By MIKE MALLETT, DUNDEE, NY (April 12, 2008) – Justin Barger had the Sprint Car racing equivalent of a perfect game on Saturday night. Barger won his heat, captured the dash and then proceeded to claim his 11th career win in the 25th Anniversary Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprint 25-lap A-Main season opener at the Black Rock Speedway.
"This is a good way to start the season," stated the 24-year-old Barger. "We won last year's opener and hopefully we can keep picking them off as the season goes on."
Barger, of Montrose, N.Y., started the event on the outside of the front row and took the lead at the drop of Danny Mulligan's green flag.
Barger pulled away from Brian McDonald, who had started on the pole, until the first caution of the event came out on lap three when Scott Bonnell, Tommy Wickham and George Suprick tangled in turn four.
On the restart, Barger again opened up an advantage over McDonald. Just before he reached the slower traffic at the tail of the field the caution came out once again on the sixth circuit when Anthony Cain and Michael Parent tangled in turn one.
Barger, who was extremely good on restarts in his AEM Dryflow Air Filters/Ohsweken Speedway sponsored ride, easily retained the lead when racing action resumed.
"Those cautions seemed to fall at just the right time for me," stated Barger. "The cautions opened up the track and I was happy because the car was really good on restarts. The only problem that I had was that it took a couple of laps to get my rhythm back."
Barger held on for two more cautions with the final caution being displayed on lap 16 when McDonald got sideways and almost into the wall off of turn four. This bunched up the field and placed the second place car of Bryan Howland right on the tail of Barger's Rider powered Maxim.
When the green flag came back out, Barger pulled away momentarily but was unable to shake Howland as he made several attempts to take the top position away.
On the final circuit, Barger led with Howland able to pull alongside in turn two. As the pair raced into turns three and four for the final time, Barger went high with Howland sliding to his inside. Barger, forced to avoid the slower car of Normand Beaudreault, came down the speedway and held on to win by half a car length over Howland.
"I saw him (Howland) get to my inside when we raced into three," stated Barger. "The slower cars were side-by-side and I couldn't get through so I had to come down and block him (Howland) a little bit."
Howland, of Auburn, N.Y., had to settle for a runner-up finish after starting from the inside of the second row.
"I had to check up so I didn't get into him (Barger)," said Howland. "I didn't want to drive into him. His car was on rails all night and he earned the win."
Lance Yonge, from nearby Penn Yan, N.Y., had a hard fought third place finish after battling for much of the event with South Onondaga, N.Y. driver, Doug Emery. Yonge started fourth and grabbed third for the final time on lap 16.
"Doug (Emery) and I have been at this a longtime," commented Yonge. "We gave each other enough room but it was hard racing."
Chuck Hebing, of Ontario, N.Y., came from the 11th starting position to finish in fourth while Emery had a shock bracket break in the closing laps causing him to finish fifth.
ESS/Black Rock Notes: A field of 28 sprints were on hand for ESS' earliest opener since 2003...With the threat of rain all day, the Black Rock staff did a great job getting the show completed in just three hours...The early opener did see some teams not ready: Both Andy Noto and James Hanson were spectators while Gordy Button, Brandon Warner and Bobby Magner just couldn't get their mounts ready in time...Both Jeff Cook and rookie Robbie Shuttleworth didn't attend due to sprint break vacation...Making his first ever ESS full point show appearance was Josh Weller...Next up for the Lucas Oil tour will be a May 25th visit to the Utica-Rome Speedway for a $2,000 to win event. This race will also be the first part of the GSSI I-90 Challenge where there will be a $1,000 point fund being offered.
Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints Feature A-Main (25 laps): Justin Barger, Bryan Howland, Lance Yonge, Chuck Hebing, Doug Emery, Steve Poirier, Blake Breen, Josh Weller, Alain Bergeron, Jeff VanDusen, Dan Kaszubinski, Geoff Quackenbush, Jared Zimbardi, Normand Beaudreault, Brian McDonald, Bobby Breen, Gary Troutman, Scott Bonnell, Bubby Kerrick, Tim Kelly, Anthony Cain, Michael Parent, George Suprick, Tommy Wickham
Did Not Qualify – Cory Sparks, Mike Stelter, Chris Muhleisen, Lee Ladouceur
Heat Winners- Zimbardi, Parent, Barger.
B-Main Winner- Beaudreault
Dash Winner (4 Laps): Justin Barger