Monday, July 30, 2012
Gerchman Powers His Way to a Lucas Oil Modified Win at Madera Speedway
by Dave Grayson
MADERA, Calif. -- The Lucas Oil Modified Racing Series, presented by 1 800 Loan Mart, brought their special blend of thunder making, ground shaking, open wheel modified racing action to the Madera Speedway, July 29th, for the running of the MAV TV-American Real 75.
When the checkers fell at the completion of lap 75, it was Chris Gerchman who parked his car in the Sunoco Race Fuels victory lane after scoring his second series win of the season.
Of equal, if not even greater, importance, was the huge points bump Gerchman received from this win. He arrived at Madera second in the championship standings but 18 points behind leader Austin Barnes who finished tenth in the race. Unofficially, pending a complete review of the final finish by the series' scoring team, Barnes and Gerchman will likely be heading to the next race in Las Vegas tied for the points lead.
The series was racing on the Madera Speedway's paved oval, the fastest one third mile in the west, for only their second time. The teams were also racing on what they termed "the new Madera." That was due to the massive upgrades recently completed at the track that included a new racing surface. It was clearly evident from the very beginning, during practice sessions, that this new surface was going to produce an increase in the posted speeds of these modified racers.
That was officially confirmed during qualifying when no fewer than 16 drivers broke the series' track record. To no real surprise, it was Austin Barnes who topped the qualifying after scorching Madera's one third mile oval with a hot lap of 14.720 seconds. That was more than fast enough for Barnes, to once again, win the $100 bonus for setting the Budweiser Fast Time.
However, the pre race inversion ceremony wasn't exactly in Barnes' favor and turned up the number eight. That moved Guy Young and Aaron McMorran to the front row for the MAV TV-American Real 75.
Under the initial green flag, Young made quick work of jumping into the lead and paced the 22 car field for the first 23 laps. At this point, Gerchman charged from his sixth starting position to second and then took command of the race on lap 24 following a low line pass at the bottom of turn two.
While Gerchman was in the process of clicking off the laps, Jim Mardis was in the process of eradicating the pavement between the two of them. The Mardis effort was rewarded on lap 47, when the second caution flag of the event was displayed.
Under green flag conditions again, Gerchman and Mardis staged a torrid, multi lap, side by side duel that literally had the Madera racing fans on their feet while jumping up and down. Mardis was actually credited for leading laps 50 and 51 while the wheel to wheel duel was in progress.
Gerchman claimed command of the race lead on lap 52 just before the third caution flag of the race, for a single car spin, was presented. The field ran one more green flag lap before the fourth and fifth yellows of the race surfaced.
Yellow flag number five would turn out to be a race changing pivotal moment in the MAV TV-American Real 75. While Mardis was trying to set up a pass on race leader Gerchman, Austin Barnes was right behind him in third looking to make a move to the front with further plans of collecting his fourth win of the season.
But the plans were unraveled on lap 54 when the Mardis and Barnes cars got together at the base of turn three. Both cars sustained some sheet metal damage from the contact and found themselves moving to the rear of the field for being involved in the caution flag.
They weren't there for very long. Mardis, the two time and reigning series champion, literally put on a driving clinic as he began the process of passing cars in order to salvage some sort of decent finish. He was observed weaving from the low to the high groove while making whatever moves were necessary to move up the scoring sheets. The effort was rewarded with a sixth place finish.
Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, Gerchman was clicking off the laps as quickly as possible. However, that wasn't an easy task due to late in the race caution flags which slowed the race winner's rhythm and allowed Guy Young, now in second, another opportunity to try and close the gap. Six, of the nine, yellow flags during this race flew from laps 52 to 72.
Finally, with the checkers in the air, Chris Gerchman was able to close the deal and collect his second win of the season which paid him $1,500. Guy Young followed him across the line to finish second while Elliott StJerne and Roger Brown completed the top five. Rounding out the top ten were Jim Mardis, Tim Morse, Brian Collins, Scott Alves and Austin Barnes.
In the series' bonus incentives, Elliott StJerne picked up an extra $200 for winning the Dart Machinery Trophy Dash. Tim Morse was awarded the $100 bonus for the GEICO Clean Pass award while Larry Gerchman picked up the $100 bonus for being named the Optima Batteries Hard Charger.
