MALTA, N.Y. – When Brett Hearn, already the leading winner at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway, pulled the pole for Tuesday night’s “Brett Hearn’s Big Show” Super DIRTcar Series big-block modified event, the standing-room-only crowd let out a roar of disapproval, figuring he’d lead the entire 100 laps.
But much to their surprise, Hearn’s front-row companion, Billy Dunn, led the first 10 laps before Hearn took command. Bobby Varin followed to drop Dunn to third and the battle was on.
Varin attacked Hearn non-stop until lap 77 when Varin got his car under Hearn as they hit turn three and came out with the lead.
The crowd was up and cheering at the time and stayed there as the leaders battled in constant traffic through lap 84, when Hearn almost duplicated Varin’s turn three move but didn’t get all the way by.
“At first I thought it was a lapped car trying to get back on the lead lap, then I realized it was Brett down inside me. We bumped a little but I got the wheels back straight and got out of there in a hurry,” said Varin.
Hearn then spent the last 10 laps fighting off Stewart Friesen, who had worked his way forward from 10th, as Varin ran out to a full turn lead.
At the flag, it was Hearn in a photo finish over Friesen, with Dunn, Vince Vitale, Robbie Bellinger, Matt Sheppard, Billy Decker, fast qualifier and flat tire victim Jimmy Phelps and Australian Peter Britten.
“It was a hell of a battle, because Brett’s the best in the business. But I had the best car over the long runs and we went from just before halfway to the end without a yellow,” said Varin. “To be able to beat him on his own night here is fantastic.”
“I thought I had Brett by a good three feet” declared Friesen when told he was third. “Starting in the back killed me. I was great on the bottom, then somebody laid down oil on the inside and it started taking rubber and I lost my advantage.”
“Stewart was close but the finish line is actually a little ways back up the straight,” added Hearn. “Bobby and I had a great race and I think the difference was the line we picked and the lapped cars. He was really good on the bottom.”
Amazingly, Varin’s ride in the Andy Romano No. 97 big-block was a last minute deal when his regular car’s engine began knocking in the garage. He now has two wins on the Albany-Saratoga three-eighths-mile oval, both 100-lap events.
Phelps, Hearn, Rich Scagliatta and Britten shared heat wins with Phelps prevailing in the Dash for Cash, which pitted six DIRTcar drivers against six Albany-Saratoga regulars. Chad Jesup claimed the companion Pro Stock feature.
Series point leader Danny Johnson was a notable absentee, having been suspended “until further notice” for a scuffle after a recent event. His seat was filled by sprint car heroine Jessica Zemken, who suffered a flat tire in the feature.
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