Wednesday August 8, 2012
At Lebanon Valley, the biggest story on Saturday night wasn’t so much the on-track action, but who wasn’t at the track. Points leader Brett Hearn was hospitalized Friday night after suddenly falling ill at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. The apparent diagnosis is blood clots. As of last check, he is still in the hospital and has already missed the Super DirtCar Series event at Merrittville Speedway in Ontario, and will miss Tuesday night’s event at I-96 Speedway in Ionia, Michigan.
Beyond Tuesday, Hearn’s return to the driver’s seat is completely dependent on when his doctors clear him to return to racing. That could be next week, or it could be next year. For those who would like to wish Hearn luck on his recovery, you can go to his “fan page on Facebook”:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brett-Hearn/166208696739751 and post on the public wall there.
As a result of Hearn‘s illness, the Modified class was wide open Saturday night. Mike King started from pole after winning his heat race. However, King was not really able to pull away from the field. Jimmy Burns, who started second, hounded King nearly from the start. In addition, Matt Pupello, J.R. Heffner and Steve Hough were also in play.
With Hearn not in attendance, Saturday was a prime opportunity for his main competitors in the points to potentially catch him. However, they were unable to fully capitalize. Donnie Corellis, 37 points out entering the race, started in 14th and struggled to move up through the pack. The slick track was taking its toll and making it hard for anyone to pass.
Over time, King and Burns carved out a small margin over the rest of the pack. Finally, on Lap 15, Burns was able to use a strong run off of Turn 4 to take the lead away. Heffner quickly followed by into second. Any chance King would have had to come back ended when he hit the wall on Lap 18 in Turn 4, effectively ending his night.
Any chance for Corellis to earn a good finish ended on Lap 21. Coming off of Turn 4, Corellis’ No. 57 slid up the track and impacted the outside wall. The car didn’t appear to be hurt all that bad, but Corellis fell back to an eventual 13th-place finish.
For the remainder of the race, Burns had to hold off Heffner. Heffner appeared to have a faster car, but could not get close enough to make a run on the rookie racer. As a result, Burns was able to hold on to take his first career Modified win at Lebanon Valley.
Burns was very happy with his performance, despite taking a chance with his setup.
“We didn’t know what we had at the beginning of the night,” Burns said. “We tweaked on [the car] all night long and got the car much better. We were able to get up front and pass Mike King cleanly. From there, I just had to hit my marks.”
Heffner was able to stop the bleeding of recent weeks with his second-place finish, but he was unhappy with his outcome.
“The A. Colarusso & Sons No. 74 ran well,” Heffner said after the race. “I made some adjustments for the feature…trying to follow the track through the whole night. We made some decisions that simply didn’t work for us.”
Even though Heffner was clearly disappointed with his result, he could at least hold his head high. Shortly after the feature, Heffner won the AIM Warrior Dash, which pocketed him an extra $1,000.
Hough was third, while Rob Pitcher quietly moved up to a fourth-place finish. Eddie Marshall, who was third in points entering Saturday night, rounded out the top-5.
On the bulletin board outside of the pit shack, DirtCar’s rules pertaining to Medical Exemptions were conspicuously displayed in reference to Hearn’s condition. These rules state that “Any Platinum member driver and/or team unable to compete because of any unforeseen circumstance, as determined by Super DirtCar Big Block Modified Series and/or DirtCar Northeast Officials may qualify for show-up points.” Since Hearn and Madsen Motorsports are regulars in the Super DirtCar Series, they have this status. As a result, Hearn received show-up points for Saturday night despite his team not being at the track.
The 358 Modified race was seriously lacking in car count. Only 13 cars started (and that was with Sportsman cars filling out the grid). Jason Herrington started from pole and quickly pulled away from Jeff Kelley.
Class namesake Steve Hough (Hough’s Steve Hough Motors holds the title sponsorship for the division) made a quick charge up from the fifth starting spot to move up to second in just a few laps. By Lap 10, Hough was already past Herrington and was well on his way to victory.
