Friesen Claims Mr. Dirt Track U.S.A. After Hearn Falters

Date: 8/27/2015 11:52:27 PM

Friesen Claims Mr. Dirt Track U.S.A. After Hearn Falters
by Phil Allaway

Tuesday night, 33 teams gathered at Lebanon Valley to contest Mr. Dirt Track U.S.A., a round of the Super DIRTcar Series and one of the richest Big Block Modified races in the Northeast.  The savory carrot of $17,500 brought the best of the best to contest the event.  Track position is paramount, so the competitors appeared to be rather antsy at the start.  Typically, that means trouble and Tuesday night was no different.
Brett Hearn entered Tuesday on a roll, winning three times the previous weekend (including the Super DIRTcar Series race in Cornwall).  Hearn was clearly in “strut mode” and the preliminaries only would have made him more confident.  Claiming the track record (19.314 seconds) in time trials, winning his heat, then drawing the pole for the race put him in prime position to claim his 12th Mr. Dirt Track U.S.A. win.
Once the green came out, Hearn got the jump on Billy Decker and opened up a small gap.  Then, heck broke loose in Turn 3.  Contact in the pack saw Kyle Sheldon, who started eighth, spin in front of the pack.  The pile-up was on as a dozen or more cars were collected.  The red flag was thrown as a result.  Sheldon and Rob Pitcher were forced to retire from the race, but a number of other teams continued after repairs in the pits.  Since no laps were completed, a complete restart of the race took place.
After the big crash, the race ran in short stints.  First, a crash involving Keith Flach and Gary Tomkins brought out a yellow.  Then Matt Pupello spun on the restart in turn 2 to cause another.  Elmo Reckner made an ill-advised move under the berm in turns 1 and 2 and drifted up into Chad Jeseo, spinning the rookie into the wall and out of the race.  Lap 19 saw Kyle Armstrong, who was running fifth, blow an engine and blanket the track with smoke, causing yet another red flag.
Between these cautions, fourth-place starter Stewart Friesen, running the engine block that he plans to run at Syracuse, was able to get past Decker and move up to second.  For much of the rest of the race, Hearn and Friesen would spar at the front of the field.
The heavy attrition due to either damage or internal issues allowed a number of drivers to make moves up from the rear of the field.  Danny Johnson had a terrible time in the preliminaries and ended up starting 32nd.  By lap 25, Johnson was tenth.  Kenny Tremont, Jr., who was 12th on lap 25, had a much better time in the preliminaries.  He was due to start ninth, but was sent to the rear due to his crew trying to install a spacer in a shock on the grid that had been replaced previously.
Unfortunately for Johnson, bad luck showed up once again on lap 38.  Exiting turn 4, the right rear wheel came off of his No. 27J.  Just before he coasted to a stop on the frontstretch, he was hit from behind by Pupello.  Both drivers were ok, but their nights were both over.
A pattern was set in the first half of the race.  Hearn would open up a lead, but would then encounter lapped traffic, which allowed Friesen to catch up.  As the race continued on, the margins got bigger as attrition cut the number of slower cars.
Late in the race, Hearn had a comfortable lead, but began slowing in the final laps, allowing Friesen to catch up.  With a couple of laps to go, Friesen began pressuring Hearn for the first time all night with the rousing approval of the crowd.  Suddenly, Hearn’s No. 20 quit on the frontstretch coming to the white flag, launching Friesen into the lead.  From there, Friesen simply maintained in order to take his first career Mr. Dirt Track U.S.A. victory.
Afterwards, Friesen was a little surprised, but more than happy to scoop up the win in Hearn’s wake.
"For being a non-regular here [at Lebanon Valley], we were able to run with [Hearn] well," Friesen said.  "Then, the opportunity presented itself and we were able to capitalize.  Sometimes, the bounces go your way and they went our way tonight. 

"The 100 laps here is one of the hardest races to complete all year next to the Syracuse 200.  You have to have a stout piece, good brakes and a car that’ll do 100 laps.  Jeff Daley & Sons Oil Service gives us a great piece for the extra distance races and it shows.”

