NEWBERRYTOWN: Justin Barger has been waiting for this moment.
The enjoyment of tasting victory.
(PHOTO: Justin Barger has flirted with his first career Sprint Car win over the last year. He earned it Sunday night at Susquehanna Speedway Park. (Dan Gleiter | firstname.lastname@example.org)
It hasn’t been an easy road. Barger as been dabbling in full-blown Sprint Car racing off and on for a few seasons. Coming into the 2014 campaign, he decided to make the leap full time and see what happens.
Barger has been close to sitting on the frontstretch twice at Selinsgrove and once at Williams Grove. He’s flirted with Victory Lane, and finally, he got it done Sunday night at Susquehanna Speedway Park.
The Montrose, N.Y., driver won a spirited and tight battle with Aaron Ott and Austin Hogue to capture the 25-lap main at the Newberrytown oval. Barger’s first triumph in a 410 Sprint Car was worth a nice $3,500 Father’s Day payday.
“We’ve been close,” Barger said. “Now that we got to the top of the hill, hopefully, it will be a lot easier.
“I know what I can be as a driver. We just need to get more time in these cars, and confidence is a big thing. We are headed in the right direction, we just need to keep after it.”
Barger’s tenacity showed over the race distance.
Hogue jumped out to the early lead with Ott, Barger, Brent Marks and Greg Hodnett falling in line on the speedy half mile.
Barger was all over Ott for second. He made the move for the runner-up position with a strong run off the bottom of Turn 4 on lap 2.
The field entered lapped traffic on lap 7. Ott took advantage and blasted his way off the Turn 2 cushion to get by the lapped car of Dustin Baney and Barger on lap 9 and set sail after Hogue for the top spot.
Barger got by Ott for second on lap 10 a power move off the bottom of Turn 4. He closed on Hogue and by lap 12, the top three cars were immersed in backmarkers running within two car-lengths of each other.
Danny Dietrich, who was running fifth, got together with the lapped car of Mark Coldren on lap 16. Jac Haudenschild was left with no room to get by and was collected in the incident. All three cars went to the pit area.
Hogue muscled out front on the restart but got too high on his way to completing the 16th circuit. That allowed Barger to rip off the bottom and take the lead out of Turn 4.
“I had a great car tonight,” Barger, 30, said. “It was a fun race track, and I was just biding my time trying to shorten up the race track.
“Austin was entering in the middle and sliding up. I got momentum around the bottom and was able to get by. Once I got out front, I just picked whatever lanes I needed to in order to get around lapped cars.”
Hogue and Ott didn’t go away.
The two drivers raced within five car-lengths of the leader. Hogue got high again on lap 23, and Ott was able to get by for the second position.
But there wasn’t enough time for Ott to mount a challenge. Barger was in control and never wavered over the last two laps to take the win.
“We’ve won some big ones, but this is something I’ve wanted for a few years now,” Barger said. “This ranks right up there.
“I take a lot of pride in our maintenance and this program. I’m happy to get a win for everybody on this crew. They work so hard and have so much drive, and it’s great to get a win for them on Father’s Day.”
Ott was second, with Hogue settling for third. Greg Hodnett and Kyle Moody completed the top five.
Kevin Nouse passed Brad McClelland on lap 7 and drove away to capture the 20-lap 358 Sprint Car feature.
He earned $1,500 for his efforts.