Jeffer Scores Top Ten, Notes from Eastern States 200 – DTD Exclusive

By KEN BRUCE

For the first time in many years, Jeff Heotzler did not call Orange County Fair Speedway his Saturday night home and it was not by choice. In the off-season, Heotzler went out and got himself a new four-link car to race with. Unfortunately for Heotzler, when the speedway decided to join the DIRTcar organization for 2020 that car became illegal to use at the track he has called home for over 30 years.

Heotzler, who has one Eastern States 200 win (2007), was facing the prospect of sitting out this year 200 when an opportunity came along to put together an old TEO car from the HBR shop. It was a last-minute opportunity that was going to require a lot of hard work to get it done in time but in true Heotzler fashion the team got it done.

“This was a last-minute deal for sure,” said Heotzler as he explained how it all came together. “I went to work last Saturday morning and when I got home my son had the four-link car stripped and started to hang the parts on this bare chassis because this was a DIRT legal chassis.  He told me were are going to Eastern States so I said okay, let’s do it. So, we busted our butts all week long to get it done and we got it here and dam if it wasn’t pretty fast right out of the box.”

The car continued to be fast all weekend long and the team was able to come home a satisfying 10th place finish in Saturday’s 200.




“We were very fortunate,” cited a worn out Heotzler.  “The car in the feature was nearly as good as it was yesterday, but we caught some breaks with cautions coming out at just the right times to keep us on the same lap.  Some other cars weren’t as fortunate and that put us ahead of them. We were a 15th to 20th place car and finished1oth so that ain’t bad, especially for an old guy like me.

“The track was really slick tonight, and you could spin the tires whenever you wanted to. We have to improve our tire management for these slick tracks, we’re not up to snuff yet on how to cut and groove these soft tires so that put us at a little disadvantage there but we’ll get the hang of it.”

Teams frustrated by scoring issues

Scoring a normal length feature race is not an easy task to begin with even with transponders, scoring a 200-lap race can be darn right difficult, especially when you add in live pit stops and the amount of lapped cars that usually happen in lengthy races. Teams understand the difficulty of doing that, but also with the technology involved in scoring today’s races expect the tracks to get it right, especially with what is on the line in the bigger races. Last night, multiple teams were frustrated with what occurred during the 200 and voiced their concerns.

Dave Zubikowski, owner of the No. 17Z that Dillon Steuer drives was adamant that his driver was not a lap down and left the track terribly upset and frustrated after not getting the finish he thought the team deserved.

“I am one of the most reserved and respectful guys in the sport,” said a frustrated Zubikowski. “I don’t care about the prize money or anything else, it’s principle and integrity. Dillon (Steuer) is a very young talented driver and clean driver. He was right on (Jimmy) Phelps bumper for several laps and had a great chance of finishing in the top five.  I am not saying he would’ve won, but he was right there with the top guys. Then bam, out of nowhere they stick it to us. Nobody knows when and how we lost a lap. We held Stew (Friesen) off for 20 plus laps to stay on the lead lap and pitted once at the lap 97 where we followed (Mike) Mahaney back out.

“I know nobody could see what was going on because it was a dust bowl for the first 50 laps, but with 35 to go we were moved from eighth to the back with no reasoning at all other than to say we were down a lap. It was very unfortunate for our team and for Dillon who works so hard and all that goes into preparing for this race and then to have it taken away without any explanation or making it right.  Sadly we weren’t the only ones who had this happen. Then Dillon gets dumped with a couple laps to go because someone was out of reach for the lead and wanted another shot. The night just sucked!”

Ryan Godown was another driver who thought that the scoring of the race did him wrong. Godown, who was lapped in the first half of the race was thought to have received his lap back when himself and a bunch of other cars that had been lapped during a very long green flag run stayed out when all the leaders pitted at lap 97 and got the wave around before the race resumed. As it turned out, Godown never received his lap back and was clearly frustrated after the race.

“This was the most disorganized race I have ever been to,” explained a clearly frustrated Godown as they were loading the car back in the hauler for the ride home. “I don’t understand how they did anything tonight.  I don’t understand how to get your lap back other than the lucky dog.  I don’t understand after halfway when the leaders pit and we stay out and then we have to go back behind them again. I just don’t understand anything they did, and it don’t make any sense to me.

