Rain-Shortened Event Gives Hearn Record Sixth Triumph In NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week Headliner 17 Years After Last Win
SYRACUSE, NY – Oct. 7, 2012 – By Kevin Kovac/DIRTcar Racing P.R. – Brett Hearn’s long run of big-block Modified misery during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week is over.
Combining a fleet race car with the good fortune that had seemingly abandoned him at the famed New York State Fairgrounds, Hearn emerged triumphant in Sunday’s rain-shortened VP Small Engine Fuels 200.
Hearn, 54, of Sussex, N.J., captured big-block Modified racing’s most prestigious event for a record sixth time when DIRTcar officials declared the race official after 113 laps due to increasingly heavy precipitation that slickened the one-mile oval. But it was his first win in the race since 1995 – a 17-year span between checkered flags that was filled with frustration and heartbreak and made his return to the spotlight a sweet reward.
“You keep on doing this long enough it’s gotta turn around and come back your way, right?” said Hearn, who has started the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 for 35 consecutive years. “I won the thing five times in 11 years (from 1985-95) and thought, ‘Man, it wasn’t that hard after all.’ And then the next 16 years I realized not only is it hard to win the race, it’s hard to finish the damn race. This puts it all in perspective.”
Hearn dominated the scheduled 200-mile event, taking the lead from polesitter Billy Decker of Unadilla, N.Y., on lap five and holding it through the early conclusion. He decided to forego a pit stop during the race’s first half when his crew realized that wet weather was moving in and the gamble paid off.
When the 200 was red-flagged and the field brought onto pit road on lap 113, Hearn led a group of five drivers who had not yet pitted. All of them were running low on gas and would have had to come in for refueling if the race had restarted, but with rain overtaking the area and dusk approaching DIRTcar officials made the decision to end it after a wait of about half an hour.
It was just the second time rain shortened the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 in the event’s 41-year history. The 1992 race won by Richie Tobias of Annville, Pa., was cut to 135 laps by the weather.
Matt Sheppard of Waterloo, N.Y., was credited with a runner-up finish after he inherited the spot from Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., who ran out of fuel and pitted under caution one lap before the race was red-flagged.
Jimmy Phelps of Baldwinsville, N.Y., ran in the top five for the entire distance and finished third. Justin Haers of Phelps, N.Y., registered a career-best finish of fourth and Pat Ward of Genoa, N.Y., was fifth.
Danny Johnson of Rochester, N.Y., and Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who finished sixth and seventh, respectively, were the first drivers in the final rundown who made at least one pit stop. Both pitted on lap 26 and were in position to go farther with their fuel window.
While the rain made a moot point of the 200’s new procedures that mandated teams must change one right-rear tire after lap 100 and the final 25 laps of the race would be run under green-flag conditions, Hearn didn’t question the validity of his $50,000-plus triumph.
“Yeah, we were lucky that it rained, but did we have the dominant car? Absolutely,” said Hearn, who drove an Enders-powered Teo-Pro machine fielded by Madsen Motorsports. “Did we deserve to win the race? Yes. We didn’t win it because everybody else pitted and we stayed out.”
Indeed, Hearn didn’t receive a single serious challenge during his long stint in the lead. He easily handled five restarts and lapped cars at will during extended periods of green-flag racing.
“What a race car,” Hearn gushed when he was interviewed on the winner’s stage. “Any time I wanted to go, I could just go.
“I had way more than I ever showed. I was totally letting off (on the straightaways) because we knew the more fuel I could conserve, the bigger my fuel window would be after lap 100 if the yellow didn’t come out or it didn’t rain.
“We had two plans,” he added. “One was to pit early on and then cycle through and pit again after lap 100. Then we started to monitor the radar and they said it’s gonna get here before lap 100, so at that point there was no option. You just stay out because you don’t come in and give up your track position, give up your win.”
At 54, Hearn became the oldest driver to win the VP Small Engine Fuels 200, surpassing Frank Cozze of Wind Gap, Pa., who was 53 when he won in 2008. But when Hearn celebrated his victory inside the John Hill Infield Media Center because the rain moved the ceremonies indoors, he felt like the 30-something star he was for four of his previous five wins at the ‘Cuse.
