Hearn uncovers winning car for another shot at victory
Six-time Syracuse 200 winner at NAPA Super DIRT Week high on confidence headed into this year’s Oct. 8-13 event
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Sept. 12, 2013 – A year ago in the Syracuse 200 at NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week, Brett Hearn was rumbling around the Moody Mile trying to keep his DIRTcar Big-Block Modified in front of the field as his crew was doing a rain dance in the pits.
The seven-time series champion was trying to win the biggest annual event on the Super DIRTcar Series circuit for the sixth time in his career, and the first time since 1995. When you’ve had heartbreak after heartbreak at Syracuse for 17 years in a row, you have to wonder if maybe you’ll ever claim the $50,000 payday again.
The skies opened after 113 of the 200 laps were completed and there was Hearn up in front. The checkered flag waved. Finally, years of frustration at Syracuse turned into a joyous celebration that extended all the way from his pit to a makeshift indoor victory lane set up for a party that lasted well into the night.
Hearn, 55, hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal since that Sunday at Syracuse. He has gone on to win at Eastern States, the World Finals and the DIRTcar Nationals. He’s leading the Super DIRTcar Series championship standings in his quest for an eighth crown. And he’s bringing back the same car he won with last year at NAPA Super DIRT Week, which runs from Oct. 8 through Oct. 13 at the New York State Fairgrounds in addition to events at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park and Weedsport Speedway at the Cayuga County Fairgrounds.
Can he win the Syracuse 200 for a second consecutive year? Stewart Friesen accomplished the feat in 2010-11. Billy Decker did it in 2000-01. And Hearn did it in 1990-91.
“The car we used last year was a car we built two years ago and the first year we struggled with it quite a bit, even last year we were still fine-tuning on a lot of things before we finally nailed it down for race day,” said Hearn, of Sussex, N.J. “I was so ecstatic with the way it worked that we came back and put a cover on it. Whenever you have a car that was as good as it was on race day last year, whenever you have a car like that sitting there for a year, you have to go into an event like this with a lot of confidence, and that’s the way I feel about it.”
A confident Brett Hearn at Syracuse could be scary. After all, he knows a thing or two or 834 about winning. Yes, Hearn has won 834 races in his career. He has victories at 49 different tracks in 11 states and a couple of Canadian provinces.
“I don’t really reflect on that stuff too much,” said Hearn, who wouldn’t have enough time in a month to reflect on what he’s accomplished in his career. “Mostly I’m reminded of it by media, the things I read, the fans. My concern is really the next race, the next week, the next month, where I’m going from this point on to make sure I stay on top of the game. I don’t really have a lot of time to spend looking at that stuff. I’m sure there will be a day that I do and I’ll be very proud of the things I’ve accomplished because sometimes when I hear the numbers it’s ridiculous.”
An eighth championship and a seventh Syracuse 200 win would certainly add to the ridiculousness of what Hearn has accomplished, but he won’t let that affect his preparation for what’s become “Racing’s Biggest Party” at the New York State Fairgrounds.
“I think every year is a little bit different,” Hearn said. “We’ve always put a ton of effort into getting ready for Super DIRT Week going back to the times we used to design specific cars just for the week back in the early ’80s when the rules weren’t as tight as they are now and we could use our imagination to do things that were never done before, to a time now when we want to make sure all the details are covered because the last thing we want to do is make our own bad luck. There’s enough bad luck to get you at Syracuse. You want to make sure you don’t make any mental errors, that you have everything prepared so you can have a nice, calm easy week. That doesn’t happen, but it’s still an attainable goal.”
Unlike the previous few years at the Syracuse 200, there won’t be a mandatory pit stop, but cautions in the final 25 laps won’t count, either, so Hearn believes anybody who tries to win on a fuel mileage strategy is taking a huge risk.
“In my opinion, there are two things that come into play that are different now than they were say three years ago when the race was won on gas mileage, and that is the track is completely different than it’s ever been,” Hearn said. “I’m going to assume they are going to prep the track like they did last year and the year before. It’s way wider, way slipperier, way racier than it’s ever been so track position to me is not the whole ball game anymore.
“The caution laps are not counting in the last 25 laps so you can’t cut yourself too short or else you’ll be up against that possibility of running extra laps, maybe a lot of extra laps, so from that standpoint I don’t know if you want to really cut yourself short on fuel mileage. In the past you could expect your car could go 125 miles, or 130 miles even, you knew you were going to go 130 miles to finish the race. Now with that rule being changed, the gas mileage thing is pretty risky if you want to stretch it out too far. I think that a good tire with 50 or 70 to go might be the ticket.”
Jimmy Phelps proved tires rather than fuel could lead to a chance at victory in 2010 when contact with another car resulted in a cut left rear tire midway through the race. He was forced to pit and restart at the tail. Phelps drove all the way through the field and nearly caught eventual winner Stewart Friesen for the win.
That was just another example of expecting the unexpected at Syracuse. How teams adapt to race-day situations often dictates how they’ll finish. Nobody knows that better than Hearn.
