VERNON, N.Y. – Steve Poirier did something that rarely happens, he made a mistake in the final corner of the 30-lap A-Main allowing Stewart Friesen to retake the lead and the win in the first ever Gates-Cole Associates/SUNY Canton Cole Cup at the Utica-Rome Speedway.
Friesen hosted the Cole Cup trophy in Victory Lane for the biggest win of his Sprint Car career. He also gave the Doug Emery/Barb Patterson owned team its fifth win of the season with four of those wins coming from Friesen and one additional win from Doug Emery. Friesen pocketed $7,000 for his efforts in the program that was stretched to two-days thanks to Mother Nature.
“This is a pretty awesome feeling,” commented Friesen. “I owe this all to Barb (Patterson) and Doug (Emery). This is a great race team and I’m really fortunate to be surrounded by great people right now. This is a great group of local people. When we go on the road and visit other places I’m really happy to call Utica-Rome home and represent this place. This is pretty darn cool. I got to thank everyone, all the clubs that came together. It is a great situation.”
Jason Barney and Wayne Johnson made up the front row for the green flag with Barney leading the field to the first turn before Friesen blasted by him on the outside of turns three and four to take the lead.
From there it was Friesen setting the pace while Barney, Bryan Howland and Steve Poirier battled for second. That was the way the field ran as the first caution came out on lap three when Kevin Ward Jr. spun off the speedway causing Dylan Swiernik to spin and collect Larry Wight. Wight flipped off the top turn three several times. He was uninjured in the incident.
After cars were pushed back off and a double-file restart put Friesen on the point and Barney to his outside. When the green came out, Friesen, using his Modified experience, ran away from the field while Poirier moved around Barney into the second spot. The race between the two was on from there.
Friesen opened the gap to several car-lengths before entering slower traffic on lap 10. Friesen got held up a couple of times allowing Poirier to close the gap between the pair. A few laps later Friesen made a couple of swift moves to put several cars between them.
At halfway Friesen was the leader over Poirier, Barney, Shawn Donath and Howland. Friesen’s advantage was nearly a full-straightaway with the rest battling for the runner-up position.
That was the running order with ten laps to go and then, with seven laps to go, the final caution of the race came out for Dain Naida as his car went up in flames setting up a potential race changing restart. Naida’s car was pushed from the speedway with the field doubling up for the green flag.
Friesen elected to use the bottom of the speedway for the restart as Poirier pulled in alongside of him. Friesen went to the bottom going into the first turn and skated to the middle while Poirier went to the extreme outside of the speedway to pull even with Friesen. As they completed that lap Friesen led by a nose at the line.
They raced evenly into the first corner then Poirier prevailed off the second corner to take the lead. He opened the gap as they ran down the backstretch while extending the lead off the fourth corner. It looked like that was it for Friesen as Poirier continued to race away.
As they took the two to go sign Poirier was closing quickly on the back end of the field as Friesen lagged behind him. Poirier was perfect on that lap but traffic was quickly coming into to play in the event.
On the final circuit Poirier bobbled slightly in the first turn allowing Friesen to close slightly. Then Poirier did something he never does, he made a mistake in turn three. Poirier ran up quickly on back of a slower car and lost the air on the nose. This pushed his car up the speedway as he nearly went off the top of the track allowing Friesen to drive by underneath to take the lead and then the win.
“What a last corner,” said Friesen. “My heart sank when I saw him (Poirier) cruise by me on the outside. I was trying to maintain, cruise and take it easy. On that last restart he snookered us on the top. I just pulled the wing back and I gained a couple of car lengths, but I thought it was too little too late. He got bottled up in lapped traffic so I’ll take it.”
Poirier was nearly in shock after the second place finish as he admitted making a mistake in the final turn to lose the race. He had pulled the wing back to take the lead from Friesen and that adjustment didn’t pan out in traffic.
“I was pretty aggressive on that last yellow with the wing so I put it back because I was in clean air,” said Poirier. “When I reached traffic I was pushing a little bit. I just reached Jeff Cook. I tried to run him on the outside and when I tried to go by him on the outside I lost the air on my nose and the car pushed up the race track. I was just hoping to keep the car on the race track. It was a really bad mistake for me on the last lap.”
Donath advanced from the 13th position to finish in third. It was a much needed boost to his team as he has struggled with mechanical woes and incidents in his first season behind the wheel of his own car.
“It was definitely a long way to go for us,” said Donath. “The car was really good but there were a lot of good cars in front of us and that makes it a tough road to hoe. Pete (Lewandowski) and the guys found something with the race car yesterday and guys transferred it over to today and I can’t be any happier.”
Jessica Zemken advanced from the 16th to finish in the fourth position and Cory Sparks came home fifth after starting in 11th when apparent fifth place finisher Howland was penalized for a rules infraction and placed last.
Barney fell back after the last restart to finish in sixth with United Racing Company driver Davie Franek finishing in seventh. Lance Yonge finished eighth, Ohsweken Speedway regular Jamie Collard finished ninth and 2012 Patriot Sprint Tour American Champion Scott Kruetter finished tenth.
Poirier set fast time in DirtTrackDigest.com time-trials with a lap of 15.836. Heat races wins were taken by Poirier, Barney, Friesen, Kevin Ward Jr. and Wight while Matt Tanner won the B-Main.
360 SPRINT CAR COLE CUP FINISH (30-laps): Stewart Friesen, Steve Poirier, Shawn Donath, Jessica Zemken, Cory Sparks, Jason Barney, Davie Franek, Lance Yonge, Jamie Collard, Scott Kruetter, Paul Kinney, Matt Tanner, Tommy Wickham, Joe Trenca, Patrick Vigneault, Kevin Ward Jr., Robby Stillwaggon, Jeff Cook, Dylan Swiernik, Randy West, Wayne Johnson, Dain Naida, Justin Barger, Bobby Breen, Larry Wight, Bryan Howland DNS Billy Pauch Jr., Jared Zimbardi
DNQ Mark Bitner, Chuck Hebing, Vinnie Vitale, Steve Glover, Sammy Reakes IV, Mike Stelter, Dave Ely, Brad Knabb, Glenn Styres, James Hanson, Steve Hutchinson, Dave Axton, Scott Wagner, Danny Varin, Scott Just, Ryan Bohlke, Casey Williams, Geoff Quackenbush, Dave Just, Jeff Thomas, Keith Dempster, Etienne Girard, Paul Habeck, Aaron Ott