Stock car racing: Sawzall helps Hearn enhance his Valley legacy
Remember the old American Express commercials, with Karl Malden admonishing, “Don’t leave home without it.”
Brett Hearn has his own interpretation of the commercial. He could care less about a credit card. but he won’t leave home without his Sawzall.
Because of a Sawzall, Hearn was able to drive to his third consecutive modified victory Saturday night at Lebanon Valley.
Now, remember, Hearn has over 800 victories during his career, so most of them have that ho hum, here we go again feeling. but not last Saturday. You really had to be there to believe it.
On the second lap of the 30-lap modified feature, Wayne Jelley, who started fourth, got sideways between turns three and four, creating a chain-reaction accident involving many of the cars behind him, including Hearn, Ken Tremont Jr., Donnie Corellis, J.R. Heffner and Andy Bachetti.
When Hearn got into the pits, his crew saw bent radius rods, a flat right front tire and a bent shock tower (Internet reports said he had a broken axle, but trust me. I was standing right next to the car, and there was no broken axle).
After getting the front end jacked up and the tire off, work started on the bent radius rods. One of Hearn’s crew members used a Sawzall to cut the rods in half, which gave easier access to the nuts that hold them on, and while the crew nervously kept looking up toward turn four, where the last of the cars in the accident were being towed away, new radius rods were put back on and Hearn got back out on the track.
Had it not been for the Sawzall, he probably would have still been sitting in the pits when the race restarted.
Starting at the rear of the field, Hearn was flying as soon as the green flag came back out. He was up to sixth after 10 laps, went past Eddie Marshall for third on lap 17 and got the lead on lap 22.
After the race, Hearn said, “We got into a wreck in the last point race here last year and the radius rods were bent so bad we couldn’t get them off. I said, ‘We need to get a Sawzall in case it ever happens again.’ So we were prepared.”
And you wonder why the guy has over 800 career wins.
The rest of the story
While Hearn was running away with his third straight win, Matt Quinn was standing in the pits, watching the feature with a smile on his face.
Quinn had qualified for the feature, but when he went out for fast warmups, he didn’t have any brakes. He tried to rectify the problem and was the last car to get in line on the track prior to the feature. But after the pace lap, he pulled back into the pits and parked the car.
So why is a driver who doesn’t get a chance to race smiling?
Quinn was scheduled to start 10th, and would have been right in the middle of the melee, without any brakes to slow him down before impact.
“Things happen for a reason,” said Quinn with a smile.
Because he’s funding the car out of his own pocket, a big accident would have a huge financial setback.
As it is, Quinn will be dropping from the big-block modifieds to 358s this month, and will stay in the 358s for the rest of the year.
“The 358s only run twice a month, and that will be better for me,” he said. “I don’t want to give [racing] up, but it’s getting too expensive to race against these guys, and I don’t want to be here every Saturday night, either.”
Big weekend for Hackel
Bobby Hackel IV, a senior at Columbia High School, recorded his first budget sportsman win ever at Albany-Saratoga Speedway last Friday, and followed that up with a victory Saturday at Lebanon Valley.
Hackel is a fourth-generation driver. His great-grandfather raced at Burden Lake and Menands, his grandfather was the national mini-stock champion and a popular figure at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in the early 1980s and his father drove a sportsman before retiring from driving in 2004.
And all were named Bob Hackel. The only difference is that they have different middle initials — there are no Roman numerals.
“My wife didn’t want a Bob Hackel the III,” said Hackel Jr., the grandfather.
John Stanley and Dan Martin, the announcers at Lebanon Valley, started using Bob Hackel IV to distinguish him from the other Hackels when he began racing at the Valley a couple of years ago.
Officials at Albany-Saratoga Speedway have a unique problem — too many budget sportsman cars.
Over 50 pulled into the pits during the first two weeks of the season and last week, officials ran a B-main, with a handful of cars being added to the A-main.
But that still leaves over 20 drivers who go home empty-handed.
A number of ideas have been kicked around on the Internet about how to keep everybody happy, but this is racing — if you don’t qualify, you don’t compete.
I say leave things the way they are, with a B-main and transfer spots into the A-main.
The only other plausible solution would be to run a budget sportsman non-qualifiers race at the end of the night, and give all cars that compete in that race tow money, let’s say $25. That would only take about $600 out of the net income at the end of the night, and a $25 payout is better than no payout at all.
Around the tracks
u Bachetti is 2-for-2 at Accord Speedway after revamping his program during the winter. After winning just one race last season, Bachetti switched to Teo Pro-Cars, and it’s obviously paid off.
u Hearn will be looking for his 99th career victory at Albany-Saratoga Speedway tonight. Technically, Hearn has been to victory lane 99 times already, but one of those wins came in an invitation-only Modified Clash in 2009. Hearn competed against Tremont, Todd Stone, Matt DeLorenzo, Jimmy Cottrell and both Jack and Ronnie Johnson in that event, which consisted of three 10-lap segments. Hearn finished second in the first two legs and won the third to get the overall victory and the top prize of $1,500. But that win isn’t included on Hearn’s all-time win list because there wasn’t qualifying, and it didn’t come against a full field of cars.