RPW Column: As Focused As Ever: Brett Hearn Has Sights Set On Capturing Another Super DIRT Week Crown

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – ALBANY, NY – To Say Brett Hearn is itching to race would be an understatement.

More so, to say the veteran, who’s amassed more than 900 career victories, wants to win again would be an even bigger understatement.

However, to say Brett Hearn wants to be the Big Block Modified Champion at Super DIRT Week in October is no exaggeration.  He’s set to chase the special 50th anniversary trophy with every fiber of his being, and will do so with a car he knows can get the job done.

Hearn is the winningest driver in Super DIRT Week Big Block competition, capturing the checkered flag on six different occasions.  However, there was a 17-year gap between wins five and six, and that weighed heavily on the mind of the multi-time Super DIRTcar Series Champion.

“I won the first five between 1985 and ‘95,” Hearn said while being part of DIRTcar’s unveiling of the special Super DIRT Week 50 trophy in West Capital Park in Albany, NY on Thursday afternoon.  “Then, I found every possible way to lose the race until we won again in 2012.  That’s when I understood how hard it was to be successful at DIRT Week.  It takes an incredible amount of work to be prepared for that week and everyone shows up with their best equipment.  It was at that moment I realized just how hard it was to win that race compared to the first five.”

Since Super DIRT Week moved from the Syracuse Mile to Oswego Speedway in 2016, Hearn’s best finish in the event has been a third in 2019.  Even though he hasn’t had the success he’s accustomed to quite yet, he really likes the race at its new home.

“It’s hard to replicate exactly what the Mile was,” he said.  “Syracuse was such a ginormous track but, for me, Super DIRT Week at Oswego is really fun.”

What makes the “Clay Palace” so enjoyable?

“I love the way the track races,” he said.  “I love the way the banking is progressive in the corners and the way the grooves change, normally.  The track races really, really well with the dirt on it.”

Even though he hasn’t won at Oswego, the desire to get Super DIRT Week Big Block victory number seven still beats within Hearn’s chest and he’s aiming to get it done this October.

“We’re going there with our sights set squarely on winning,” he said.  “I feel like we’ve got the car and the team to get it done.”

When it comes to that week in Oswego, getting as many laps as possible is key and Hearn knows that.

“One of the things that I thought about when I chose to come back for another Super DIRT Week (last year and this coming year), is practice time,” he said.  “When you haven’t been in the seat that much, it means a lot to have that extra time on track to work on your set-up and the different adjustments you want to make.  That’s something that normally doesn’t happen but during Super DIRT Week, it’s a great advantage for every team competing.”

The last time Hearn sat in a race car was during the World Finals in Charlotte last November.  When the finale of the 2021 Super DIRTcar Series schedule was complete, the “Jersey Jet” was setting in victory lane.

That car is the same Teo Pro Car he’ll compete in this season and at Osewgo.  He debut it during the DIRTcar OctoberFAST five-race series through New York State 2020 officials held after DIRT Week was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He wasn’t feeling too good about the car during those races, so his team went to work to make it better and they’ve done so in a big way.

“Not having a lot of time on the car, it took a while to figure out what was going to make it comfortable for me,” he said.  “We were able to do a couple of extreme test sessions where I could sit in the car for like four hours, run laps, come in and make changes, go back out and quantify everything.  That’s when we hit on some things that seemed to work.”

Hearn and company then entered last year’s Super DIRT Week at Oswego and got to see from the onset how well those changes were.

“We got off track a little bit during qualifying (timed 28th),” he said.  “Then, we made some more adjustments, came out the next day and were fifth fastest out of 72.  That’s when I knew we were getting close.”

Hearn ended up finishing 23rd in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200, but that wasn’t indicative of just how good he was starting to feel in that Teo Pro Car.

Next up was Orange County Fair Speedway during Eastern States Weekend.  However, the only event Hearn got to run was the Champions race on Friday, October 22nd.

At the time, Hearn was still Director of Motorsports for the Speedway so this was the only opportunity he had that weekend to turn laps on his old stomping grounds.

“I was in the tower all day that Friday and never got to make a lap on track,” he said.  “I went down to run the practice for the Champions race and we were quickest.  Then, we finished fourth in the race which wasn’t anything crazy but I knew we were inching closer with the car.”

Hearn still had one more event on his radar before the season ended…the World Finals in Charlotte.  Excitement was brewing because he knew his team was getting a handle on what this new car needed.

“When Brian (Madsen) called me and asked me if I really wanted to go to Charlotte, I told him I was confident that we were really close,” he said.  “I feel like we’ve got something here.  I really do.”

He was right.

“It was really good,” he said.  “We were quickest in every hot lap session.  We were fast time in every time trial group.  We won both of our heat races and, if not for picking the wrong tires on the first night, I bet we could have easily gotten two top three finishes.  However, I’m super happy we got a win on the final night.”

That winning mount is the same piece Hearn is currently preparing for action in several events this season.  The plan is to get his Madsen Motorsports team in shape so that when DIRT Week rolls around, they’ll be at the top of their game and ready to contend for another title.

“Right now, our plan is to do probably two races a month,” he said.  “We’ll start at Lebanon Valley on July 2nd and maybe one race at Middletown, and then a couple each month.  We might do the Anniversary race at Middletown and maybe Mr. DIRT at the Valley.  I’m not sure we’ll do anything in September before we get ready for DIRT Week.”

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