Super DIRTcar Series points leader Matt Sheppard finished a strong second and gained points on Hearn.  Afterwards, Sheppard commented on his advancement in the second half of the race.
"In the second half of the race, the car was really, really good," Sheppard said.  "We were able to pass some really good cars.  I think we had the fastest car at the end of the race, but we just had too far to go.  I would have liked to see a yellow with ten to go just to see if we had something for them."
Andy Bachetti was the best of the Lebanon Valley regulars in third.  Tyler Dippel, fresh off his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards debut at the Springfield Mile, finished fourth, while Tremont capped off his run from the back to finish fifth.  Hearn was credited with finishing a lap down in ninth.
Supporting the Super DIRTcar Series was the King of Dirt Sportsman Series, making their inaugural visit to Lebanon Valley.  41 drivers from a number of tracks in the region came to press their luck, but in the end, it was the same man who has dominated recently that earned the spoils.
Scott Duell earned the pole for the feature and led early over Matt Pappa and Alissa Cody.  Fonda winner Rocky Warner was up in the hunt as well, but collateral damage from an earlier meeting with the wall in his heat race took its toll, dropping Warner back through the field.
Meanwhile, Michael Sabia moved up from the fifth starting spot and claimed second from Pappa on lap 9.  Once there, he immediately began putting the pressure on Duell for the lead.  Just before he could pass Duell, Jason Gray caught the wall in turn 2 to bring out the first yellow on lap 12.
Despite being stuck on the slower inside line, Sabia was able to muscle past Duell on the restart to take the lead.  Meanwhile, Whitey Slavin hit the wall in turn 3, then spun a lap later to bring out another yellow, continuing a frustrating night for the second generation racer.  Slavin’s night only got worse as he spun to avoid another wreck involving Brandon Lane and Jeremy Pitts on the frontstretch.  The night finally came to an end after Slavin was spun out in turn 1 by Pitts.
Once the green came back out for good on lap 20, Sabia drove away and hid from the field on the way to his first King of Dirt Sportsman win, and the third consecutive Sportsman win at Lebanon Valley for the Easton, Connecticut native.
Chris Curtis rose up to second from the 17th starting spot, while Duell settled for third.  John Virgilio was fourth, while Ricky Davis rounded out the top 5.
Mr. Dirt Track U.S.A. Results: 1) Stewart Friesen, 2) Matt Sheppard, 3) Andy Bachetti, 4) Tyler Dippel, 5) Kenny Tremont, Jr., 6) Gary Tomkins, 7) Jimmy Phelps, 8) JR Heffner, 9) Brett Hearn, 10) Olden Dwyer, 11) Pat Ward, 12) Larry Wight, 13) Elmo Reckner, 14) Steve Hough, 15) Rich Scagliotta, 16) Eddie Marshall, 17) D.J. Faulkner, 18) Billy Decker, 19) Jeff Watson, 20) Keith Flach, 21) L.J. Lombardo, 22) Danny Johnson, 23) Matt Pupello, 24) Mike King, 25) Brian Berger, 26) Kyle Armstrong, 27) Chad Jeseo, 28) Kolby Schroder, 29) Tim Fuller, 30) Paul Gilardi, 31) Kyle Sheldon, 32) Rob Pitcher.  DNS: Kyle Hoffman
Mr. Crate Track U.S.A. Results: 1) Michael Sabia, 2) Chris Curtis, 3) Scott Duell, 4) John Virgilio, 5) Ricky Davis, 6) Matt Pappa, 7) Allison Ricci, 8) David Schilling, 9) Rocky Warner, 10) Tim Hartman, Jr., 11) Cody Bleau, 12) Jon Miller, 13) Kevin Arnold, 14) Chris Lynch, 15) Tim Hodge, 16) Daniel Sanchez, 17) Chad Edwards, 18) Brandon Lane, 19) Jeremy Pitts, 20) Connor Cleveland, 21) Tommy Johnson, 22) Dan Santabarbara, 23) Alissa Cody, 24) Aaron Pierson, 25) Cody Hunt, 26) Whitey Slavin, 27) Frank Hoard, Jr., 28) Chris Schaffer, 29) Robert Bublak, Jr., 30) Jason Gray.  DNQ: Matt Burke, Ryan Heath, Todd Lutinski, Derrick McGrew, John Miller, Cody Ochs, Nikki Ouellette, Ricky Quick, Ryan Stortini, Josh Sunn, Kevin Ward.


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