With a series high 32 teams entered in the race, a B Main was needed with the top four finishers getting a transfer to the money race. The 12 car, 20 lap consi event, was won by David Crouch followed by Doug Carpenter, Randy Ussery and Dennis Lovelady.
After parking his Peggy's Sunrise Cafe, Sign Source G&G Automotive modified in the Sunoco Fuels victory lane, a very pleased Chris Gerchman said "this car was awesome. I owe a lot of thanks to STR and the cars that they build. This thing felt like it was riding on rails. It was perfect, just the way I like it."
Commenting on the multiple late race caution flags, while he was trying to click off the laps towards the win, Gerchman said "it got a little annoying but I have to say I found myself thinking about (the Lucas Oil I 10 Speedway at) Blythe and it had me a little worried because I lost a race there because of caution and then my car just kept fading away. But tonight our car held in there and was strong. We're also a contender in the points once again and I think we've got a good chance at the championship now."
After making a six and one half hour trip, from his Redding-California home to Madera, Guy Young was very pleased with his second place finish, in the MAV TV-American Real 75.
Commenting of his second appearance with the Lucas Oil Modified Series, presented by 1800 Loan Mart, the young driver said "we really enjoy coming down to race with these guys. We really have a lot of respect for them. We also enjoy this race track. I'm glad that they repaved it, it's much more enjoyable to drive on. It was a nice tight race tonight, our car worked really well and finished second so we're really happy."
Young also made it a point to thank his racing supporters including Mission Provide Services, NAPA Auto Parts, Jason Predotti Trucking along with Ron Young and son Automotive.
After winning the Dart Machinery Trophy Dash earlier in the evening, Elliott StJerne, in his first full season with the Lucas Oil Series, brought his modified home to a rock solid third place finish. After the race, the fan favorite from Madera said "this is my home track, so I had a lot of friends and family out here tonight and I didn't want to disappoint them. Our car was fast during Friday's night's practice session and I knew we had a good shot at a top ten finish if not even a top five. I won the Dash tonight and that was another confidence booster. I started third in the main and I was just trying to hang on and then I got real lucky following the Mardis and Barnes wreck which helped lead to our top three finish."
Commenting on racing at the "new Madera track", the local driver said "at first, I wasn't that excited about the new pavement because it was a bumpy track and I knew where everyone of those bumps were, and how to avoid them, which I felt gave me a competitive advantage. But, after seeing what a good job they did and how smooth it is, I also noticed that the old tricks still seem to be there so a veteran driver still has somewhat of an advantage here. I'm really enjoying it. (Speedway Manager) Kenny Shepherd has done a great job with the new pavement, and the facilities, and I think that Madera is on the up and up.
Expressing some thanks for the support of his racing operation, StJerne said "Anderson Sprinklers has really been my one and only sponsor along with my parents and I really want to thank them. I also want to thank Lucas Oil and MAV TV for the great series that they have sponsored. I've raced in a lot of series during my life and this one is by far my favorite."
Roger Brown brought his Lucas Oil-J E Pistons modified home to fourth place and his first top five finish of his series career. "It was a real fun race," the Corona-California driver said adding "it's the best race I've ever had in the series. Our car was perhaps a little tighter than I like it in the race, but we are qualifying better.
Commenting of the frequent yellow flags during the final 20 laps of the race, Brown said "my car was better after a few laps and the cars all around me seemed to be better right after the yellow flag restarts and as I started to work towards them another yellow would come out. I started spinning my tires at the end there, but we were able to hang in there and get fourth."
Commenting about racing on the "new Madera," he said "they really did an excellent job on this track. When they repaved it they took care of a lot of the bumps but, also, they still managed to keep the track's character that it had before so it's like a new-old Madera,
After having to endure more than his fair share of recent bad racing luck, Las Vegas driver Doug Hamm was very pleased to bring his Sonny Beckman owned modified to a fifth place finish. "I really want to thank Sonny, of SBR Racing, who put this team together and spends a lot of money keeping this team together. He's found great people to work on it and I get to prove it by driving it. I also need to thank E3 Spark Plugs, Silver State Truck and Trailer, Discount Dumpsters, Stout Roofing, Vegas Machine and Salm Engineering.
