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Speedway opens 53rd season

February 27, 2000|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Hearn, Eckert claim features; sights, sounds and fans return

From the rows of cars lined up out front to the dozens of trailers sitting on the infield, it was easy to see the boys were back in town.

And they were LOUD.

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The dust was flying, the seats were vibrating and several thousand racing fans got a full day's fill of auto racing as the Hagerstown Speedway opened shop for the 53rd year Sunday afternoon.

Brett Hearn pulled away from the rest of the field to win the first feature, the 35-lap Syracuse Qualifier in the modified division. Rick Eckert followed Heran's act with a win in the 35-lap Late Model feature, leading wire to wire.

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Both Hearn and Eckert took home $2,000 for their victories.

Hearn came from the middle of the pack in his No. 3 Budweiser vehicle to take the lead early in the modified feature and was never challenged. Keith Hoffman finished second.

Eckert grabbed the lead in the late model race right from the start and used the strength of several good restarts following five cautions to maintain a six to eight car-length lead on Gary Stuhler, who finished second.

Both young fans and those not-so-young made the trip along Rt. 40 West for the first event of the year.

Denny Lefevre, of Martinsburg, W.Va., has been coming to the races since the 1960's and was glad for the chance to get outdoors. He brought his two sons with him the the racetrack.

"They kind of like it," Lefevre said. "They have diecast cars and video games ... It's a little cheaper than the real thing."

Norman Crause, of Myersville, has followed the action at the speedway since 1970, and said the must-win element of racing is what appeals to him.

"It's not like baseball," Crause said. "If you don't place, you don't get paid."

Crause said he likes the ability to interact with the drivers and crews by going across the track to the pit area.

And as for the younguns? Taylor Nelson, also known as "Little Miss Hagerstown Speedway," fits that bill.

Taylor, 8, her mother, Stacy, and Taylor's sister were at the track along with a few friends. They spent some of the day up in the press box watching the action, with Taylor talking to anyone and everyone she could.

"She's quite the friendly one," Stacy Miller said.

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