Weedsport, NY — July 25, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Boris Rudzinski Photo
Home track advantage has become a scarce commodity since the advent of the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series and resurgence of traveling teams covering the premier Big-Block Modified circuit around the Northeast on an annual basis.
Yet when the Advance Series arrives at Orange County Fair Speedway on Thursday, July 31, Brett Hearn will be banking on four decades of experience on the ‘Hard Clay’ to outlast his modern-day rivals and reach a career milestone in the process.
“Orange County is a little different from what most of the tour guys are used to so I always like to believe I’ll have a little edge for this one,” said Hearn, 49, who would like nothing more than to capture his 100th career Advance Auto Parts Series victory at a track he has raced at since his debut in 1975. During that time he has collected 169 Big-Block Modified and 118 Small-Block —even scored a pair of Sprint Car wins— first-place trophies with 22 track point championships mixed in at the historic Middletown, New York oval.
“The track is more abrasive than every other and it takes them a little bit out of their element. It’s definitely a place where track knowledge is important. But Billy (Decker, Series points leader) has always been good at Orange County, too, and so far he hasn’t left much for anybody else this year,” noted Hearn, who currently ranks second in the tour standings, although well over 100 points behind Decker through the initial 11 races.
Hearn will be looking for his second Advance Series victory of the season when Orange County stages the 36th Escape RV 75 on July 31 with radio stations WRWD 107.3 & 99.3 and Wolf 94.3 & 97.3 carrying associate sponsorship. Pit gates are slated to open at 4:00 pm, spectator gates are unlocked at 5:00 pm, with the first race set for 7:00 pm. General admission is $22 for adults, $20 for seniors and teens 13-17 years old, and free for children 12 and under.
“We always strive for consistency in this series, that’s what it normally takes to come out on top with so many big races spread throughout the whole season,” said Hearn, who opened his ’08 campaign with three straight Big-Block wins at Orange County and posted another runner-up finish in only five races run in Middletown this season. “Last year Tim (Fuller, Mr. DIRTcar runner-up to Hearn) was tough right up to the end, but just one race and a bad finish cost him.”
“A year ago we were probably just a little bit better at this point. You always aim for top-5 finishes but the difference so far has been fourths and fifths where last season we had seconds and thirds with a few more wins sprinkled in. We’re not off by that much and we know anything can happen as there’s still a long way to go. But right now, Billy has been so strong on every kind of track and had us covered from time trials to heats and into the feature. And those extra points in qualifying have been adding up just as fast,” Hearn figured.
Although steering the J&S Racing no. 74 Smiths Bros. Concrete Contractors ride for owners Steve Hastings and Joe Knoth this year at Orange County, the ‘Jet’ will be back Thursday aboard the Madsen Motorsports no. 20 Wentworth Custom Homes/TEO entry in fulfilling his Advance Series sponsorship commitment.
“The cars are very, very similar and either one would be a good choice for any race we enter,” stated Hearn, who has triumphed on 10 occasions in the 43 Advance Series events staged at Orange County since 1983, followed by perennial rival Danny Johnson and 2007 OCFS points champion Jeff Heotzler, each with five. “Both teams work together and share information so any difference is small.”
“There’s been a lot of good cars this year and the drivers all have experience. In a field of 32 or 34 at Orange County this year about 26-28 are capable of winning. Out on tour Billy has been having an exceptional season and Dale (Planck, 3rd in Advance Series points) is having one of his best years ever. Home or away, it gets tougher to find an advantage nowadays and keep it going for any period of time,” Hearn said.
With 745 feature race victories and more than 65 track and series championships to his credit, Hearn has held a decided advantage over the competition as he’s carved an unparalleled niche in the DIRTcar Racing record book. Among his biggest achievements, the Sussex, New Jersey speedster has won Orange County’s Eastern States 200 eight times and is a five-time winner of the Syracuse Rite Aid 200 —the “Super Bowl” of DIRTcar Modified racing— contested at the New York State Fairgrounds. His records place him among the country’s top drivers in all forms of auto racing.
“Orange County is the closest we get to home all season so we’d like to make it count,” added Hearn, whose Garden State home is located just a half-hour from Middletown. Pennsylvanian Frank Cozze took advantage of his pole-position start last year to lead all 75 laps while Hearn settled for eighth-place. “But that’s what everybody else is thinking so we’ve got to be one step ahead on raceday.”
For more information, please contact Series Director Cory Reed at the DIRTcar NorthEast Office (315/834-6606) in Weedsport, New York or log into www.superdirtcarseries.com for additional Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series material. Orange County Fair Speedway www.ocfsmotorsports.com is located on the fairgrounds and can be reached by traveling Route 17 to exit 120 and following Route 211 southwest to Carpenter Avenue. Speedway officials can be contacted at the track office (845/342-2573). B.H. Racing Enterprises, Inc. information is available online at www.bretthearn.com.
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets As of April 19, 2008, the Company operated 3,291 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional information about the Company, employment opportunities, customer services, and on-line shopping for parts and accessories can be found on the Company’s web site at www.advanceautoparts.com.
The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Advance Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tire and Sunoco Race Fuels. Promotional partners include AMB i.t., Rite Aid Corporation and the University of Northwestern Ohio and the contingency sponsors are Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Crane Cams, Integra Shocks, MSD Ignitions, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks and Wrisco Industries.