ESS: McKean: The 500th series race report

Mike Stelter wins ESS' non-stop return to McKean County: The event was the 500th ESS sanctioned race. EAST SMETHPORT, PA. -- It's been since July of 1996 that the winged warriors of the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) have been to the McKean ...

Mike Stelter wins ESS' non-stop return to McKean County: The event was the 500th ESS sanctioned race.

EAST SMETHPORT, PA. -- It's been since July of 1996 that the winged warriors of the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) have been to the McKean County Raceway. It a stylish non-stop 20 lap A-Main, Ontario, N.Y.'s Mike Stelter used patience to lead every lap and collect his first checkered on the ESS Tour 2002.

The night proved history making as it was the 500th ESS sanctioned event for the organization that started in August of 1983.

Using a smooth pace and precision passing of lapped cars, the driver of the Ron Buckner built and powered #36 kept a sizable lead over the other 23 competitors for the victory on a slick McKean surface. "I'll tell you, it was a classic case of going slow to go fast." said the 1995 ESS rookie of the year who always produces a wild victory lane. "You had to be smooth a patient and sometimes that's not the easiest to do in a sprint car."

By luck of the inversion draw, Stelter started the 20 lap event on the pole and he quickly took his sprinter to the low side and into the lead. What faced the Stelter in the next few minutes was 20 consecutive laps of green flag racing, slower traffic and the challenges of drivers such as Ray Preston, John Karklin Jr. Mike Woodring and others. "I felt comfortable when I was by myself but when it got to lapped traffic it was a bit hairy." noted Stelter. "I know I saw Ray (Preston) there under me one time and I just about drove off the track in turn two. When it comes down to the traffic you just don't know if you are making the right moves."

Preston started third in the event but was in second by the sixth lap and he became Stelter's most serious challenger when the back markers figured into the fray. At times Stelter had to abandon his low groove to try to drive around the outside of the slower cars and that left a lane open for Preston. The two veterans of ESS competition thrilled the big crowd on hand with some nifty driving in traffic.

While Preston gave it his all, Stelter did stay just one step ahead and on lap 13, Karklin Jr. showed his head and became Preston's challenger. For three laps in a row, the duo swapped the runner-up postion and while that battle was exciting in helped Stelter in building a slight lead.

In the final five laps Stelter stayed just one lap car ahead of Karklin Jr. (who took second for good) and on to his sixth career ESS triumph "This time we will EARN the win." frankly said by the winner. "We won at Eriez in May but we got DQ'ed for driving past the scales. It was our fault but I'll tell you one thing, we weren't going to do that again!!"

At the finish it was Stelter ahead of Karklin Jr., Woodring came from the back of the pack to a fast closing third and earn the Walt's Hobby Hard Charger bonus, Mike Lutz, the winner the night before at Black Rock was Woodring's shadow through the field and he placed a fine fourth with Preston taking fifth at the finish. Rounding out the top ten were Rob Dietrick, Bill White, Ryan Coniam, Bill Coffey and Bob Podolak who came back from a engine change the night prior.

Taking the Brodix Cylinder Heads heat events were Lutz, Dietrick and Woodring with the KSE Racing Products B-Main won by Randy Years. Lutz continued his strong weekend by taking the Slocum Milk Hauling/Walt's Hobby Dash.

ESS NOTES: A big field of 31 sprinters played host to a big crowd in the return of the ESS Tour 2002--Bubby Kerrick changed over to a new Maxim built sprinter after his wild accident the night before at Black Rock--With his two third place finishes, Mike Woodring has opened up a sizable lead on Lance Yonge in quest for his eighth championship--Next Weekend will find the traveling road show of "America's Race Cars" taking to the St' Lawrence Seaway with stops at Brockville, Can-Am and Cornwall.

-ess-

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Series Sprint
Drivers Bill Coffey