The Ageless Wonder is set to resume His Reign at Albany-Saratoga and Lebanon Valley; Talks about the Future Possibility of Reaching 1,000 Career Wins
Story By: MATT NOLES / RPW Photos By: DAVE DALESANDRO / RPW
SPRAKERS, NY- March 27, 2015- The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word dominant as being an individual that is more successful than most or all others. For competitors and fans alike in the realm of northeast modified racing, that word can best be defined by a name; Brett Hearn.
His ascension to the upper echelons of the modified racing scene is impressive to say the least. However, what is more impressive is the fact that he has remained there for the majority of his legendary career. With over 860 career victories and 78 track and series championships, logic would dictate that ‘The Jet’ must be close to slowing down. Not even close.
2014 saw Hearn back in action weekly at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, New York, and the Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, New York and the results were exactly what the driver from Sussex, New Jersey, had anticipated; more victories and two more track championships.
The now 56-year-old pilot of the familiar and often feared No. 20 modified has shown that despite his age, he is still very much a master of his craft and the 2014 racing season reflected that. “Last season on a weekly basis was probably one of my better ones,” Hearn stated. “It was definitely my best year at Lebanon Valley since I started running there fulltime in 1996.” That could quite possibly be the understatement of the year.
In the closing months of the season, Hearn found another gear that most did not believe existed and went on to claim victory in seven out of the final ten events of the year. The track championship aside, that string of impressive performances became established as a display of driving dominance that had not been seen since the latter stages of the 1958 season.
What is even more impressive is the fact that by the numbers, Hearn should not have even been in title contention as the season drew to a close. “That was a pretty good stretch of wins and a pretty good run to win that championship,” Hearn said. “Especially since we really counted ourselves out of the title chase earlier in the year.”
There are few occurrences that can keep racers from the track and generally Hearn is no exception, however, last year became the first time in recent memory that the New Jersey native voluntarily missed a Saturday night and for good reason; his daughter’s college graduation. “We took a night off for Brooke’s graduation,” Hearn continued. “So to pull off a championship at Lebanon Valley was pretty awesome.”
His incredible performance was not just limited to one facility last season by any stretch of the imagination. He also completed a nearly storybook year at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway. “We also had a great year at Malta,” said Hearn. “We picked up nine victories and another track championship so that was pretty good as well.”
Looking back, last season failed to present too many areas that were in dire need of improvement over the winter months. “We really only had a couple of bad runs last year,” Hearn stated. “Mostly those were at Utica-Rome [Speedway in Vernon, New York] and sometimes year-to-year, things change. You’ll have years where you struggle at one track and you dominate at another one and then it flips on you. I’ve had years where I’ve won them all at certain tracks and years where I’ve been terrible. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it.”
It has been known for quite some time that success, and failure, comes with the amount of preparation a race team applies to its program. That is where the owner of B.H. Racing Enterprises undeniably stands out. “We just have to keep doing what we do which is to prepare diligently to be as good as we can be,” continued Hearn. “Things are only going to get tougher really. Guys are learning more about these cars and what’s going on and we just have to try to stay ahead of that curve a little bit.”
The hours of preparation and work during the winter months certainly paid off in spades. When Hearn rolled off the trailer during the Southern Swing this past February in Georgia and Florida, he picked up right where he left off earning one victory, three top-five finishes and four top-ten finishes in five starts to kick off the 2015 season.
For Hearn, the quick beginning to the year was more than just an opportunity to build confidence; it was a chance to test the ideas and work that went on during the winter months. “We used the Southern Swing as a test session,” explained Hearn. “We wanted to see what we had and judge if we did the right things.”
Most drivers tend to view the offseason as a time to rebuild and refresh their program. It is almost viewed as a bump in the road that separates one left turn from another. For Hearn and the rest of the Madsen Motorsports team, this winter had additional importance.
“As far as team wise, this was probably one of my best winters,” added Hearn. “We have some pretty good continuity as far as the guys working on the cars. We added a few new crew members and everyone is enjoying themselves and I think that’s important. You’re hoping that your crew will buy into how you want to do things and I think that we have that right now.”
With the amount of races on the schedule this year, even a veteran competitor like Hearn cannot make them all. With that said, plans for 2015 are certainly in place for ‘The Jet.’ “We’re going to start out doing what we did last year,” Hearn stated. “We’re going to focus on Friday and Saturday night racing and the Super DIRTcar Series and we’ll add races that look attractive to us in between.”
Brett Hearn’s professional racing career has not just helped mark the time; it has helped to define it. For this reason, many fans and contemporaries are wondering if reaching the 1,000 career victory milestone is a feasible goal for the 8-time Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series champion. Though that may be an uncertainty left to the hands of fate, what is certain is his tenure behind the wheel is far from over.
“If you look at the numbers and the years, reaching that goal is going to be tough,” Hearn concluded. “I’d love to get there but I feel great, I feel energetic and I’m optimistic about what we have going on here. I have a great group of people invested in me that expect me to win but I don’t know if it’s in my hands or not. My career isn’t indefinite but there’s certainly no conversation on when this is going to end.”
Matt Noles is the Senior Editor of Race Pro Weekly and a member of the Eastern Motorsport Press Association. He currently resides in Sprakers, New York.