CANTLEY, QUE. -- It was a classic battle Friday night at the Edelweiss Speedway for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) Spectro Oils Canadian Invasion event. Teenager Nick Fratto, 2003 ESS rookie of the year, and veteran Lance Yonge who has amassed 24...
CANTLEY, QUE. -- It was a classic battle Friday night at the Edelweiss Speedway for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) Spectro Oils Canadian Invasion event. Teenager Nick Fratto, 2003 ESS rookie of the year, and veteran Lance Yonge who has amassed 24 career victories since 1992 with the 21 year old 360 sprint car organization put on a battle that thrilled the packed house right up to the checkered flag.
No less than three lead changes in the final five laps among the two drivers and a restart with two tours to go to build the drama towards victory lane making this one of the most exciting A-Mains of the 2004 season. With the double checkers waving over the field, it was the underdog coming out on top--the driver of the Geneva Granite #F1, Nick Fratto collecting the his first ever ESS victory.
"I know it's only been a year and a half since we have been running sprint cars, but it has just seems to be a long time coming." said a relieved young chauffeur on career win number one. "We have been putting together a bunch of second place finishes and just hoping that we will finally come here (victory lane) and hold the checkered flag."
By the luck of the nightly pill draw, Yonge, who currently leads the Canadian Invasion Points, drew the pole starting position and most at the fast 1/3rd mile oval was inking the Penn Yan, N.Y. star into victory lane come the end of the 25 laps. Yonge indeed took his Johnson Farms Maxim to the top of the track and off into the lead. A lap three double spin by second and third place running Don Sharp Jr. and Mike Stelter enabled Fratto to restart in second with his Maxim built sprinter.
While the young driver had feature win stars in his eyes, it was Yonge opening up a slight lead in the middle stages of the event which saw 20 consecutive laps under green. While you might think that as the track changes and lapped traffic figures in, it would be the veteran taking control, it was the opposite on this memorable night in Quebec.
As the event hit the final 1/3rd stage, Fratto's low line on the oval proved to be the key to his charge and eventual dual with Yonge. "My car just kept getting more loose as the laps went on, I just burned off the tires as the track dried out." noted Yonge. "I wasn't comfortable down low so I had to stay high but most of the lapped cars were running that lane also. I just had to keep running hard and see if I could hold him off."
The final five laps kept all of the French-Canadian fans on the edge of their seats. Fratto took the lead on lap 20 coming off turn four on the inside, Yonge blasted by the outside to lead lap 22 with Fratto again down low to hold the top spot on lap 23 when the red lights came on for a flipped Jeff Cook.
"When the red flag came out I thought there was just one lap to go but I noticed that there was two instead. That got me real worried." Fratto recalled on the two lap dash to the finish. "With Lance right behind you knew he is going to try as hard as you can to pass you and I didn't know where the lapped cars were or if they were going to help or not."
If Fratto could look behind him, he would have not only known that his rival in Yonge was right on his rear bumper but so was current ESS point leader Jeff VanDusen and the other two drivers in the top four in points Doug Emery and Dan Kaszubinski. But, the final two lap shootout was all Fratto's as he kept to his inside lane and on to a wing dance in the winner's circle.
Yonge came across the line a runner-up finisher, not what he wanted but quick to admit--"Hey, he beat me. He truly deserved it and I'm happy for Nick." Jeff VanDusen came from 14th to earn the Lane's Yamaha Hard Charger Bonus, Emery in for fourth with Mike VanDusen coming from 15th to pass Kaszubinski on the last lap for a nine fifth. Kaszubinski sixth, the Troyer Race Cars and Parts #61 of Bubby Kerrick was seventh followed by Tim Kelly, Alain Bergeron and Sharp Jr.
The lap three yellow and lap 23 red flag for Cook, who suffered a stuck throttle but was uninjured, were the only incidents in the 25 lap event.
Taking the Engler Machine and Tool heat events were Cook, Stelter and Billy Krull. The Gauvreau Top Soil/Walt's Hobby Dash was Emery.
ESS NOTES: With A-Main purse, winner's bonuses and added tow money, the winner's share for Fratto topped the $2,300 mark--.Last weekend a special Thunder Mountain front wing award from Troyer Race Cars and Parts went to Yonge who was the highest finishing Maxim during the Thunder Alley and Black Rock events--ESS would like to thank the Yonge's, Fratto's and the Justin Barger family for contributing to the time trial cash pot at the Earl Halaquist Memorial that totaled $1,600--.The event this past Friday was a make-up date from the July 16th rain out and as per the norm, the crowd was standing room only for the only appearance of the winged sprint cars to the track just North of Canada's capitol of Ottawa.
Heat 1 -- Jeff Cook, Doug Emery, Luke Eriksen, Bubby Kerrick, Don Sharp Jr.
Heat 2 -- Mike Stelter, Jeff VanDusen, Lance Yonge, Kyle Moffit, Nick Fratto.
Heat 3 -- Billy Krull, Alain Bergeron, Mike VanDusen, Dan Kaszubinski, Tim Kelly.
Gauvreau Top Soil/Walt's Hobby Dash -- Emery.
A-MAIN -- NICK FRATTO, Yonge, J. VanDusen, Emery, M. VanDusen, Kaszubinski, Kerrick, Kelly, Bergeron, Sharp Jr., Krull, Eriksen, Stelter, Cook, Moffit.
Gater News Lap Leaders -- Yonge 1-19, Fratto 20-21, Yonge 22, Fratto 23-25.
Lane's Yamaha Hard Charger -- J. VanDusen (11 pos.) $50.
Brodix Cylinder Heads Halfway -- Yonge $50.
Winner's Bonuses: Car-Mate Trailers $50, ATL Fuel Cells $100, Penske Shocks $100, Hank's Performance Products $50, Total Seal $50, Saldana Racing Products $50, American Racer Tires $50, Real Racing Wheels $50, Racing Optics $30, The Brake Man $25, Frankland Racing Products $25, Red's Speed Shop $25, The Race Depot $25, Behrent's Performance Warehouse/Mechanix Wear $20, MRE Productions $10.
Weld Racing Hard Luck -- Cook $100.
Penske Shocks -- Sharp Jr. $100.
Design 500 -- Eriksen $100, M. VanDusen $50.
M&W Aluminum Products -- J. VanDusen $75.
Leaf Racewear -- J. VanDusen $75.
Zemco Headers -- M. VanDusen $75.
B&B Oval Track Products -- Krull $50.
Joe Hunt Magnetos -- Cook $50.
Engler Machine and Tool -- Cook, Stelter, Krull $25.
DMI -- Moffit $25.
HRP -- Stelter $25.