BREWERTON, N.Y. – It was a difficult night for the members of the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints family as they returned to action for the first time since tragedy struck the organization one week ago. A sea of orange greeted the drivers as everyone paid tribute to the late Kevin Ward Jr., at the Brewerton Speedway.
Larry Wight was victorious in the 25-lap affair on a track Ward would have been happy to race on; heavy, with lots of bite, just like he liked it. For Wight, it was his first ever victory in a sprint car and it came as part of the SUNY Canton Series and E &V Energy Tour of the States.
“Feels great, especially at our home track,” said Wight. “We knew eventually we’d get the setup just right and we’d be able to run around here. This is huge, especially tonight with Kevin. I dedicated this race to run around the top just like he would, right on the cushion. I’ve seen him do it 100 times I figured why not try it.”
The feature got off to a rough start as red was displayed before a single lap could be completed as Steve Hutchinson Jr., got upside in the first turn collecting Jeff Cook. Both drivers were uninjured.
On the next attempt Parker Evans got the lead from his pole starting position and kept the pace up early maintaining the lead as Jason Barney worked from fourth into second as they reached traffic on lap four. Before another lap could be completed caution was necessary as Etienne Girard clipped a tire on the bottom of the track and broke the frontend on his No. 422.
Jason Barney got the jump on Evans at the green and took the lead with a new challenger moving into second in Wight. Wight had worked his way forward from the inside of the fifth row to take over the runner-up position. Barney led lap five before Wight nipped him at the line for the lead on lap six. One lap later, Barney regained the lead and pulled away.
By halfway Barney caught traffic with Wight in tow. The pair raced one another while navigating through the slower cars at the backside of the field. It remained Barney and Wight out in front as the laps clicked off.
Another red flag was necessary on lap 19 as Joe Trenca got into another car causing his frontend to break. This sent him up the track into the path of Bryan Howland who made contact with Trenca’s car causing them both to flip in turn. They were also uninjured in the accident.
With the green flag coming back out, Barney and Wight resumed their battle at the front of the field. Barney stayed on the bottom while Wight drove his No. 99L up above the cushion. Wight powered by Barney and led at the line by a nose as they completed lap 20. Before another lap could be run, Daryl Ruggles became the final car to get on his lid. He flipped in turn one. He climbed out unscathed.
“It is hard to pass if you hooked up to him like a train so we decided to go where no one else was,” commented Wight. “Above the cushion was a little bit smoother than trying to slide up to it. We had the car set up to it.”
Action resumed with Wight as the leader. He held off Barney on the restart and then drove away, staying above the cushion, to record his first ever win with the traveling stars of the Empire Super Sprints.
Barney, of Brewerton, N.Y., finished in the runner-up position. Afterwards he wasn’t upset to finish second, he was just happy to honor his fallen friend.
“It would have got a little better for me but it’s okay second is okay, it didn’t matter who won it was about Kevin, he won this race tonight,” said Barney. “It didn’t matter whose car was out front. I’m just happy to be down here. We had a great race car and unfortunately lost a brake line before that last restart, but it didn’t matter. Second doesn’t matter, third doesn’t matter, I’m just happy everyone showed Kevin support tonight.”
Owego, N.Y., driver Evans completed the podium with his best ever finish as well. Evans used a power move to get by Steve Poirier late in the race to take back a spot in the top three.
“We came up a little short tonight but we are in good company,” stated Evans. “Those two guys are hell of a good drivers. I should have went to the outside sooner. This is my first time here. The track is awful tacky and I’m not really used to that. It took us a little bit to get used to it and figure out how to drive it. Hopefully next time we come back we’ll have something for them.”
Poirier finished in the fourth spot, maintaining his point lead, while Tommy Wickham, of Constantia, N.Y., rounded out the top five in the A-Main.
ESS/Brewerton Notes: A field of 24 sprints made up the pit log despite threatening weather…Fans and race teams alike came out in droves wearing orange in support of the Ward family…Even with the trying week, the Ward’s did attend over 20 members strong and visited teams in the pits during the night…next week it’s up to Quebec to Autodrome Granby and Le RPM Speedway for two $2,000 to win, $500 to start events.
Lucas Oil A-Main – Larry Wight ($1,525), Jason Barney, Parker Evans, Steve Poirier, Tommy Wickham, Paul Kinney, Steve Glover, Mike Stelter, Tim Axton, Dave Axton, James Hanson, Sammy Reakes IV, Darryl Ruggles, Joe Trenca, Bryan Howland, Patrick Vigneault, Stewart Friesen, Matt Tanner, Danny Varin, Etenne Girard, Jeff Cook, Steve Hutchinson Jr.
Did Not Qualify – Dave Wickham, Yan Bolideau
Lap Leaders – Evans 1-4, Barney, 5, Wight 6, Barney 7-19, Wight 20-25/
Car Mate Custom Built Trailer Heat 1 – Wickham, Glover, Kinney, Howland, Stelter, Vigneault
Car Mate Custom Built Trailer Heat 2 – Friesen, Poirier, Evans, Trenca, Tanner, D. Axton
Car Mate Custom Built Trailer Heat 3 – Varin, Girard, Wight, Barney, Ruggles, T. Axton
87 Speed/X-1 Race Cars/Cobra Coaches Dash – Wickham
Westward Painting Company Halfway – Barney $100
Insinger Performance Hard Charger – T. Axton (9 pos.) $50
Fondations 55 Pick 5 – Wickham $50
Lacailade Masonry Remembering Kevin – Ruggles $50
Car Mate Trailers Heat – Wickham, Friesen, Varin $25
Go Nuclear Late Models Go Fast – Wight (12.550) $25
Bitner Automotive Blistering Fast Time – Varin (12.370) $25