By MIKE MALLETT
LAFARGEVILLE, NY – Steve Poirier has had his fair share of tough luck in 2011 but as of late all things seem to be heading in the right direction for the defending Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprint (ESS) series champion.
On Friday night at the Can-Am Motorsports Park, the three-time champion picked up his third win of the season and his 33rd career win which moves him to fourth on the series all-time win list. Poirier grabbed the lead late on a double file restart and went for the win in the Riverside Bar and Grill 25-lap SUNY Canton Series, Northwood 2 Construction/Lasalle Motorsports Canadian Sprint Series event.
“They (restarts) change the whole outcome of the race,” commented Poirier after the win. “I think this is the first time I’ve got to start double-file on the outside row. I knew it was a good chance for me to get by Rick (Wilson) and I was lucky I did.”
Rick Wilson paced the field in the early going of the main-event after starting on the pole in his first ESS appearance of 2011. Wilson, of Joyceville, Ont., held off the early challenges of Dylan Swiernik to maintain the races top position.
The first caution of the race came out on lap five when Matt Tanner clipped an implement tire on the inside of the racetrack and broke the front end on his No. 90.
Wilson and Swiernik sat on the front row for the restart with Wilson again gaining the edge on the young driver from Port Leyden, N.Y.
The race remained caution free with Wilson leading and Poirier working his way to the front from the seventh starting position. By lap 15 he moved in the runner-up position while Wilson worked through slower traffic.
On lap 19 Swiernik’s day came to an end when the right front wheel came off of his mount forcing him to stop at the exit to the second corner. It was now Wilson and Poirier in the top two positions for the restart.
Wilson got on the gas exiting turn four with Poirier staying with him on the outside. They raced into the first turn side-by-side with Poirier gaining the edge in the middle groove as they raced down the back straightaway.
Poirier, of St. Mathieu de Beloeil, Que., pulled away from Wilson but the lead was negated one final time on lap 22 when Mike Stelter spun in turn three. This setup one final restart and gave Wilson the opportunity to return the favor on Poirier.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect on the restart,” said Poirier. “I didn’t want to leave him two much room to get underneath me. I knew the inside was probably better and I knew our car was a little bit better from following him earlier in the race.”
Green was displayed and Poirier bolted back to the lead while Cory Sparks used the same move to get Wilson that Poirier had used three laps earlier. Sparks drove by Wilson on the outside of turns one and two and grabbed second. He was unable to track down Poirier in the final laps allowing him to score the win and to get back into the chase for his fourth career title.
“Good season so far except for two crashes,” said Poirier. “That’s not good for the championship but the car has worked great. We tried different things tonight in heat and dash and it wasn’t good so we went back to our basic setup in the feature and obviously it worked.”
Sparks, of Edinburg, N.Y., earned his best finish of the 2011 season with a second place run. He ran out of time to challenge Poirier for the win.
“I ran the wing all the way back and said we have to make this work on the outside,” said Sparks. “Steve (Poirier) and Rick (Wilson) were really fast and I knew the only chance I had to get by them was on a restart because once we stay green for a few laps you get strung out and it is hard to catch anybody.”
The strong finish leaves Sparks and his family owned team near the top of the overall ESS point standings as we reach the midpoint of the season.
“It feels really good to keep breaking into the top three,” said Sparks. “We are one spot away from getting that win but I’ll take top fives and top threes all day long.”
Wilson was pleased with the third place effort considering what little time he’s spent in a racecar during the 2011 season. A sealed tire may have been the culprit causing him to lose positions in the final stages of the race.
“I’ve only raced six races this year because we’ve been working every day,” commented Wilson. “It was nice to get back here to Can-Am. It was too bad for those cautions because I sealed a tire up. Poirier and those guys are going good right now and we are still tweaking things a little bit. I don’t think we missed it tonight it was just those cautions that hurt us.”
Shawn Donath came from the 16th starting position to earn a fourth place finish with his Doug Emery Motorsports No. 33. Chris Jones crossed the line fifth but was light on the scales giving the final spot in the top five to Michael Parent.
Rounding out the top ten were Kevin Ward Jr. who started in 22nd and earned the hard charger bonus, Lance Yonge, Tommy Wickham, Alain Bergeron, who came back from a flip in his heat race and Connecticut’s Russ Bennett.
ESS/Utica-Rome Notes: A big field of 30 sprints filled the pits as the sprints played host to Can-Am’s largest crowd of the year…The Wilson family, Rick and April, made their first ESS starts of the year…Can-Am modified regular Billy Dunn thrilled the crowd with his heat win I only his second ever sprint car start…With the success of the two events this season, ESS has already been booked to make return visits for 2012.
Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints/Riverside Bar and Grill A-Main – Steve Poirier ($2,075), Cory Sparks, Rick Wilson, Shawn Donath, Michael Parent, Kevin Ward Jr., Lance Yonge, Tommy Wickham, Alain Bergeron, Russ Bennett, Billy Dunn, Jeff Cook, Tyler Rand, Patrick Vigneault, Chuck Hebing, Shayne Ely, James Hanson, Lee Ladouceur, Mike Stelter, Dylan Swiernik, Matt Tanner, Chris Jones (DQ – Weight).
Lap Leaders – Wilson 1-21, Poirier 22-25.
Did Not Qualify – Tim Kelly, Brian McDonald, Kyle Fraser, Curtis Bradshaw, April Wilson, Devin Caron, Dale Gosselin, Paul Pekkonen.
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heat 1 – Dunn, Hebing, Vigneault, Ward Jr., Yonge, Donath.
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heat 2 – Swiernik, Tanner, Jones, R. Wilson, Rand, Ladouceur.
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heat 3 – Wickham, Poirier, Parent, Sparks, Stelter, Bennett.
Billings Automorive/Cobra Coaches Dash – Hebing
Engine Research B-Main – Bergeron, Cook, Hanson, Ely.
Riverside Bar and Grill A-Main – Poirier $500
Cook’s Contracting Services Halfway – R. Wilson $100
WestFront Construction Hard Charger – Ward (16 pos.) $50
Ohsweken Speedway Winners Bonus – Poirier $50
Engine Research B-Main – Bergeron $50
Mohawk Racing Parts Pick 5 – Parent $50
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers – Dunn, Swiernik, Wickham $25
HG Associates Fast Time – Poirier (18.703) $25
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, Riverside Bar and Grill, Coffrage Daniel Lampron, Jasmin Peloquin Sport, FX Chevy and many, many associate sponsors.