Brett Hearn will race anything and everything that ends with the word “Modified.” Whether it’s a Big-Block Modified, Small-Block Modified or even a Crate 602 Sportsman Modified, Hearn will be there and he’ll be a favorite to win. That proved true Sunday night when he jetted into Devil’s Bowl Speedway victory lane during the inaugural $10,000-to-win Vermont 200.
Capping off Devil’s Bowl’s return to dirt on the half-mile oval in 2018, the Vermont 200 was heralded as one of the longest and richest races in history for the track’s headline division, the 602 Sportsman Modifieds.
While other ringers such as Danny Johnson and Jessey Mueller were impressive, Hearn was the mightiest of the visiting drivers. However, his return to Devil’s Bowl after an extended absence didn’t go without a major bump in the road.
Naturally, Hearn was not worried with what he had, only with the actions of other drivers in a cramped field. In the end, time would be on his side as he reclaimed the lead on the final restart of the night to win the Vermont 200.
“There’s a lot of congestion, a lot of cars on the track and guys are rubbing, banging, and sliding. I did miss a bunch of incidents," Hearn told Speed51.com. "I knew I wouldn’t get back to the front in the first half of the race, but I knew if I could put myself in a position like we did at halfway we could tune-up on it and go for it. It all worked out perfectly."
Hearn managed to slice back through the field before a 15-minute halfway break for extended pit stops, with only Jessey Mueller, Bobby Hackel, Joey Scarborough, and Adam Pierson in front of him. Within 20 laps, it was Hackel and Hearn at the front dueling for the lead over a string of restarts.
The final restart would prove to be the most critical, as Hearn kept Hackel in check, clearing him for the lead within a lap before holding on for the final 40-lap run to the checkers.
“I think we went with a harder tire than (Hackel),” Hearn explained. “He had some tire wear towards the end there and that hurt him a little bit. We started to get better and better on the restarts, and closer and closer getting by him. I knew once I got by him that we were going to go because we had a really good car the last 40 or 50 laps of the race. Plus, we had the longest green flag run the last stretch of the race as well.”
A rare participant in Sportsman events, Hearn was able to secure a Crate 602 engine that had never left its crate before going to Devil’s Bowl. As for the car, it is one that fans at Albany-Saratoga Speedway (NY) have been familiar with in 2018.
“One of my owners had the engine in his shop still in its crate because he was going to build a car for himself,” Hearn stated. “So we asked him if we could use it. We brought it up, put it in the Friday night Malta car, and they did a helluva job getting it in there. It’s not easy but it worked out perfectly. It was a good decision to come.”
Not only was Hearn’s appearance at Devil’s Bowl his first in over 11 years, it was the first win for the “Jersey Jet” in West Haven, Vermont since 1992. After so many years, Hearn was amazed by what he came back to.
“I’m astounded by how beautiful this place is,” Hearn said. “The kind of job that Mike Bruno has done with the old facility is really awesome. The track is beautiful, the lighting, the walls, it’s just outstanding. I don’t remember it being like this."
From here, Hearn returns to Big-Block racing, with the Jack 100 at Fonda Speedway next up for the Super DIRTcar Series, followed by Super DIRT Week at Oswego and Eastern States Weekend at Orange County Fair still to come in October. It’s fair to say that a 200-lap win plus $10,000 will get anyone’s confidence up, and Hearn is no exception.
“This is a confidence builder. We’ve been doing some testing with our Big-Block stuff. It hasn’t always turned out perfect, but maybe we learned something today.”
Adam Pierson rallied in the closing laps to finish second ahead of Bobby Hackel who finished third. Jessey Mueller and Danny Johnson completed the top five.
Speed51.com will have video highlights from the Vermont 200 this week on the Speed51 Network.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com