|Date: 10/14/2013 1:02:52 AM|
One Year After Losing Race To Empty Fuel Tank, Hearn Benefits From Dunn’s Heartbreak On Final Lap
By Kevin Kovac, DIRTcar Racing P.R.
SYRACUSE, NY – Oct. 12, 2013 – After 36 years of competition, Brett Hearn knows the fickle nature of racing at the one-mile New York State Fairgrounds.
So the 55-year-old DIRTcar superstar from Sussex, N.J., wasn’t the least bit surprised when good fortune propelled him to victory in Saturday’s ‘Salute to the Troops’ DIRTcar 358-Modified 150 exactly one year after bad luck stole a shot at the race’s checkered flag from him.
“The Moody Mile is just that,” said Hearn, referencing the track’s infamous nickname. “It took one away from me last year when maybe I almost could have done it, and then it gave me one back this year. That’s the way it works.”
Indeed, Hearn appeared headed to a runner-up finish until the upset-minded Billy Dunn of Watertown, N.Y., slowed entering turn one on the final lap due to a dry fuel cell. The Northcountry driver’s heartbreak sent Hearn chugging on to his fifth career triumph in NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week’s Saturday headliner.
Hearn steered his Madsen Motorsports Teo-Pro across the finish line nearly a straightaway ahead of Watertown, N.Y.’s Tim Fuller, the 2005 event winner who quietly drove the J&S Racing Teo-Pro car to the runner-up spot in his 20th career start in the 150.
Alain Boisvert of Lachine, Que., finished third in his Bicknell machine, becoming the highest-finishing French-Canadian driver in the history of the 358-Modified 150. Jimmy Horton of Neshanic Station, N.J., drove Dieter Schmidt’s Troyer car to a fourth-place finish in his 17th career appearance in the 150 and Matt Billings of Brockville, Ont., earned the $150 Draco Springs Hard Charger Award for advancing from the 36th starting spot to place a career-best fifth after working all night to repair damage his Bicknell car sustained in a crash during Friday’s heat action.
Hearn, who started 14th, had last year’s disappointment on his mind after he reached Victory Lane in dramatic fashion. His car ran out of fuel with two laps remaining in 2012, handing the win to Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y.
“Last year we had a less-conservative strategy starting last in the race (after using ‘preferred starter’ status to start last),” said Hearn. “We tried to stretch our fuel mileage beyond means (147 laps after pitting on lap three) and (the Syracuse Mile) took one away from us right at the very end. This year it turned around and gave us one back.”
After Hearn watched Stewart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., relinquish the lead in Saturday’s 150 to mechanical trouble on lap 97 and polesitter Ronnie Johnson of Duanesburg, N.Y., have his bid dive-bombed by a flat left-front tire on lap 121, he found himself sitting second behind Dunn. He spent the remainder of the distance chasing the 29-year-old Dunn, who passed Johnson for the top spot on lap 118 and began eyeing the biggest victory of his young career.
“We played cat and mouse – I’d run up on him, he’d run away. I’d run up on him, he’d run away,” Hearn said of his pursuit of Dunn. “Then, with about eight (laps) to go, it was almost like he ran out of gas. I got a big run on him on the front straightaway and I thought I was gonna run over top of him, and then he took off again. I thought he was running out of gas then, so I kind of backed off.”
Perhaps Hearn’s conservatism in the final circuits ended up paying major dividends. With fuel concerns running through his mind – especially after third-place Billy Decker of Unadilla, N.Y., ran out of gas on lap 143 and limped to the pit area – he set a pace that left him enough to reach the finish.
“Obviously if Billy was at speed I wasn’t gonna be able to pass him on open track, but as it played out I saved just enough,” said Hearn. “That last straightaway I started closing up on him, and then I saw him wiggle the car going into one and I knew that was it.”
Dunn, who started 11th but was already up to second by the time the race’s first caution flag flew on lap 21 to prompt him, Hearn and most other contenders to make their mandatory pit stops three circuits later, was unable to coast around the track to complete the race after running out of gas. He finished 24th one year after placing second in his first-ever start in the 358-Modified 150.
Hearn’s $20,000 triumph came in his 28th career start in the 150. He previously won the race in 1986, 1989, 1990 and 2007.
