HORSEHEADS, N.Y. — Column by Race Chaser Online New York Dirt Correspondents Steven Ovens, Clint Miller & Brad Ovens with guest columnist Paul Harkenrider — Jeremiah Fish photo —
In this week’s Turn 5 Roundtable, we welcome Patriot Sprint Tour Public Relations Director and Series Announcer Paul Harkenrider as a guest contributor to the discussion. Paul comes off several years as the voice of Woodhull Raceway and has some opinions about the story makers of the dirt circuit this week.
Topic 1- What are your thoughts on Brett Hearn refusing tech at the Hard Clay Open this past weekend?
CLINT MILLER: I think what Brett Hearn did at the Hard Clay open was a travesty. Everyone knew Meier brought an experimental piece to Eastern States. The track let him run it. You got beat. Too bad. Lick your wounds and go. But no, you need to have all the spotlight on Brett Hearn. Prima donna. Too bad u were illegal. Kudos though for giving Tommy Meier another $5,000 and the keys…
BRAD OVENS: I feel like Brett Hearn’s actions at the Hard Clay Open run deeper than anyone can know or judge him for. One view, you can look at it from the grandstands side and the popular reaction was joy as he was caught “cheating”. In those same grandstands, Hearn fans felt betrayed that they came all that way to root their favorite driver on and he refused tech inspection, therefore forfeiting his victory.
Some felt joyous to see the Madsen Big Block sitting in his pit stall stripped of another victory, while other have felt upset that “their driver” would partake in such activities. What I think everyone isn’t looking at is the view of the driver. Brett has made it quite clear that he felt that he was cheated out of a $30,000 opportunity at last season’s Eastern States Weekend. Long story short, a driver was allowed to run a “non-conforming engine” per the races rulebook. This driver was however given permission to run the above-mentioned motor.
Now, I’m not going to say what Hearn did was the best way to protest that situation, but I’m not going to say “what a stupid thing to do”. I have a different look at that I believe by Brett taking the black eye and social media “smearing”, he has opened eyes to a potential far worse problem of a racing facility catering to those they wish to see succeed. Now this is all potential hearsay, but rumors have emerged that certain drivers have flown under the radar in specific areas at this facility. I’m going to take a Clint Miller limb and go out there to say I believe that this incident could very well open a new can of worms. One vastly smellier than a driver simply refusing tech and forfeiting $5,000.
STEVEN OVENS: In the words of Charles Barkley, it’s “turrible”. Even four days later I still can’t figure out what point Brett and his motor owner was trying to prove? If you wanted to make a point, go out and spank the field with a 355c.i. engine (which you did), take their money and laugh your tail off all the way to the bank. You’re upset that you got “screwed” out of $30,000…well now you’ve screwed yourself out of $5,000 more from what I can tell.
PAUL HARKENRIDER: There needs to be some type of a pre-race tech at these bigger series shows. We have seen countless times over the past few years that we watch a guy win a race in awesome fashion, only to be disqualified. Brett Hearn or not, a race team lost over 5 grand this weekend. More than half of the teams went home this weekend not making the show, it was unfortunate for some of those guys that were very close not making it in because someone who did it was ‘possibly’ illegal. No way all those 25 or so race teams that didn’t make the show were all illegal or would refuse tech.
Topic 2- Jared Zimbardi has won 4 out of the last 10 360 Sprint Car shows at Outlaw Speedway. Does he make it 5 for 11 at the ESS opener on April 22nd?
CLINT: I see no reason why “The Juice” gets beat. He has the ‘Fast Four-Tenths-Mile’ figured out and great equipment to boot!
BRAD: Yes, Jared Zimbardi continues his dominance at Outlaw Speedway. It was shown last year that in the perfect conditions he isn’t unbeatable, nonetheless, still a superb competitor. With the rain we had last season the night of the Patriot show, it opened up more of the race track then we’ve seen run in many years at that facility. Kyle Drum asserted his dominance and appeared like he was going to be the man on top of the box that night, but fell victim to Zimbardi’s attack and conquer quest. Jared Zimbardi returns to Outlaw Speedway to make it 5-for-11 in 2016.
STEVEN: Malcolm Lane. Mike Woodring. Trevor Lewis. George Suprick. Chuck Hebing. Jared Zimbardi. “The Juice” has found himself in some pretty prestigious company as Outlaw Speedway dominators. Zimbardi is on a hell of a roll at the Dundee, NY facility and I think not only does he make it 5-for-11, I say he takes the Patriot Sprint Tour show as well on Friday May 6th to make it a .500 batting average.
PAUL: The 360 Sprint Car competition in New York State is probably the best its ever been heading into 2016. I would definitely take Zimbardi as the favorite to win based on his recent outings at the Dundee Oval but there have been so many changes made to the track such as clay being added, that it definitely brings new opportunities for new drivers that are making the trip on April 22nd.
