WOODHULL, N.Y. — Up until 9 a.m. Saturday morning, Justin Barger and his crew were unsure if they would venture down to Woodhull Speedway.
At 9:15 the decision was made to make the six-hour-drive and 13 hours later he was smiling in victory lane.
Barger became the first repeat winner on the Patriot Sprint Tour this season as he dominated the 25-lap event as part of the PST/Sprint Xpress 360/410 Challenge. By showing his power in his 360, Barger was able to collect a cool $2,500 for his dominance.
“We just hit the setup pretty much right from the get go,” said the 28-year-old. “The track was really fun here tonight. You could use the top, bottom and middle grooves. It made the drive down here really worth it. We couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Barger started in fourth in his heat race and took the lead by the second lap to dominate in his first competitive laps the third-mile oval since 2008 to make the redraw. After selecting the eighth starting spot though, the driver of the No. 5 knew he had his work cut out for him.
“Starting back (in eighth) you know 25 laps is a long time around here so I just had to make sure everything was clean and pick your spots in lapped traffic and here we are,” he added.
Barger had taken fourth place by the second lap of the feature, and was in that position when the first caution of the event occurred on lap seven. On the ensuring restart, Barger, along with Chuck Hebing, who had driven to third from sixth in the opening stages, used the top of the track to rim-ride around early leader Bob Howard for second and third. The second time around though, Hebing washed up high in turn two and Barger drove underneath.
Coming to complete lap 10, Barger began to chase down Alan Cole, who had taken the lead from Howard just before the first caution. Cole was just too free in turns three and four and when his No. 4A drove up the track in turn three, Barger dove underneath and took over a lead he would not relinquish.
The only other caution of the event would occur on lap 13 and after that point Barger would set sail on the field, clearing through the lapped traffic without issue and stretching his advantage to a full straightaway when he crossed underneath the double checkered flags for his seventh career PST win.
As Barger was slicing through the lapped traffic over the final seven laps, Cole was having a more difficult time navigating through the pack with a car that did not have the perfect setup. With two laps remaining, Chuck Hebing, was able to move by him and score his seventh top-two in his eight starts at Woodhull.
Hebing was disappointed not to win, noting after the race that he did not make enough changes to his No. 45 after winning his heat. That heat race was an event that will leave the throng of fans that packed Ted White’s facility talking for months as “Cobra” drove to the win with the nose wing vertical and blocking his vision.
Cole was able to hang on for his second podium finish in as many appearances at Woodhull after being a runner-up in this event in 2010. Cole noted after the event that he was just hanging on in the closing stages so third was acceptable.
Tim Kelly fought a tight condition which turned out to be a shock issue but battled hard as he drove from 10th to a fourth place his showing, his fourth such showing in his last six Woodhull starts.
Perhaps the drive of the night was turned in by Bryan Howland, who thrashed all night before he could earn a remarkable fifth place finish.