By MIKE MALLETT
Brett Hearn did everything he had to do on Saturday afternoon to pick up the victory in opening 40-lap feature for the Super DIRTcar Series Modifieds. For Hearn, it was his fifth career win at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. It was also his third win on the tour in 2018.
“This is the World Finals, it’s the big stage so it’s pretty cool,” said Hearn. “We thought when we won that race in the middle of the summer at Outlaw (Speedway) everyone was pretty happy. This one is off the charts.”
Saturday’s early feature was about survival. The track had some character making it tough on the competitors. Hearn outlasted them all. He got the lead when Matt Sheppard got a left rear flat. He never relinquished it from there.
“The track was still little bit choppy and unpredictable,” mentioned Hearn. “Once the sun goes down it will be a whole different deal, but we survived the day time deal. We did everything we had to do. We got ourselves in a good spot with the starting position. I got the couple of positions I needed to get and we were in the right position when I needed to be.”
The biggest challenge for Hearn on the day came on the numerous restarts throughout the feature. As stated, the track was full of character after all the rain on Friday. As a result there were over 10 cautions. The biggest test for Hearn came as Danny Johnson was alongside of him. He was also concerned with the fuel in his tank as it began to run dry late in the feature.
“That’s typical,” Hearn said about the cat and mouse game being played with Johnson restarts. “I just wanted to get away from him cleanly. I knew I was faster than he was. After a while, I did say something to myself in my helmet and I usually don’t talk to myself in my helmet. There were a lot of restarts and we running out of gas. In a 40-lap feature you run 60 laps maybe, not 100.”
Another Race, Another Flat for Sheppard
What would a Super DIRTcar Series race be without Sheppard getting a flat tire? That has been his luck in 2018. The current point leader was leading the way when the left rear tire came off the bead. Luckily he regrouped, took advantage of the yellows and was able to get back to third.
“I think we had them covered, but I just can’t buy a break,” commented Sheppard about the flat. “That is seven flats in series competition this year so far in what, 23 races? That is almost a third of them. We had a pretty fast car. I’m thankful to get back up to third and salvage a good finish out of it. Once again, I think we had the car to beat, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
The last caution of the race was the most important for Sheppard as he made a daring move off of the second corner to get by three other drivers. That placed back into the top four before he eventually tracked down Mike Maresca for third. He closed in on Hearn and second place finisher Tim McCreadie, but ran out of time.
“Luckily we got a really good restart that last one to get by some guys,” cited Sheppard. “I was all the way on the bottom. I was just glad I wasn’t out in the middle of that mess. Once we got into open race track we had a fast car and we were able to get by Mike Maresca there. I think we were as good as Brett and Tim.”
Sheppard heads into the final feature with a 60 point advantage over second high-point man Erick Rudolph. He hopes everything plays out way the needs it to in the second main-event, but he knows some of it is out of his hands.
“We’ve proved time and time again that there is nothing you can do about it,” said Sheppard. “You are out there leading the race, riding around and you peel a left rear off the bead. I haven’t done that in with a Hoosier in 10 years and it happens today. A lot of weird stuff has happened this year.”
World Finals Friday Program Wrap-Up
Jimmy Phelps brought out a late caution, the team reported “mechanical issues” were the culprit without elaborating further…
Mike Mahaney injured two cars on the day. He got into the wall in hot laps destroying the frontend forcing him to a backup car. He was then involved in a crash late when Max McLaughlin broke collecting Scott Hitchen as well as Yan Bussiere…
Carey Terrance lost a motor in the feature…
Gary Lindberg brought out a caution when the rear end of his car went sour…
Danny Johnson broke the right rear suspension on his Graham Racing ride while running in second to bring out the yellow…