PHOTO: J.R. Heffner celebrates his $17,500 victory in the Mr. DIRT Track U.S.A. 100 at Lebanon Valley Speedway on Thursday. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

WEST LEBANON, N.Y. — J.R. Heffner needed ten years to get his second victory at the annual “Mr. DIRT Track U.S.A.” event at Lebanon Valley Speedway, but just 12 months to get his third.

After an hour-long rain delay on Thursday, the Stephenstown, N.Y., driver dominated the 100-lap Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modified event. Heffner led every lap for his second win in a row in the race and third since 2000 to collect a $17,500 payday.

Heffner’s No. 74 A. Colarusso & Son Construction/Advance Auto Parts Bicknell started from the pole position and showed early that it was the dominant piece in the 32-car field. Heffner held the lead over fellow front-row starter Billy Decker and Andy Bachetti as he began lapping the tail of the field just 11 circuits into the race.

As Heffner pulled away, Decker and Bachetti battled wheel-to-wheel for the second spot before the race’s first caution flag on lap 22. Bachetti bobbled on lap 23 and Decker’s engine expired on lap 29, allowing defending Super DIRTcar Series champion Matt Sheppard to move into the runner-up spot.

Sheppard ran there for more than 30 laps before Bachetti crept back in with Brett Hearn in tow. Bachetti, of Sheffield, Mass., moved around Sheppard for second place lap 64, then waged an entertaining duel with Hearn. The race’s fourth and final restart came on lap 87, and Sussex, N.J., veteran Hearn got past Bachetti one lap later to seal the runner-up position.

Bachetti held on for third place, followed by Sheppard, Donnie Corellis, Tim McCreadie, and Wayne Jelley. Jimmy Phelps, Mark Flach, Jr., and Kyle Sheldon completed the unofficial top ten.

Heffner, despite handily pulling away from the field after each of the race’s four restarts, said he was never able to relax. “I was nervous about every restart,” Heffner admitted. “We just capitalized off a front row starting spot. This Bicknell chassis and Bedell horsepower just took off and never looked back.”

Hearn felt the restarts played to his advantage, while Bachetti, who had a brake problem, preferred the green-flag runs.

“They seemed like they helped me tonight. I was able to get a couple spots here and there right after the yellow,” Hearn said.

“I was better in the long run and getting into a rhythm,” Bachetti said. “Hearn passed me on a restart.”

All three agreed that the track conditions, which were affected dramatically by the earlier rain, played a key role in the race.

“We started out in the rain, which was pretty interesting. I said, ‘If I can hold onto these first few laps, we should be able to level this thing out a little bit,’” Heffner said.

“[The car] wasn’t really handling as good as it usually does because the track wasn’t normal at the beginning of the race,” Hearn said. “We’ve got probably 40 pounds of dirt on the front of the car and it just throws the balance off just that little bit and it kind of messes us up.”

“J.R. was good, he had clean air [ahead of him],” Bachetti said. “It was definitely about track position tonight, no doubt.”

Heffner’s third Mr. DIRT Track USA victory brings him to third place on the event’s all-time win list since 1975. Hearn leads the category with a whopping nine wins, while Kenny Tremont, Jr. — who dropped out on lap 16 — has four. Heffner could tie Tremont’s mark with a win in 2012 and would draw even with Hearn as the only drivers to take three consecutive wins in the race.

“We’ve just got to try to get another one,” Heffner grinned.

Super DIRTcar Series — Lebanon Valley Speedway, West Lebanon, N.Y.
Thursday, September 1, 2011


1. J.R. Heffner, Stephenstown, N.Y.
2. Brett Hearn, Sussex, N.J.
3. Andy Bachetti, Sheffield, Mass.
4. Matt Sheppard, Waterloo, N.Y.
5. Donnie Corellis, East Greenbush, N.Y.
6. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.
7. Wayne Jelley, Pownal, Vt.
8. Jimmy Phelps, Baldwinsville, N.Y.
9. Mark Flach, Jr., Selkirk, N.Y.
10. Kyle Sheldon, Sherman, Conn.
11. Kolby Schroeder, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
12. Gary Tomkins, Clifton Springs, N.Y.
13. Peter Britten, Brisbane, Australia
14. Justin Haers, Phelps, N.Y.
15. Danny Johnson, Rochester, N.Y.
16. Rich Scagliotta, Bound Brook, N.J.
17. Tim Currier, Auburn, N.Y.
18. Steve Hough, East Greenbush, N.Y.
19. Bobby Varin, Sharon Springs, N.Y.
20. Chris Whitehead, Vernon, N.Y.
21. Rob Bellinger, Dexter, N.Y.
22. Neil Stratton, Bennington, Vt.
23. Larry Wight, Phoenix, N.Y.
24. Eddie Marshall, Pound Ridge, N.Y.
25. Brian Berger, Castleton, N.Y.
26. Ronnie Johnson, Duanesburg, N.Y.
27. Rob Pitcher, Chatham, N.Y.
28. Billy Decker, Unadilla, N.Y.
29. Stewart Friesen, Niagra-on-the-Lake, Ont.
30. Tommy Sears, Clay, N.Y.
31. Kenny Tremont, Jr., West Sand Lake, N.Y.
32. Jimmy Horton, Folsom, N.J.