Hearn Conquers Eastern States 200
MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Brett Hearn flew to his tenth career Eastern States 200 victory Sunday at the Orange County Fair Speedway, shocking crowds at the historic fall classic with his ability to stay fast and conserve tires for 200 laps on “The Hard Clay.”
“That’s not a lot of tire there,” Hearn said in Victory Lane after Sunday’s race, pointing to the nearly bald tires on the Madsen Overhead Doors No. 20 and admitting that a couple more green laps could have taken him to the pits. “I came really close, I really did.”
Sunday’s 200-lap Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature race included one mandatory pit stop after the completion of lap 20, which Hearn took, along with many other competitors, under caution in lap 62. Competitors were not allowed to use their mandatory pit stop for a tire change, so Hearn refueled and cruised back onto the track in his first and only stop of the race.
Stewart Friesen and Tim Hindley battled Hearn much of the race, keeping up with the pole-sitter off the initial green flag, and coming in behind the defending Eastern States 200 Champion at the checkered flag. Hindley took a right-rear tire change immediately after he took his mandatory pit stop on lap 62 and Friesen’s crew changed both rear tires on lap 102, but the fresh rubber was still no match for Hearn.
Hearn started the weekend strong, fast-timing in Friday’s time trials with a 20.313-second lap to start on the pole Sunday. Friesen joined him at the front row with the second-fastest time, and Hindley joined Billy VanInwegen in the second row with the third fastest time.
At the green flag Sunday, Hearn sped to an initial lead, followed by Friesen in second and Hindley in third. They didn’t make it two far before Brian Gleason flipped in turn one after the completion of the first lap, bringing out the red flag.
The double-file restart gave Orange County Fair Speedway track point champion Hindley the opportunity to take on Friesen, and he sped past the No. 66. He wasn’t able to reach Hearn, who stayed ahead of the pack.
On lap 6, the yellow lights were out for Tim Fuller, who slowed in the backstretch and headed to pit road. Again Hearn was fast on the restart, establishing a 10-car-length lead by lap 8.
Two more cautions slowed the pace before lap 20, with Chris Shultz spinning on lap 11 and Pat Ward slowing to a stop on lap 17. Both times, the No. 93x of Chris Shultz took the opportunity to visit his pit stall.
Hearn lead off the lap 22 restart, with Friesen reclaiming second from Hindley. Justin Haers followed in fourth and McCreadie in fifth. Further back in the field, Larry Wight was making his way forward, challenging Andy Bachetti for sixth on lap 26, having made his way to seventh from his 17th starting spot.
On lap 31, the leader Hearn was approaching Rich Scagliotta at the rear of the field when Scagliotta spun in turn two. Jerry Higbie was already feeling the pressure of tire wear on “The Hard Clay,” and pulled into pit road under caution to change the right rear. Another caution in lap 42 brought opportunity for several more cars, including Billy Decker and Ric Hill, to pull in for a tire change.
A multi-car pile-up off a restart on lap 48 brought the race’s second red flag, with Haers tangled up with Kolka. Gary Tomkins, Matt Sheppard, Bobby Varin, McCreadie, Billy Dunn and Dale Planck were also involved in the incident. Planck, Tomkins and Sheppard pulled into pit road for tire changes and Bachettie refueled. Haers and Kolka did not return to the track after the collision.
Hearn led off the lap 53 restart over Friesen and Hindley. Sheppard’s No. 9s wouldn’t be the same after the lap 48 accident, and slowed to a stop in lap 58 to bring out the yellow flag. Sheppard pulled into the pit area, ready to call it a day. The track stayed under caution long enough for pit road to open for the mandatory pit stop on lap 62, allowed many competitors, including the race leaders, to pull in for fuel.
At the lap 66 restart, VanInwegen was the new race leader, followed by Gary Edwards, Clinton Mills and Bob McGannon, all choosing to hold off on their mandatory pit stops. The yellow flag waved soon after the restart for Tremont, who pulled into pit road and returned to the track soon thereafter.