By KEN BRUCE
When Brett Hearn sped under the checkered flag he thought his hopes of a $10,000 Halmar bonus for sweeping the weekend were over as he crossed the line second behind Stewart Friesen. Sweeping the weekend and collecting the bonus has been on Hearn’s bucket list since it was offered three years ago. However, Hearn’s chances of that changed as he sat behind Friesen’s car waiting at the scales after the race a saw that they were having troubles meeting minimum weight.
“I saw the officials scrambling around and starting to push the car back and forth on and off the scales to see if the weight would change,” explained a jubilant Hearn. “I was hoping it wasn’t going to pass but at the same time, I know how that feels and Stewie is a good guy and I really didn’t want to win like that. I would rather win on the track. But hey, it is what it is, I lost one like that two years ago, so I guess it’s a little bit of redemption on my part.”
Hearn was strong in the race right from the get-go and worked his way up into the top five in only a handful of laps at the start. With a track that was only one lane for the most part, restarts where very important and it was especially important where you were positioned when the green flag flew as the inside lane was were you wanted to be.
“The restarts were key today,” cited Hearn. “If you were in an even numbered starting spot on the restart you were in trouble and you had to get back to the inside right away or you were going to lose a spot or two. I lost second to L.J. (Lombardo) near the end because he got a better jump than me when Stew took off and was able to stick his nose in there and take it away from me. Fortunately for me that yellow right at the end came out and I was able to do the same thing to him or otherwise it would’ve been LJ getting the win.”
Once Hearn got past Matt Sheppard for second early in the race he was content to ride behind Friesen and save as much tires and fuel as he could. His plan was with about 20 laps to go to turn up the heat and see what he had for the leader and Hearn’s plan almost played out like he had hoped on the track.
“Once we got past Matt (Sheppard) for second early on I first wanted to see if I had anything for Stew and I thought I did and I ran right behind him for a while,” mentioned Hearn. “Once I saw that I backed off a little to try and save my tires for a run at the end. The plan almost worked as I had much more tire left than Stew did after the race.”
With 15-laps left Hearn made his move on Friesen as he stuck his nose under the No. 14 as they went down the backstretch and into turn three. Hearn looked like he had the advantage going into turn three, but Friesen didn’t back off and the two superstars rubbed wheels and that was enough to slow down Hearn enough for Friesen to stay in front.
“I got a good run on Stew coming out of turn two after it looked he slipped up a little bit which he hadn’t done all day,” Hearn said explaining his move. “I saw a little opening and you have to go for it, especially at that point. I got under him going into three and thought I had pass made, but he kept after it and pinched me down a little and we bumped a little and he was able to keep the lead. It was nothing dirty, it’s just the way you race when $15,000 is on the line.”
The big win on Saturday which by the way was Hearn’s 17th Eastern States small-block win sets up the savvy veteran for a big payday on Sunday if he should happen to win the big-block portion of Eastern States weekend. Since Hearn also leads the way in ESW 200 wins with 12, the reality of that happening is a distinct possibility.
“We have a really good car for Sunday,” Hearn explained. “Starting on the pole definitely helps. We have a plan and we hope to stick to it, but honestly you never know how these races play out. You have to be ready to change your plan on the fly if you have to. I am using the same car I won with last year and we just have to hope everything stays together and maybe we can get that bonus this year. It hasn’t’ been a great year for us and we’ve struggled lately so winning today definitely gives us some confidence going into tomorrow and for Charlotte in a couple of weeks.”
As always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or comments and on Twitter @dirtracefan25