger will provide a last gasp of air and a final opportunity to settle the four-point gap.


"I've tried not to look at points this year.  I actually didn't even look at it until this week when someone told me we were close," said Pyburn, who holds the advantage over Decker.  "I figured we were close because we were finishing by each other.  I've done enough point racing to know that it only makes you worry when you don't have to."


It may have been for the best that Pyburn didn't follow the point battle.  The back-and-forth exchange would be enough to distract any veteran TUNDRA racer, let alone one in his or her first season with the series.


"We were just looking at making all of the features and running all of the laps.  We set the goal before the season when Dick Trickle passed away," Pyburn said.  "That was his thing, 'to finish first, you must first finish races.'  That was kind of our motto at a bunch of strange and different tracks."


Decker admitted that seeing some new facilities on the schedule gave her a similar cautious feeling in approaching a run for Rookie of the Year.


"At the beginning of the year when they started throwing these tracks on me it was making me nervous.  A lot of the drivers have been there," Decker said.  "My sister and I haven't really raced that many tracks - Marshfield was pretty much our home base.  To be a good in a Super Late, you have to adapt pretty quickly."


In a crop full of Rookies that included drivers who had already won track Rookie of the Year honors, Decker and Pyburn adapted quickly and shone the brightest at the outset of the 2013 TUNDRA season.


Decker took the initial lead in the Rookie of the Year battle thanks in large part to her strong qualifying effort in Round One at Golden Sands.  Leaving with the rookie point lead was a pleasant surprise.


"We took a look at all the names on the sheet of TUNDRA rookies.  We didn't really have any idea of what we were getting into," she said. "A lot of the racers I hadn't raced against, and really didn't know them."


Pyburn closed the gap to two points after finding a top ten finish at Jefferson in Round Two.  Jefferson was a great unknown for both Pyburn and Decker, who had to accept a provisional.


"We didn't actually change anything on the car from Golden Sands because we didn't know what to change it to," Pyburn recalled.  "I followed some people and learned the lines.  The car was pretty neutral and it stayed underneath us."


Although Pyburn finished two spots behind Decker in Round Three at LaCrosse, he utilized passing points to get the advantage by a single tally at the midway point of the season.


The battle took an interesting turn in Round Four when Decker became the first female and rookie to win a TUNDRA feature.  The win put Decker back in the position of being top rookie, but Pyburn didn't trail fair behind.


"It seems like we're always right next to each other on the track," Decker said.  "I think he's utilized the passing points, so that's how he's gotten where he is.  The few scuffles that we've had are just racing incidents and I'm sure we have our own opinions on it."


The scuffle Decker refers to took place in the most recent TUNDRA race on August 10 - Round Five at Marshfield.  Decker and Pyburn were just inside the top ten racing for the same plot of real estate when they came together entering turn three.  Pyburn was able to continue on and gain enough points to take the rookie lead back from Decker.


Also, the incident left the door open for Claire Decker who, 19 points behind Pyburn, still has an outside chance of grabbing the Rookie of the Year title.  She, however, will need bad days from both Pyburn and her older sister.


Slinger will present a large new challenge for both drivers, and could possibly give Claire the chance she needs to swipe the honors.  The Decker sisters have one day of racing experience at Slinger.  Pyburn has far less.


"I've never even seen a race at Slinger.  My expectations are hopefully to get a provisional," he said.


"We weren't even going to race, but got talked into it," Decker said of her trip to Slinger two weeks ago.  "My car was super loose in the feature.  I think I skimmed the wall twice coming out of four.  We're confident that we're going to have a better setup for next weekend and [crew chief] Toby [Nuttleman]'s been calling me every day to talk about Slinger.  I think he's just as excited as I am."


With cautious expectations, both drivers may be in line to surprise on Sunday. 


Although Pyburn hesitates to show confidence, he has done nothing but exceed expectations - even his own - this season.


"I've never been a guy to jump in a car and figure it out really quickly," Pyburn said of his first full year in Super Late Models.  "It usually takes me a little more time to get acclimated.  Once we did we started running pretty strong.  Hopefully it continues at Slinger."


Decker, on the other hand, says she's eagerly anticipating the final rookie showdown.


"I feel confident.  I'm excited to go to Slinger and see what happens," she said.  "Slinger is a really tough track.  Whoever wins is going to deserve to win because it's going to take a good finish at Slinger to wrap up that Rookie of the Year."


If Pyburn does overcome what he considers tough odds, he'll make history as the first ever TUNDRA Dean's Satellite Rookie of the Year.


"It's a feather in our cap.  It means you're on top of your game.  It means you put forth your best effort," he said.


If Decker is the one that claims the prize, she'll have even more résumé material as she prepares for the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine this off-season.


"I was the first rookie to win a race, so I would like to finish up the year being Rookie of the Year and having that title held over me," she said.  "This is only my second year in a Super Late Model so to win Rookie of the Year out of all these drivers that have been racing would be quite an accomplishment, and something I wouldn't forget."


TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round Six at Slinger Speedway will have an earlier start time on Sunday September 8.  Fan gates open at noon, qualifying is at 12:30 and racing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.  Fans will be treated to a full slate of racing including season championships for the local Late Models, Midwest Sportsman, Area Sportsman, Slinger Bee's and Figure 8s.  The American Super Cup Series completes a stacked card.


Slinger Speedway is located off of Hwy 41 and Highway 144 at 280 Cedar Creek Road, Slinger Wisconsin 53086.  For more informationvisitwww.slingersuperspeedway.com


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 www.tundrasuperlates.com. Also, interact with us on Facebook (facebook.com/TundraSuperLateModels) or Twitter (@TUNDRAslms).

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