August 19, 2013 – Photo and Story by Steven Ovens – The Patriot Sprint Tour returned to the Woodhull Raceway on Saturday night to make up their July 27th event that was lost to rain. The drivers of this 360 sprint car traveling tour tackle tracks in New York, Pennsylvania and Canada. Woodhull Raceway is a paper clip shaped red clay 1/3 mile, featuring distinctly different banked corners. Turns 1 and 2 are banked higher than most dirt tracks you will find in the area. The Steuben County bullring is located just 20 miles west of Corning, NY.
The last two times the PST has traveled to Woodhull, Justin Barger and Bryan Howland have mastered this tricky track. Barger took the win in this event in 2012 and Howland picked up the win at Woodhull in May of this year. It was no surprise that both cars were fast in both their practice sessions and qualifying races. Heat races were taken by Jared Zimbardi, Howland and Scott Kreutter, with Barger taking the Bridesmaid position to Howland in Heat race 2.
Each of the drivers I talked to spoke to the fact that the track was tacky right from the start and had a cushion along the topside that was as hard as concrete. If hit just right, drivers used the cushion to cruise along the top side and gain positions in the drag race down the straightaways. If hit wrong, several drivers jumped the cushion and had to take evasive action to not hit the Turn 4 wall or sail off the bank exiting Turn 2.
During the redraw that took place on the frontstretch, Jared Zimbardi and Bryan Howland drew 1 and 2. Howland looked poised to secure another PST win for 2013 and said pitside, “we have to get better on the cushion. Our right rear might be a little too soft to run the cushion effectively. We have a fast car and want to get another win.”
As the green flag flew on their 25-lap A-Main, the top 3 starters fell victim to the 2-time PST Champion ‘The Cobra’ Chuck Hebing. Hebing made a daring move in Turns 1 & 2 to rocket from his 4th place starting position to the lead by the time they hit Turn 3. At the completion of Lap 1, the field was slowed by a caution flag for a car slowed on the front stretch.
On the restart, Hebing pulled away to a small advantage over Howland and Zimbardi. However, Howland had a stout Filtrec Corporation #51 under him on this night and powered back to the lead on Lap 4. One lap later, the field would be slowed for another caution with the Graves 25G stopping on the frontstretch and the Barnard #86 coming to rest in Turn 2.
On the Lap 6 restart, Howland continued to set the pace but the man on the move was Justin Barger. Barger started 7th at the initial green flag but was up to the 3rd position on Lap 6. He was using the cushion, particularly in Turns 3 & 4 to make some daring passes down the front straightaway. When the leaders hit lapped traffic, Barger used a lap car as a pick to take over 2nd place.
A Lap 17 yellow flag bunched the field back up but Barger now had 2 lapped cars between himself and Howland. When the green came back out it would take Barger 4 laps to dispatch of the lapped cars and catch Howland to battle for the lead. Another caution flew on Lap 23 to set up a Green-White-Checkered finish, and Barger was not to be denied.
As the green came out on Lap 23, Barger used the bottom side of the speedway to set Howland up for the race-winning move. As they entered 3 & 4, Howland chose to block Barger’s run on the bottom- but it was Barger who swung around the top shelf on the cushion and rocketed to the lead as the white flag was displayed. Howland gave it his best shot on the bottom, but had nothing for the Montrose, NY veteran.
Barger picked up the $2,500 win, Howland finished second with Hebing, Zimbardi and Kyle Drum completing the Top-5. It was noted that Kyle Drum, who is running select PST races, has 4 Top-10’s in 4 starts with the PST in 2013. “We just tuned on this car after the heat race and went back to what we know,” said an elated Justin Barger.
When asked what his mindset was trying to set up the pass for the win, “You want to try and make the pass and not run him over. I came in with a big head of steam. We had just enough room to squeak by and everything worked out.”
A dejected Bryan Howland said, “second is always the better place to be when you get down to the end like we did tonight. We lacked forward bite coming off Turn 4 and that was the difference.” Howland spoke to running the bottom side of the speedway all night and found out the top was fast a little too late in the event.
“Nobody had showed me that the top was fast all night until Justin came up and went around us for the lead. Once he got by me he was gone.”
Next up for the Patriots will be a pair of Canadian Series Tour stops at the Brockville Speedway on Saturday August 24th and the Cornwall Motor Speedway on August 25th.
You can find PST results, news and point standings at www.patriotsprinttour.com