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
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
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
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
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
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,
For more information,
the 2015 schedule, and links to what's on tap for 2015, visit our
website at www.LebanonValley.com, and click on “Speedway”, or call the LVAR Offices during regular
business hours at (518)
794-9606 or (518)
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