With the first big race of NAPA Super DIRT Week XVII under his belt, Hearn is focused on duplicating his 1990 feat of sweeping the weekend’s 358-Modified 150 and Syracuse 200 big-block Modified classic. The only other driver to win both races during the same Super DIRT Week is Danny Johnson of Phelps, N.Y., who pulled it off in 2006.
Hearn is scheduled to start Sunday’s $50,000-to-win Syracuse from the outside pole.
“If I was to make a prediction this morning, I would have said, ‘The small-block is O.K., and the big-block is really good,’” said Hearn. “I’m real confident with the big-block, but tomorrow is gonna be crazy. Anything can happen.”
Fuller, 45, felt fortunate to finish second after starting 19th. He was among the drivers who pitted at the same time as Hearn, on lap 24, and ran the remainder of the race a few positions behind the eventual winner.
“It was just survival,” said Fuller, who finished third in last year’s 150. “Once it cycled around after the pit stops we had some people drop out. Friesen was gonna win it – nobody was gonna pass him. Then Ronnie Johnson was gonna win it – nobody was gonna pass him. And then it cycled around to Billy Dunn – nobody was gonna beat him.
“It’s unfortunate. I would’ve liked to see Billy get a win, but everybody knows you gotta lose one here before you win one so….he’ll around for a long time.”
Boisvert, meanwhile, was one of the happiest third-place finishers in the history of NAPA Super DIRT Week. Making his fourth career 358-Modified 150 start but first since 1998, the bilingual auctioneer patiently stayed out of trouble the whole way to emerge with a surprise podium finish.
“It was a great run for us,” said Boisvert, whose third-place finish bested Mario Clair’s fourth-place run in 2008 among Quebec drivers who have competed in the 150. “We brought our (Autodrome Granby) Friday-night ride here with the engine we run every Friday, and it was just good stuff. The team prepared me a good car and it was lots of fun racing with those guys. To see Brett and Fuller and then me – we compare ourselves to them, so to race with them and finish behind them is just great.
“We’re very happy,” he continued. “The weather was fantastic all week. We had great food, we had great people all around us. It was so much fun. To see everybody come over and congratulate me after the race was special.”
Six different drivers led the race, with Ronnie Johnson the only entrant to set the pace on two occasions (laps 1-23 and 98-117). Marc Johnson of Guilderland, N.Y., led laps 24-37; DIRTcar 358-Modified points leader Erick Rudolph of Ransomville, N.Y., paced laps 38-73 before making his mandatory pit stop; Friesen led laps 98-117; and Dunn ran up front for laps 118-149.
Friesen’s fate was nearly as difficult to swallow as Dunn’s. The two-time Syracuse 200 champion appeared primed to write a spectacular comeback story after failing to log a time-trial lap on Thursday due to a blown engine. Using an engine borrowed from fellow racer Jeremy Wilder, he drove forward from the last starting spot (28th) to finish third in Friday’s second 20-lap heat race and then established himself as the cream of Saturday’s crop before pulling up lame on lap 97 while leading.
The race was slowed by five caution flags for 27 laps. All were for slowed or stopped cars: Yan Bussiere of Drummondville, Que. (lap 21); Ryan Arbuthhnot of Renfrew, Ont. (lap 40); Willy Decker of Vernon, N.Y. (lap 70); Chris Raabe of Napanee, Ont. (lap 85); and Carey Terrance of Hogansburg, N.Y. (ran out of gas on lap 136 while fourth).
Finishing in positions 6-10 was Andy Bachetti of Great Barrington, Mass.; J.R. Heffner of Stephentown, N.Y., who registered his first top-10 finish if five career 150 starts; Marc Johnson, who recorded his third top-10 finish in four 150 appearances; Rick Laubach of Hellertown, Pa.; and McCreadie, who was put behind his rivals after he had to pit twice during the first caution period because his pit stall was blocked by other cars on his first attempt.
NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLII concludes on Sunday (Oct. 12) with the running of the $50,000-to-win big-block Modified Syracuse 200. Also on Sunday’s card is the DIRTcar Pro Stock Championship 25.
For the latest news and updates about NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week and DIRTcar Racing, visit www.SuperDirtWeekOnline.com, “like” the Super DIRT Week and DIRTcar Racing Facebook pages or follow the Twitter feeds @SuperDIRTWeek and @DIRTcarNE.
‘Salute to the Troops’ DIRTcar 358-Modified Championship 150 Results
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