Hearn Runs Dry, McCreadie Pockets $20,000
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — If the question is “Can Brett Hearn go 146 laps at Syracuse on a tank of gas?” The answer is “Almost!”
Tim McCreadie will always know the answer to that question, as he inherited the lead and the $20,000 win in Saturday afternoon’s Gander Mountain 150 for 358 modifieds during Super DIRT Week.
Hearn, who had pitted and topped off when a melee brought an immediate yellow when the green first appeared, ran out of fuel on his 149th lap, drawing a roar from the crowd when the always popular “T-Mac” took the lead.
Billy Dunn, Tim Fuller, Ronnie Johnson and Matt Williamson trailed the second generation star to the checkers in a race that started extremely late due to overnight rain and finished in near darkness.
“I thought all the others pitted way too early but except for Brett, they all made it,” offered runner-up Dunn. “We were fast until the end and got great mileage and I thought it was ours for a while.”
The cloud of dust kicked up by the leaders when the race first went green caused the first of many cautions but as soon as green returned, front row starters Billy Decker and Danny Johnson easily led Ronnie Johnson, McCreadie and Fuller. But Fuller cranked it up just after the ten lap mark, marching to the front by lap 17 and driving away from the field. He almost had Hearn a lap down but a lap 39 yellow let Hearn, who had started last after breaking a wheel in Friday’s qualifier, escape.
The leaders all pitted on lap 42, putting Dunn in front with Hearn third after almost everyone in front of him pitted. It soon became clear that he was going to try and go all the way without stopping and when Dunn pitted on lap 55, Hearn was the new leader. From that point he cruised slowly during each caution period, hugging the inside to shorten the distance traveled to conserve every last drop.
McCreadie and Decker, at that time fifth and six, led the cars that had refueled and when others then stopped, they were third and fourth at halfway. Decker and Danny Johnson dueled until the latter dropped out on lap 128, then Decker joined him pitside on lap 139, spoiling his run at a perfect Super DIRT Week and stopping his consecutive Gander Mountain win streak at four.
By then Dunn had clawed his way back to third and he chased McCreadie while the chilled crowd held their breath, waiting to see if Hearn could make it. When he slowed and coasted to a stop and McCreadie got the lead, the resulting roar was deafening.
“I was worried about how far I could go then,” tipped the jubilant World of Outlaws Late Model star. “I conserved for a long while, coasting into the turn from the flagstand, but eventually you have to suck it up and go. This TEO car and its Morrison engine have been good for three years but I was really nervous when that last yellow flew.”
A couple of other cars ran dry under yellow to extend the caution, including long-time second place runner Willy Decker, but McCreadie made it home with enough left to cut a few donuts on the frontstretch NASCAR style.
Fuller, for his part, thought he’d given the race away.
“I got passed by Billy Dunn when I screwed up and got out of the groove, then Timmy got past me in the pits. And those two turned out to be the cars that counted. Considering I also ran out of tear-offs and couldn’t see, we’re lucky to be here.”
Vision was a definite problem in the closing laps, as the portable MUSCO lighting units used in the Friday night program had been removed and by the waning laps, it was extremely dark everywhere but the frontstretch. This forced the Sportsman championship to be postponed to Sunday, immediately following the big block Last Chance race, set for noon today.
Matt Billings led the second five, trailed by Matt Sheppard, Dale Planck, Casey Terrance and Stewart Friesen.