By MIKE MALLETT
VERNON, NY – For the second night in a row, Jessica Zemken, of Sprakers, N.Y., had luck on her side. The driver of the Tony Stewart Racing No. 14 Maxim sat second with four laps to go. On the final restart of the race Chuck Hebing was leading when he had brake problems handing the lead to Zemken. She held off Justin Barger in the closing laps to score her second win of the weekend in the $2,000 to win DTD Motorsports Media Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprint A-Main event at the Utica-Rome Speedway.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” joked Zemken after the win. “I would have liked to race him (Hebing) for the win but this is a good win for our team and real confidence booster. We’ve been running really well lately and I hope we can keep it going.”
For Zemken, it was her fourth Empire Super Sprint victory of the 2010 racing season and her second at the half-mile this season. The race was part of the SUNY Canton series.
“I love this place,” said Zemken in Victory Lane. “Any time I can win here it feels awesome. Everyone I know is here and this is my home track. This weekend couldn’t have ended any better.”
Hebing, of Ontario, N.Y., started the feature from the front row and quickly grabbed the lead when the race got started.
Hebing controlled the race for the first five circuits before Barger was able to move into second. Once in second Barger raced down Hebing and began applying pressure for the lead.
On the ninth circuit Barger was able to drive underneath Hebing in slower traffic in turns one and two to take the top spot. The lead was short-lived however as Hebing blasted back by Barger on the outside of turns three and four on lap 11.
As Hebing and Barger battled at the front of the field, Zemken was busy making her way from the eighth starting position to the front. Like the two nights’ before, Zemken rolled the bottom lane and it paid off as she made her way into second on lap 19.
Shayne Ely brought out the caution on lap 21 when he slowed and came to a stop in turns three and four. When the race went green again the caution was immediately displayed as Hebing’s No. 45 drove off the banking in turn one and came to a stop. The right front brake caliper locked up.
This handed the lead to Zemken for the final restart of the race with Barger right behind her. Over the course of the final four laps Barger challenged her as on the outside to no avail. At the line Zemken scored her sixth career series victory and for the weekend she pocketed $7,000.
“I knew the top was starting to blow off and go away,” said Zemken. “I knew as long as I was patient, smooth, and consistent on the bottom I was going to be alright. We had such a good car at the end of that race.”
Barger, of Montrose, N.Y., came home in second for the second night in a row in his JE Pistons sponsored Maxim. He did all he could at the end but was unable to find a groove to get by Zemken.
“She (Zemken) did a great job tonight,” stated Barger. “I couldn’t run the bottom like she could. Every time I went in on the bottom I pushed up the race track. I was trying what I could do up there on the outside but it is such a long way around with the cushion being out there as far as it was.”
Although he was second, Barger was pleased with his weekend as he scored a win and a pair of second place finishes.
“I’m happy with the run tonight,” said Barger. “We are running a little bit better than we did the last couple weeks so to come out with three top two finishes is a good weekend. If we can keep it going this way we’ll be good.”
Bobby Varin finished in third but was put back two spots for jumping on a restart, this moved Brian McDonald, of Cornwall, Ont., into third. It was a career best finish for the Canadian driver at the Gene Cole owned facility.
“Usually here I’m lucky to be a 20th place car,” laughed McDonald after his third place run. “We had a good starting spot tonight and I was really able to roll the outside. We’ll take a third place finish because this is a tough place.”
Lance Yonge, of Penn Yan, N.Y., crossed the line in fourth while the Modified point leader at the speedway, Bobby Varin, earned his third career Empire Super Sprint top five as he finished with the credited fifth.
ESS/Utica-Rome Notes: 29 cars entered for action at the second of three events at the Utica-Rome Speedway…Vermont’s Lacy Hanson made her first ever Empire Super Sprint start…Sprint Car Hall of Fame driver Kramer Williamson made the trek up from Palmyra, Pa., to race with ESS for the first time this season…Tyler Rice made his first start driving a 360 powered Sprint Car. All of his other attempts have come while driving a 305…Tim Kelly made his first appearance of the season with ESS…The next stop for the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints is July 11 at the Cayuga County Fair Speedway.
DTD Motorsports Media/SUNY Canton Series A-Main: Jessica Zemken ($2,000), Justin Barger, Brian McDonald, Lance Yonge, Bobby Varin, Steve Poirier, Dan Kaszubinski, Shawn Donath, Tommy Wickham, Dylan Swiernik, Kramer Williamson, Kevin Ward Jr., Mike Stelter, Tyler Rand, Tim Kelly, Jeff Cook, Tyler Rice, Josh Pieniazek, Kory Gurney, Jami Russell, James Hanson, Chuck Hebing, Shayne Ely, Zach Weigand.
Lap Leaders: Hebing 1-8, Barger 9-10, Hebing 11-21, Zemken 22-25.
DTD Motorsports Media A-Main Bonus – Zemken $400
Ohsweken Speedway Winners Bonus – Zemken $100
Cook’s Contracting Services Halfway Bonus – Hebing $100
WestFront Construction Hard Charger – Zemken $50
MVCC Aviation Extra – Kaszubinski $50
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heats – Kaszubinski, Poirier, Wickham $25
HG Associates Fast Time – Hebing $25
Did Not Qualify – Mark Zemcik, Lacy Hanson, Chris Jones, Warren Alexson, Curtis Bradshaw
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heats:
Heat 1 – Dan Kaszubinski, Bobby Varin, Lance Yonge, Justin Barger, Kramer Williamson, Mike Stelter
Heat 2 – Steve Poirier, Jessica Zemken, Shawn Donath, Chuck Hebing, Dylan Swiernik, Josh Pieniazek
Heat 3 – Tommy Wickham, Kevin Ward Jr., Brian McDonald, Tyler Rand, Tim Kelly, Zach Weigand
Dover Brake and Clutch/Cobra Coaches Dash – Steve Poirier
KSE Racing Products B-Main – Jami Russell, Kory Gurney, Tyler Rice, Shayne Ely
Added Starters – Jeff Cook, 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.