ESS: Albany-Saratoga race report 2001-08-17

Don Sharp Jr.'s Late Race Pass of Justin Barger Notches ESS Win at Albany-Saratoga. MALTA, N.Y. - The slogan "never-say-die" couldn't be more true describing the effort put forth by Grafton, NH's Don Sharp Jr. Chasing down teenage star Justin...

Don Sharp Jr.'s Late Race Pass of Justin Barger Notches ESS Win at Albany-Saratoga.

MALTA, N.Y. - The slogan "never-say-die" couldn't be more true describing the effort put forth by Grafton, NH's Don Sharp Jr. Chasing down teenage star Justin Barger in closing stages to make the winning pass on lap 16 of the Empire Super Sprint (ESS) Tour 2001 event held Friday night at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway.

While the win at the Malta, N.Y. oval proved true grit, the week prior for the entire Sharp family tested all faith in their sprint car goal with ESS. After a modest 13th place finish last Friday at Black Rock, the Sharp team headed home to New Hampshire (an eight plus hour trip) on Saturday morning. Just a few minutes from the track, their motor home suffered engine troubles and caught fire. The race car trailer was unhooked quickly but end result found the motor home a complete loss and the Sharp' stranded.

Using a rent-a-truck to get back home, the family purchased a new pick-up to get to Albany-Saratoga and Sharp Jr.'s second career ESS victory was an award well earned. The big crowd that came out on the special raindate gave the young chauffeur a big round of applause in victory lane.

"We needed this! This was one LONG week for all of us." said Sharp with an obvious sound of relief. "We're just glad that we were alright and we didn't lose any of the racing equipment. We tried to save as much as we could out of the motor home, we'll be alright. We're here and we'll keep going."

Another one of ESS' teenage talents Jeff VanDusen took the jump from his outside pole position to lead lap one just as the yellow lights came on. Barger was now alongside VanDusen and when the green lights shined he got the jump and immediately opened up a big lead. Looking for the complete sweep on the night as the Montrose, N.Y. native won his heat and dash, Barger was also looking for ESS career win number one.

The colorful Cortland Auto Body #32 took to the outside on the newly surfaced 1/3rd. mile oval and looked to be well on it's way to the A-Main triumph. Sharp Jr. made a lap five pass on VanDusen and little did anyone know, the chase was indeed on.

The former Mike Woodring championship winning Trevis built sprinter kept to the low side and sure enough, around halfway you see Sharp Jr. closing in. "I think his groove really started to go away. I felt the low side was getting slower so the outside had to really give up." noted Sharp Jr. on the late race chase. "I could see that I was closing in. I just wanted to run hard but I also didn't want to make any mistakes."

On lap 15, Sharp Jr.'s A-1 Plumbing mount got a strong shot off turn two to get alongside Barger. Coming down to score lap 16, Sharp Jr. edged ahead and it was a lead that he would never relinquish. Barger gave it his all, he tried high, he tried low but this was a night that belonged to the former sprint champion at the Canaan Speedway in his native New Hampshire.

"This win feels good." quipped Sharp Jr.  "To make a late race pass for
the win just makes it that much better.  We have been having a pretty
good year.  I really feel comfortable with this car and I've been able to
drive harder that I could before.  That's a big help against these guys."

Sharp Jr. took the checkered flag ahead of Barger, local favorite John Karklin Jr. had a strong run for third with Mike Stelter and current ESS point leader Mike Woodring in for fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Scott Holcomb, R.C. Faigle, Kyle Drum, the Walt's Hobby Hard Charger in 63 year old George Ely who came from 21st, and Bill Coffey.

The lap one caution was for pole sitting Tim Zimbardi who broke a steering box. The yellow lights were one again on lap five when Ryan Coniam, Steve Dow and Lance Yonge came together in turn one which saw Yonge's sprinter flipping over. Only Dow restarted. The race actually ended under a double checker and yellow as VanDusen was found spun around on the back stretch while running in fourth.

Taking the Brodix Cylinder Heads heat events were Sharp Jr., VanDusen and Barger with the Walt's Hobby Dash also won by Barger. Ray Preston copped the KSE Racing Products B-Main.

ESS NOTES: A total of 33 sprinters filled the pits for the make up event...Former Doug Emery and Mike VanDusen crew chief Darren Beach was aboard the VanDusen family back-up car. Making first ever ESS starts were Jim McCaffrey and mini-sprint star Bill White who was driving the Rich Wood Sr. owned car...Bill Wolf was a flip victim in a wild ten lap B-Main...With winning bonuses, Sharp Jr.'s win was worth over $1900...Next weekend will find second ESS stops at both Brockville Ontario Speedway on Friday and a first ever Saturday night visit to the Can-Am Motorsports Park.


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Series Sprint
Drivers Justin Barger , Bill Coffey