ESS: Team VanDusen pleased with 2003 season

Checkered flags a plenty for Team VanDusen on the 2003 Empire Super Sprints Tour. OTEGO, N.Y. -- For the first time ever, husband and wife Mike and Deb VanDusen attacked the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) tour with a two car team. Teenage son Jeff...

Checkered flags a plenty for Team VanDusen on the 2003 Empire Super Sprints Tour.

OTEGO, N.Y. -- For the first time ever, husband and wife Mike and Deb VanDusen attacked the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) tour with a two car team. Teenage son Jeff VanDusen wheeled the first car for his second full season on the tour. The teammate to the second generation driver was Mercer Pa. sprint veteran Mike Lutz who tasted the world of ESS the first time during the second half of the 2002 season.

The results were headline making on the 20th Anniversary Tour for the 360 sprint car organization. Lutz, who has 17 years of 360 and 410 sprint car experience, collected five A-Main victories on his way to just about locking up the coveted ESS title. Lutz just has to take a green flag Saturday night, October 11th at the Rolling Wheels Raceway and the championship is his. Also, by virtue of leading the most A-Main laps, Lutz also captured the Gater Racing News lap leader award.

While it was an up and down season for the young chauffeur, VanDusen still picked up his second career ESS feature event victory along with nine heat wins and three dash wins which netted him the Walt's Hobby Dash Series point title as well. Despite missing one race due to a concussion, he still placed 11th on the season long points standings.

"It was a trying year at times, but if it wasn't for some tough luck we had a very successful season for both Mike and Jeff." Noted Mike VanDusen who has 17 career ESS victories to his credit. "But, this was a rewarding year for me personally. Back in 1988 I was second to Mal Lane in points going into the final event. I won the race but Mal finished just high enough to win the title. In this years final point show Justin Barger won the feature but Mike (Lutz) did his job to clinch the point title. It's my first in sprints and it sure feels good."

Lutz has been running winged sprint cars for nearly two decades all over the country with over 70 feature events wins to his credit. The 2003 ESS championship will be his first ever title which comes with heartfelt moments. "You just don't know who much this does mean to me. It was my goal right from the start of the year, I wanted the ESS title." Said a determined Lutz. "I had a big lead early but then everything you could think of started to happen and Justin took the lead in August. I was starting to lose my hair and starting to go a bit crazy, but we got the lead back with a strong four race stretch run. It's a dream come true. I became a dad for the first time and got a sprint car championship all in one year. I just have to thank the VamDusen's for such a great opportunity and all their hard work in giving me the best car possible."

For Jeff, the learning curve continued on the tough ESS circuit. "We just didn't have the luck we wanted most of the year. We were fast at just about every race, nine heat wins and the dash title but the features were just a different story." Jeff remarked on his 2003 season. "I felt good to finally get that win late in August, we probably should have a few more but I'm still learning each time I race and we'll continue to improve."

Team VanDusen will have both winged machines at Rolling Wheels on the 11th of October in hopes of taking the $3,000 top prize that is offered for the 25 lap Empire Super Sprints/United Racing Club Challenge Series event. For Lutz, he hopes its payback time as he was passed with two laps to go in last year's event missing out on the victory. For VanDusen, holding the checkered flag on this night will be the biggest win of his still very young racing career.

After the Rolling Wheels event the off-season will be filled hunting down additional sponsorship to continue a two car team for the 2004 ESS season. Major backing for this season came from Dale Beach Logging, ProSpas, and the Dave Blaney Outlaw Driving Experience.

-tv/dr-

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Justin Barger , Dave Blaney