“We’ve won it a lot of different ways,” said Hearn, who inexplicably had only one top-five finish in the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 (a third in ’97) since his last win in ‘95. “We’ve won it with dominant cars, but I’ve never won it in the rain. We had a little help from above today but we’ll take it.”
Sheppard, 30, was satisfied with his $25,000 bridesmaid finish after running much of the distance in the fifth or sixth spots with his Jeff Brownell Sr.-owned Bicknell car. The 2009 event winner was a runner-up in the 200 for the second time.
“We’ll take it,” said Sheppard, who also placed second in 2008. “We’ve had some real tough luck the last couple years, but the last three times we’ve finished this race we’ve been in the top two. Sometimes Mother Nature is a part of racing and it worked out good for us today. We would’ve liked to have won it, but second is a pretty good day.”
Phelps, 37, was a subdued third-place finisher in the Al Heinke-owned Troyer machine. He badly desires a victory in the 200 and would have liked an opportunity for the race to play out.
“We had a good car all day,” said Phelps, whose career-best finish in 10 event starts is second in 2010. “If the sun came out and they dropped the green right now we’d be out of gas pretty quick anyway, so I’ve got mixed emotions. I don’t think we had anything for the 20, but we had a top-three car so we’re happy.”
The race was slowed by six caution flags for 35 laps. All were for slowed or stopped cars: Kevin Bates of Lake Ariel, Pa. (lap 22); Australia’s Peter Britten (lap 31); two-time defending VP Small Engine Fuels 200 winner Stewart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. (broken driveshaft on lap 39); Vinnie Vitale of Cato, N.Y. (electrical problems on laps 61 and 105); and Larry Wight of Phoenix, N.Y. (suspension woes on lap 75).
Rob Bellinger of Dexter, N.Y., won Sunday’s 15-lap Non-Qualifiers’ Race to gain entry to the 200. He earned $1,000 for the triumph.
Sunday’s SEF 200 was taped for broadcast on the SPEED cable network on Sat., Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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Finish Start Driver Laps Status Earnings
1 3 Brett Hearn 113 Running $50,000
2 8 Matt Sheppard 113 Running $25,000
3 7 Jimmy Phelps 113 Running $15,000
4 9 Justin Haers 113 Running $10,000
5 10 Pat Ward 113 Running $6,000
6 32 Danny Johnson 113 Running $4,000
7 11 Tim McCreadie 113 Running $3,600
8 23 Jeff Strunk 113 Running $3,400
9 12 Alan Johnson 113 Running $3,200
10 6 Billy Dunn 113 Running $3,000
11 29 Eddie Marshall 113 Running $2,800
12 5 Gary Tomkins 113 Running $2,600
13 31 Donnie Corellis 113 Running $2,400
14 22 Ryan Godown 113 Running $2,200
15 19 Vic Coffey 113 Running $2,000
16 24 Rick Laubach 113 Running $1,900
17 14 Andy Bachetti 113 Running $1,800
18 26 Kenny Tremont Jr. 113 Running $1,700
19 1 Billy Decker 113 Running $1,700
20 18 Ronnie Johnson 113 Running $1,700
21 28 Tim Hindley 113 Running $1,600
22 17 David Hebert 113 Running $1,600
23 37 Rob Bellinger 113 Running $1,600
24 27 Keith Flach 113 Running $1,600
25 16 Tim Fuller 113 Running $1,600
26 36 Rich Scagliotta 112 Running $1,600
27 2 Peter Britten 111 Running $1,600
28 20 Bob McGannon 110 Running $1,600
29 30 Justin Wright 110 Running $1,600
30 35 Matt Pupello 110 Running $1,500
31 41 Brian Sage 110 Running $1,500
32 33 Lance Willix II 109 Running $1,500
33 39 Tim Currier 109 Running $1,500
34 4 Bobby Varin 106 Overheating $1,500
35 25 Jerry Higbie 98 Mechanical $1,500
36 21 Dave Rauscher 97 Handling $1,500
37 38 Vince Vitale 89 Electrical $1,500
38 34 Brian Swarthout 80 Mechanical $1,500
39 15 Larry Wight 74 Suspension $1,500
40 40 Jimmy Horton 72 Fuel pump $1,500
41 43 Richie Tobias 63 Driveline $1,500
42 13 Stewart Freisen 38 Driveline $1,500
43 44 Kevin Bates 20 Mechanical $1,500
44 45 Chad Homan 6 Mechanical $1,500
45 42 Tyler Siri 1 Retired $1,500
Time of Race: 1 hour, 34 mins., 54.425 secs.
