ESS: Albany Saratoga: Race report

Lance Yonge's charge from the back is rewarded with ESS win at Albany-Saratoga. MALTA, N.Y. -- It was a Valvoline Cup A-Main for the history scrapbook. In one of the most exciting feature events in the history of the Empire Super Sprints, Penn...

Lance Yonge's charge from the back is rewarded with ESS win at Albany-Saratoga.

MALTA, N.Y. -- It was a Valvoline Cup A-Main for the history scrapbook. In one of the most exciting feature events in the history of the Empire Super Sprints, Penn Yan, N.Y.'s Lance Yonge dove by seven-time ESS champion Mike Woodring with three laps to go and then on the last lap he blitzed by veteran Bobby Podolak to go on to his second victory of the 2002 season.

A huge crowd filled the stands on a warm Friday evening at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway. The multi-grooved surface at the CVRA sanctioned speedway saw some wild side by side action all night which keep the fans on edge from green to checker.

"This just might be the most satisfying win of my career." noted Yonge on ESS career win #21. "To come from the back (started 14th) to pass both Mike (Woodring) and Bobby (Podolak) makes this win pretty neat."

At the drop of the green flag Tim Kelly took advantage of his outside pole starting spot to claim the lead, a position he held for the first six laps of the feature event. Kelly was looking for his first win after sitting out of ESS competition for two years but it all came to wild and scary halt. Coming off turn four, his rear end broke sending him to the outside wall. Losing control of his steering, Kelly's #12 bounced off and into the path of the 23 car starting field. Luckily, only Erin Crocker made contact with the disabled machine but both Crocker and Kelly's mounts suffered heavy damage.

This sudden change of drama saw second-generation driver Jeff VanDusen assume the lead and on the restart he made a statement to the field that this teenager wanted his first career ESS win. The fast duo of Podolak and Woodring moved into second and third respectively on lap seven, for Woodring he was making a charge to the front as well as he started in 12th.

Podolak (seven ESS wins) and Woodring (51 ESS wins) began the chase on VanDusen which was pleasing the crowd on hand. While the action was heating up for the lead, Yonge was making his moves as well moving into a distant fourth on lap nine. But, it was the battle for the lead that got everyone's attention.

Podolak's cushion hugging lane saw his maroon colored, un-sponsored #7 sprinter sweep past VanDusen on lap 12. Woodring did the same on lap later and now it was a two horse race for the top prize. The action hit its peek on lap 15 when the two sprinters were in a dead even, side by side formation at the start/finish stripe. However, a mere seconds after lap 15 went in the books, the caution lights came on and this portion of the A-Main set the stage for Yonge to now take over the headline making role of this event.

"The caution was a big help for me, I was reeling them (the leading two cars) in each lap but it would have been hard to catch and pass them both." said the driver of the Lane's Yamaha Maxim. "I went with a real soft tire (an experimental American Racer right rear) and it cooled down just enough. When the green came out, I knew I had a car that might get them both."

Yonge passed Woodring on lap 17 and then used the very inside of the speedway to go past Podolak on the 19th tour of Albany-Saratoga Speedway. "I think the top was going away a bit for Bobby, the inside still had some moisture and I was getting a great bite coming off the corners." said Yonge. The charge off the corners was the key as he took over the lead and go on to victory. For Podolak and Woodring, it was a good fight welcomed with smiles afterwards.

"I was THIS close!" exclaimed Podolak. "I think he (Lance) was just a bit better than us. I had a good groove on the top but it was getting slicker at the end. I just think he had a good groove down low. Hey, Lance is a good driver, I'm happy with second."

For Woodring, the lap 15 yellow spelled his doom. "I was using the new tread, American Racer right rear and it was awesome right up until that yellow. I think I had Bobby all set but when the green came out the car went from being glued down to the track to being so loose that I almost spun out. I just don't know what happened, the heat went out of the tire and I was done." said the driver of the Got Milk #19.

At the checkered flag it was Yonge three car lengths ahead of Podolak with Woodring in third. Rich Wood also made a great charge with the International Paper Products #6W coming from 15th to take fourth at the end. Not to be outdone was Brian Dumigan who took a provisional starting spot after a heat race flip, starting in 23rd he came through to take fifth and the Walt's Hobby Hard Charger bonus. The next five was made up of VanDusen, Bill Coffey, the Ron Buckner built and powered #36 of Mike Stelter, Steve Dow and B-Main starter Bubby Kerrick.

Besides the two cautions, Kelly and Crocker on lap six and Dan Kaszubinski on lap 15, the race also saw the red lights come on with five laps in when Kyle Drum saw his sprinter go over in turn four.

Taking the Brodix Cylinder Heads heat events were Podolak, Don Sharp Jr., and Woodring with the KSE Racing Products B-Main won by Jeff "Spider" Thomas. The Warren's Auto Body/Walt's Hobby Dash was taken by VanDusen.

ESS NOTES: The biggest field so far in 2002 turned out with 34 sprinters in the pits--Making their first starts this year were Ray Preston, Thomas, Howard Singer, Bill Wolf, Wood, Jim Senzio and Jim McCaffrey. Making first career ESS starts were Leo Yeager, crew chief for Thomas, Anthony Cain from Fairfax, Vt. and Andy Snider--Tough luck Randy Years saw his sprinter on it's side in the B-Main--Don Sharp Jr. had driveshaft troubles and had to scratch from the A-Main which enabled Singer to start--The ESS Tour 2002 will have a two race weekend with a Friday night stop at the Little Valley Speedway and then on to the Merrittville Speedway Sat. night in Thorold, Ontario.


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Series Sprint
Drivers Bill Coffey