Justin Barger Beats Weather and All Challengers to Claim Empire Super Sprint Opener at Utica-Rome. VERNON, N.Y. -- The 25th season for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) brought to you by Jacobs Motorsports kicked off Sunday night at a familiar...
Justin Barger Beats Weather and All Challengers to Claim Empire Super Sprint Opener at Utica-Rome.
VERNON, N.Y. -- The 25th season for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) brought to you by Jacobs Motorsports kicked off Sunday night at a familiar place, the Utica-Rome Speedway. Defeating "Mother Nature" and a talent filled field of winged sprint car stars was Montrose, N.Y.'s Justin Barger. Taking the lead on lap three, the 23 year old chauffer fought through lapped traffic and a stiff challenge from Jason Barney to pick up career win number nine on the ESS trail.
Despite many curves that was thrown in by nature, which included high winds, heavy rain and a wild thunderstorm, both Utica-Rome and ESS officials wasn't ever waving the white flag and at the end of the night a fast, near record breaking surface produced a wild A-Main.
For Barger it was a stout effort, starting in Florida in February the AEM Performance Technology Maxim has been a busy machine where it came back to the native Empire State to claim the ESS opening event. "The car was just awesome; we had a good set up for the heavy track. I like it that way, hold your foot down and just let it loose." noted Barger on his effort that lasted until the early hours of Monday. "We had a good draw so we knew we had a good chance tonight. I just wanted to get out, through lapped traffic and see if we can bring the car in for a win."
That was indeed what played out. Starting on the outside front row by virtue of the open draw for the first event of 2007, he took the lead from pole sittin' Mike Stelter on lap three. Barney's Walton's Farm and Auto Repair #87 did the same on lap four and the chase was on. It was a 21 lap battle to the end on a lightning fast ½ mile.
Barney, the sophomore sensation, made it an interesting affair pulling within a few car lengths several times which got the attention of the home town crowd. Lapped traffic was also key in determining the outcome but even though all the curves were thrown at Barger, which included one final caution on the last lap, this was to be his night. Winning the event for his dad who is home for health reasons, Barger gave him the good news. "I gave my dad a call, it was hard for him to stay awake but when I told him we won he was happy".
Barney's runner-up finish proves that this exciting driver is loaded for bear in '07. Jeff VanDusen made a crowd pleasing late race charge to place third after starting in 15th to earn the Lane's Yamaha hard charger bonus. Another sophomore sensation, Steve Poirier, picked up where he left off in 2006 to place fourth with the young Jared Zimbardi having a good night taking fifth place money after starting in 17th. Rounding out the top ten were John Karklin Jr., two-time champion Lance Yonge, Stelter, Jeff Cook and the Spectro Oils #92M of Doug Norrie.
Four cautions and one red flag did slow the pace: Anthony Cain spun around on the initial start. The restart proved disastrous for many top stars as the field got bunched up with several cars getting together. Defending champion Alain Bergeron found his car flipping into turn one. Also collected were heat winners Chuck Hebing and Dan Kaszubinski along with Russ Bennett and Normand Beaudreault, the damage was heavy enough that all cars were out for the rest of the A-Main. Third place running Jessica Zemken came to a stop on lap three and the same happened for then fourth place running Tommy Wickham on lap 23. Cain looped his sprinter again on lap 24 making for the exciting one lap dash to the finish.
The Car Mate Custom Trailers heat events were won by Hebing, Kaszubinski and Barney. The KSE Racing Products B-Main was claimed by Doug Norrie with the Speedway Performance/Walt's Hobby Dash event postponed because of weather concerns until July 1st when ESS returns to Gene Cole's oval.
ESS/Utica-Rome Notes: Even with severe weather warnings all throughout New York State, a fine field of 28 sprints made the tow to Vernon in celebration of the Memorial Day weekend--Making first ever ESS starts were Quebec resident and former mini-sprint driver Beaudreault who qualified for the A-Main in his first ever sprint car start. Also, CRSA star Jami Russell was in the pits with his sharp #27J--On the night, Barger collected $2,330 in cash and bonuses--Bubby Kerrick was also a flip victim after a suspension piece broke in the first heat. While ESS tour sponsor Ryan Jacobs was unable to attend, his car was put into duty as Kerrick's back-up mount--Canadian Brian McDonald was en route when his hauler broke down forcing him to miss the first event--Next on the docket for the stars and cars of ESS will be an invite to the famed Williams Grove Speedway on Friday June 8th for the annual $4,000 to win Shot Drop Nationals. Several ESS stars having interest in taking on the best of the Untied Racing Company and the Central Pa. 358's include Barger, Barney, VanDusen, Poirier and Bergeron. The next point shows will then take place on June 15-17 where the first three events of the Lucas Oil Canadian Invasion Series gets started with visits to Autodrome's Granby and Drummond followed by a visit to the Cornwall Motor Speedway where all three events pay $2,000 to win.
Heat 1 - Chuck Hebing, Steve Poirier, Jessica Zemken, Mike Stelter, Jeff Cook, Michael Parent.
Heat 2 - Dan Kaszubinski, Tim Kelly, Alain Bergeron, Cory Sparks, Anthony Cain, Jared Zimbardi.
Heat 3 - Jason Barney, Justin Barger, Russ Bennett, John Karklin Jr., Jeff VanDusen, Lance Yonge.
Speedway Performance/Walt's Hobby Dash - Postponed to July 1st.
B-Main - Doug Norrie, Tommy Wickham, Don Sharp Jr., Normand Beaudreault.
Added Starters - Bubby Kerrick, Nick Fratto.
Did Not Qualify - Warren Alexson, Jami Russell, Matt Norrie, Blase' Regina.
A-Main - Justin Barger, Jason Barney, Jeff VanDusen, Steve Poirier, Jared Zimbardi, John Karklin Jr., Lance Yonge, Mike Stelter, Jeff Cook, Doug Norrie, Michael Parent, Bubby Kerrick, Tim Kelly, Anthony Cain, Don Sharp Jr., Tommy Wickham, Cory Sparks, Nick Fratto, Jessica Zemken, Russ Bennett, Alain Bergeron, Dan Kaszubinski, Chuck Hebing, Normand Beaudreault.