ESS: Season opener Black Rock race report

Mike Lutz edges Mike Woodring at the Black Rock Speedway to kick off the 20th Anniversary Tour for the Empire Super Sprints. DUNDEE, N.Y. -- With an exciting, inside sweep pass on a lap eight restart, Mercer, Pa.'s Mike Lutz passed perennial ...

Mike Lutz edges Mike Woodring at the Black Rock Speedway to kick off the 20th Anniversary Tour for the Empire Super Sprints.

DUNDEE, N.Y. -- With an exciting, inside sweep pass on a lap eight restart, Mercer, Pa.'s Mike Lutz passed perennial champion Mike Woodring to take the lead and then held off the eight-time titlist to win the opening event of the 20th anniversary tour for the Empire Super Sprints (ESS). The 25 lap Valvoline Cup A-Main took place Saturday night at the Black Rock Speedway and the win for the former All-Star Circuit of Champions rookie of the year had a two-part theme attached.

First, for Lutz it was simply put afterwards-- "Operation ESS championship has begun." Second, it was a little redemption for his heartbreak loss just a mere six months ago during the annual Bully Hill Nationals when Lutz's front wing flipped up blocking his view of the racing surface while leading the event. Woodring took advantage to go on to win the $4,000 event.

"There is just something about this track that suits my style." explaining the winning driver shortly afterwards who collected $2,515 in cash and bonuses. "I won here the first time I saw this place last August, should have won the Nationals and now I win the opening show of the tour tonight. We had steering troubles in warm-ups so I never even got any track time before the heat. That put us behind a bit at the start but it's a neat place to race a sprint car and I guess it's going to be good for me."

With Lutz pulling third starting position in the pre-race draw, he was inserted as an instant threat to take the victory. One problem though, the front row was made up of Woodring on the pole and dash winner Rick Wilson alongside. It was a talented top three to say the least.

Woodring's Upstate Kenworth sponsored, black #19 immediately took the lead over Wilson. It took three tours of Black Rock's 4/10ths mile oval for Lutz to pass Wilson and begin his quest in trying to get by the defending king of ESS. A caution on lap eight proved to be a pivotal point of the race for the leading duo. On the drop of the green flag Woodring went a bit high going into turn one and that was the small hole Lutz needed sweeping under and coming out with the lead off turn two.

"Under caution I pulled alongside Mike (Woodring) on the outside, I don't know if he thought I was going high on the restart or not. But, he left the bottom open and that's where I wanted to run all along." said Lutz on the pass. "When I saw the lane open I knew I had to make the pass and make it now! After I took the lead I stayed right at the bottom for the rest of the race hoping to keep him behind. When you have a driver like Mike behind you, you have to run hard right to the end."

Even though Lutz was fast, Woodring was right there on his rear bumper for most of the final 17 laps. When they came into lapped cars Woodring was just a few inches from the tail tank of Lutz's Mike VanDusen owned #58. "I made one slip on that (lap eight) restart and he (Lutz) took advantage." said a somewhat disappointed Woodring. "But, I never fell back too far and I was just hoping for the lap cars. I felt I had a good chance getting back by in that situation. But, every time we got in traffic we would run about one lap and then the caution came out. I just couldn't seem to get the right break tonight. I think it's this starting on the pole thing, I pulled the pole three of the last four years and all three I didn't get the win."

At the drop of Tom Burton's checkered flag it was Lutz bringing the Dale Beach logging mount home for ESS career win #3 with Woodring right behind. "This is a great way to start the season." noted Lutz. "I have a new owner in Mike VanDusen and I feel good for him to get the win as well. We had a terrible week in Florida losing two motors and wrecking one car. But, we kept plugging and the goal is to win the ESS title. I guess winning the first night is the best way to start."

Wilson's Focus Eye backed #42W stayed third all race making for a successful night for the exciting Canadian driver. Dan Kaszubinski came home fourth with his new Maxim built sprinter, but, while fourth is a solid finish, getting there was a story in itself. On the second lap of the feature event Kaszubinski hopped the right rear tire of Ray Preston sending his car off turn three full throttle. Incredibly his car never flipped over and the Syracuse, N.Y. pilot restarted in the tail. Using a wild style on the outside of the track, Kaszubinski came back through the field finishing a strong fourth. Rounding out the top five was Woodring's teammate Erin Crocker capping off a good evening for the team.

The next five was made up of local favorite Lance Yonge, veterans Bobby Podolak and Tom Taber, Taking ninth was National Sprint Car Racing Poll 360 co-rookie of the year Billy Krull who also earned the Walt's Hobby hard charger bonus coming from his 19th place start. In tenth was Bill Bailey who hails from the Southern Tier of N.Y. State.

Four cautions slowed the pace in the 25 lap Valvoline Cup sponsored A-Main; Kaszubinski on lap two, Don Sharp Jr. made contact with the inside wall in turn two, John Karklin Jr. spun on lap 13 and Mike Stelter made contact with the outside wall in turn two on lap 19.

Taking the Engler Machine and Tool heat events which paid $25 to win were Bill Coffey, Kaszubinski and Crocker. The Lane's Yamaha/Walt's Hobby Dash was won by Wilson over Kaszubinski with the KSE Racing Products B-Main copped by Krull.

The Black Rock Speedway management along with a long list of volunteers deserve a big pat on the back in getting the show in. Just three days earlier, the entire grounds as well as the racing surface was covered by several inches of snow. Never throwing in the towel, the staff was treated to a good sized crowd with a full pit area on a night where temps hovered just above freezing. Track conditions were far better than most predicted making for a very successful and well run show for all.

ESS NOTES: - A solid field of 29 sprinters pulled into the pits at the Yates County oval--.several ESS teams were not ready yet for the early opener as many drivers on hand watching from the sidelines--.Tim Barnard was the only flip victim of the night getting over in the B-Main--.The winners take for Lutz that totaled $2,515 included $1400 from the ESS base purse, $175 from the Valvoline Cup, $50 from Car-Mate Trailers and another $50 cash from Brodix Cylinder Heads for leading on lap 13. Added bonuses came from Sway-A-Way, ATL Fuel Cells, AFCO Shocks, Hank's Performance Products, Saldana Racing Products, Total Seal, Real Racing Tires, Bicknell Racing Products, Hazlitt Vineyards, Behrent's Performance Warehouse/Mechanix Wear, American Race Tires, Red's Speed Shop and MRE Productions--.Sixteen year old Nick Fratto made his first ever ESS start and just missed cracking the A-Main starting lineup--Tough luck for George Ely and "Crash" Nash as they were loaded early in the night--.Lance Yonge, Bubby Kerrick and Erin Crocker signed autographs before the night's action which was a big hit with the crowd--The next event on the 20th anniversary tour for "America's Race Cars" comes on Sunday, May 4th with the Empire Super Sprints/United Racing Club Challenge event at the Grandview Speedway. The 30 lap feature event will pay $3,000 to win.

-ess-

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Series Sprint
Drivers Erin Crocker , Nick Fratt , Bill Coffey