ESS: CanAm Park: Race report

Ryan Coniam edges Mike Woodring to top ESS field at Can-Am. LaFARGEVILLE, N.Y. - The drama hit it's peak on a lap 18 restart Thursday night at the Can-Am Motorsports Park. The Empire Super Sprint (ESS) Tour 2002 event saw sophomore sensation...

Ryan Coniam edges Mike Woodring to top ESS field at Can-Am.

LaFARGEVILLE, N.Y. - The drama hit it's peak on a lap 18 restart Thursday night at the Can-Am Motorsports Park. The Empire Super Sprint (ESS) Tour 2002 event saw sophomore sensation Ryan Coniam in the lead with seven-time champion Mike Woodring starting right behind. The two lap dash saw Woodring throw everything at the young 22 year old Canadian but on this night it was youth topping the veteran. Coniam's VSM Abrasives Sprinter dashed under the checkered first to collect his second win of the season.

"This is the way to win a race!" exclaimed the happy winner shortly after his victory lane celebration. "The first win this year was handed to us (Coniam's first win was a result of a disqualification on Mike Stelter.), you want to win on the race track. To beat the best in Mike makes this that much more special."

While the triumph just might officially make Coniam as a serious threat to Woodring's throne, the victory was not an easy feat by any means. At the start of the 20 lap Valvoline Cup A-Main 2001 rookie of the year Kyle Drum took his US Air Force sprinter to the top of the fast Can-Am half-mile to open up a sizeable lead in the early stages. Coniam came from his fourth place starting spot to second by lap five and quickly became Drum's biggest rival.

Despite several restarts, Drum continued to hold off Coniam lap after lap until the yellow lights again shined on lap 10. This restart then belonged to the white #6. "Kyle was slow on all his restarts, I don't know if he had problems or what but I kept trying to get under him on each restart." noted Coniam on his strategy to get the lead. "Finally on that lap 10 restart I went to the top and the car just stuck and I was able to get around." While not in a dominating fashion, Coniam was putting some distance between him and Drum.

While the leading duo was waging their war, Woodring's Putnam County Speedway #19 was moving forward from it's 11th place starting spot. On the lap 10 restart that Coniam took the lead, Woodring moved into third and then by Drum on lap 16 to take second. If the event stayed under the green lights it looked to be an unchallenged win for Coniam. But, the yellow flag did come out for the last time on lap 18 making this a crowd pleasing battle to the finish.

"I'll tell you, I didn't want that yellow! I knew Mike was right behind me and I had to do everything I could to keep him there." said Coniam. Unlike Drum's slow restarts, Coniam quickly gassed his sprint coming off turn four to get a good job on Woodring and the rest of the field. "I just figured that it would be hard for Woodring to pass me at 100 m.p.h. than 30 m.p.h." said matter-of-factly by Coniam.

The small lead did open up but on the final lap an all-out, never-lift-off-the-gas inside dive by Woodring in turn one thrilled the big crowd. It was a brave move but the now slick inside lane just couldn't hold such an effort. "I saw him there but I didn't worry me too much because I knew the top was better and I would probably get him coming off turn two." said Coniam on Woodring's last ditch effort. Coniam proved right and he went to score his third career ESS victory. "I just have to thank the guys (crew) for busting their butts every time out. I don't think I can put up with me like they do and this win is for them." said the thankful driver.

Coniam was the winner followed by Woodring with Rick Wilson coming from his 15th place starting spot to place third and earn the Walt's Hobby hard charger bonus. Rob Dietrick took fourth ahead of current ESS point leader Lance Yonge. Rounding out the top ten were Doug Emery, who started in 14th, Bill Coffey, the VRP Shocks #61 of Bubby Kerrick, Steve Dow and Bobby Podolak. A side note: Kyle Drum was running third when he spun to avoid the lap 18 accident, he had to restart the feature at the end of the lead lap, he came back to finish 11th.

An unusual high amount of cautions totaling five slowed the pace: Bill White spun on lap four, Ray Preston did a slow rollover on lap eight, White again on lap nine with Erin Crocker stopping on the back stretch one lap later. The lap 18 caution was for Alain Bergeron to tipped over in his #8B.

Taking the Brodix Cylinder Heads heat events were Yonge, Woodring and Wilson with Coniam winning the FX Caprara/Walt's Hobby Dash with Bergeron winning the KSE Racing Products B-Main.

ESS NOTES: A big field of 31 sprints made the tow to the St. Lawrence Seaway on a crystal clear Thursday night...Making their first ESS starts of 2002 was Emery and Chris Shuttleworth with Quebec native Daniel Lampron piloting the Bergeron back-up sprinter. Lampron is Bergeron's main sponsor...Shuttleworth had rear end troubles and never made the call for the heats...Third place in points Brian Dumigan was a surprise DNQ with a flat tire in the B-Main while in a qualifying spot....Also not making the feature start was Dan Kaszubinski who won the June event at Can-Am the past three years. A broken rear end sent his sprinter spinning wildly and eventually on it's side during the B-Main...The ESS sprinters will return to Can-Am on August.


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Series Sprint
Drivers Erin Crocker , Bill Coffey