Postrace conversations have focused as much on pit stops that didn’t happen following Sunday’s rain-shortened VP Small Engine Fuels 200 at the New York State Fairgrounds as Brett Hearn’s return to victory lane.
DIRTcar Racing implemented a rule for the 200-mile Super DIRT Week Modified championship, making a pit stop and right rear-tire change mandatory following lap 100.
On lap 108, following a caution shown for the rain, a dozen cars went pitside. Hearn, Tim Fuller, Matt Sheppard, Jimmy Phelps and the balance of the top 10 headed to the pits.
A short time later, Hearn was declared the winner of the event. Fuller ran out of fuel under yellow and fell to 25th, allowing Sheppard and Phelps to fill out the top three.
No matter what the call was, the only person who was going to be truly happy was the guy cashing the $50,000 check, regardless of whether the race lasted 200 miles or the 113 it did. This time, DIRTcar Racing got it right.
Thanks to today’s technology, Hearn and those at the top of the finish order were able to gamble on incoming weather. The stands were aglow with smartphones looking at real-time weather updates. The pit stalls almost certainly were illuminated in the same way.
Had the sun come back out, the drivers who already had pitted would have been in pristine position. Ryan Godown was the first car in the finish order having made his stop and would have been clear to the finish with plenty of fuel to spare.
The sun didn’t reappear, though. A dozen or so drivers, whether out of fuel or strategizing for the scheduled 200 miles, were trumped by those drivers running on fumes and gambling on the weather stopping the event just as it did.
Sunday marks the second time in 41 years weather shortened the VP Small Engine Fuels 200. The 1992 race, won by Richie Tobias of Annville, Pa., was cut to 135 laps.
“Yeah, we were lucky that it rained, but did we have the dominant car? Absolutely,” Hearn stated. “Did we deserve to win the race? Yes. We didn’t win it because everybody else pitted and we stayed out.”
At 54, Hearn became the oldest driver to win the VP Small Engine Fuels 200, surpassing Frank Cozze of Wind Gap, Pa., who was 53 when he prevailed in 2008. However, when Hearn celebrated his victory inside the John Hill Infield Media Center — the rain moved the postrace ceremonies indoors — he felt like the 30-something star he was for four of his previous five wins in the Salt City.
“We’ve won it a lot of different ways,” said Hearn, who inexplicably had only one top-five finish in the VP Small Engine Fuels 200, a third in ’97, since his last win in ’95. “We’ve won it with dominant cars, but I’ve never won it in the rain. We had a little help from above today, but we’ll take it.”
DIRTcar Racing also is to be commended for doing a great job of simply getting everything completed. After weather affected the week periodically, and Saturday’s early plans were scrapped, the Gander Mountain 150 358-Modified championship was moved to 4 p.m. Saturday and the sportsman race shoved to Sunday morning. That meant the Sportsman and Pro Stock championships, a last-chance Modified race, a short practice session and the 200 were jammed into the same afternoon.
Remarkably, the start of the 200 was delayed only an hour or so.
On top of that, the track was race-friendly. The Sportsman and Pro Stock features were wonderful, featuring great pack racing. The track evolved into a driver’s track, with multiple grooves — it’s what makes for a good show.
With all the heat DIRTcar will get in the wake of Sunday’s unfortunate situation, they do need to be credited for what they did right: They offered a fairly good track, tended to the problems on the surface as best they could and ran the 150- and 200-lap headliners facing tall odds.
By the way, Sunday’s abbreviated raced will be rebroadcast on the SPEED cable network Oct. 27, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Super DIRT Week Recap
• At Weedsport, Tim McCreadie won a torrid battle over Brett Hearn in the lone event contested at the Cayuga County Fairgrounds this season. It served as McCreadie’s first 358-Modified Super DIRTcar Series win of the season.
Steve Gray scored a win in the Sportsman Super DIRTcar Series event the same night.
• At Rolling Wheels, Rick Eckert won the World of Outlaws Late Model Series event; Brett Hearn rallied to win the 358-Modified Super DIRTcar Series event; and Steve Gray picked up his second win of the week in the Sportsman main event.
• At Brewerton, Billy Decker charged to a win in the Hurricane 100. Stewart Friesen (second) and Jimmy Phelps earned podium finishes as well.
• At the state fairgrounds, Billy Decker, Bobby Varin and Billy Dunn captured checkered flags in 20-lap Modified qualifiers. Decker and Danny Johnson earned victories in small-block qualifiers.
Decker set fast time in qualifying for both divisions, and his effort for the small-block main stood as his fifth straight start on the pole in this race.
Tim Sears won the 358-Modified Futures event, while Justin Wright took the Modified Futures feature.
• At Five Mile Point, as Tim McCreadie was celebrating his victory in the 358-Modified Gander Mountain 150 at the state fairgrounds, Danny Tyler was celebrating a surprise win too.
Tyler topped a star-studded Short Track Super Nationals field. Billy Pauch nearly led all the way before a dicey pack overtook the star. Tyler won by a nose over runner-up Bobby Varin.
• At Rolling Wheels, Steve Kinser picked up his 12th career win in Elbridge, earning the checkers in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series 25-lapper.
Chad Homan won the Win And You’re In Modified feature, giving him the chance to start 45th in Sunday’s 200.
• At the state fairgrounds, Pro Stock star Rocky Warner won a barnburner of a Sportsman Championship over Joey Ladouceur. Mathieu DesJardins started on the pole after setting quick time.
Pete Stefanski stayed ahead of the pack to win the Pro Stock Championship.
DIRTcar announces upcoming dates
Ten Super DIRTcar Series dates for 2013 were unveiled during Super DIRT Week.
Driver Stewart Friesen is partnering with promoter Brett Deyo to host the Super DIRTcar Series at New Egypt Speedway in New Egypt, N.J., for a 60-lapper June 18.
Seven-time Super DIRTcar Series champion Brett Hearn, already a seasoned promoter, enters his fifth year with The Big Show. The Big Show 5 spends a second year at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta July 9.
The Super DIRTcar Series also is scheduled for appearances at Cornwall (Ontario) Motor Speedway and Autodrome Drummond in Quebec. More races will be announced as they are scheduled.
Chris Marquart covers area motor sports for the Finger Lakes Times. Marquart’s column appears every Tuesday. Anyone with information relating to the area motor sports scene can call Chris at 729-3999 or e-mail email@example.com.