MONTROSE, N.Y. -- As the final point show was held on August 31st for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS), teenage, second generation chauffeur Justin Barger was right on the heals of sprint car veteran Mike Lutz for the 2003 championship. Barger and...
MONTROSE, N.Y. -- As the final point show was held on August 31st for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS), teenage, second generation chauffeur Justin Barger was right on the heals of sprint car veteran Mike Lutz for the 2003 championship. Barger and his Cortlandt Auto Body backed Maxim powered through the field to pick up the A-Main victory at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Lutz though finished in fourth holding the point lead by a mere six markers.
While there was a small look of disappointment, the 2003 season for Justin Barger Motorsports surpassed all expectations on the ESS tour which is celebrating its 20th anniversary season. Not only did the Montrose, N.Y. star pick up his first career ESS victory on July 6th at the same Vernon, N.Y. half-mile but incredible consistency saw the entire team in one of the closest championship point battles in ESS history. Only one time did the colorful #32 not finish an ESS feature event and that came in the opening event at the Black Rock Speedway on April 12th.
"It was just a great season for me and my family. We did have a goal of trying to win the ESS title but we weren't sure if we could be as close as we were since we really haven't done the entire tour yet." Said Barger on his 2003 plans. "We dropped out in the first race but you never give up and as the season went on we got faster and more consistent."
Two Maxim's powered by RPM Engine Development out of Tempe, AZ. was the stable of equipment used in what turned to be a headline making season. But, it was a switch to the new sprinter back in May at Utica-Rome that turned the year into a whirlwind of success.
"We decided to switch to the new sprint and did that car ever work. What we learned on that car we put it to the older one and soon we had two really good cars." Noted Barger on the equipment that is prepared by his father Chris, a former big block modified star. "With the cars running well I was able to concentrate more on my driving and getting better at driving. We started to finish every race in the front and soon we were right there in the point fight."
In mid-August, Barger moved passed Lutz to take the point lead which had all in ESS standing up and taking notice. Lutz did regain his lead back but it all came down to the final race on the final night in August. "We did what we had to do, we came through the field and won the race." Barger stated. "Mike (Lutz) did what he had to do also and he just got us. But, we tried, we gave it our all."
Barger followed the successful point campaign with a solid seventh place finish at the annual Bully Hill Vineyards Fall Sprint Nationals back on Sept. 6th being the second highest finishing ESS driver in the 35 lap feature event. One more race remains on the ESS schedule which is the annual Empire Super Sprints/United Racing Club challenge event on October 11th at the Rolling Wheels Raceway as a part of Super DIRT Week. The 25 lap A-Main pays $3,000 to win and Barger will be one of the favorites.
The future looks bright for the young talent and down the road he hopes to maybe get some asphalt experience to move up the ranks in the world of auto racing. "We ran a midget for the Seymour family a few times with NEMA and we were really fast. We just didn't get the right breaks but we could have won a show there also." Barger continued. "I think I'll get some test sessions with a Silver Crown car and we will go from there."
For now though, Barger will be honored at the annual ESS awards banquet which will be held on November 15th at the Turning Stone Casino Resort where he will be honored in recognition for a fine effort in 2003.