ESS: Racing season update 2007-08-15

The Stars and Cars of the Empire Super Sprints Get Ready for the Stretch Drive. SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- As the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) and the tour brought to you by Jacobs Motorsports takes a well deserved two weeks off from point competition,...

The Stars and Cars of the Empire Super Sprints Get Ready for the Stretch Drive.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- As the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) and the tour brought to you by Jacobs Motorsports takes a well deserved two weeks off from point competition, the stars and cars are now ready for the stretch drive. With over $30,000 in point fun money waiting some of the best 360 sprint car drivers from two nations, the final events will be action packed.

With two three-race full point weekends coming up, the most important part of the 2007 racing season is awaiting the winged chauffeurs of the organization celebrating its 25th consecutive season.

Leading the brigade is Quebec's Steve Poirier on the strength of one win, seven top fives and 10 top tens so far in the '07 campaign. His only non top ten was a 13th at Cornwall and is the only three drivers to have gone from green to checker in every event this far.

After coming off an incredible five win, first full season in a sprint car, Poirier entered this year as one of the favorites and he has not disappointed. Although he might not be totally satisfied with his outcomes which saw a chassis switch the week of his only win at Woodhull, consistency is key to a championship winning drive. Poirier also leads the Walt's Hobby Dash Series points as well as the Lane's Yamaha Hard Charger Points.

Leading the list with three A-Main victories and second in points is second generation Jeff VanDusen. This talented 23 year old also 10 top tens on the year and is in a point's position that he is all too familiar. VanDusen was the point runner up to Lance Yonge in 2005 and Alain Bergeron last season so you know the goal is to move up that magical one position.

If it wasn't for a blown engine during the four wide pace lap at the first visit to Autodrome Granby, the overall points could be a bit different. With several events to be held north of the border, VanDusen will also be out to hold his slim point lead in the Lucas Oil Canadian Invasion Series which sees Jeff Cook a mere two points behind.

A two-time champion and glad to be back in the title hunt is Lance Yonge who also has tallied ten top tens and he too suffered the blown engine fate at Fonda which hindered the point drive just a bit. After what he called a disastrous 2006 season where Yonge went through two race cars, upside down several times in route to a eighth place in the final points. That eighth was the only time he has not finished in the top five in ESS points since he started back in 1992! Although winless so far, the long time club faithful is showing a smile and happy to be back where he belongs, in the chase for the championship.

Jeff Cook is known to be the leading candidate for the annual hard luck award with his sharp #10 sprinter upside down several times each season. But, this is a new year and a new outcome thus far. He has finished every A-Main to date, taken two checkered flags and sits solid in fourth in the overall point scheme. The consistency also has him just knocking on the door for the Lucas Oil points as well for the driver who also supports ESS as an associate tour sponsor. His next win will also tie him with Adrian Flath on the all-time ESS win list; he is Adrian's son in law.

Last year he was a rookie coming from ATC racing, this year he is a title contender and ready to bring home his first ever A-Main checkered flag. Just 16 years old and another bright star from Quebec comes Michael Parent. A protege of defending champion Alain Bergeron not only brought home his first ever top five finish, but in the last event at Granby he took runner-up honors in front of his home crowd. Showing poise at his young age, Parent is the third driver to see every A-Main from green to checker. And, his family's dedication to ESS comes with a nightly sponsoring of the Blue Collar Award.

While sitting sixth in points is not where Alain Bergeron wants to be, a never say die attitude keeps the team with an outside shot at repeating his memorable championship from last year. A switch in chassis has been done since Fonda in hopes to change some luck and finally bring home an A-Main victory, something that hasn't been done since 2005. Look for a big stretch drive from the driver that is a champion.

If it wasn't for two unusual break downs, Mike Stelter would be "right there" in the championship hunt. While the goal is still within reach, it still has been a successful return to the full ESS tour by the Ontario, N.Y. pilot. Joining up with the Bliss brothers for 2007 has been a big help and don't be surprised if you see the man known as "Helter" Stelter in victory lane before the season is out. If it happens, fans will be in for a treat in victory lane.

Coming into 2007 with plans up in the air, Justin Barger, has made every ESS event but one where he was in a friends wedding. Even with him missing that event, he still was in the title hunt on the strength of two victories. But, a frightening crash in the last event at Granby saw him loaded up before the A-Main with a sore wrist and that hurt his point hunt considerably. Even though the crash at Granby was a tough one, he still headed west to represent ESS in the Knoxville 360 Nationals and the Brodix Tournament of Champions. He joined Lance Yonge as the only ESS drivers to make the Nationals and turned heads when he timed second fastest for the "ToC".

Tommy Wickham geared himself up for a full assault in the ESS trail for '07 and so far has had a successful season. Not seeing many of the tracks until this season the young driver nearly took home his first win at Edelweiss back in July. Seven top tens in 11 point events has him solidly in ninth in points with a shot at the top five with a little luck. A blown engine at Woodhull hurt a bit in the overall points but look for this outfit with ESS for years to come.

On a beautiful sunny night near Niagara Falls, Bubby Kerrick, finally ended a winless streak that lasted nearly four years. It was good to see this ESS faithful in victory lane buy it's still been an up and down year for the Stanley, N.Y. driver. Plagued with steering box troubles at many of the events has held him down in the points. But, the problem has been found and look for the car sponsored by ESS' tour sponsor Ryan Jacobs to be in the hunt in the stretch drive.

The 2007 season started back in March with a wild display of a rotating sprint car in ESS booth at the annual Motorsports Expo. Now it's August and Cory Sparks and gang his fulfilled one goal of going to every ESS event in 2007. A solid top five finish in front of his hometown fans at Fonda has been the series highlight and with continued experienced gained, a goal of top ten in points could be found as well.

What a pleasant surprise has come from Normand Beaudreault, a former mini-sprint regular from Quebec. At first the plan was to hit just local shows but with the exception of the western Ohsweken/Merrittville weekend this team has been at every ESS show in '07. The likeable sprint rookie has his first top ten all locked up at the last ESS event at Granby until a blown engine sent him pit side just two laps from the finish. But look for this team who always has a smile shown to be at the final ESS shows gaining valuable experience...and Fun!

Another welcomed addition as been the entry of Jared Zimbardi who when schedule permits the exciting 20 year old second generation driver finds himself in the ESS field. Even though he hasn't been at all the events, three top five finishes has still been recorded and is also a threat to take his first ever ESS A-Main triumph. When you see the black #35 in the pits, keep your eyes on this future star in sprint car racing.

While he also runs ESS part-time, the 2007 recap can not go without a mention of Chuck Hebing. Two victories have added to his total and the win at the first Granby event in a car he never sat in, at a track he's never been too was a headliner indeed. Hebing will run a few more ESS events in '07 and he always will be a driver to watch.

With the likes of Tim Kelly, Jessica Zemken, Anthony Cain, Russ Bennett, Brian McDonald and others adding to the total of 63 different drivers that have run ESS events thus far in '07, the 25th season has been one for the history books. The stretch drive kicks off this weekend with events at Edelweiss, Brockville and Cornwall. The hunt for over $30,000 in cash heats up now and in ESS tradition, it will be excitement guaranteed!!

-credit: ess

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Series Sprint
Drivers Justin Barger