“Then they tell us we were on the lead lap, then they put us behind everyone again, it was just stupid the way they were doing things. It was like, why did we stay out there and waste our gas and put more wear and tear on the car, it just depresses you. It was probably the most dangerous race I ever started with the dust and the most disorganized race I have ever been a part of. So now, I’ll just go get whatever 13th place pays and go home. Look, we didn’t have a winning car tonight, but I thought we could’ve finished possibly seventh or eighth if they scored us as they should’ve. It’s just frustrating.”

Godown Happy with New DKM car

Godown has been a staunch supporter of Troyer Race cars for a very long time and still is, but sometimes you just need to make a change to see what is out there. This weekend at the Eastern States 200 Godown debuted a new DKM chassis. DKM partner Eric Mack came down prior to the 200 to help the Godown crew get the car together in time for the 200. With little practice time, the car struggled out of the box but the team was able to make enough strides during the weekend to put the car into the big show with a quality run in one of Saturday’s last chance races.

“The car got better all weekend long,” explained Godown. “Today we made it better by leaps and bound from yesterday. If we had to do it all over again, we would’ve liked to get a practice in somewhere to shake the bugs out that we had the first day (Friday). What that did was just put us behind the Eight Ball. Here, when you have to start that far back, you get in them groups and then it’s one lane on the bottom, but them other guys made it work so I just can’t say that.  We just needed more laps to keep working on it, but all-in-all we made big strides and gains all day so we were happy with that.”

Eastern States 200 Notes:

A total of 57 big block Modifieds competed in time trials on Friday afternoon with Tim Fuller, Jimmy Phelps, Mat Williamson, Larry Wight, Tim Sears Jr., and Max McLaughlin the top six, locking themselves into the 200-lap main event.

The six heats were won by Jeff Heotzler, Tommy Meier, Matt Sheppard, Tyler Dippel, Stewart Friesen and Anthony Perrego. The two last chance races were won by Andy Bachetti and Peter Britten. The “Really Last Chance” race was won by Marc Johnson. There were no provisional spots available for the 200…

Wight was the winner of the “Race for the Pole” on Friday night over McLaughlin to earn the right to start on the pole for the 200…

“Money” Mat Williamson won a total of $78,000 in the span of eight days. The kid from St. Catharines, Ont., certainly has earned his nickname. Congratulations to Mat, Jeff Behrent and entire crew of the Behrent’s No. 3 team on their success…

2020 Orange County Fair Speedway track champion and pre-race favorite Matt Sheppard had a fuel pressure regulator leak early in the 200 causing Sheppard to pit for repairs losing multiple laps in the process. Sheppard did come back out and was the fastest car on the speedway, but ultimately decided to save his equipment and pull the No. 9S in after 89 laps due to be tree laps down…

Pole-sitter Larry Wight had a great run going early on leading the first 56 laps before Stewart Friesen managed to work his way by. Wight was running second when his No. 99 developed MSD ignition box problems when the caution flag came out on lap 90 for his teammate Billy Decker ending the night for both Gypsum Express cars…

A shoutout to all the drivers that despite all the dust early on making it difficult to see got through the race with no major incidents. The dust situation improved greatly as the race went on…

Jimmy Phelps and Tim Sears Jr were the only two drivers to compete in both the small-block and big-block portions of the weekend and come home with top ten finishes in both races. Phelps was the winner of the small-block race and finished sixth in the 200 while Sears finishes were a second in the small-blocks and a fourth in the big-blocks…

JR Heffner decided to exit the race early on to save his equipment due to the dust situation…

Big Diamond and Grandview Speedway regular Duane Howard just missed qualifying for the race in Saturday’s “Really Last Chance” race. Howard was behind the wheel of the Ryan Alsdorf No. 8A…

Central New York Sportsman driver Kevin Root competed in all three classes over the weekend…

If you have any questions or comments, I can be reached by email at dirtracefan25@hotmail.com or on Twitter @dirtracefan25