LITTLE VALLEY, N.Y. -- It wasn't just a little playful four car get together during the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) A-Main at the Little Valley Speedway Friday night. It was a classic on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller where 15th place starting Mike...
LITTLE VALLEY, N.Y. -- It wasn't just a little playful four car get together during the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) A-Main at the Little Valley Speedway Friday night. It was a classic on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller where 15th place starting Mike Woodring took the lead from Mike Lutz on lap 23 of the 25 A-Main for his second victory on the 20th Anniversary Tour.
What made this version an instant ESS classic was an incredible four sprint car battle for the lead position that filled the final five laps which had the big crowd in awe until the checkered flag flew to announce the conclusion. Along with Woodring, the eight-time ESS champ and Lutz, a four-time winner this season, was Dan Kaszubinski, who owns 19 career ESS victories and this years Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year in 22 year female sensation Erin Crocker.
All four were under a blanket among lapped traffic as well on a very fast Little Valley half-mile. Each driver had his or her chance to take over the lead for a possible victory but it was the master of the Valley himself, Mike Woodring that took over on the last lap. After surviving a last lap restart the driver of the Upstate Kenworth sponsored Maxim picked up his 59th ESS victory.
"That was a fun race from my view, actually that was real fun!" exclaimed Woodring on the wild 25 lap affair. "When I finally broke free from the traffic I knew I had a good distance to make up to catch Mike (Lutz) and Dan (Kaszubinski). This might be the hardest I ever drove here. The track was good and there was plenty of room to make passes, that's what I needed tonight."
Lutz's teammate Jeff VanDusen lead the first seven laps until a red flag was displayed for a tipped over Tim Zimbardi. Under the red VanDusen noticed a loose water hose and took his sprinter to the pits. Repairs were made but the lead was lost. Lutz was now the leader and the Mercer, Pa. star was hoping to finally break out of a month long slump that has seen him lose his ESS point lead. Behind him was Kaszubinski and shortly after the green light shined, the two pulled away from the field.
Woodring blasted into 4th on lap nine and then third on lap 10...the chase was on. Crocker busted through on lap 12 to pull into fifth and then fourth on lap 14, she began her chase as well. The feature event remained under the green lights and soon slower cars were going to be a key in what was one exciting conclusion. Soon Woodring and Crocker closed in and from lap 20 to the finish all four cars were seen changing lanes, dodging and passing lapped traffic while having a goal to collect the win.
"I tried to use the lapped cars to pass him (Lutz) but just as I think I had a run it seemed like my lane would get taken away." Said Woodring on the final five laps. "I was trying everything and anything and while I was doing that I could hear and see Dan and then they told me Erin was right there as well. It was chaos."
The slower car of Dick Spadaro was right in front of the leaders in turns three and four, Lutz took the high road around while Woodring saw just a little lane down low and he went for it. "Dick moved up just enough for me to get under. Then I got a great shot off of four to pass both of them and get the lead." said Woodring.
Another red flag came out on lap 24, for VanDusen who lost his breaks to hit the turn three wall and flip over once. The restart was all Woodring and he brought his four race old Maxim to the victory. For Lutz, it was a disappointment to take second but a good finish did come his way. "My car got way to loose in the second half. I was doing all I could to keep Dan and Mike behind me, I mean I was keeping this car as wide as I could." noted Lutz. "We switched to the new Eagle, I needed the new car to see if I can get going again and see if I can get the points lead back and hopefully a championship. I made a little ground tonight but it's going to be a real important three race weekend next weekend."
Woodring took the victory over Lutz, Kaszubinski and Crocker, who barely nipped a fast closing Justin Barger on the final lap. Barger's top five was enough for him to keep his ESS point lead. Making up the next five were the Mike's Drive-In #36 of Mike Stelter, John Karklin Jr., Lance Yonge, Bob Podolak and Don Sharp Jr.
Along with the two reds, a caution on lap six for Alain Bergeron and Randy Years who spun in turn three. In the Zimbardi incident, Pup Nystrom, Brad Knab and son Jared were also involved. Only Knab was able to return.
Taking the Engler Machine and Tool heat events were Karklin Jr., VanDusen and Lutz with the MRE Productions/Walt's Hobby Dash won by Woodring.
ESS NOTES: - A total of 24 sprinters made the tow to the Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds....Making his first ESS start of 2003 was Nystrom...With one final full point weekend left, the top five in points is still the closest in ESS history. For Barger, Lutz, Kaszubinski, Karklin Jr. and Yonge it's going to be an exciting and stressful three-race stint....Next weekend will see the ESS 20th Anniversary tour making stops to Autodrome Granby and Drummond on Friday and Saturday and then it's down to the Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday.
Heat 1 -- John Karklin Jr., Mike Woodring, Don Sharp Jr., Mike Stelter, Nick Fratto, Jared Zimbardi, Ray Preston, Bubby Kerrick.
Heat 2 -- Jeff VanDusen, Alain Bergeron, Lance Yonge, Justin Barger, George Ely, Tim Kelly, Tim Zimbardi, Dick Spadaro.
Heat 3 -- Mike Lutz, Dan Kaszubinski, Erin Crocker, Randy Years, Bob Podolak, Pup Nystrom, Brad Knab, Rob Dietrick.
MRE Productions/Walt's Hobby Dash -- Woodring $100.
A-MAIN -- MIKE WOODRING, Lutz, Kaszubinski, Crocker, Barger, Stelter, Karklin Jr., Yonge, Podolak, Sharp Jr., Preston, Bergeron, Fratto, Kelly, Dietrick, Years, Knab, Spadaro, VanDusen, Kerrick, Nystrom, J. Zimbardi, T. Zimbadri, Ely.
Lap Leaders -- VanDusen 1-7, Lutz 8-22, Woodring 23-25.
Walt's Hobby Hard Charger -- Woodring (14 pos.) $50.
Brodix Cylinder Heads Halfway -- Lutz $50.
Winner's Bonuses -- Car-Mate Trailers $50, Sway-A-Way $100, Hank's Performance Warehouse $50, Real Racing Wheels $50, Total Seal $50, American Racer Tires $50, Hazlitt Vineyards $40, Red's Speed Shop $25, Behrent's Performance Warehouse/Mechanix Wear $20, MRE Productions $10.
Weld Racing Hard Luck -- VanDusen $75.
ATL Fuel Cells -- Lutz $100.
Leaf Racewear -- Kaszubinski $75.
Penske Shocks -- Barger $200.
Design 500 -- Dietrick $100, Barger $50.
Saldana Racing Products -- Sharp Jr. $50.
Zemco Headers -- Barger $50.
Joe Hunt Magnetos -- Kerrick $50.
Bailey Racing Products -- Sharp Jr. $35.
Hazlitt Vineyards -- Lutz $20, Kaszubinski $10, Stelter $10.
Engler Machine and Tool -- Karklin Jr., VanDusen, Lutz $25.
HRP -- Fratto $25.
DMI -- Ely $25.
Empire Super Sprints Points:
1. Justin Barger 1551
2. Mike Lutz 1524
3. Dan Kaszubinski 1500
4. John Karklin Jr. 1469
5. Lance Yonge 1454
6. Alain Bergeron 1301
7. Bubby Kerrick 1260
8. Don Sharp Jr. 1253
9. Mike Stelter 1174
10. Rob Dietrick 1098