MIDDLETOWN, NY – Last October, Stewart Friesen won his first Eastern States 200, beating runner-up Anthony Perrego and 11-time winner of the fall classic Brett Hearn. Although Hearn holds most of the racing records on the Middletown Hard Clay, he has not raced weekly at Orange County for several years. Thus, there is a debate whether “The Corporate Jet” should be considered an invader or an Orange County regular competitor. Hearn and six-time Eastern States 200 winner Danny Johnson, who also has not raced here weekly for a number of years, lead all others in dominating this oldest of championship Modified races. Both will return for this years’ 56th Annual Eastern States 200 Presented by Halmar International, Arkel Motors, and WLR Construction. The Eastern States 200 is the headline race of Eastern States Weekend, this year Friday-Sunday, October 20-22.
In the 55 previous running of this classic endurance race for Modifieds, 19 of the winners have been drivers who have raced weekly at Orange County at least one full season and 13 who can be considered “outside” invaders. But in terms of total wins, the Orange County contingent wins hands down, 41 to 14. And only one invading driver, Gerald Chamberlain in 1973 and 1976, has more than one Eastern States victory to his credit.
In addition to Johnson and Hearn, among active Orange County weekly competitors, Jimmy Horton, in 1991 and 1995, Jerry Higbie in 2009, Jeff Heotzler, the 2007 victor, Rich Eurich, who won back in 1988, and Tommy Meier, 2015, would surely like to take home another Eastern States trophy.
Chuck McKee, the 2000 winner and a five-time Orange County Modified division champion, has indicated he’ll come out of retirement to try to win his second Eastern States 200.
Of the 13 invaders who have won the Eastern States gold, Bobby Varin (2003), Alan Johnson (1999), and Billy Decker (1998) are likely entrants in this year’s race.
The top-6 drivers in time trials will lead the field in Sunday’s race. The balance of the starting field will be made up of guaranteed starters and qualified drivers from heat and consolation races.
In recent years, both Heotzler and Hearn have won the 200-lap grind from the back of the field, proving that this race can be won from any position. That’s why a banner field is expected for this year’s edition of the oldest continuously-run championship race for dirt track Modifieds—the 56th Annual Eastern States 200 Presented by Halmar International, Arkel Motors, and WLR Construction.
Advance tickets for Sunday’s race, or the entire Eastern States Weekend, plus camping and parking permits are available at the Speedway Office Wednesday through Saturday during regular business hours or through credit card sales (Visa and MasterCard) by calling 845-342-2573. Additional information can be found at the official Orange County Fair Speedway website, www.orangecountyfairspeedway.net.
EASTERN STATES 200 WINNERS
*Brett Hearn (11)
*Danny Johnson (6)
*Will Cagle (4)
*Frankie Schneider (3)
Gerald Chamberlain (2)
*Frank Cozze (2)
*Jimmy Horton (2)
*Alan “Rags” Carter
*Raced at Orange County Fair Speedway at least one full season