ESS: East Bay 360 Nationals preview

Empire Super Sprint Stars Enter the King of the 360 Nationals at East Bay. SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Empire Super Sprints (ESS), one of the nation's leading 360 sprint car sanctions, will be sending seven of their best to the annual King of the 360...

Empire Super Sprint Stars Enter the King of the 360 Nationals at East Bay.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Empire Super Sprints (ESS), one of the nation's leading 360 sprint car sanctions, will be sending seven of their best to the annual King of the 360 Nationals held at the East Bay Raceway near Tampa, Fla. on January 29-February 1.

Heading the list to the Sunshine State for the annual event will be eight-time ESS champion Mike Woodring along with his teammate, female sensation Erin Crocker. Also proudly displaying the ESS banner will be Canadian star Ryan Coniam, former All-Star Circuit of Champions rookie of the year Mike Lutz and his teammate young Jeff VanDusen, John Karklin Jr. and Justin Barger.

Mike Woodring Racing was voted the top 360 sprint team in the nation for 2002 by the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum 360 voting panel and their first sprint car event for the new year comes at East Bay. Woodring has been an East Bay entrant for years with several top ten finishes but the goal for the Eden, N.Y. chauffeur will be capturing his first ever checkered flag in the Nationals.

Erin Crocker also received national recognition as the 360 "Wild Card" voted on by the very same 360 panel. The soon to be 22 year old took sixth in ESS points and collected four A-Main victories in her first full season with the successful touring group. The 360 Nationals will jump start her aggressive 2003 campaign which also finds her piloting a Woodring owned Silver Crown Series mount at all the asphalt shows on the Weld Motorsports sponsored USAC tour.

Mercer Pa.'s Mike Lutz joined ESS in mid-July and made headline making news by collecting two A-Main victories and a score of top five finishes. Lutz has joined forces with Mike VanDusen and his son Jeff for a full assault on the ESS title for 2003. The 17 year sprint car veteran brings a wealth of talent to the fold and is an instant threat at East Bay come Jan. 29. Lutz will live with the VanDusens at their Florida home and will compete at East Bay right up until the ESS season gets underway on April 12.

For the 19 year old Jeff VanDusen it will be his third East Bay Nationals and with top notch equipment as well as tutoring from Lutz his future looks even brighter. VanDusen collected the Most Improved driver award last season with ESS as he took his first ever feature event win on to his 11th place finish in points. He will also run as many races down Florida with Lutz until April and his goal of a top five finish in ESS points.

Canada's Ryan Coniam will be making the East Bay event his swan song as an ESS faithful. The young second generation star who took third in ESS points for 2002 as well as capturing the VSM Abrasives Canadian Invasion title will be moving up full-time to 410 sprints and the All-Star Circuit of Champions Tour. While Coniam will be making a handful of ESS starts this season, his goal is to compete in the full All-Star schedule with a possible top ten placing in the final points standings.

John Karklin Jr. is coming off his best ESS season ever with a tenth place in the final points. Although going winless in 2002, joining forces with owner Dick Goff mid-season has given the likeable pilot equipment to make him a force for this season. With a full season ahead as a team, look for Karklin Jr. to make waves at East Bay and in the ESS tour throughout the Northeast and Canada.

Montrose, N.Y.'s Justin Barger is another ESS teenage star and along with his father Chris, the Cortland Auto Body team brings a top notch effort to Florida. Barger battled health troubles early on in 2002 which hindered his ESS effort but the young pilot has visited victory lane with a 360 sprinter in the past. Along with ESS he will be competing in a midget for this season in hopes of moving on to the future.

On January 29th, stars and cars from ESS will join national stars such as Joey Saldana, Paul McMahan, Shane Stewart, Gary Wright, Terry McCarl and Jason Sides along with the Pa. Posse's best in Lance Dewease and Fred Rahmer to see who is the "King of the 360's" for 2003.

April 12th at the Black Rock Speedway will see the 20th anniversary tour for the Empire Super Sprints kick off. The 30 date schedule will see ESS at four states and two Canadian provinces in what will be again a half-a-million-dollar season. New for 2003 will be 25 lap A-Mains that will pay the winner $1450 along with $1000 for second, $400 for tenth and $200 to take the green. Fans can expect some of the best dirt track sprint car competition in the 20 year history of showcasing "America's Race Cars."

While the snow is still flying in record amounts in the Northeast, all eyes at the end of January will be on East Bay and the annual 360 Nationals. The Empire Super Sprints is sending their best to bring home the crown as the King.


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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Erin Crocker , Jason Sides , Joey Saldana , Paul McMahan , Shane Stewart , Justin Barger