Hearn Ready to Master the Hard Clay Challenge

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Orange County Fair Speedway’s Most Prominent Driver Brett Hearn Knows Inaugural ‘Hard Clay Open’ Presented By United Pump & Tank, East Coast Speed/ECS Auto & West Point Golf Sunday, March 23 Will Be One Of A Kind

Story By:  BD MEDIA  Photos By:  DAVE DALESANDRO / RPW

MIDDLETOWN, NY- March 6, 2014- No driver has enjoyed more success at Orange County Fair Speedway than Brett Hearn.

According to statistics maintained on his website (bretthearn.com), Hearn owns 15 big-block Modified championships, eight small-block crowns and a track-leading 299 total victories (173 big-block Mod; 124 small-block Mod; and two Sprint Car) at Orange County.

But even Hearn, the 55-year-old professional dirt modified driver from Vernon, N.J., knows he will be in for a challenge when the venerable fairgrounds facility opens its season with the inaugural ‘Hard Clay Open’ presented by United Pump & Tank, East Coast Speed/ECS Auto and West Point Golf on Sunday, March 23 (weather dates: March 28 and April 6).

The first-time promotion involving Brett Deyo of BD Motorsports Media LLC and track managers Michael Gurda IV and Howard Commander brings many unknowns to Orange County, including a liberal tire rule, the first-time use of sail panels on the big-block/small-block Modifieds and a passing points system for qualifying.

The race serves as the opening round of the National Dirt Racing League (NDRL) Short Track Super Series Fueled By VP, a six-race series offering more than $25,000 in year-end cash and a long list of contingency and product awards.

The purse for the ‘Hard Clay Open’ is set at a mammoth $30,000 total for 28 starting spots: $5,000 to win, $4,000 for second, $1,500 for fifth, $1,000 for 10th and $500 to take the green. Hearn looks closely at pay structures for all races he enters. The ‘Hard Clay Open’ purse – some $12,000 more in total than similar spring Modified events – attracted his attention.

“It pays very well, especially for a one-day show that’s only 50 laps,” noted Hearn, who plans to kick off his Northeast season at Orange County following a February trip to Volusia Speedway Park in Florida.

“The ‘Hard Clay Open’ is an awesome deal for us. I’ve been sitting out a lot of races that don’t pay as well the last couple years. DIRTcar does a good job paying back through the field. This payout for this race is phenomenal. I’ve found – by skipping some of the lesser-paying shows – we’re better prepared when we race on the (DIRTcar) series or in races like this that do pay. That’s why I planned this as our only race in March. It makes the most sense financially for our team.

“If we continue to run for less (money), we’re (Modified racers) never going to get paid more.”

How does Hearn foresee the ‘Hard Clay Open’ playing out with its first-time-ever rule package?

“Oh, it’s going to be different,” Hearn surmised with a laugh.

Hearn won his record-setting 10th Eastern States 200 at Orange County in October, worth more than $20,000. But he knows the conditions will be different for the ‘Hard Clay Open’ when he bolts sail panels on the Madsen Motorsports No. 20 Teo-Pro car.

“Middletown isn’t like Accord (N.Y.) or some of the other slick tracks – it’s totally different,” Hearn said. “You don’t know what the sail panels will do. I’ve taken some good-handling cars, put sail panels on them and made them worse. I’ve also seen cars that weren’t the best-handling with windows go the other way and get better with sail panels.

“There’s going to be a lot of guessing with setup that day, for sure.”

Hearn said fans should be in store for something very special as teams adjust to the high sail panels on their cars. Spectators will be able to watch drivers and their crews tweak their setups throughout the day.

“Typically, Middletown is a tough place to enter the corner,” Hearn said. “Whether it’s the angle, the length of the straightaways or the lack of banking, it’s difficult to get a car to turn in. It might be tighter with the sail panels on. We’ll all have to adjust. It might get a little worse before it gets better. It’s definitely going to change things up. It will be fun to watch who gets it right and who struggles.”

A passing points system, new to Northeast Modified racing but widely used in other forms of racing including Sprint Cars, Midwestern B-Modifieds and the famed ‘Chili Bowl’ in Tulsa, Okla., will be utilized for qualifying at the Orange County ‘Hard Clay Open’ event. This system aims to satisfy the desires of both racers and fans by easing the consequences of a poor draw for competitors and providing heat-race excitement for spectators.

Hearn is intrigued by the passing points qualifying system.

