SYRACUSE — Brett Hearn was bitten by the Moody Mile in Saturday evening’s Gander Mountain 150, the headline event for the Super DIRTcar 358-Modified Series during Super DIRT Week. Alternatively, Tim McCreadie delivered his trademark ‘roof pounding’ amid a shower of confetti in Victory Lane.
After rains halted the final rounds of qualifying for the Sportsman and Small Block contingent, Hearn was added as the 42nd and final starter of the 155-lap overtime grind.
Taking the lead on lap 55, Hearn maintained a comfortable pace out front and seemed poised to go the distance.
It became clear, after he made his mandatory stop on lap two following a melee in the first turn while completing lap one, he was hoping to work fuel mileage to the finish and go 148 laps.
He made it 146.
With two laps to go; Hearn ran out of fuel exiting the second turn. McCreadie inherited the lead, and Billy Dunn made a wild charge off the fourth turn as the white flag was in flagger Dave Farney’s hand. A slowing Willy Decker drew the yellow before the battle was settled, setting up a green-white-checker finish.
Dunn needed at least four laps to get going forward. He had only two, and McCreadie cross the line ahead of Dunn and fellow Watertown native Tim Fuller without pressure.
“I knew we had to push Brett,” McCreadie said. “I didn’t know if we could make it, but we wanted to make sure he couldn’t.”
Hearn pulled behind the wall after running out of fuel.
On the final restart, Dunn did everything he could to build heat in the right rear, but the car didn’t come in before time ran out.
“It took a while to get going,” Dunn said, trying to hide his jubilation at the finish.
After rains forced crews to work on the track, the race didn’t go green until after 4 p.m., more than two hours past the posted start time. The track went the other way, from saturated to dry. Visibility played into the first turn fracas that eliminated the likes of Tony Steiner and race favorite Bobby Varin. Hearn made his mandatory stop during cleanup efforts.
Billy Decker took the lead off the restart, holding the point from his fifth consecutive pole effort in the small block championship. His bid at a fifth straight win was in jeopardy early when Tim Fuller found the high line and motored to the lead on lap 13.
Fuller built as much as a straightaway lead over Decker, outside pole sitter Danny Johnson and Ronnie Johnson before the yellow flew when Neal Williams stopped at the flag stand.
The majority of the field made their obligatory pause with all but Matt Billings taking fuel only. Billy Dunn took the lead under yellow, with Matt Sheppard, Hearn, Marc Johnson and Brian McDonald in tow. Decker restarted eighth with Danny Johnson, McCreadie, Ronnie Johnson and Fuller behind him.
Fuller immediately went to the top again and chewed through the cars ahead on the lap 45 restart; the sprint to the front continued ahead of him.
At halfway, Dunn looked good out front with Hearn and Willy Decker hanging in the top three, followed by Sheppard and Marc Johnson.
Two laps later, Rick Laubach slowed, and Dunn made his stop under yellow.
On the restart, Hearn led Willy Decker, Sheppard, Marc Johnson, McCreadie, McDonald and Billy Decker. Sheppard tried to steal the runner up slot, and Decker made a wild move to occupy fifth as McCreadie charged to fourth.
Aside of Decker passing Sheppard on lap 62, the top five remained unchanged through lap 65, when the pace was slowed when Jasmin Laveillee broke in the third turn. Sheppard ducked pit side to work on the spoiler, and Marc Johnson stopped, as well.
Out front, Hearn led Willy Decker, McCreadie, Billy Decker, Danny Johnson and Fuller to the green on lap 68. Dunn was 17th.
The order stayed green for 10 laps before Rich Scagliotta stopped on the track, on the restart behind Hearn, Dunn was scored 12th. The attempt was scratched for debris, and the field finally resumed race speed on lap 84.
Danny Johnson and Billy Decker nearly tangled when the green came out, with Decker staking claim to the fourth spot. On lap 99, McCreadie went three wide with Willy Decker and the lapper car of Brandon Sweet, securing second.
Having not yet stopped, Willy Decker ultimately stopped on the front stretch on lap 112. On the restart, Hearn led McCreadie, Decker, Danny Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, Fuller and Dunn. Dunn jumped to sixth by Fuller, and looked like the fastest car on the speedway.
The Johnsons battled through the first turn with 27 to go, and Dunn occupied fifth with 25 left. Danny Johnson stopped on the track on lap 127, and the red flag was shown three caution laps later when Sears broke and needed to be hooked off the track.
On the restart, Decker took a look at McCreadie, but couldn’t dispatch him. The green stayed out through lap 138, and Dunn was coming to life. He went past Decker on the bottom of turn one just before a yellow flag for debris. Under the yellow, Decker went pitside and parked the car with terminal issues.
On the lap 141 restart, Hearn continued to lead McCreadie, followed by Dunn, Fuller and Ronnie Johnson.
Hearn was still in command and looked like his 148 laps gamble was going to pay off. But just after seeing parallel flags, he came up lame off the second turn.
“Going on, I started to think, maybe this could be our day,” McCreadie said. “What a finish.”
The yellow came out as the lead pair hit the stripe; just as Dunn was making a move to the lead. The restart was the last thing he wanted to see, knowing his car needed more time to challenge Sheppard.
“If anyone sees my dad, have him come up and share this with us,” McCreadie said, referencing his legendary father, Bob McCreadie. “He’s here. Dad has lots of fans here.”
Fuller helped complete the north country sweep, and was complimentary to McCreadie and Dunn.
“I’m happy,” Fuller said. “Billy did a good job to get by me. I thought Brett had it, but we’ve all run out of gas here. We had a great car
“But Tim has won a lot of big races in his career. This one has eluded him.”
The afternoon’s 30-lap sportsman event was moved to Saturday morning due to the delays; the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 — Super DIRT Week’s headline event — is scheduled to roll off at 2 p.m.