SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Brett Hearn wasn’t disappointed when the cancelation of “Happy Hour” practice for the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds kept him off the New York State Fairgrounds one-mile oval Wednesday afternoon.
That, of course, is a sure sign of the confidence the defending Syracuse 200 champion has in his machine for NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLII, which will kick off in earnest on Thursday after DIRTcar officials decided to call off Wednesday’s scheduled hot-lap session because the track surface remained too wet following heavy rain that fell over the weekend and into Monday.
“I’m alright with it,” Hearn said. “I know that (DIRTcar Director of Series & Sanction) Joe (Skotnicki) likes to make sure that when we hit the track here it’s as good as they can get it, so, after all the rain here earlier in the week, giving the track another day to dry out should definitely help.
“And I’m in a good position because I’m bringing back a car that I know was really good last year. I’m not really concerned about running a lot of (practice) laps to find the ‘sweet spot.’ I just have to watch the track and make the right adjustments.”
Hearn, 55, will attempt to win the Syracuse 200 in consecutive years for the second time in his illustrious career driving the same Madsen Motorsports Teo-Pro car that he steered to victory in the rain-shortened 2012 event. It will be the third straight NAPA Super DIRT Week that he’s sat behind the wheel of the car.
“The first year we really struggled with this car,” said Hearn, who owns a record six Syracuse 200 triumphs but snapped a 17-year winless streak in the prestigious race in ‘12. “Then last year there was no practice on Wednesday (due to rain) and we were far from being good when we went out for qualifying. I was shocked that we timed fourth (fastest) with the big-block.
“We kept working on it and we finally worked out everything and got it right on race day. We’ve done our homework enough since then to where I’m pretty confident that we’ll be as good, if not better, this year.”
Hearn, who enters NAPA Super DIRT Week leading the Super DIRTcar Series points standings, knows it will be important to have a fast car from the first green flag on Thursday. Practice for big-block modifieds is set to start at 9:30 a.m. – a half-hour earlier than originally scheduled – and Syracuse 200 time trials (locking in the top six qualifiers) are earmarked to commence at 2:45 p.m.
“You’ve got to come off the trailer fast – especially now with the way they’re gonna line up time trials based on practice speeds,” said Hearn, referencing the new format that will send drivers out for time trials from their hot-lap times (slowest-to-fastest). “We’re basically doing two sets of time trials tomorrow – one for our (qualifying) position because that’s important here, and one for the race itself.”
Thursday’s NAPA Super DIRT Week schedule also includes the 358-Modifieds. The division will practice from 11-11:55 a.m. and time-trial for the top-six starting spots in Saturday’s ‘Salute To The Troops 150’ beginning at 1:20 p.m.