Race Pro Weekly Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – It was just over two years to the day that Brett Hearn last stood in victory lane on the Super DIRTcar Series. Who would have thought he’d go winless since the August 2015 tour stop at Cornwall. Well, that all changed on Thursday night with a dominant performance in Lebanon Valley’s Mr. DIRT Track USA.
Hearn, who will be crowned champion at the Valley for yet another year on Saturday night, took the lead from Eddie Marshall with a power move from fourth to first on lap 18 and was never really challenged again as he went on to grab the $17,500 payday.
“They say if you’re gonna break out of a slump, you might as well win the one that pays the most money,” Hearn said with a laugh. “What a hot rod man. This car was so good tonight.”
The Sussex, NJ driver took his time early in the event, using patience until the time was right to strike.
“I didn’t want to use my stuff up so I just sat for a while until that caution,” he said. “I knew I wanted to get by the 4 (Andy Bachetti) and went into turn one and the 43 (Keith Flach) went low. I got a good run on the outside and Eddie (Marshall) slid up just a little bit and the car just took off. Eddie came out a little bit sideways and lost traction while I had a good run and that’s all I needed.”
It’s hard to get Brett Hearn rattled, but to say he was nervous to get the monkey off his back and end his Series winless streak would be understatement.
“This was completely nerve-racking I’ll tell you,” he said. “After the restarts you’re feeling vibrations, and then I think I’m running out of gas at the end and the motor’s stumbling. After the heat race, we had some oil issues but, man, it’s a lot of anxiety.”
Second place finisher Eddie Marshall has had an up-and-down 2017 season but finishing second to Hearn Thursday night was a big boost for the team.
“We were good tonight but after he went by me, the longer the race went, the tighter our car got,” he said. “I knew that if I was dead on, I wasn’t going to go back by him too easy. He certainly was the class of the field.”
Marshall made a big run at the leader during the middle stages of the race, but in the end had to settle for the runner-up position.
“He came back to us a little bit, but I think he was saving his tires,” Marshall stated. “Our car was good tonight. Our crew worked hard. The Teo chassis was good and Kevin Enders really built us a great engine so that’s something to build on and to keep digging for the future.”
While Marshall held the lead for the first handful of circuits, on the lap 18 restart he had Keith Flach to his inside. However, it really caught him off guard to see the #20 go side-by-side with him off of turn two when the field went back to green
“I was surprised that it was him really, I thought it was Keith down there,” he said. “When I saw it was him I knew that was a big problem. He was super strong and I can’t be ashamed to run second with the way he was going. We were good, but just not good enough.”
Third place finisher on the night was Stewart Friesen. For Friesen, finishing behind two Lebanon Valley regulars was as good as can be, knowing the amount of laps both Hearn and Marshall have on the high banks.
“Being the first outsider across the line is good,” he said. “To have a top three to those guys is good. We were closing on Eddie a bit but Brett was pretty much lights out.”
The third place run was a great rebound after several rough outings by the Halmar team on tour.
“I’m happy for the Halmar team,” Friesen said. “We’re kind of righting the ship on the series here. We’ve been working really hard in the shop the last couple of weeks and at least we’re on to something. We got some grip, I think, and we’re looking forward to how that transpires to Weedsport on Monday.”
With the win, Hearn was able to put a stop to the five-race win streak of Matt Sheppard. Sheppard was good early on in the evening, winning his heat. However, he really was never a factor in the main event, coming home with a ninth place finish.
One spot better than Sheppard in the main event was current Super DIRTcar Series point leader Billy Decker. Decker brought the Page Trucking #91 home in the eighth position with a car that many have said was underpowered for the Valley’s high banks.
Kenny Tremont and Mike Mahaney rounded out the top five. Keith Flach crossed the line in the fifth position but was positioned 32nd in the final running order after he did not make weight in post-race tech. He did, however, win the Speedy First Aid Hard Luck Award for that reason.
Mahaney was the star of the second half of the feature event as he was able to work his way up from a deep starting position (30th) using both lanes of the speedway but working the low line for a good portion of the races final laps to make up spots.
