By MIKE MALLETT
THOROLD, ONT. – Steve Poirier held off a torrid assault by Paul Kinney in the closing laps of Saturday night’s Lucas Oil Empire Sprints A-Main event at the Merrittville Speedway for the 44th win of his career. The 25-lap A-Main was part of the Le Groupe Ultra Tour of Canada series and the overall tour championship.
Poirier, of St. Mathieu de Beloeil, Que., took the lead at the midway point of the feature in slower traffic and then drove to his third win of the season with the series. He withstood a slide job from Kinney with two laps to go to nab the victory with his AMB Moteurs powered GFI Chassis. The win backed up his second place effort the night before in an open competition event at the Ohsweken Speedway.
“I got to thank my crew,” said Poirier. “They worked hard and we’ve had a really good weekend.”
Kinney, in his FX Caprara sponsored No. 19k, started on the pole with Jeff Cook to his outside for the green flag. Kinney, the defending race winner, bolted to the lead on the cushion to hold off Cook.
The duo remained the top two when the first caution was displayed on lap three as Jamie Turner caught an implement tire and broke the front end on his No. 11. He came to a stop in turn three necessitating a hook back to the pit area.
On the double-file restart, Kinney was able to again hold off Cook for the top spot. As he raced out in front, Poirier was advancing from the sixth starting position to take over the second position on lap eight.
Lap 13 was reached with Kinney just hitting traffic and Poirier hot on his heels. Kinney went high and a slower car drifted up in front of him two laps later opening the door for Poirier to sneak by on the bottom. Once in front, Poirier quickly opened the advantage on the field to a half straightaway.
“The car was good in lapped cars and that made it easy,” stated Poirier. “I could maneuver in traffic. I was following and waiting for an opportunity for the lapped car to choose the outside lane. That made the difference. Paul had a super fast car too.”
Poirier maintained the pace as the laps clicked off extending his lead over Kinney. Kinney meanwhile was forced to deal with Matt Tanner who began challenging him for the second position.
Lap 22 brought the final caution as Glenn Styres spun in the fourth turn creating one more opportunity for the field to challenge Poirier.
At the green, Poirier beat Kinney to turns one and two. Kinney right with him and as they raced through turns three and four he slid up from the bottom to the top at the exit of the corner in front of Poirier. Poirier drove back underneath Kinney to regain the lead.
“I was surprised at the end because I thought the outside was the preferred line,” stated Poirier. “I thought I would take it easy on the outside. I was surprised that Kinney was super fast and did that slide job. I moved my wing forward before that but it moved back on its own and I was pushing a little bit. I was playing it safe but then I knew I had to get on the gas or I was going to finish second tonight.”
Poirier opened up a couple of car-lengths in the final laps to take home the win with Kinney crossing the line just ahead of Tanner for second. Kinney, of Canastota, N.Y., was close to repeating but came up one spot short at the final checkered flag of the evening.
“It didn’t stick at all,” said Kinney at his last attempt for the lead. “I knew I had to try it. It was either follow him around and finish second or try and slide job him for the win. We got together a little bit but couldn’t help it. I threw it in there pretty deep. It could have been a lot worse. Congratulations to Steve on the win and I’ll take second all day long.”
Tanner settled for his third consecutive top three finish with the Empire Super Sprints aboard his Rifenberg Contracting Corportation No. 90. The Stephentown, N.Y., driver is still chasing his second career series win but he’s been closer in the last three events with the series.
“Tonight was a struggle,” stated Tanner. “We changed everything all night and finally got it good in the feature. I got the wing back and the car really took off. I thought we had a shot on that last restart when everyone got dicing it up but I lost where I was. I had wing so far back I got too tight in that last corner and couldn’t get Paul. I’m happy to come out of here with third and carry that into Speedweek.”
Jason Barney, of Brewerton, N.Y., came from 14th starting position to grab a fourth place effort in the final circuits while Chuck Hebing advanced from 15th spot to complete the top five. Roudning out the top ten were locals Mitchell Brown, Jim Huppunen, then Cook, Shawn Sliter and Brad Malloy.
ESS/Merrittville Notes – A nice field of 25 sprints on a warm night played host to an absolute sell out crowd at the 1/3rd mile oval near Niagara Falls…A nice mix of ESS regulars and local stars made for a fun event…Sliter and Cory Turner made their first ever ESS starts…The Lucas Oil ESS Tour now gears up for the SUNY Canton CNY Speedweek brought to you by Einstein Construction Group.
Lucas Oil ESS/Le Groupe Ultra Tour of Canada A-Main – Steve Poirier ($1,625), Paul Kinney, Matt Tanner, Jason Barney, Chuck Hebing, Mitchell Brown, Jim Huppunen, Jeff Cook, Shawn Sliter, Brad Malloy, Todd Hoddick, Chris Steele, Chris Jones, Kevin Ward Jr., Scott Kreutter, Mike Stelter, Glenn Styres, Tim Axton, Stan Zanchin, Keith Dempster, Havard Daniels, Dave Axton, Cory Turner, Jamie Turner.
Did Not Qualify – Jeremy Hughes.
Lap Leaders – Kinney 1-14, Poirier 15-25
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heat 1 – Poirier, Malloy, Daniels, Sliter, Huppunen, J. Turner.
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heat 2 – Ward Jr., Hoddick, Kinney, Steele, Barney, Jones.
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heat 3 – Brown, Kreutter, Cook, Tanner, Hebing, Zanchin
Doc MacGilligan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant/Cobra Coaches Dash – Hoddick
Lacaillade Masonry B-Main – Styres, Dempster, Stelter, C. Turner.
Added Starters – D. Axton, T. Axton.
Westward Painting Company Halfway – Kinney $100.
Insinger Performance Fuels Hard Charger – Barney (10 pos.) $50.
Lacaillade Masonry B-Main – Styres $50
Car Mate Trailers Heats – Poirier, Ward Jr., Brown $25
Go Nuclear Go Fast Award – Poirier $25
Bitner Automotive Blistering Fast Time – Kinney $25
The Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints are brought to you by: Lucas Oil, Mach 1 Chassis, SUNY Canton, E&V Energy, Le Groupe Ultra, Hoosier Racing Tires, Insinger Performance, Fondations 4 Saisons, Cobra Coaches, Westward Painting Company, Fondations 55, Einstein Construction Group, Camara Slate, Car Mate Trailers, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Ohsweken Speedway, Lacaillade Masonry, FX Chevy and many, many associate sponsors!!