"We've had a rough couple of races," Hamm said adding "I didn't think we were going to be able to pull off our fifth place finish tonight. It looked like we were heading towards more motor trouble tonight. We had absolutely no oil pressure during the last couple of laps there, but it held on. We got lucky and we got fifth."
"This is a fun race track, it's very raceable, The guys up front were, kind of, leaning on each other and banging and beating. I don't know what happened, I was having enough trouble holding my own from where I was at. Everybody in the top five did a good job. I hated to see what happened to Austin Barnes there. I'm not sure what happened, but he'll get back on it and they'll get it fixed and be ready for the race in Las Vegas," he said.
Enhancing the importance of this race was the fact that the Lucas Oil Production Studios was at the Madera Speedway video taping the event for a future national television airing on the MAV TV Network. That was a fact that did not escape the attention of series Race Director Bill Rozhon who said "I'm so excited for our guys to have the opportunity to race on national television. We just can't thank MAV TV and Lucas Oil enough for doing this."
Congratulating the race winner, Rozhon said "what can you say about Chris Gerchman? He's one of the multiple race winners in our series and he's been knocking on the door for a championship since the series began. This year he's flying in from his new Texas home to make our races and I really respect that. You've got to give a shout out to his Dad, Larry Gerchman, who works his tail off on both of their cars. Chris' car was on a rail tonight and it was very impressive. I'm very proud of the Gerchman family and the effort that they make. That's especially true of Larry who worked very hard to help win that race for his son."
Series General Manager Greg Scheidecker was thrilled with the scope of his racing evening and said "it was so exciting for me to be able to go down and talk to Scott with the MAV TV- Lucas Oil Production Studio and ask him do we have a show? What do you think? Then he says it's the best modified race I've ever seen. This man has the opportunity to travel and see a lot of auto racing in a lot of different areas, and after a compliment like that I'm just on cloud nine right now."
Commenting on the MAV TV-American Real 75, Scheidecker said "We have three drivers that are really fighting for a championship right now. Tonight Chris Gerchman, Jim Mardis and Austin Barnes had to work their way through the field. That was a major concern here: were we going to have single file racing or could we race double file? I'm here to tell you that we really saw a great race here at Madera tonight. With Austin Barnes and Jim Mardis getting tangled up and having to go to the rear of the pack, and then having to go back through the field was very exciting racing especially for our fans. I was up in the track's race control tower during the event, where obviously they have timing and scoring, and everybody in that booth was ecstatic with the laps times that Mardis was turning in the high groove while making his way back through the pack. For him to break the track record on the 70th lap, while working his way back to the front, that says a lot about the determination and the quality that our drivers have."
Madera General Manager Kenny Shepherd was also thrilled with the presence of the Lucas Oil Modifieds at his race track and said "It's really exciting for us. The series was here last year for the first time and it was a great foundation for us to build on. Now it's 12 months later and we've got a brand new race track, with a brand new surface and brand new lights. We were so proud that Lucas Oil stepped in to help us show off our new facility. It's all about camaraderie and all about growing the sport one fan at a time and one competitor at a time. Tonight was a major building block for both the Lucas Series and for what we're doing here at the Madera Speedway. It's a wonderful partnership with Lucas Oil."
The series returns to action on August 18th at the always challenging Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring. For more information regarding the series dial up their official website at www.lucasoilmodifieds.com.
The Lucas Oil Modified Racing Series, presented by 1 800 Loan Mart, is powered by a highly potent marketing concept known as Team Lucas. Team members include: Lucas Oil Products Inc, E 3 Spark Plugs, General Tire, GEICO, CANIDAE All Natural Pet Food, MAV TV, Speedco Truck Lube and Tires/Firestone and Optima Batteries.
The series is also strongly supported by a group of associate sponsors featuring: Eibach Springs, Hoosier Tire West, Budweiser, Blue Water Resort and Casino, Sunoco Race Fuels, Frank's Radio, Racing Plus, Go Pro Cameras and 1 800 Loan Mart.