In Sportsman competition, Michael Sabia was able to hold off all challengers once he was able to wrestle the lead away from pole sitter Scott Duell and went on to win the King of Dirt Mr. Crate Track USA event.
Sabia started in the third position and took the lead on lap four. He was never really challenged the rest of the way as he went on to pick up his second career victory on the KOD tour.
“I had to get out front of Jeff (Watson) on that first lap and we got together,” he said. “The whole race I just figured he had to be coming at some point. The lap cars got a little squirrelly at the end but we managed to stick it out and get the win.”
Watson was closing ever so slightly as the race started to wind down but just ran out of time to catch and pass Sabia.
“We just didn’t have enough tonight,” Watson said. “I don’t know if more time would have helped. Those lapped cars at the end were messing him up a little bit and we were able to keep our momentum going, but man I do not like finishing second. We didn’t come here to finish second, but even though we’re disappointed, it was a good overall run and we’ll go on to the next race.”
Third place on the night was Rocky Warner who was just happy to bring his car home with a top five finish.
“Starting seventh, I was just hoping we could catch a top five,” he said. “We actually had a pretty competitive car. We got better and better as the race went on, but I’ve never been happier to without winning.”
The solid finish helped pad Warner’s hold on the King of Dirt Sportsman Series point lead heading into the Northeast Crate Nationals next week at Albany-Saratoga.
“You try not to watch the points and just do the best you can,” he said. “Realistically, you gotta pay attention to what’s going on and to have a top three at the Valley, I’m super stoked.”
John Virgilio and Chad Edwards rounded out the top five.
News & Notes…
Ryan Godown was in attendance Thursday night, shaking down the Lincoln Auto Body #5 Teo Pro Car he will run at Super DIRT Week next month.
The Ringoes, NJ driver tested the car at New Egypt recently but wanted to try it out in real racing conditions. He was, however, and early retiree as he pulled in on lap 31 and was credited with a 26th place finish.
After timing very well in qualifying, Max McLaughlin had an eventful heat race. He started on the front row and went straight for the wall on the first lap in turns one and two. He then planted his #6 Teo in the turn three and four wall, severely damaging the car.
Max’s crew would make repairs on his car’s front end to get him out for the consi. He then started the feature but only made it to lap 56 before he pulled in. He was listed as 23rd in the final running order.
Tim Fuller was also someone who didn’t see the end of the main event as he pulled his St. Lawrence Radiology #19 in on lap 66 and finished 21st.
Larry Wight had a decent run going early in the 101-lap main event, but tire troubles hampered his progression.
After a torrid battle with Billy Decker and Matt Sheppard, it appeared that Lightning used up his right rear and he started to slide through the field. He would end up finishing 18th at the end of the night and crossed the line with a shredded right rear Hoosier.
Wayne Jelley was a driver who had high hopes heading into Thursday’s event. However, a heat race accident saw his night stopped short as he put his #45 on its roof in turns three and four.
After contact between Wight and Andy Bachetti, Kyle Armstrong ended up nearly stopped in the corner and Jelley hit him, which sent his car into a soft roll.
Jelley called it a night after that.
In Super DIRT Week news, one team that is gearing up for the week-long spectacle is Hoyenga Racing with driver’s Shaun Pangman and Cody Bleau.
Bleau, who attempted his first Mr. DIRT Track USA Event but failed to qualify, will take on the Oswego Speedway in one of the team’s Big Block cars.
Pangman will try and qualify for the 358-Modified Championship while attempting all of the Satellite shows during the week.
To say both drivers are excited for the opportunity would be an understatement. They are working hard to make this a great trip for both of them.
