By MIKE MALLETT
LaFARGEVILLE, NY – Jessica Zemken came up one spot short on Friday of claiming the feature win at the Can-Am Speedway. She joked afterwards that Saturday night was the important night as there was the big money on the line and that they were ready to win that event.
Zemken came through as she got a little bit of luck and everything went her way in the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprint 25-lap A-Main event. Zemken, of Sprakers, N.Y., led most of the River Side Bar and Grill feature event to claim the $4,000 top prize. The event was also part of the SUNY Canton series.
“It was an awesome night,” said Zemken. “We had a good run last night and tonight we did what we came here to do. We went out and finally won the big money.”
Zemken’s luck came before the race even got underway as the two drivers scheduled to start the A-Main in front of her were forced to start at the tail placing her on the front row for the feature.
“We got so lucky because we were supposed to start sixth,” stated Zemken. “The two guys in front of me decided to start scratch. Right then and there I knew we had to go at the start. We opted for a harder tire and I knew it was going to take a few laps to come in but once it did the car was awesome.”
Two-time series champion, Steve Poirier started on the pole with Zemken on the outside. It was Poirier who took the initial lead of the race at the green as he used Zemken’s preferred line on the inside of turns one and two.
Poirier led the first four circuits with Zemken pressuring him every step of the way. Poirier worked the top side while she hugged tight to the inside of the speedway.
On lap four, Zemken made the move for the top spot as she dove to the bottom of turns one and two. Poirier went high and lost momentum off of turn two while Zemken’s Kistler powered Maxim was glued to the inner lane of the track.
The only caution of the race came on lap five. Shawn Donath broke the front end on his No. 33 and spun on the back straightaway.
The field came single file to the green to restart the race and Zemken was able to pull way on the restart. She was nearly a half straight away ahead before she caught the tail end of the field on lap 10.
While Zemken was busy with traffic, Poirier was confronted by a new challenge as he tried to retain the second position. Justin Barger caught Poirier and applied severe pressure. The veteran drivers swapped lanes numerous times but it was Barger that gained the upper hand on lap 15.
As Barger took second, Zemken was now a full straightaway ahead with several slower cars between them. Zemken, not knowing how large her lead was, continued to make moves in traffic. At one point on lap 22, Zemken went three wide on the back straightaway to put two more cars a lap down.
“I’ve been passed while leading a race as I’m trying to get through lapped cars before,” commented Zemken. “I hesitated a few times in traffic but I knew I had to go. I had to go where they weren’t and I knew my car was really good. Thankfully it all worked out for us tonight.”
Zemken went on to win the event, the richest paying of her career. Barger, coming off a win the previous night, was forced to take a second place finish.
“We had four wins in a row here and a second so we can’t be upset,” said Barger who claimed $2,000 for second. “It’s been a good start to the weekend and we need to finish it with a strong run on Sunday.”
Barger, facing an uphill battle in the closing laps, needed a caution to even have an opportunity to challenge Zemken for the lead. His Chris Barger owned Maxim came on strong at end of the feature.
“I wish we had a better car at the beginning of the race,” said Barger. “I think we had the best car at the end and we just lost too much ground early. We needed a yellow to close in on her. It would have been nice to see how good we were. It seemed like we gained a good amount of ground in last five to eight laps.”
Poirier, of St Mathieu de Beloeil, PQ, settled for a third place finish. Midway through the race Poirier had the nose wing on his Eagle mount collapse. This made the car to be very difficult to drive. He was happy with the third place finish.
“We made a lot of adjustments to the car tonight and we weren’t as fast as Jessica (Zemken),” stated Poirier. “We still need to make more changes. I’m happy to finish in third tonight considering we lost the front wing. Sometimes you have a good car and you don’t finish as well but tonight we couldn’t have done better than what we did so I’m happy.”
Lance Yonge, of Penn Yan, N.Y., continued his consistent effort as earned his fifth top five finish of the season. Blake Breen, of Savannah, N.Y., completed the top five. Rounding out the top ten were Alain Bergeron, rookie Kevin Ward Jr., Tommy Wickham, Chuck Hebing and local star Jeff Cook
ESS/Can-Am Notes – A total of 32 cars filled the pits with Lee Ladouceur, the Breen Bros. of Blake and Bobby, Tyler Rand and Kyle Fraser were new drivers from night one…Michael Parent and Anthony Cain were involved in a hard incident during the B-Main, both drivers were taken to a local hospital but were released late on during the night…A very unusual scenario during the line-up of the A-Main saw Jason Barney give up his outside pole starting spot due to driveline troubles, Bobby Breen was to start seventh but motor problems saw him start scratch, rear end issue for Shayne Ely saw him take one lap and Chuck Hebing had motor woes during the pace laps which forced him to change cars and also start scratch…The Lucas Oil Tour and SUNY Canton Series will again visit Can-Am on Sept. 3rd as a part of the Labor Day Celebration.
Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints
Riverside Bar and Grill/SUNY Canton A-Main – Jessica Zemken ($4,000), Justin Barger ($2,000), Steve Poirier ($1,000), Lance Yonge, Blake Breen, Alain Bergeron, Kevin Ward Jr., Tommy Wickham, Chuck Hebing, Jeff Cook, Dylan Swiernik, Brian McDonald, Dan Kaszubinski, Chris Jones, Rick Wilson, Mike Stelter, Lee Ladouceur, Tyler Rand, Zach Weigand, James Hanson, Jason Barney, Shawn Donath, Bobby Breen, Shayne Ely.
DNQ – Michael Parent, Anthony Cain, Devin Caron, Jami Russell, Curtis Bradshaw, Kyle Fraser, April Wilson, Paul Pekkonen.
Ohsweken Speedway Winners Bonus – Zemken $100
Cooks Contracting Services Halfway – Zemken $100
WestFront Construction Hard Charger Bonus – Hebing (11 pos) $50
MVCC Aviation Extra – Ward Jr. $50
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heats – Zemken, Donath, Bobby Breen $25
HG Associates Fast Time – Zemken $25
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers:
Heat 1 – Jessica Zemken, Alain Bergeron, Blake Breen, Kevin Ward Jr., Chuck Hebing, Rick Wilson.
Heat 2 – Shawn Donath, Jason Barney, Justin Barger, Lee Ladouceur, Brian McDonald, Chris Jones.
Heat 3 – Bobby Breen, Steve Poirier, Tommy Wickham, Lance Yonge, Shayne Ely, Jeff Cook
Cook’s Family Diner/Cobra Coaches Dash – Jessica Zemken
KSE Racing Products B-Main – Dan Kaszubinski, Dylan Swiernik, Mike Stelter, Tyler Rand.
Added Starters – Zach Weigand, James Hanson.
The Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints are brought to you by: Lucas Oil, Northwood 2 Construction/LaSalle Motorsports, SUNY Canton, 730 Truck Stop, Hoosier Racing Tires, Les Constructions Ultra, Cooks Contracting Services, Fondations 4 Saisons, Car Mate Trailers, The National Parts Peddler Newspaper, WestFront Construction, Cobra Coaches, The Ohsweken Speedway, Mohawk Racing Parts, Engine Research, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Total Race Supply, Riverside Bar and Grill, Coffrage Daniel Lampron, Mohawk Valley Community College, FX Chevy and many, many associate sponsors.