August has been a noteworthy month for Dirt Modified immortal Brett Hearn. The New Jersey driver kicked off the eighth month of the year by scoring his 900th career feature victory before putting a 12th Big-Block Lebanon Valley Speedway (NY) track title in the bag one week ago. On the last day of the month Thursday night, Hearn drove to victory lane and was crowned Mr. Dirt Track USA for the 12th time in his career.
It’s also no surprise to those who follow the Super DIRTcar Series that his return to the top step at the podium would come at Lebanon Valley in the Mr. Dirt Track USA 101. In the process, he collected one of the biggest paydays of the entire SDS season at $17,500 and gave a renewed hope for an eighth SDS Big-Block title.
“If you’re going to break out of a slump, it’s the best way to break out, winning the highest paying race of the summer. Hopefully pick up some points and get going here again,” Hearn told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
While some drivers would brush off the thought of home track advantage, Hearn did not, crediting familiarity of the high-banked, long straightaway, half-mile’s unique nature of being a superspeedway among the many bullrings located throughout the region.
“It just proves when you practice every Saturday night at one track, you start to get a little bit of an advantage. I think part of my disadvantage out west is that these guys are on a certain type of track all the time, they’re really tuned and geared for it,” Hearn explained. “Even though they all might not be tracks they run all of the time, the conditions are the same, so they’re ready for it. When we come to this house here, this is what we tune for, so we have the potential to be better here.”
While Hearn was in control from Lap 19 on in the 101-lap feature, he still had some work to do early on. After winning his heat race, Hearn drew seventh starting spot in the top-12 redraw and quickly moved to fourth by the time the yellow flag was displayed on Lap 19. With Eddie Marshall leading off the outside of the front row alongside Keith Flach and with Andy Bachetti to his inside, Hearn executed a veteran’s pass for the lead. First clearing Bachetti, he got a run into turn one, but only had one place to go, in the middle, three-wide.
“It was really clean, things opened up and I felt like I had plenty of room. I was more concerned with trying to get third, we went down into one and I had a big run on the 43 (Flach). I wanted to run the outside of him. Next thing I know Eddie slid it a little bit, I pulled to the left, got a run on him and that was all it took.”
Despite having a slightly relaxed week with another Big-Block track title wrapped up at the “Valley of Speed,” things were not so rosy once racing began for “The Jet” Thursday night, first starting in the heat race and the screws getting tighter as the feature wore on.
“Having wrapped that (championship) up last week with a race to go, leaving no pressure, we weren’t worried about Saturday night, so we could come here and do the best we can,” Hearn stated. “That’s a huge relief, but we had a bunch of things going on just tonight, a lot of anxiety. We stripped the right-rear tire, that was vibrating a little bit. We were running out of gas the last two laps, we had an oil issue in the heat race, I didn’t know how that was going to play out. It wasn’t easy.”
A caution with 12 laps to go after building up a lead over a 50-lap plus period tightened up the field, putting both Eddie Marshall and Stewart Friesen behind Hearn. But Hearn took it as helpful occurrence, giving an opportunity to cool the right-rear tire.
“I was good for cooling my tires down, the timing was good, and I knew it could be a big help with the car we had.”
Going forward, Hearn feels that some of the pressure to win is off heading into September and Super DIRT Week in October at Oswego Speedway (NY). He admits there’s still a lot to do, but they are more than ready for the challenge.
“We got work to do, but I think we’ll be alright.”
On-demand coverage of Thursday’s Mr. Dirt Track USA can be found by visiting Speed51.com’s Speed Central.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com