“It’s definitely more fair (than a standard draw),” Hearn said. “I don’t care who you are. If you go to a place and draw last in the heat and need to get to second or third to qualify, you’re night is all uphill. There are very few times you can overcome it. I think the passing points system is a happy medium for qualifying.

“I think the biggest obstacle, because it’s so far outside the box for Modified racing, will be getting drivers and fans to understand it. Once they understand how it works, I think you’ll see more tracks trying it. If you don’t want to run time trials, it’s the way to go.”

Hearn won his first championship at Orange County in 1977 and has spent much of his career racing at the track. He launched his first ‘Big Show’ promotion there in ‘09. He likes the excitement the ‘Hard Clay Open’ has brought to Orange County.

“It’s a big shot in the arm for the place,” Hearn said. “I think it’s going to be a heck of a field, and if the weather cooperates, a big crowd. I’m looking forward to it.”

Joining the NDRL big-block/small-block Modifieds at the ‘Hard Clay Open’ are the 602 Sportsman of the Dig Safely New York GRIT Series in a 25-lap event paying $1,000 to the winner and $100 to start. The GRIT staff has secured lap money and contingency awards for the special event.

Due to high off-season demand, advance tickets – for the first time in BD Motorsports Media history – are offered. Tickets can be purchased in-person at the Orange County Fair Speedway office – located at 239 Wisner Avenue Middletown, NY 10940 – Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Phone sales, utilizing a credit card, can be completed during the same business hours by calling 845.343.2573. Checks, made payable to Orange County Fair Speedway, can be mailed to the speedway office address above.

Admission for the ‘Hard Clay Open’ is $20 for Adults, $18 for Seniors and $2 for Kids 12 and under. Pit admission is $35, with no license required.

Big- and small-block combinations are legal for this unique event with staggered minimum weights. American Racer and Hoosier tires are both legal, as well. Accepted tire compounds have been outlined in the race rules/information.

For the first time ever at Orange County, sail panels are permitted for the ‘Hard Clay Open’ Modified event. Sail panels must be no taller than 65 inches when measured from the ground and must mirror each other in size and shape side-for-side. A four-inch roof spoiler is permitted, as well. All other Orange County/DIRTcar body rules will be in effect. Complete race rules, weights and tire compounds can be found online atwww.bdmotorsportsmedia.com or www.orangecountyfairspeedway.net. 

For qualifying, drivers will draw for their starting positions upon entry to the speedway. Heat-race finishes utilizing staggered passing points will be calculated to set the redraw participants and qualified cars from 10-lap heat races.  Consolations, 10 laps each, will set the remainder of the 28-car starting field via their order of finish. The heat-race finish/passing point combination will set the starting lineups for the consolations.

Fans can be assured pit-area parking will be laid out carefully to keep larger haulers toward the center, with only smaller trucks and trailers in the corners to ensure maximum visibility. The show will be fast-paced to allow fans and racers ample travel time on a Sunday night.

The GRIT Series 602 Sportsman will draw for starting positions with a redraw of top qualifiers for the main event. Heats and consolations will be eight laps.  GRIT Series rules will be in effect on this event. Visitwww.gritracingseries.com for further information.

For the 2014 ‘Hard Clay Open’ event, pit gates open at 8 a.m. Grandstand gates open at 10 a.m. A drivers’ meeting will take place at 1 p.m., with hot laps at 1:20 p.m. and racing at 2 p.m.  Fans can expect a pre-race autograph session/meet and greet in both the grandstand and drive-in areas.

The ‘Hard Clay Open’ will mark the second earliest Orange County opener since the speedway began hosting stock cars regularly in 1948, eclipsed only by March 18, 1984 when Larry Brolsma drove to victory.

For further ‘Hard Clay Open’ information, contact Brett Deyo of BD Motorsports Media atDeyo99H@aol.com or by phone at 845.728.2781. BD Motorsports Media is on the web at www.bdmotorsportsmedia.com. “Like” BD Motorsports Media on Facebook or “follow” @BrettDeyo on Twitter.

Located at 239 Wisner Avenue Middletown, NY 10940 on the Orange County Fairgrounds, Orange County Fair Speedway is the oldest continuously operating dirt track in the United States. The first auto race was held at the speedway in 1919. The five-eighths-mile oval offers fully-covered and half-covered grandstands in addition to open bleacher seating on the frontstretch and turn one areas, with drive-in viewing on the backstretch. To learn more, contact the Orange County Fair Speedway office at 845.342.2573 or visit www.orangecountyfairspeedway.net. 

In the event of inclement weather, the rain date is tentatively slated for Friday, March 28. A second weather date of Sunday, April 6 has been established.

 



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