Feature (100 Laps) – 1. 20-Brett Hearn (7); 2. 98-Eddie Marshall (1); 3. 44-Stewart Friesen (10); 4. 115-Kenny Tremont (6); 5. 88-Mike Mahaney (30); 6. 4-Andy Bachetti (4); 7. 98H-Jimmy Phelps (3); 8. 91-Billy Decker (13); 9. 9S-Matt Sheppard (11); 10. 74-J.R. Heffner (14); 11. 21A-Peter Britten (15); 12. 35-L.J. Lombardo (18); 13. 60-Brian Berger (17); 14. 34-Steve Hough (12); 15. 42P-Matt Pupello (8); 16. 99-Kolby Schroder (20); 17. P42-Pat Ward (25); 18. 99L-Larry Wight (9); 19. 109-Billy Whittaker (22); 20. 55-Mike King (23); 21. DNF 19-Tim Fuller (16); 22. DNF 42-Kyle Sheldon (31); 23. DNF 6H-Max McLaughlin (28); 24. DNF 17E-Elmo Reckner (32); 25. DNF 1-Tyler Dippel (27); 26. DNF 5-Ryan Godown (26); 27. DNF 22-Brandon Walters (19); 28. DNF 44X-Anthony Perrego (21); 29. DNF 25-Chad Jeseo (5); 30. DNS 11A-Kyle Armstrong (24); 31. DNS 7M-Mike Maresca (29); 32. DQ 43-Keith Flach (2)
Qualifying Group 1 – 1. 43-Keith Flach, 19.583; 2. 115-Kenny Tremont, 19.664; 3. 44-Stewart Friesen, 19.702; 4. 60-Brian Berger, 19.763; 5. 91-Billy Decker, 19.823; 6. 44x-Anthony Perrego, 19.979; 7. 42-Kyle Sheldon, 19.998; 8. P42-Pat Ward, 20.027; 9. 17-Rob Pitcher, 20.091; 10. 34H-Cody Bleau, 20.618.
Qualifying Group 2 – 1. 20-Brett Hearn, 19.474; 2. 1-Tyler Dippel, 19.823; 3. 98-Eddie Marshall, 19.995; 4. LJ Lombardo, 20.084; 5. 25-Chad Jeseo, 20.133; 6. 74-J.R. Heffner, 20.179; 7. 55-Mike King, 20.260; 8. 88-Mike Mahaney, 20.260; 9. 7-John Ruchel, 20.379; 10. 17e-Elmo Reckner, 20.659
Qualifying Group 3 – 1. 98H-Jimmy Phelps, 19.698; 2. 4-Andy Bachetti, 19.797; 3. Kyle Armstrong, 19.867; 4. 99L-Larry Wight, 19.894; 5. 45-Wayne Jelley, 19.931; 6. 21A-Peter Britten, 20.005; 7. 7M-Mike Maresca, 20.313; 8. 22-Brandon Walters, 20.751, 9. 72-Cass Bennett, 21.633
Qualifying Group 4 – 1. 6H-Max McLaughlin, 19.647; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard, 19.689; 3. 42P-Matt Pupello, 19.926; 4. 34-Steve Hough, 20.040; 5. 99-Kolby Schroder, 20.107; 6. 19-Tim Fuller, 20.182; 7. 5-Ryan Godown, 20.312; 8. 14-C.G. Morey, 20.351; 9. 109-Billy Whittaker, 20.603
Heat 1 (8 Laps – Top-5 Qualify – Top-3 Redraw) – 1. 43-Keith Flach, 2. 115-Kenny Tremont, 3. 44-Stewart Friesen, 4. 91-Billy Decker, 5. 60-Brian Berger, 6. 44X-Anthony Perrego, 7. P42-Pat Ward, 8. 42-Kyle Sheldon, 9. 34H-Cody Bleau, 10. DNS 17-Rob Pitcher
Heat 2 (8 Laps – Top-5 Qualify – Top-3 Redraw) – 1. 20-Brett Hearn, 2. 98-Eddie Marshall, 3. 25-Chad Jeseo, 4. 74-J.R. Heffner, 5. 35-LJ Lombardo, 6. 55-Mike King, 7. 1-Tyler Dippel, 8. 88-Mike Mahaney, 9. 17E-Elmo Reckner, 10. 7-John Ruchel