Meanwhile, usually dominant teammate Andy Bachetti was nowhere to be found. The slick track conditions made it very difficult for Bachetti to move up from his eighth starting spot. Under normal circumstances, it would take Bachetti a few laps to charge up through most of the field to lead, but that was simply not possible on this night.
In the second half of the feature, Hough continued to open up his lead and won easily. Matt Quinn passed a fading Herrington in the last couple of laps to take second. Andy Bachetti could only get up to a fourth-place finish, while Kim LaVoy, the division’s most recent first-time winner when the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars were at the Valley, rounded out the top-5.
In Sportsman, Darek Schibi started off from the pole with Paul Knox alongside. However, Knox’s car was simply not quite on pace. This created a substantial stackup in Turns 1 and 2 that resulted in a big wreck involving Frank Harper, Olden Dwyer, Brett Haas and Rob Maxon. Everyone was ok, but Haas was out for the night.
After two subsequent spins by Knox brought out additional cautions, Ryan Darcy took the lead away from polesitter Darek Schibi on Lap 3. Steve Meilleur followed into second. Schibi’s night was all downhill from there.
Schibi had relatively hard contact with Harper on Lap 7 that hurt Schibi’s car. However, this did not draw a yellow. A few laps later, Schibi’s car had a mechanical failure. This led directly to the scariest moment of the night. Schibi tried to pull into the infield via the back entrance and was hit hard by Maxon, who never saw the stricken No. 12s. Both drivers were ok, but Schibi was done.
On the restart, Meilleur was able to get by Darcy to take the lead. However, Darcy kept up the chase while Brian Sandstedt, LaVoy and Harper were engaged in a three-way battle for third. Eventually, the three cars came together entering Turn 3 on Lap 16. The resulting incident saw all three cars crash hard into the wall, drawing another yellow. All three drivers were ok, but their cars were done for the night.
On the restart, Meilleur was able to easily pull away from Darcy to claim his third victory of the season. Darcy was second, while points leader Chad Pierce finished third. Part-time competitor Ron Dwyer was fourth, while Mike Malloy was fifth.
In Pro Stock, Nick Hilt started from pole, but his car mysteriously died in Turn 2 on the first lap. Milo Campbell got in the back of him and spun him out in front of the whole field. Amazingly, no one hit him.
Paul LaRochelle, who started third, claimed the lead as a result and could not get away from the train of competitors. LaRochelle’s primary competition for the evening was Jason Casey. Casey appeared to be slightly faster than LaRochelle, but LaRochelle made his No. 78 extra-wide, preventing Casey from getting by.
A late race spin by Tony DeRose gave Casey another chance to get by LaRochelle with just a couple of laps to go. However, LaRochelle was able to keep his car out in front to claim his first win of 2012.
Casey was second, followed by Jay Corbin in third. Victor Hopkins and Robbie Speed rounded out the top-5.
In Pure Stock, Ed Hatch took the lead from Jim Gronki on Lap 2 and held on to take his second win of the season. Tom Murphy, driving in place of Chad Arsenault was second, while Bob Brown was third.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 2, Jason Meltz used a move all the way to the inside of a three-wide situation at the end of the backstretch to take the lead on Lap 4. From there, Meltz held on to take his second win of the year. Dave Stickles was second, while Steven LaRochelle was third.
In the final Pure Stock Feature, Ray Hall, Sr. charged all the way up from the ninth starting spot to take the lead from Jeff Meltz, Sr. on Lap 3. Hall Sr. was able to drive briskly while a number of his rivals (including points leader Al Relyea
In the 4-Cylinder division, Jim Williams won the Single-Cam race with a last lap pass on Nick Mokhiber’s Dodge Omni while Steve Loomis won the Dual-Cam race by a country mile in his Honda Prelude.
This report was provided by an outside PR source and posted by Phil Allaway.
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