By MIKE MALLETT
CENTER LISLE, NY – Jason Barney was disappointed with his seventh place finish on Friday in the opening night of action for the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints. On Saturday he made some changes and that proved to be just what he needed as he went on to lead all 25-laps to score the win in the E&V Energy, NAPA Auto Parts and Mach 1 Chassis feature at the Thunder Mountain Speedway.
Barney and the team tried some different things and those changes seemed to make the difference as it helped propel him to his first win of the season and his second of his career at Thunder Mountain.
“This is awesome,” said Barney. “We haven’t had the greatest start to the season. No fault other than it’s the way things go. I love these guys and I love this race team. I like to settle in my ways. Tonight this is a brand new race car with an engine we didn’t know anything about. It’s a completely new shock package and it’s just awesome how fast we got things going. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”
Barney got the lead in the first corner of the race after starting second by going three-wide between pole starter Jeff Cook and third place starter Joe Trenca. He powered his way through the middle to have the lead at the exit of the second turn.
“Luckily we’ve had two good starting positions,” stated Barney. “Starting up front tonight was good. We’ve been so good here and we found something that works good here. We’ve won from 12th but I don’t think we could do it again. The competition is so good now. You have to start in front of them. It’s not easy.”
Cook stayed within striking distance applying heavy pressure during the first few laps of the race before a caution was necessary as Jonathan Preston and Matt Tanner got together in the middle of turns three and four.
On the restart Barney jumped back out the lead with Cook fending off challenges from Franek and Mark Smith. Both drivers were looking to wrestle the second spot away from him to no avail.
On lap eight Josh Flint got into the third turn wall after losing his brakes bringing out the second caution as he came to a stop. A couple of attempts were made at the restart before action got back underway.
Barney took advantage of the restart going single-file to get away from Cook and company. He was able to run his line on the speedway allowing him to open up a lengthy gap on the race for second.
Barney hit heavy traffic with 10 circuits remaining in the feature. Rather than run the line he preferred on the bottom, he took his No. 87 to high groove on the speedway. He worked his way through traffic without issue while the battle for second picked up.
“I knew somebody was going to freight train me on the top,” said Barney. “I figured Davie would be right there. I had to get up there and block that lane. I didn’t feel like I was any faster, but I felt like if I left it open I was going to get beat.”
Cook couldn’t shake Franek with Chuck Hebing adding himself to the mix with only a handful of laps remaining. Hebing, who started 12th, found the top-side to his liking which allowed him to steadily move forward as the laps clicked off.
Hebing pressured both Cook and Franek put couldn’t find a groove to make a pass with both the high and low lanes full of cars as the three battled in traffic. Franek eventually made a move to get by Cook on the high-side to take over second with three to go.
Barney made no mistakes over the final laps allowing him to take home his first win of 2019. Franek, of Wantage, N.J., backed up his third on Friday night with a second at Thunder Mountain.
“Second sucks even more,” joked Franek after being asked about finishing second after not being happy with third the night before. “Tonight was a lot of fun. Lapped cars were doing their deal racing and stuff like that. I felt we had a really good car all night. We really just didn’t capitalize.”
Cook rebounded from a long night on Friday to finish in the third position after starting on the pole. He was upbeat after being able to score the podium finish.
“I wasn’t looking forward to starting on the pole,” mentioned Cook. “I guess it had a little bit to do with the finish. The car was good, but I made some mistakes like I normally do. Hopefully we can get the rust knocked off and get her going here.”
Hebing crossed the line in the fourth position with Smith being credited with fifth after Brett Wright was docked two positions at the end of the race for jumping a single-file restart.
A field of 31 sprints in the pits for the Lucas Oil ESS return to Thunder Mountain after several years. A large crowd filled the hillside grandstands.
Lucas Oil ESS/Mach 1 Chassis A-Main – Jason Barney ($2,260), Davie Franek ($1,035), Jeff Cook ($885), Chuck Hebing ($655), Mark Smith ($555), Steve Poirier ($470), Brett Wright ($530), Paulie Colagiovanni ($445), Joe Trenca ($410), Chad Miller ($400), Billy VanInwegen ($385), Josh Pieniazek ($320), Paul Kinney ($300), Scott Holcomb ($350), Denny Peebles ($300), Kyle Moffit ($325), Dustin Purdy ($300), Josh Azzi ($100), Edward Kelley ($100), Shawn Donath ($300), Thomas Radivoy ($300), Josh Flint ($375), Pete Richardson ($350), Jonathan Preston ($350), Matt Tanner ($300), Parker Evans ($300)
Did Not Qualify – Kelly Hebing, Alex Vigneault, Cory Sparks, Tyler Cartier, Scott Goodrich.
E3 Spark Plugs Fast Time – Smith, Tanner, C. Hebing $25
Car Mate Trailers Heats – Colagiovanni, Franek, Cook $25
Around Town Plumbing and Heating Halfway – Barney $50
Pinnacle Pole Award – Cook $50
Fondations 55 Hard Charger – Holcomb (10 pos), $50
Lacaillade Masonry B-Main – Preston $50
Ground Control Last Car Lead Lap – Peebles $25
Ground Control 11th Place Finish – VanInwegen – $25
Laser Art Studio/Cobra Coaches Dash – Wright $100, Flint $75, Richardson $50, Moffit $25.
Ashley Lynn Winery Podium – Barney, Franek, Cook $10
Hoosier Tire – Barney $200
For more Information on the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints:
The Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints are brought to you by: Lucas Oil, Mach 1 Chassis, NAPA Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tires, Donath Motorworx, E3 Spark Plugs, Ground Control Lawn and Snow, Car Mate Trailers, Fondations 4 Saisons, Ohsweken Speedway/Canadian Sprint Car Nationals, Cobra Coaches, Fondations 55, E&V Energy, SUNY Canton, Pinnacle Employee Services, AroundTown Plumbing & Heating, Engler Machine and Tool, Kevin Nouse Design/K1 Racegear, Winters Performance, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Lacaillade Masonry, FX Caprara Ford/Chevy, ASI Racewear and many, many associate sponsors!!