Heat 3 (8 Laps – Top-5 Qualify – Top-3 Redraw) – 1. 98H-Jimmy Phelps, 2. 4-Andy Bachetti, 3. 99L-Larry Wight, 4. 21A-Peter Britten, 5. 22-Brandon Walters, 6. DNF 7M-Mike Maresca, 7. DNF 11A-Kyle Armstrong, 8. DNF 45-Wayne Jelley, 9. DNS 72-Cass Bennett
Heat 4 (8 Laps – Top-5 Qualify – Top-3 Redraw) – 1. 9S-Matt Sheppard, 2. 34-Steve Hough, 3. 42P-Matt Pupello, 4. 19-Tim Fuller, 5. 99-Kolby Schroder, 6. 109-Billy Whittaker, 7. 5-Ryan Godown, 8. 14-C.G. Morrey, 9. DNF 6H-Max McLaughlin
Last Chance Qualifier 1 (8 Laps – 3 Transfer to Feature) – 1. 44x-Anthony Perrego, 2. 55-Mike King, 3. P42-Pat Ward, 4. 1-Tyler Dippel, 5. 88-Mike Mahaney, 6. 42-Kyle Sheldon, 7. 7-John Ruchel, 8. 17E-Elmo Reckner, 9. Cody Bleau
Last Chance Qualifier 2 (8 Laps – 3 Transfer to Feature) – 1. 109-Billy Whittaker, 2. 11A-Kyle Armstrong, 3. 5-Ryan Godown, 4. DNF 6H-Max McLaughlin, 5. DNF 72-Cass Bennett, 6. DNS 7M-Mike Maresca, 7. DNS 45-Wayne Jelley, 8. DNS C.G. Morey
CONTINGENCY WINNERS: VP Racing Fuels ($50 Cash): Billy Decker; Fast Time ($100 Cash): Brett Hearn; Bicknell Racing Products ($100 Product Certificate): Stewart Friesen; Cometic Gasket ($50 Cash): Brian Berger; Comp Cams ($50 Cash): Peter Britten; Comp Cams ($50 Product Certificate): Stewart Friesen; Edelbrock ($50 Cash): Peter Britten; Fox Racing Shocks ($50 Cash): Stewart Friesen; JE Pistons ($50 Cash): Mike Mahaney; JE Pistons (Product Certificate): Kolby Schroder; JE Pistons (Product Certificate): Tim Fuller; KSE Racing Products Inc. ($50 Product Certificate): Kyle Sheldon (+8); MSD Ignition ($50 Cash): Brett Hearn; MSD Ignition ($25 Cash): Brandon Walters; SuperFlow Dynos & Flowbenches ($50 Cash): Kolby Schroder; Wrisco Aluminum (Product Certificate): Brett Hearn; JRI Shocks ($50 Cash): Kyle Sheldon; Dig Safely 811 Redraw Bonus ($100 Cash): N/A; Speedy First Aid Hard Luck Award (Product Certificate): Keith Flach; ASi Racewear ($50 Cash): Jimmy Phelps.
King Of Dirt Sportsman Results (30 Laps) – 1) Micheal Sabia 2) Jeff Watson 3) Rocky Warner 4) John Virgilio 5) Chad Edwards 6) Robbie Knipe 7) Connor Cleveland 8) David Schilling 9) Rob Maxxon 10) Kevin Ward 11) Alan Houghtaling 12) Brian Pessolano 13) Cody Hunt 14) Andrew Buff 15) Lem Atkins 16) Cody Ochs 17) Nick Heywood 18) Jon Miller 19) Mike DuBois 20) Nikki Ouellette 21) Chris Curtis 22) Mike Block 23) Jimmy Devitt 24) Frank Hoard JR. 25) Scott Duell 26) Bobby Deleon 27) Pete Carlotto 28) Chris Lynch 29) Greg Catlin 30) Brandon Lane 31) Harold Robitaille 32) Adam Pierson 33) Whitey Slavin 34) Brian Calabrese