“It seems like that’s just the nature of Syracuse,” Hearn said. “It never really goes down exactly the way you think it’s going to. There’s always bends and twists and strategy and things that happen, weather conditions. That’s what makes that place so interesting. As many times as I’ve been there, there have never been two the same. They have always been different scenarios. Last year was just a crazy day, another day of twists and turns and maybes and possibilities and another one of those days at Syracuse. This time it worked out for me. It hasn’t always worked out. Most times it hasn’t, but it’s always a crazy time, that’s for sure.”
And that in part is what makes NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week Racing’s Biggest Party.
Super DIRT Week XLII Events Schedule: Oct. 8 – Oct. 13, 2013
New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, N.Y.; Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in Elbridge, N.Y.; Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway at Cayuga County Fairgrounds
*All times and events subject to change
12:00 p.m. (noon)
Ticket, Camping and Pit Pass sales being at entrance gate
10:00 a.m. – 6 p.m.
“Early Bird” Tech Inspection Begins for All Divisions open at gate 10 area
Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series at Rolling Wheels Raceway
Hauler Pre-Stage in Gate 10 Area Inspection Lot
Gates open for Campers and Haulers
Inspection Begins for All Divisions (pit road turn four side – under inspection tent)
Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series ‘Opening Practice’ (must be registered as a Modified
to practice, no other divisions)
DIRTcar 358-Modified & DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series at Weedsport Speedway
Pit Gates Open
Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series, DIRTcar 358-Modified Series Draw Opens
DIRTcar 358-Modified Time Trials (2-laps, Top-6 Qualify for Front-3 Rows) Qualifying Placement
based on Practice Times Slowest to Fastest Time
Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series Time Trials (2-laps, Top-6 Qualify for Front-3 Rows)
Qualifying Placement based on Practice Times Slowest to Fastest Time
World of Outlaws Late Models / DIRTcar 358-Modified Series at Rolling Wheels Raceway
Pit Gates Open, Sportsman – All Divisions Inspection Open (on pit road in tent)
12:00 p.m. (noon)
DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series and DIRTcar Futures (Big Blocks 358-Modifieds,
Sportsman Modified and Pro Stock) Draw for Qualifying Positions Opens
Sportsman Modified Time Trials (2-laps, Top 12-Qualify)
DIRTcar Futures Race (358-Modifieds)
DIRTcar Futures Race (Sportsman)
DIRTcar Futures Race (Pro Stock)
DIRTcar Futures Race (Big-Block Modified)
Sowle Trailer Repair (S-T-R) Friday Night Lights Opening Ceremonies
DIRTcar 358 Modified Series Twin 20’s
DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series Triple 10’s
Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series Modified Triple 20’s (10 non-qualified cars advance)
Pit Gates Open, Pro Stock – All Divisions Inspection Open
DIRTcar Pro Stock Series Draw for qualifying position opens-location TBD
DIRTcar 358 Modified Series Championship Drivers and Crew Chief Meeting (in Pit building)
DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series Drivers Meeting (in pit building)
DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series Last Chance Qualifier
12:00 p.m. (noon)
DIRTcar Pro Stock Series Time Trials (2-laps, Top-24 Qualify)
DIRTcar 358-Modified Series Salute the Troops 150 Pre-Race ceremonies
DIRTcar 358-Modified Series Salute the Troops 150 (150 laps)
3:30 p.m. – 4:25 p.m.
Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series Practice
SDW XLII DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Championship (30 laps)
Immediately following Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series Final Practice
Twin 25’s – World of Outlaws STP Sprint Cars plus “Win and You’re In”
Modified at Rolling Wheels Raceway (Mod Winner Earns 45th starting spot in Syracuse 200)
Pit Gates Open
Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series Driver’s Meeting (in pit building)
DIRTcar Pro Stock Driver’s Meeting (in pit building)
BACC OFF DIRTcar Pro Stock Series Last Chance Qualifier
Dig Safely NY Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified Series Last Chance Qualifier
Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series Top-30 Autograph Signing under grandstand
(Top 30 in Thursday time trials)
12:00 p.m. (noon)
SDW XLII BACC OFF DIRTcar Pro Stock Series Championship (25 laps)
42nd Annual NAPA Super DIRT Week Syracuse 200 Modified Championship Pre-Race ceremonies
42nd Annual NAPA Super DIRT Week Syracuse 200 Super DIRTcar Series (200 miles)
The Super DIRTcar Series and DIRTcar Racing in the Northeast Region is brought to fans by several sponsors and partners including Hoosier Racing Tire, VP Racing Fuels, Chevy Performance Parts, NAPA Auto Parts, and Safety-Kleen. Contingency partners include the University of Northwestern Ohio, Contingency sponsors are ASI, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix, ButlerBuilt, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, Integra Shocks, Intercomp, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, KSE Racing Products, Motorsports Safety Systems, MSD Performance, Penske Shocks, Racing Electronics, Superflow and Wrisco Industries.