MALTA, N.Y. — With the normal 100 laps in the book, it appeared that Brett Hearn, promoter of “Brett’s Big Show 11,” would keep the $11,111 winner’s share of the purse in Tuesday night’s 111-lap Super DIRTcar modified series race at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
But much to the packed house’s delight, Stewart Friesen turned up the wick and managed to get into turn one underneath fast-timer Hearn and seize the lead with but two tours of the three-eighths-mile oval remaining.
“We were stupid tight early but it paid off later,” said the ecstatic NASCAR Gander Truck Series driver. “I was saving it and he got tighter and tighter about the time that my car came in. Actually, I just parked it and rode until late in the race when Matt Sheppard got around us on a restart. Then I knew it was time to go.”
And go he did, battling his way back past the Northeast’s hottest driver, then shooting down Matt Williamson and longtime leader Billy Decker to stand second as the lap counter hit 100.
From there he adopted a line that took him right to the wall exiting turn four, sending him off the cushion like a rocket with his left front high in the air as he dove to the inside of Hearn as they headed for turn one. The hand to hand combat had everyone in the stands up and cheering for one or the other and they got their money’s worth in the last dozen laps.
At the start, polesitter Chad Phelps fought off front-row-companion Mike Mahaney for a couple of laps but Mahaney soon prevailed, leading until fifth-starting Eric Rudolph arrived on the scene.
The duo then swapped the lead back and forth until lap 13, when first Mahaney and then Rudolph suffered a flat tire from leaning on each other. This put Chad Phelps back on top, but seven laps later Billy Decker sailed around him and drove off as the crowd turned to watching Larry Wight, who had advanced from 22nd to the top ten by picking off a car or two a lap.
A lap-32 restart gave Hearn a shot at Phelps, which he took advantage of, moving to second ahead of Phelps, seventh starting Friesen, Matt Williamson and Sheppard. The rundown was the same at halfway, but Friesen was steadily cutting Hearn’s substantial advantage as they raced through lapped traffic before a yellow for Wight’s flat right rear put them together for a lap-69 restart.
On the green, both Matt Williamson and Sheppard got by Friesen, who was back by Sheppard when Decker bobbled and got too low in turn four on lap 82, allowing Hearn to get an outside run on him and take command.
Friesen then worked his way back by Williamson, shot down Decker for second and began drawing in on Hearn again, this time for the lead. He was closing rapidly when Rusty Smith went around in turn one just before the century mark, putting Friesen alongside Hearn for the restart.
Hearn got a good jump but Friesen’s crowd pleasing launches off turn four got him alongside the “Jersey Jet” a number of times before he finally managed to put him away.
Still, Hearn made a last-gasp charge on the bottom and came up just a couple of feet short to close out a terrific race. Williamson was third ahead of Max McLaughlin, Sheppard, Decker, Jimmy Phelps, Mahaney, Ryan Godown and Rudolph.
“We wiped the tread right off our right rear,” said Hearn. “I’m disappointed but happy that we had a great crowd that saw a great race. It got a little tense there but I knew Stewart wouldn’t take me out. He’s the most diverse, most talented driver we’ve seen in 30 years.”
Williamson was pleased as well, saying, “We’ve had a couple of good runs on the series now and with our new Billy the Kid engine, we should get even better as the season unfolds. I caught myself being a race fan there at the end, watching Stewart and Brett race ahead of me. That was a great show.”
Jeremy Pitts and Tim Hartman Jr. won sportsman features.
Feature (111 Laps)
- 44-Stewart Friesen ; 2. 20-Brett Hearn ; 3. 88-Mat Williamson ; 4. 6H-Max McLaughlin ; 5. 9s-Matt Sheppard ; 6. 91-Billy Decker ; 7. 98H-Jimmy Phelps ; 8. 35-Mike Mahaney ; 9. 26-Ryan Godown ; 10. 25-Erick Rudolph ; 11. 43-Keith Flach ; 12. 99L-Larry Wight ; 13. X-Chad Phelps ; 14. 27j-Danny Johnson ; 15. 42p-Pat Ward ; 16. 3j-Marc Johnson ; 17. 115-Kenny Tremont ; 18. 21A-Peter Britten ; 19. 19m-Jesse Mueller ; 20. 111-Demetrios Drellos ; 21. 2L-Jack Lehner ; 22. 60-Brian Berger ; 23. R2-Rusty Smith ; 24. 18-Anthony Perrego ; 25. 3d-Matt Delorenzo ; 26. 97-Bobby Hackel ; 27. 48T-Dave Rauscher ; 28. 2rj-Ronnie Johnson