This past Saturday night at New York’s Orange County Fair Speedway, legendary Dirt Modified driver Brett Hearn won the Short Track Super Series event, and was on his way to pocketing a hefty $5,000. All he had to do was go to post-race tech inspection and pass. But the black car with a yellow No. 20 on the side never appeared in the tech area at the five-eighths mile hard clay oval. And Hearn didn’t pocket that money.
According to a Dirt Track Digest story by Mike Mallett, Hearn refused to have his engine inspected after the race. The engine that they refused to have checked was a former Camping World Truck Series engine from Ken Schrader. Hearn said it was a 355 cubic inch engine, and that most engines are made from recycled NASCAR engines that are now obsolete.
No, it wasn’t an oversight or a mistake by Hearn and his team. It wasn’t even intentional with the hopes that they were going to sneak it by the tech crew. It was a planned move by Hearn and his team. They knew that if they won Saturday night, they were not going to tech.
Why would Hearn and his team do this? He said he wanted things to be fair, and his thought process on that surrounds one of the biggest Big-Block Modified races of the year.
“I guarantee you that this year’s Eastern States race will be fair, the rules will be well-defined and it will be a very fair race,” Hearn told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “So if that’s what comes out of it then that’s what comes out of it.”
At the 2015 Eastern States 200, Hearn finished second to Tommy Meier. Hearn said he “knows” that Meier ran a 362 cubic inch open small block engine with a dry sump, which according to Hearn, was illegal to use at the Eastern States 200. That motor is the same motor that competitors (legally) use in almost all Short Track Super Series races, the series promoted by Brett Deyo.
“It’s not an opinion. It’s fact,” said Hearn. “The engine that he ran is the same open small block that we run at these Deyo races. Look up the Orange County Fair engine rules and you’ll see that any small block that runs with the big blocks has to have the spec head and they have to be wet sump. There’s no provision in the rule book, then or now, that would allow for an open small block to run that race. It’s not my opinion. It’s fact.”
Rule No. 5 on Orange County’s small block rules page reads “NO DRY SUMP ENGINES!!”
In a bit of irony, Meier inherited the win on Saturday night at Orange County after Hearn refused tech. Dirt Track Digest’s Mike Mallett asked Meier about his Eastern States 200 engine on Saturday night.
“I have nothing really to say about it,” Meier said in the Dirt Track Digest article. “It’s over. He finished second is that why? He’s allowed to say what he wants and I can say he won tonight and he got disqualified. I hate this controversy stuff.”
Hearn, the all-time wins leader at Orange County and 11-time Eastern States 200 winner, said that his actions on Saturday night were to “make a stand” against the tech officials after what happened at the Eastern States in 2015. He said he believes the tech crew allowed Meier to run an illegal engine, and then tried to stage a cover-up after the race.
“Only one competitor that I know of was allowed to run that engine,” Hearn said. “Then to not allow a protest to even review the rules and try to do a quick cover up? In my mind that was not legit. In my mind the rest of the competition should feel the same way.”
When pressed further on how exactly the tech crew, in Hearn’s opinion, tried to stage a cover-up, Hearn said that disregarding his request for a protest was just one example.
“That was one way they tried to, but they were trying to get it out of tech inspection and get the hood back on the trailer as fast as possible,” he explained. “Once the car was on the trailer nobody could prove what it was. They were trying to get it out of the track as fast as they could, and that includes the tech inspector. That was a $35,000-to-win race. The biggest Eastern States of all time. We’re not talking about Saturday night for two grand.”
The chief technical inspector at the Eastern States 200 was Bob Dini (pronounced Dee-nee). Dini was also the head inspector on Saturday at the Short Track Super Series race. Series promoter Brett Deyo said their normal head inspector is George McKelvey, but he had prior commitments to New Egypt Speedway (NJ) on Saturday night and could not make the race. Deyo then brought in Dini to run tech on Saturday night.
Speed51.com made multiple attempts to ask Dini about the 2015 Eastern States 200 to give him a chance to respond to Hearn’s allegations. Dini refused to answer the question directly each time.
“Let’s forget about that. That had nothing to do with Saturday night, okay? Alright? Meier was not illegal, that’s number one,” said Dini. “And number two, we’re talking about this Saturday night, correct? So to prove a point he refused tech?
“He lost $5,000 to prove a point? He didn’t bring the car to come to tech to prove a point? Is that what you’re telling me? So to prove a point, which he has no leg to stand on at all because Meier was not illegal, you’re telling me that he did that and refused tech. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t even want to discuss it anymore.”
Dini said he has lost a lot of respect for Hearn after Saturday night at Orange County.
“He was probably the best driver that Modifieds have ever had since they started, and I’ve always respected him for that,” said Dini. “But what he did on Saturday night was totally ridiculous. I don’t think he made himself look good. And that’s not just my opinion. That’s many other people’s opinion.”
Stewart Friesen finished 26th in the Eastern States 200 after battling near the front early, and said he did not have an opinion on Meier’s engine or Hearn’s claim of a cover-up.
“I don’t really have an opinion on it other than it’s a shame many of the big races at Orange County end in some sort of scoring/technical fiasco,” Friesen said. “And I wish I would have known what Brett’s team was going to do (on Saturday night). I wouldn’t have pushed so hard to chase him and burn up my right rear tire.”
Hearn said what he did on Saturday was an “unfortunate” decision to make, but he said he stands by his actions.
“I kind of do. It’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate for Brett Deyo,” said Hearn. “But there was a lot of hard feelings in the way Eastern States went down last year. I just felt like we needed to make a stand.”
Hearn said he also stands by his claim that Dini tried to stage a cover-up to hide that Meier raced and won the Eastern States 200 with an illegal engine.
“That’s exactly what they were trying to do,” he said. “That’s why they wouldn’t accept the protest. In my mind it was the most crooked thing I have ever seen. I think it needs to be exposed.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Daryl Canfield Photo