FULTONVILLE — The highly-anticipated return of the Empire Super Sprint series to Glen Ridge Motorsports Park after a 10-year hiatus provided fans with a record-setting performance and late-race drama Sunday night.
Matt Tanner set the tone for the night, setting a new lap record of 11.202 seconds on the quarter-mile dirt track in timed qualifying. However, when it came to feature time, Josh Pieniazek stepped up, passing Scott Holcomb on the final lap to collect the 25-lap 360 ESS A-main victory.
Late-race excitement was not limited to the ESS.
Andrew Buff passed Garrett Poland with three laps to go but Poland battled back, getting back in front on the white-flag lap to pick up his second 602 Crate Sportsman feature win of the season. After capturing the Limited Sportsman feature with a wire-to-wire run, Luke Horning returned to the track for the Pro Stock feature, passing Chuck McSpirit for the lead with four laps remaining to pick up his second feature win of the evening.
When Adam Fusco’s Slingshot slowed dramatically with two laps to go, Nathaniel Boesse powered his way to the front to pick up the win in the Northeast Paving and Sealcoat All-Star Slingshot feature, while Braxton Martin took the field from green to checkers for his first career Northeast Paving and Sealcoat Junior Slingshot feature win.
Adam Tranka held off Matt Mosher for the Street Stock feature win, while Billy Hillman and Dale VanAllen were the first two cars under the checkers to claim the Mini Stock Single and Dual Cam victories respectively.
The 25-lap ESS A-main got off to an auspicious start as Lacey Hanson got out of shape entering turn one and rolled, collecting the sprinter of Jeremiah Munson. Both drivers were uninjured but done for the night.
Holcomb pulled ahead of Pieniazek on the restart and, with an open track, built a 10 car-length lead. As the leaders caught the back of the pack, Pieniazek was able to close the gap to less than a car length.
When Holcomb cleared the traffic, he again broke away from Pieniazek for a solid advantage. The lapped traffic also allowed seventh-place starter Tanner and Chad Miller, who started sixth, to join the hunt for the lead.
Lapped cars again became a factor as Holcomb took the two-lap to go sign. Pieniazek closed quickly, pinning Holcomb behind a lapped car as he dove to the low side of turn one after taking the white flag and came away with the lead on the exit of turn two. Holcomb cleared the lapped car but could not chase down Pieniazek before the checkers dropped on his first ESS win at the Ridge to go with three 305 sprint car victories. Miller, Tanner and Danny Varin completed the top five.
“This is great,” Pieniazek said in victory lane. “This is a racy little short track. I just had to pick my spot in traffic. He was better in the open track because he was running in the line I preferred to run. When he got in traffic, I tried something different with two to go. This is our first time here with a 360 so I didn’t really know what to expect or how to set the car up but it all worked out.”
Cody Ochs set the early pace in the 30-lap Red Chair 602 Sportsman feature before dropping out with mechanical problems on lap 14, handing the lead to Poland.
Buff immediately pressured Poland for the lead but could not find a clear path to the front.
With three laps remaining, Buff dove to the bottom of the front stretch to clear a Poland for the lead as he got pinned behind a lapped car. Poland battled back and made a three-wide move with a lapped car and Buff heading into turn one. Buff backed out of a tight situation, allowing Poland to pull away for his second-straight victory. Tony Farone charged from his 10th starting spot to finish third followed by Justin Buff and Brendan Gibbons.
Racing returns to The Ridge this Sunday with a full regular race card plus the fourth leg of the Wheels of Fury Enduro Series.
The Red Chair DIRTcar Racing 602 Sportsman — Garrett Poland, Andrew Buff, Tony Farone, Justin Buff, Brendan Gibbons, Brian Calabrese, Tanner Warner, Ted Teal, Elliot Lussier, Al McCoy, Bill August, Aaron Jacobs, Shawn Mcphee, Cody Ochs, Ricky Quick, Dick Bisson, Mike Fisher (DNS).
Yurkewecz Auto Crushers DIRTcar Racing Pro-Stocks — Luke Horning, Chuck McSpirit, Beau Ballard, Andy Graves, Jay Fitzgerald, Buck Gasner, Doug Sheely, Ken Griffin Jr., Ken Allen (DNS).
Limited Sportsman — Luke Horning, Zach Buff, Jerry Cohn, Mike Hill, Brandon Jacobsen, Beau Reeves, Josh Laclaire, Taylor Wason, Katrina Bean, Wesley Sutliff, Dylan Gibson, Chris Bisson.
Street Stocks — Adam Tranka, Matt Mosher, Josh Samrov, Jason Samrov, Jason Barrett, Slater Baker, Ken Allen, Rob VanAernam, Mark Dupuis (DNS).
DIRTcar Racing Single Cam Mini Stock — Dale VanAllen, Ray Young, Wayne Russell Jr, Griff Mahoney.
DIRTcar Racing Dual Cam Mini Stock — Billy Hillman, Frank Twing Sr, Jamie Warner, Ariana Shultz, Gina Voris, Zach McSpirit, P.J. Bleau.
Northeast Paving and Sealcoat All-Star Slingshots — Nathaniel Boesse, Tucker Jones, Adam Fusco, Spencer Cherko, Scott Sprague, Nick Millard, Matt Sabo, Jennifer Collins, Dan Ballard.
Northeast Paving and Sealcoat Junior Slingshots — Braxton Martin, Corky Warner, Carson Hamlin, Cole Conrad, Sloan Cherko, Hayden Ackerknecht, Frank Twing Jr.
Empire Super Sprints — Josh Pieniazek, Scott Holcomb, Chad Miller, Matt Tanner, Danny Varin, Tommy Wickham, Billy VanInwegan, Davie Franek, Jason Barney, Jeff Cook, Shawn Donath, Dylan Swiernik, Chase Moran, Paulie Colagiovanni, Denny Peebles, Chuck Hebing, Kelly Hebing, Dalton Herrick, Tyler Cartier, Floyd Bi