Topic 3- Tony Stewart has won a sprint car feature more recently than Chuck Hebing at Outlaw Speedway (Stewart 8/10/2012, Hebing 7/8/2011). Can “The Cobra” find the Outlaw magic again in 2016 with multiple ESS and PST dates on the schedule?
CLINT: I think Hebing is too good to stay shut out for long. He’s had mild success at the speedway. One night this year, things will be A-Ok.
BRAD: This one is quite simple for me. In order to break a winless streak in racing, you have to BE THERE in the race to break it! I have heard rumors that the Cobra avoided Black Rock due to the nature of the rocks in the old racing surface.
This is very true, concerning the rocks. I can certainly understand a guy not wanting to run a facility in an open cockpit car with some of the old “boulders” I’ve helped pick (or hide) in the old racing surface. Now with that being said, with the fresh clay being back down on the racing surface at Outlaw Speedway if we should see the return of the Cobra, you have to remember this. You NEVER turn your back to a Cobra- you’ll get bit every time!
STEVEN: I don’t even need three sentences for this one. “The Cobra” will not only WIN a race at Outlaw Speedway in 2016, he will DOMinate the race enroute to victory lane.
PAUL: If this was any other driver, I would probably go with a no but this is Chuck Hebing, remember. The winningest Patriot Sprint Tour driver of all time with multiple series championships. He will be a favorite anywhere he plans on going to this year. It is not like he has never won there before. So yes, Chuck Hebing will make it back into victory lane at Outlaw Speedway.
Topic 4- Race of Champions Dirt Modifieds opens at Canandaigua on April 16th. Take a stab at the “new RoC’s” first winner?
CLINT: RoCs first winner at Canandaigua will be Matt Sheppard, starting 2016 off at the ‘Land of Legends’ like every year before. But don’t look over your shoulder Matt, Gary Tomkins will be trying to get in the door!
BRAD: The “New” RoC’s first winner will be a man familiar with the CMP podium, ‘Super Matt’ Sheppard. Sheppard has the combination to the lock that they call the ‘Land of Legends.’ A combination that very few have ever mastered, vaulting them to legendary status. It is nothing short of legendary what Matt Sheppard has accomplished behind the wheel of a big block modified, surely asserting himself to a future Hall of Fame birth.
STEVEN: Write this name down- Billy freaking Dunn. Dunn spoke to great interest in racing the Race of Champions tour and a trip to Canandaigua is the perfect place for Dunn to kick that all off. The Watertown, NY driver is well-experienced at Canandaigua, nearly locking up a championship a couple seasons ago. Gary Tomkins is always a great choice at CMP too, but my fear is that Mother Nature won’t dry the CMP pit area in time to race a week from Saturday.
PAUL: Well, until he stops winning track championships at the “Land of Legends,” I think it is very hard not to pick Matt Sheppard. However, this is pending on attendance, but if Larry Wight runs like he did the last time he was at CMP when the Super DIRTcar series was there losing to Sheppard by a tire length. I will take Larry Wight not only to win at Canandaigua, but to take the next step in his modified career. He has a championship caliber crew chief in Scott Jeffery now and had so many great runs in 2015.
Topic 5- Woodhull Raceway opens up on April 16th for their 52nd consecutive season of racing. Take a stab at the first Crate Sportsman winner of 2016?
CLINT: My first Crate Sportsman winner at the bullring…I’m gonna go with Chris Daugherty. He seems more than poised to have another awesome year. But watch out for Steve Hartman Jr., who seems more than willing to carry on a long standing family tradition at Woodhull Raceway.
BRAD: What the heck, just to keep up with my potentially controversial outlook, Brett “The Jett” Hearn.
STEVEN: I’ve got two names in mind here and I say two because I’m not 100% sure on what Stacy Jackson’s plans are for 2016. I’m not sure if he is racing Crate Sportsman or Modifieds. If it’s Crate Sportsman, I’m taking him for Opening Night at Woodhull. His family is struggling right now with the loss of their father Steve and what a story it would be if he came out and gave the patriarch of the Last Lap Express a ride to the first checkered flag of 2016.
In the event that Stacy is sticking to Modifieds in 2016, I’m going with fellow Teo driver Brandon Martin. He has a razor sharp-looking car and it is going to be bad fast too!
PAUL: Being an announcer at Woodhull Raceway for three years, I learned pretty quickly that the Crate Sportsman division is really competitive. But if I had to pick one driver, I will go with Brandon Butler. The guy has been getting better and better each year since he has started. He also ended last year on such a high note, winning a GRIT show on Bull Ring Challenge Weekend. I think a lot of people forgot this guy only came up eight points short of winning a track championship to Chris Daugherty a season ago.
The opinions expressed are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, the Patriot Sprint Tour, Outlaw Speedway, Woodhull Raceway, their sponsors or other contributors.
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