The 2016 season has seen many battles on the track for Brett Hearn, but his toughest battle took place outside of the cockpit of his No. 20 Big-Block Modified this past weekend.
Hearn, who currently sits at the top of the championship battles at his two home tracks of Albany-Saratoga Speedway (NY) and Lebanon Valley Speedway (NY), saw his championship hopes come under fire. This time it wasn’t from his on-track opponents, but from his own back.
Hearn battled back pain throughout the weekend, and while the pain is something that “The Jet” has had to deal with in the past, it had been quite some time since it affected him in the way it did this past weekend.
“It’s nothing that hasn’t happened before,” Hearn told Speed51.com powered by JEGS on Monday. “I had back surgery 22 years ago but I don’t think I’ve had a problem the last five years maybe, but it spasms a little bit and gets tight for a while. It’s hard to get in the car, but it’s nothing that I know is not going to pass.”
The back pain he was suffering from this past weekend nearly derailed his championship hopes at Albany-Saratoga on Friday. Hearn was unable to get in the car that night, but foul weather canceled the racing program in Malta, New York, allowing him to maintain the track championship lead over Marc Johnson. The rain out also allowed the racing veteran to rest up for Saturday at Lebanon Valley. But even then there were some doubts early in the day.
“I wasn’t ready to get in the car on Friday, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to get in the car Saturday morning. But we managed it all day long and it actually worked out pretty good,” Hearn said.
It worked out with Hearn scoring his fifth win at the “Valley of Speed” in 2016 and extending his points lead in the Big-Block Modified championship over Kenny Tremont, Jr.
And while Hearn might have had to put up with a cranky back, he did not have to put up with a cranky race car.
“We had the car really, really good for a stretch early on in the season and we mellowed out and lost the handle on it a little bit,” Hearn explained. “We took the car to Eldora and did some damage to it there. That set us back for another couple of weeks, but I think that we finally nailed all the issues and got the car back to where it was early in the year. The car was phenomenal Saturday.”
Hearn stated he was back to “85%” on Monday night and will have time to heal up this week with the Super DIRTcar Series in the middle of its late-summer break. It also allows Hearn a chance to put 100% effort into hunting his seventh track championship at Albany-Saratoga and his 11th at Lebanon Valley.
“We got some time to make some improvements and try to stay on top of everything. All I’ve got to concentrate on now for two weeks is just my two home tracks.”
The Super DIRTcar Series returns to action on Thursday, September 1 at Lebanon Valley for the $17,500 to win Mr. Dirt Track USA 100 lap event. If all goes well leading up to that event, Hearn will be behind the wheel of his No. 20 chasing the big win at one of his home tracks.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com