Rich Vleck, THOROLD, Ont., (April 27, 2013)- Steve Poirier has been arguably the hottest sprint car driver in the northeast over the last seven months, so when he drew the pole for the feature Saturday Night at Merrittville many would assume he would easily claim the win; while he would indeed win, it was far from a runaway.
Poirier, of St. Mathieu de Bolelil, QC, claimed the Patriot Sprint Tour season opener for the second-straight year, his ninth career win under PST sanctioning. Poirier led all 25 laps of the A-Main at the line but on three separate occasions, there was a different leader at other points on the track.
“We are on a super good roll,” declared Poirier in Victory Lane. “When you have luck on your side you are happy and you just continue racing.”
The three-time Canadian Sprint Car Nationals Champion started the feature by rolling the top of the track, which allowed defending PST America Champion Scott Kreutter to sneak underneath the No. 28FM. Sensing that the quick line was on the bottom, Poirier moved his line down, which, in turn, opened up the door for outside polesitter Glenn Styres to wind up his Ohsweken No. 0 on the top. As the top two hit lapped traffic on lap 11, Styres appeared poised to take the lead, but Poirier cut off the hi line down the middle of the back stretch to kill the momentum of the “Ohsweken Flyer” and allow Poirier some breathing room.
“To be in front was really the key. My car was really loose, I was waiting for someone to come catch me,” admitted Poirier afterwards. “Maybe I got a break in traffic because I got to go to the bottom.”
Styres had to reset for the next few laps, but was having trouble getting through lapped traffic. Just after the completion of lap 20, he tried to clear his teammates Dain Naida and Keith Dempster, who had been lapped by Poirier, but missed his mark and spun around, drawing what would be the only caution of the night.
With under five laps remaining in the event, lapped cars were moved to the back and taken out of the equation, which put Mitch Brown, who had inherited second and who had raced up from ninth after winning the Original Pizza Logs Four Laps of Fame Dash, right on the back bumper of Poirier. Poirier decided to run the top line on the restart to build momentum, giving Brown a look to the inside. Momentum on the high side would indeed win out, not only for Poirier, but Justin Barger as well, as he rode the rim into second and then went after the leader in the waning laps.
“After (the caution), I slid the wing to the back, I went to the outside and tried that, I was slow, I was lucky I was up front.”
As Poirier remained committed to the top line, carefully commissioning his No. 28FM into the corners, Barger was all-out going for the win. With three laps to go, he got within shouting distance of the leader, but after missing his mark entering turn one on lap 24, Poirier still held a six car-length advantage entering the final lap, it did not deter the defending PST Canada Series Champion though.
Entering the final set of corners, Barger still trailed by five car lengths. Poirier once again slowly entered turn three on the top of the track with very little pitch to the car, which allowed Barger to make one all-out bid for the lead. Barger was able to inch ahead in the middle of the corner as the packed house at Merrittville held their collective breaths, but realized he could not clear the leader, and had to back out just enough to allow Poirier to hold on for the win.
“I saw Justin coming and I was like ‘oh here we go’. He gave me just enough room so I could clear him in turn four.”
After the race, Barger quickly hustled over to Poirier and stated that with one more lap it may have been a different story. In his post-race interview, he stated that he raced Poirier the way he would be raced if the rolls were reversed. It was a clear case of racing at 100%, and not a percentage more.
While Poirier had been fortunate to draw the pole for the A-Main, Barger was the unlucky recipient of the eighth starting position. After starting off the feature slow, he got going late in the race, finally cracking into the top five and then rocketing around the outside into second.
Jason Barney also got his car going in the late stages. After starting in 12th, the Constantia, NY driver was able to use the bottom to get inside the top five. On the final lap, he moved around Mitch Brown to land on the podium in his first sprint car start at Merrittville.
While Mitch Brown lost two spots in the closing laps, his fourth place showing was still a fine way for the youngster to start of his 2013 at one of his local tracks. Tommy Wickham accumulated the most passing points on the night and finished in the top five in the PST season opener for the second straight year.
Michael Parent, who was quickest in hot laps, got around Scott Kreutter for sixth. Kreutter, who was battling for the lead early on, fought tire and engine issues but was still able to record a solid finish.
Kevin Ward Jr. drove up to eighth after starting in 20th, a quiet but stout effort for the youngster. 2011 PST Champion Jared Zimbardi was ninth while Alain Bergeron rounded out the top 10.
The night was rather free of incident, with Travis Cunningham suffering the worst damage of the 28 cars in attendance when, on the first lap of heat race one, when he took the brunt of a domino effect and crashed hard into the frontstretch wall and was done for the night. Only Jessica Zemken and Martin Roy were unable to finish the feature.
Next up for the Patriot Sprint Tour is the PST America Season Opener next Friday at Black Rock Speedway in Dundee, NY. This event will be held on the 10-year anniversary of the first Patriot race. For more information, visit www.PatriotSprintTour.com.
Patriot Sprint Tour Canada Series Results: 4/27/13, Merrittville Speedway, Thorold, Ontario.
A-Main (25 Laps)- 1. Steve Poirier (28FM), 2. Justin Barger (5), 3. Jason Barney (87), 4. Mitch Brown (10), 5. Tommy Wickham (75), 6. Michael Parent (25), 7. Scott Kreutter (52), 8. Kevin Ward Jr. (13), 9. Jared Zimbardi (35), 10. Alain Bergeron (8B), 11. Jamie Collard (7x), 12. Glenn Styres (0), 13. Kyle Patrick (33k), 14. Todd Hoddick (49), 15. Brad Knab (38), 16. Dain Naida (07x), 17. Keith Dempster (5k), 18. Jim Huppunen (14H), 19. Steve Collins (67), 20. Patrick Vigneault (55), 21. Martin Roy (90), 22. Jessica Zemken (1z).
Lap Leaders- Poirier 1-25.
B-Mains (Top 4 Transfer to A-Main)- 1. Steve Collins (67), 2. Kevin Ward Jr. (13), 3. Martin Roy (90), 4. Todd Hoddick (49), 5. Jamie Turner (11), 6. Derek Jonathan (81), 7. Conor Mahoney (5c), 8. Dave Dykstra (96), 9. Darren Zumpe (11z), 10. Travis Cunningham (71).
Original Pizza Logs Four Laps of Fame Dash (4 Laps)- 1. Mitch Brown (10), 2. Keith Dempster (5k), 3. Jessica Zemken (1z), 4. Jason Barney (87), 5. Jared Zimbardi (35), 6. Dain Naida (07x).
National Parts Peddler Heats (8 Laps Each, Top 6 Transfer to A-Main)-
Race 1: 1. Steve Poirier (28FM), 2. Tommy Wickham (75), 3. Scott Kreutter (52), 4. Patrick Vigneault (55), 5. Kyle Patrick (33k), 6. Jessica Zemken (1z), 7. Todd Hoddick (49), 8. Dave Dykstra (96), 9. Travis Cunningham (71).
Race 2: 1. Alain Bergeron (8B), 2. Glenn Styres (0), 3. Brad Knab (38), 4. Dain Naida (07x), 5. Keith Dempster (5k), 6. Jim Huppunen (14H), 7. Steve Collins (67), 8. Conor Mahoney (5c), 9. Derek Jonathan (81).
Race 3: 1. Justin Barger (5), 2. Michael Parent (25), 3. Jason Barney (87), 4. Mitch Brown (10), 5. Jared Zimbardi (35), 6. Jamie Collard (7x), 7. Kevin Ward Jr. (13), 8. Martin Roy (90), 9. Jamie Turner (11), 10. Darren Zumpe (11z).