By JEFF WITHEY
MIDDLETOWN, NY- Using “the exact plan that worked to perfection and having the results end up in the reverse of last year” was Brett Hearn exclaimed in a jubilant victory lane celebration. Hearn scored his unprecedented 12th career Eastern States 200.
This year, the race lacked the late race drama of years past due to excessive tire wear or fuel concerns. This year, a caution plagued first 180 laps took the air out of the sails of many of the teams who had planned on extreme tire wear.
The tire wear issues never really came into play as lap after lap in the early goings were slowed by cautions, killing the momentum of the race continuously.
Nearly 20 cautions over the 200 laps cut into the racing. In fact, in the first 107 laps there were nine cautions alone. 84 laps of the first 180 laps on the lap counter were run under yellow!
Brett “The Jet” Hearn started in eighth place by virtue of his guaranteed starting spot which came from his win at the Mr. DIRT Track USA event held at the end of the racing season at Lebanon Valley. Hearn pitted for tires on lap 45 and methodically picked his way through the field as others dropped off the lead to make their mandatory stops.
Once he took control of the race on lap 124, Hearn was only challenged briefly by Kenny Tremont. But as the cautions flew, Tremont was never really able to mount a sustained attack. Tremont, while running second on lap 193 suffered a flat tire ending his chances what would have been a career best finish in the 200. Tremont would go on to finish 13th after coming in to take a new right rear tire.
Hearn’s faced multiple restarts in the final 10 laps of the race, but each time his No. 20 Teo Pro car was up to the task allowing him to take home the big trophy at the end.
“I didn’t want this one to get away like last year,” said Hearn. “But the (right rear) tire still felt good, and that let me run hard those last laps.”
Coming into the event, Stewart Friesen was the only driver eligible to pick up the $10,000 bonus if he could sweep the weekend. Friesen won on Saturday with his Halmar sponsored 358 while Hearn finished second. Friesen lead early in the 200 but waited until after lap 100 to come in and make his mandatory pit stop.
“We just didn’t have the race play out like we needed it to. Too many cautions that counted early just busted up our plan,” said Friesen.
Friesen tried to take the lead away from Hearn in the closing stages but couldn’t get close enough and settled for a second place finish on the day.
Rounding out the top three in a several year old car with a nearly 15 year old motor was Kings Ferry, N.Y., driver Mike Mahaney.
“We didn’t have enough motor to keep up with Jimmy (Phelps),Friesen and Hearn,” commented Mahaney. “I am glad I was able to get past Jimmy there late. I’m really happy with my effort today. We’ll get some more power under the hood of this car soon, but this is a really great day for the team”
Phelps ended up finishing in the fourth position while Matt Sheppard rallied from a flat tire with just over 30 laps to go to finish in fifth.
ORANGE COUNTY FAIR SPEEDWAY 10/22/17
EASTERN STATES 200 FINISH (UNOFFICIAL): 1. Brett Hearn, 2. Stewart Friesen, 3. Mike Mahaney, 4. Jimmy Phelps, 5. Matt Sheppard, 6. Tim Fuller, 7. Ryan Godown, 8. Jerry Higbie, 9. Matt Janiak, 10. Clinton Mills, 11. Anthony Perrego, 12. Rick Laubach, 13. Kenny Tremont Jr, 14. Steve Dodd, 15. Tommy Meier, 16. LJ Lombardo, 17. Eddie Marshall, 18. Jeff Heotzler, 19. Billy Decker, 20. Matt Hitchcock, 21. Danny Creeden, 22. Billy VanInwegen, 23. John Ferrier, 24. Scott Flammer, 25. Richard Smith, 26. Andy Bachetti (DNF), 27. Tyler Dippel (DNF), 28. Michael Sabia (DNF), 29. Richie Eurich (DNF), 30. Billy Pauch Jr (DNF), 31. Brian Krummel (DNF), 32. Chris Schultz (DNF), 33. Ric Hill (DNF), 34. Frank Cozze (DNF), 35. Danny Johnson (DNF), 36. Jimmy Spellmon (DNF), 37. Mike Ruggerio (DNF), 38. Billy Dunn (DNF), 39. Gary Edwards (DNF), 40. Craig Mitchell (DNF), 41. Jimmy Horton (DNF),42. Michael Maresca (DNF), 43. Mike Kolka (DNF) 44. JR Heffner (DNS)