Home / DIRTcar Nationals / EXCLUSIVE: Hearn, Haers Look to Repeat at Volusia – DIRTcar Nationals Preview

EXCLUSIVE: Hearn, Haers Look to Repeat at Volusia – DIRTcar Nationals Preview

By CAMDEN PROUD

The wait is over for Big Block Modified fans as the Beasts of the Northeast that are the Super DIRTcar Series will officially open their season tonight at the DIRTcar Nationals in Florida.

A year removed from two out of the four days of Big Block racing being cancelled due to rain as part of the 2017 edition, a fifth date was added for this year’s events at Volusia Speedway Park with the potential chance for as many as six drivers to win a Gator, including the five main event winners each night plus the overall ‘Gator Champion’ from the week.

The Big Block Modifieds will compete in four 30-lap events the next four nights leading up to the 50-lap finale on Saturday night which will decide the overall Gator Champion.

Race Procedure

On Tuesday night, a pill draw will determine each race group as done at each and every Super DIRTcar Series event…

Group hot laps will be timed to determine heat race line ups…

4 heats will go 8-laps with 5 cars qualifying to the main event…

2 Last Chance Showdown (10-laps) will take place after the heats if necessary…

Tuesday’s feature will start ‘heads up’ from qualifying events with no redraw…

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the same procedure applies with the exception of how the feature lineup will be set. The top 8 (1st and 2nd) from each heat will all redraw for their feature starting spot at the DIRTcar Trailer…

Saturday’s procedure remains the same as Wednesday-Friday…

30-lap main events pay $2,000 to win while Saturday’s championship will pay $5,000 to the winner…

Repeat Winners?

Canandaigua Motorsports Park regular Justin Haers kicked off the DIRTcar Nationals with a victory last season, his second career at Volusia to be exact. Haers was forced to hold off a hard charging Matt Sheppard, who marched from 22nd to 2nd but came up just short on night 1. The No. 3 of Haers is always strong in Florida, so don’t be surprised to see Justin back up front all week long.

Brett Hearn is one of the most prolific Big Block Modified drivers in history and Volusia is no exception to his incredible numbers, which include ten wins at the DIRTcar Nationals including his latest just a year ago. Hearn is the defending Gator Champion and the all-time leader in ‘Big Gators’ with eight since the year 1998. He finished 6th on night 1 last season leading into his Saturday win.  Fresh off a strong 2017 campaign, an Eastern States 200 victory, and some extra testing time at All Tech Raceway in Florida, the ‘Corporate Jet’ from Sussex, N.J. should be ready to go.

Sheppard Still Hungry

When talking about favorites to win, how can Matt Sheppard’s name not come up? ‘Super Matt’ is coming off his best year yet. 2017 was his second season driving his family owned entry fielded by himself and wife Bethanne and the Waterloo, N.Y. talent put together over 40 wins, including twelve on the Super DIRTcar Series alone.

Sheppard won the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 on a last lap pass over Peter Britten not to mention the Great Outdoors RV 150 for the 358 Modifieds a day earlier, allowing him to sweep NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway.

Just a month later, Sheppard completed his comeback tour. After missing two series events in 2017, the driver of the Dendis Companies No. 9s closed out his season with a bang, capturing his sixth career Super DIRTcar Series championship along with a win in the World Finals at the DIRT Track at Charlotte.

As far as Volusia goes, Sheppard has not won a main event there since 2016, which was actually the first race ever for his self-funded team. He has six career wins at Volusia. Florida better watch out, because he’s going to be hungry for a gator.

Dirt to Daytona for Friesen

Niagara on the Lake Ontario’s Stewart Friesen has a busy Florida Speedweeks ahead. He will compete at Volusia Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and most likely Saturday with the Halmar Racing No. 44 Big Block Modified before competing with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Daytona Friday evening.

Friesen will run full-time in the trucks this season, driving for the Halmar Friesen Racing team owned by Friesen and Chris Larson alongside GMS Racing. The 2016 Super DIRT Week Champion drove to four top tens, two top fives, and one pole position in truck action last year.

Back on the dirt side, Friesen won twice with the Super DIRTcar Series, but hasn’t grabbed a victory at Volusia since 2015. However, he’s done so seven times in his career and is the 2011 and 2014 Gator Champion.

With even more of a limited Big Block schedule this year, Friesen would love to start off his season in the winning column.

