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Hearn lights up Octoberfest

November 13, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A large plume of smoke wafted over Hagerstown Speedway prior to the start of Sunday’s Octoberfest 350 festivities.

A gas-powered generator reportedly caught fire in the infield, but by the end of the day, it was Brett Hearn who was sizzling.

Hearn of Sussex, N.J., dominated both the Big Block and Small Block Modified 50-lap features, lapping more than half the field in both, to claim his ninth and 10th career Octoberfest wins, the most in track history.

“It’s always nice to win and it’s always nice to have a day like today,” said Hearn, one of the biggest names in East Coast modified racing. “It was spectacular.”

With more than 800 victories to his credit, Hearn continues to add to an illustrious career. The Big Block win makes him the first driver to win the same division in four straight years, and he became the first driver to win both modified features in the same event since Matt Sheppard did it in 2004.

Hearn dedicated his wins to his car owner, whose mother passed away Sunday.

“This is for her, for him and the family,” he said. “It’s a good day for us.”

Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., scored the win in the 50-lap Late Model feature while Daryn Pittman of Owasso, Okla., was victorious in the 410 Springs 30-lapper to cap the day.

Due to the event’s postponement two weeks ago due to snow and lower turnout numbers, speedway officials originally cut the purse and laps for all races, but a generous donation from Ernie Davis, a track sponsor and longtime car owner, returned the purses to the original $10,000-to-win levels for the Big Blocks, Late Models and 410 Sprints. Hearn won $5,000 for his Small Block victory.

Hearn blasted from his outside pole position in the Small Block race, grabbing the lead from pole-sitter Larry Wight, and led all 50 caution-free laps to kick off the day’s feature card. Wight ran a very distant second, followed by Rick Laubach, Sheppard, who overcame his 21st-starting spot, and J.R. Heffman to round out the top five.

Ronnie DeHaven Jr. took the early lead in the Late Model feature, but drifted up the track coming out of Turn 4 on the ninth circuit, allowing Richards to cruise by and run away with his first Octoberfest win aboard his Davis-owned mount.

“It’s cool to find one here,” Richards said. “I just really got to thank Ernie (Davis) for letting me drive his car and for putting up the rest of the purse money for all the classes. It shows how much he loves the races and supports the fans and the track.”

DeHaven kept it together for second place with Jamie Lathroum, Booper Bare, who started 20th, and Dylan Yoder finishing third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

Sheppard led the first eight laps of the Big Block event before Hearn used the low line to take the lead. From there, he made it look easy, utilizing just about every line on the track as he picked through lapped traffic, to post the win by almost 11 seconds.

“When you’re racing Matt Sheppard, you don’t really know what to expect. He’s as tough as they come,” Hearn said. “If he gets out front first, he’s going to be a tough pass. I saw him starting to get loose off the corners and we were just getting better and better. I just had to get to the front.”

Ryan Godown made a nice last-lap pass of Sheppard to claim second. Jamie Mills and Jimmy Horton were fourth and fifth.

In the final race of the day, Pittman led flag-to-flag and held off the late charges of runner-up Fred Rahmer to earn the 410 Sprint win and cap a day of impressive showings by several drivers.

“I was just glad we were able to make the right moves,” said Pittman. “With about four or five to go there, I felt like I about gave it away and I was able to get around some of the lapped cars that were running side-by-side. (It was) just a great team effort and a great way to finish our year.”

Mark Smith, Danny Dietrich and last year’s winner, Cody Darrah, completed the top five.

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