ESS: Banquet summary

Successful Empire Super Sprint Banquet Complete with a Canadian Flare. LIVERPOOL, N.Y. -- Nearly 200 guests jammed the main banquet room at the Comfort Inn in Liverpool, N.Y. to celebrate the final checkered flag of the 2006 nativepoker.com...

Successful Empire Super Sprint Banquet Complete with a Canadian Flare.

LIVERPOOL, N.Y. -- Nearly 200 guests jammed the main banquet room at the Comfort Inn in Liverpool, N.Y. to celebrate the final checkered flag of the 2006 nativepoker.com Tour for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS). The evening was full of celebration in two languages as Quebec's Alain Bergeron collected the cash, awards and hardware for his first ever ESS title. In all, over $60,000 with over $30,000 in cash was handed out to 26 different drivers making for big close to the 24th season for the 360 sprint car sanctioning body.

Not only did Bergeron's name get called up for several awards, fellow Quebec mate and first time runner Steve Poirier also made headlines to make it a big night for all of Canada. "When ESS started 24 years ago, it was to bring sprint cars to New York State." mentioned ESS President Chuck Miller. "As the years gone by, many tracks north of the border booked ESS and now there is a tremendous amount of talent that is behind the wheel that comes from Canada. It was a big night of celebration for ESS but also for Canada--especially Quebec!"

It was a very emotional night for the St. Pie, Quebec driver who completed his seventh year in ESS competition. On the strength of his incredible 19 top ten finishes in 24 point events, Bergeron outdistanced a hard charging Jeff VanDusen to become the first ever Canadian ESS champion. Bergeron took home $4,000 in cash for his title but the money didn't stop there as he also won $500 from being the Spectro Oils Canadian Invasion Champion and also $500 for being named the Don Ott Racing Engines Most Improved Driver. Bergeron had difficulty in holding back the tears during the ceremony as he was a proud champion.

The thank you speeches in French didn't stop there as Poirier was also called to center podium several times during the night. A big part of an incredible 2006 rookie crop, the driver from St. Mathieu de Beloeil, Quebec took home the Outstanding New Comer honors, an award given to rookies that come in ESS with previous experience in either sprints or other forms of racing, he collected $500 in cash as well. Clinching the Walt's Hobby Dash Series Championship netted him $700 in cash making for a big night. He beat Lance Yonge and Justin Barger by one point in the dash series, both drivers got $150 for their runner-up finish.

With a large contingent of rookies for 2006 as well as other years, ESS will give out two awards during the annual banquet. Joining the New Comer Award will be the Jereco Competition Engines Rookie of the Year Award set aside for a driver that comes in with little or no motorsports experience and this year it was keeping with the Quebec theme as 16 year old Michael Parent from Granby, Quebec took the $500 prize. A protege and good friend of the new ESS champion, Parent was first greeted by Bergeron with a big hug.

Team Bergeron wasn't done as Hugo St. Germain was named ESS mechanic of the year, an award voted on by his peers. Germain has been with Bergeron not only the entire seven years in ESS but also with him during his mini-sprint days.

Teammates Russ Bennett and Billy White took home $500 cash from Brodix Cylinder Heads as they received the hard luck award for 2006. Doug Norrie collected $300 cash for his Gater News Lap Leader title.

Two annual special awards that highlight the evening saw long time ESS faithful Doug Emery receive the John Zentner Memorial Award. Emery has been with ESS for nearly two decades and the award was not only well deserved but well received by the big crowd. The Malcolm Lane Award of Sprint Car Excellence was given to Michael "Mickey" Ellis, ESS' never tiring videographer. The man that is behind the camera had to step in front this time while receiving a standing ovation.

Joining Poirier was Jessica Zemken, Chuck Hebing, Billy White and Jason Barney as they accepted special awards for their first ever ESS A-Main triumphs. Special awards for all A-Main winners and perfect attendance was also given out.

Sponsors were a big part of the banquet as well with Poirier's awards continuing as he received the set of ASCS Heads from Brodix and a set of headers from Schoenfeld. The Simpson Racing Helmet from Simpson and the Simpson Racing Shoes from Area Auto Racing News package went to Jessica Zemken. The 20 year old female sensation also brought back a top and front wing package from FourWide Motorsports and Wings Unlimited. A carbon fiber filter assembly from Randy's Racing Filters went to Dan Kaszubinski. Matt Norrie and Bobby Podolak took home $300 from Leaf Racewear with Kaszubinski and White also getting headers from Schoenfeld. A set of Zemco headers went to Doug Norrie with front axles from M&W Aluminum Products going to Emery and Luke Eriksen. A set of 500 autograph cards from Big Guy Fortier went to Justin Barger with a pair of racing shoes from Finish Line and Babe Design given to Nick Fratto.

Along with nativepoker.com , Hoosier Racing Tires, National Parts Peddler Newspaper, Geneva Curbing, Lane's Yamaha and Car Mate Trailers helped out in the overall point fund. Other sponsors that provided awards were Hepfner Racing Products, J&J Auto Racing, Total Seal, Maxim Racing, Racing Optics, DMI, Design 500, KSE Racing Products, Sander Engineering, Frankland Auto Racing, Behrent's Performance Warehouse/Mechanix Ware, Hank's Performance Products, DSR Fuel Systems, Kreitz Oval Track Parts, Winters Performance Products, Rod End Supply, Ultra-Shield, Motorsports Safety Systems, La Sharp Services, Joe Hunt Magnetos, Earl's Indy, BR Motorsports, Saldana Racing Products, Penske Shocks, The Brake Man, ATL Fuel Cells, MRE Productions and Labatt Blue Beer.

Former Central New York Mini Sprint flagger Pat Lapage provided the night entertainment which lasted nearly to the sun came up.

The annual rules meeting that preceded the banquet found some small changes coming for 2007. Cars that are two or more laps down and in the pits will not be able to re-enter the speedway surface, no additives of any kind will be allowed in fuel and penalty of a two year suspension and $1000 fines for both driver and owner has been put in place with the final change is that side panels on top wings must be square and no turn out allowed. An exciting preliminary schedule for 2007 was announced with ESS returning to Woodhull and Merrittville along with a possible visit to the New York State Fairgrounds to run the famed "Moody Mile". More scheduling announcements will be coming in next few weeks.

Even though it's called the Empire Super Sprints, Canada be proud! The night of November 4th was your night. For the latest information during the winter months, please log on to www.empiresupersprints.com where the nativepoker.com Tour gets ready for it's 25th season.

-credit: ess

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Series Sprint
Drivers Nick Fratt , Justin Barger