ESS: Merrittville: Race summary

Mike Woodring excites local fans with thrilling ESS victory at Merrittville. THOROLD, ONT. -- An unusual twist to the 20 lap VSM Abrasives Canadian Invasion Tour event made it an exciting one for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) at the...

Mike Woodring excites local fans with thrilling ESS victory at Merrittville.

THOROLD, ONT. -- An unusual twist to the 20 lap VSM Abrasives Canadian Invasion Tour event made it an exciting one for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) at the Merrittville Speedway on Saturday night. Eden, N.Y.'s Mike Woodring started near the front for the feature event and he took full advantage by passing Ryan Coniam on lap 13 to go on to record win #53 in his ESS career.

The special nightly "pill draw" saw a complete inversion of the top 15 cars in ESS. With that twist, Ryan Coniam, Lance Yonge and Mike Woodring started in the first three spots, all drivers have won so far in 2002 and are considered title contenders. What it set up was a terrific dual between the top drivers that thrilled the huge crowd on hand at the track that borders the Niagara Frontier.

At the drop of Barry Davidson's green flag, Coniam got the jump with Woodring's Putnam County Speedway Maxim getting by Yonge to take over the runner-up slot. Coniam and Woodring are friends off the race track and now the became fierce competitors on as they pulled away from the field to square off with each other for the first half of the 20 lap A-Main.

"Ryan was fast, he was real fast on the cushion. I think I needed lapped traffic to get by him." said Woodring. His wish came true just after the crossed flags as Coniam closed in on the slower cars and Woodring was ready to make his move. On lap 12, Coniam had to "check up" on a sprinter just in front and Woodring slipped by. But, lap 12 will be known as the lap of lead changes. Woodring got by going into turn one, Coniam got the lead back coming off turn two and the through three and four Woodring made his move again to regain the lead and keep the large Canadian crowd on the edge of their seats. While the front two were showcasing their dog fight, Yonge was too far behind waiting for a mistake.

"I saw Ryan had to get out of the throttle and I needed to make my move." said the seven-time ESS champion on his pass. "I figured he was good on the top only and when we got to lapped traffic that it would turn to my advantage. I knew he wouldn't give up and a few laps later I saw him right beside me, this was a good race to be in."

The 22 year old Coniam gave it a solid "college try" to get Woodring back but the closing stages fell to the experience of the driver behind the wheel of the familiar black #19. The final stages saw all the front runners threading their way through slower cars making for some wild moves. Woodring did open up a slight advantage until lap 18 when he almost lost control in the middle of turns three and four. "I had the car totally crossed up!!" exclaimed Woodring on the incident that almost cost him the race. "I was in the cushion, my arms were completely crossed on the wheel. I just thought I lost the whole deal right there." But, a quick save was made and it produced his second win of the ESS Tour 2002.

"The track was fast tonight with a good cushion, I like these types of tracks. Plus I'm starting to get my thumb back into shape which helps also." Woodring has been running the entire 2002 racing campaign with a brace on his left hand to support a thumb injury. While never to use that as an excuse it has hindered some of his driving, especially on rough tracks. "It's going to be a close point race this season and I'm glad the therapy is helping the injury. Lance (Yonge) and Ryan (Coniam) have been real fast all year and I need to be as close to 100% to get the title. Tonight we had the luck of starting up front but so did they. I won but I didn't gain many points, it's going to be a fun year to the end."

Woodring had a cushion at the checkers to take home first place monies showing why he's the driver to beat in ESS for nearly a decade. While the Woodring/Coniam battle stole most of the headlines, the late race charge by Doug Emery to come from his fifteenth place starting spot to take second at the finish was the other topic to take note. With five laps to go, Emery was in a solid fifth place but his extreme low line was key for him to make the late passes. The last position change came on the final corner of the final lap as he out dragged Coniam down to the line for second. Coniam was third followed by Yonge and Bobby Podolak with a fine run. Rounding out the top ten were Alain Bergeron, Bubby Kerrick, Rick Wilson, Steve Dow and Erin Crocker.

The 20 lap A-Main was stopped just once on the second lap when Kyle Drum flipped on the front stretch. His US Air Force sprinter was damaged but the young 17 year old walked away.

Taking the Brodix Cylinder Heads heat events were Bergeron, Ray Preston and Brian Dumigan. Preston won the Bicknell Racing Products/Walt's Hobby Dash his second dash win in as many nights with Mike Stelter winning the KSE Racing Products B-Main.

ESS NOTES: A total of 29 sprinters filled the pits for the race that fell to mother nature two weeks prior--Former Merrittville sportsman regular and now sprint car rookie Billy Krull made his first ever ESS start and looked good qualifying for the A-Main--After four events in a row in Canada, the ESS Tour 2002 will come close to home with three events in Central NY to celebrate the 4th of July weekend. Friday it's off to the Black Rock Speedway followed by visits to Canandaigua on Saturday and then Cayuga County on Sunday.

-ess-

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Series Sprint
Drivers Erin Crocker