CENTERL LISLE, NY – The Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints (ESS) made their second stop of a four race weekend at Thunder Mountain Speedway on Saturday. They were greeted by a tacky track that was setup up perfectly for Pennsylvania Sprint Car ace Mark Smith. Smith, driving Patrick Vigneault’s Mach1 No. 55, rode the cushion to his second win of the season with the series.
Smith wasted no time finding the cushion in the 25-lap, $2,075 to win Mach 1 Chassis A-Main as he immediately jumped to the top of the track at the start. It was the same line he utilized to capture a heat race victory earlier in the night. Even as traffic became an issue, Smith never moved off the high-line as he went on to win the NAPA Auto Parts Tour of the U.S. feature.
“That was pretty good,” smiled Smith as he sat parked in Victory Lane. “This is my kind of race track. It curbed up and you could run above or below or run through it. I love it a little choppy on these smaller tracks. It added some character to the race.”
United Racing Club invader Jimmy Stitzel started from the pole position for the night’s festivities which allowed him the opportunity to charge to the lead on the first circuit. Stitzel and his front row counterpart Chad Miller both quickly ducked to the bottom giving Smith the outside.
Smith nearly led the first lap as he came to the line just feet behind Stitzel for the top spot. From there he completed the pass inches from the wall as he exited the second corner. At that point he continued to sail into the cushion harder and harder to put a gap on the rest of the field.
Traffic slowed him only slightly on lap six and then on the seventh circuit the caution was needed as Jared Horstman’s night ended after his throttle stuck entering turns one and two. Horstman got hard into the wall before coming to a rest on all four wheels. He was uninjured the incident but his car needed to be hooked from both ends to get back to the pits.
For the restart Jason Barney pulled alongside of Smith. Smith, using the outside for the double-file restart, again went to the top on entry to the first turn. He quickly pulled away from Barney as he tried to make the bottom groove work. Eventually Barney gave up on that lane and went to the top in his efforts to track Smith.
With the race at its mid-point, Smith held the lead over Barney, Miller, Stitzel and Joe Trenca. Barney was able to keep pace, but Smith was nearly untouchable as he kept his momentum up on the outside. With 18 laps complete it was all Smith as he entered traffic again with Barney still working hard to find a lane to track him down.
Barney’s last chance at Smith came on a lap 24 caution for Coleman Gulick as he spun going for third in turn two. He collected Paulie Colagiovanni as he attempted to drive up the track out of the racing groove. The restart offered the entire field one last opportunity at Smith. Rather than select the top for the restart, Smith chose to use the inner lane for the green. The choice paid off as he kept Barney at bay for his first career Thunder Mountain Speedway win.
“I just wanted to change it up,” commented Smith about his lane choice for the restart. “I knew I was good wherever I wanted to go. I figured I’d do something different on the last lap and mess him (Barney) up a little bit.”
Barney threw what he could at Smith on the final lap but he was forced to deal with a hard-charging Trenca. Trenca peeked around Barney which caused him to alter his plans on the final lap. The Brewerton, N.Y., driver was able to hold on for a second place finish in his X-1 Race Car.
“I was hoping for some lapped traffic to stall Mark a little bit,” mentioned Barney. “He’s a great race car driver. I’m happy for them. When the track is like this and you really have to attack the outside, Mark is one of the best in the business. We just tried to maintain, move around a little bit. We had a great race car but the only thing that was going to do it for me is if he got held up and got put in a bad spot.”
Trenca, of Clay, N.Y., drove to his best career Empire Super Sprint finish crossing the line third. Trenca was also good the last time ESS visited the Southern Tier of New York as he earned a top five at the I-88 Speedway in early August as well.
“The crew and I learned a few things there (I-88 Speedway) that we just stumbled upon,” said Trenca. “We figured this is kind of the same track surface, shape, everything so we tried it tonight and it worked again. We are happy. It was racey track. It was fun.”
Current point leader and defending champion Steve Poirier won a fierce battle with Parker Evans on the final lap to finish fourth. Evans, who had started 17th, was able to complete the top five. A field of 28 sprints filled the pit area.
Mach 1 Chassis A-Main – Mark Smith ($2,075), Jason Barney ($1,000), Joe Trenca ($800), Steve Poirier ($655), Parker Evans ($640), Jimmy Stitzel ($660), Chad Miller ($455), Pete Richardson ($420), Justin Barger ($535), Tim Axton ($425), Thomas Radivoy ($460), Brandon Kidd ($95), Jeff Cook ($350), Paul Kinney ($340), Coleman Gulick ($285), Paulie Colagiovanni ($305), Matt Tanner ($75), Matt Billings ($275), Dan Bennett ($300), Jonathan Preston ($325), Dave Axton ($275), Steve Collins ($275), Chuck Hebing ($275), Jared Hortsman ($275)
Did Not Qualify – Jordan Thomas, Keith Granholm, George Suprick, James Hanson
Lap Leaders – Stitzel (1), Smith (2-25)
Car Mate Trailers Heat 1 – Smith, Poirier, Barney, Collins, Radivoy, Bennett
Car Mate Trailers Heat 2 – Miller, Richardson, D. Axton, Hortsman, Barger, Evans
Car Mate Trailers Heat 3 – T, Axton, Stitzel, Trenca, Gulick, Preston, Colagiovanni
Scorpion Security Products/Cobra Coaches Dash – Barger, Radivoy, Preston, Colagiovanni, Evans, Bennett
Lacaillade Masonry B-Main – Cook, Billings, Kinney, Hebing
Added Starters – Tanner, Kidd
Scorpion Security Products/Cobra Coaches Dash – Barger ($100), Radivoy ($75), Preston ($50), Colagiovanni ($25), Evans ($25), Bennett ($25).
Insinger Fuels Hard Charger – Evans (12 pos.) $50
Engler Machine and Tool Halfway – Smith $50
E&V Energy – Kinney, Poirier $50
Ohsweken Speedway 21st Anniversary – D. Axton $50
Fondations 55 Pick 5 – Evans $35
Car Mate Trailers Heats – Smith, Miller, T. Axton $25
911 Restoration – Barger, Radivoy $25
Lucas Oil ESS 7-12 Challenge – None – $700 Sept. 4 at Utica-Rome
Hoosier Tires – Colagiovanni $200
Vahlco Wheels – Stitzel $190
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The Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints are brought to you by: Lucas Oil, Mach 1 Chassis, Einstein Construction Group, SUNY Canton, NAPA Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tires, Donath Motorworx, Insinger Performance, Car Mate Trailers, Fondations 4 Saisons, Beard Sewer and Drain, Cobra Coaches, 911 Restoration, Westward Painting Company, Fondations 55, E&V Energy, Panther Frameworx, YorkMont Auctions,, Engler Machine and Tool, Northwood 2 Construction, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Lacaillade Masonry, FX Chevy, ASI Racewear and many, many associate sponsors!!