Lap Leaders: Decker (1-4); Hearn (5-113)
Caution flags: 6 for 35 laps (Laps 22, 31, 39, 61, 75, 105)
Provisional starters: Siri, Tobias
Rookie of the Race: Justin Wright
Page Trucking Pole Award: Billy Decker ($1,000)
Midstate Golf Car Outside Pole Award: David Hebert ($1,000)
Overall Fastest Qualifier: Billy Decker
Teo-Pro Halfway Award: Brett Hearn (chassis & body)
Sharon’s Toy Hard Luck Award: Stewart Friesen ($1,000)
Sharon’s Toy Hard Charger: Danny Johnson ($500)
Sharon’s Toy Fifth Place: Pat Ward ($500)
Sharon’s Toy 10th Place: Billy Dunn ($500)
Sharon’s Toy 3rd Place at Halfway: Bobby Varin ($500)
Sharon’s Toy Last Car on Lead Lap: Tim Fuller ($500)
Sharon’s Toy – Final Running Compound Driver: Vic Coffey ($500)
VP Small Engine Fuels 200 Non-Qualifiers’ Race (Top 6 Transfer to SEF 200): 1. Rob Bellinger, 2. Vince Vitale, 3. Tim Currier, 4. Jimmy Horton, 5. Brian Sage, 6. Kevin Bates, 7. Jasmin Leveillee, 8. Marcus Dinkins, 9. Greg Atkins, 10. Jeff Rockefeller, 11. Richie Tobias, 12. Aaron Jacobs, 13. Darwin Greene, 14. Mario Clair, 15. Tyler Siri, 16. Clement Therrien, 17. Marc Johnson, 18. Mark Flach Jr., 19. Tommy Flannigan, 20. Eldon Payne, 21. Brian Murphy, 22. Tom Sears Jr., 23. Tony Steiner, 24. Frank Cozze, 25. David Papineau (DNS) Dan Humes, Neal Williams, Patrick McGrail, Roy Bresnahan, Jimmy Blewett, Jason Herrington, Mat Williamson
2012 Super DIRTcar Series Points Standings – as of Oct. 7 (Rank/Driver/Points/Deficit):
1. Matt Sheppard 2,076
2. Jimmy Phelps 1,974 -102
3. Brett Hearn 1,943 -133
4. Justin Haers 1,821 -255
5. Billy Dunn 1,808 -268
6. Danny Johnson 1,805 -271
7. Rob Bellinger 1,654 -422
8. Pete Britten 1,647 -429
9. Rich Scagliotta 1,573 -503
10. Gary Tomkins 1,514 -562
11. Tim Currier 1,500 -576
12. Dave Rauscher 1,477 -599
13. Vince Vitale 1,471 -605
14. Tyler Siri 1,415 -661
15. Steve Paine 1,203 -873
The Super DIRTcar Series and Super DIRT Week are brought to fans by several sponsors and partners including Hoosier Racing Tire, VP Racing Fuels, Chevy Performance Parts, Gander Mountain, NAPA Auto Parts, and Safety-Kleen. Promotional partners include the University of Northwestern Ohio and Roush Yates Performance Products. Contingency sponsors are ASI, Beyea Headers, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix, ButlerBuilt, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Draco Springs, Intercomp, JE Pistons, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, KSE Racing Products, Motorsports Safety Systems, MSD Ignition, Penske Shocks, Pro Fabrication, Racing Electronics, Superflow, Vicci Racing Apparel, Wilwood Engineering, WIX Filters, Wrisco Industries, and Xtreme Lubricants.