T-Mac is Back

Crowd favorite Tim McCreadie will return to the driver’s seat at the DIRTcar Nationals this season. It will be the first Volusia appearance by McCreadie in a Big Block in at least this decade. He will be back behind the wheel of the Sweetner’s Plus No. 39 which he won with in Hearn’s Big Show at Malta last June. As the crowd in attendance will recall, he nearly did so again in a side by side finish with Friesen at Weedsport’s Hall of Fame 100.

After struggling with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in East Bay’s Winternationals this past week, McCreadie won’t want to leave the Sunshine State without a win, especially if it’s going to be his first ever victory with the Modified at Volusia.

Decker Driven with Momentum 

There are a lot of drivers who have the chance to really breakout this season on the Super DIRTcar Series, but perhaps none more than Billy Decker. The ‘Franklin Flyer’ didn’t lose the 2017 series championship by much and he’s got a stout Mike Payne Racing piece to work with for yet another season.

Coming off of four wins and 22 top ten finishes in 27 starts, Decker was an SDS Champion for the first time in the 1998 season. He’s done so twice since then, and he’d love to make it four with MPR and Page Trucking. The third winningest driver in history may very well add to that total this week.

The Red Car Roundup 

Larry Wight started his Florida Speedweeks early this year. On Friday and Saturday night he competed with the Gypsum Racing 360 Sprint Car as part of USCS action at the East Bay Raceway Park. After a good old fashioned ass beating in heat race action on Friday, ‘Lightning’ finished 9th on both nights before taking the past two days off preparing the Gypsum Racing Modified.

Wight had undoubtedly one of his best seasons to boot on the tour last year. The Phoenix, N.Y. driver and soon to be father won twice, finished in the top five fourteen times, and nearly won the Billy Whittaker Cars 200, having to settle for third after leading Sheppard and Britten with just a handful laps to go.

As always, Wight will be joined by his teammate, the ‘Genoa Giant’ Pat Ward. Ward has never won a Super DIRTcar Series Championship either. Wight is searching for his first as well after finishing third in series points last year.

Both of the red cars are always a major force in Florida, but how awesome would it be to see Ward get his first series win since 2009? Wight has never won in Florida, but Ward knows a thing or two about it. He captured two out of the four features in ’09.  Both of them have a great shot at Volusia Speedway Park, and an extra night to work with in order to get the job done.

‘Mad Max’ and the ‘Bandit’ 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride and all, Max McLaughlin’s main focus this season is still the Super DIRTcar Series. He wants to win a championship for car owner Al Heinke at Heinke-Baldwin Racing, and so does Jimmy Phelps, who has never pulled that trick once in his Big Block career.

Phelps, point runner up at Fulton and Brewerton last season, has fifteen career SDS wins, but the ‘B-Ville Bandit’ hasn’t made it to victory lane with the series since 2016 at the Brewerton Speedway. McLaughlin, also a winner at Brewerton and Fulton last season, has turned a whole lot of heads in the Big Block Modified world himself.

It’s a long drive to Florida from the team’s Weedsport, N.Y. shop, and this dangerous duo would like to get a good head start on what can potentially be a breakout season. Should either win this week, they’ll be handed their first career gator.

Other Notes

2003 Gator Champ and three time Volusia winner Tim Fuller is already on the property and looking forward to what could be a dangerous 2018 season with the St. Lawrence Radiology team…

Erick Rudolph will be back in Florida to start his 2018 season coming off an indoor racing stint. After finishing fifth and sixth as part of the two DIRTcar Nationals main events in 2017, the family owned 25R will be dialed in…

‘The Part Timer’ Billy Whittaker is in Florida with the Billy Whittaker Cars and Trux No. 109. With LJL power under the hood, if Whittaker’s ride is as hooked up as the red cars, ‘The Kid,’ last year’s Eldora All-Star race winner, should be right up front…

Mike Mahaney is starting his 2018 season with Buzz Chew Racing at the DIRTcar Nationals and after struggling a bit on the tour last year, he’d love to change that starting tonight…

Keith Flach qualified top six at Super DIRT Week last year to lock into the big show and grabbed a second to close 2017 in Charlotte. He’s been fast in Florida before and could be a major contender this week…

Britten won’t be in attendance at this year’s DCN due to a back sprain…

Ryan Godown will be making the trip with the Deeter Schmidt 5 for his first Florida run…

Ryan Watt, Rex King Jr, Jamie Mills, Jimmy Horton, Rick Laubach, Rich Scagliotta and Billy Pauch include other out of (NY) state talents planning to compete…

Chad Brachmann will be making his Florida assault from north of the border…

Hot laps get the green at 6pm tonight with heats at 7…

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