Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Lucas Oil Modifieds Title Fight Continues Saturday Night at Havasu 95 Speedway
LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. -- Saturday, when the Lucas Oil Modified Racing Series presented by 1-800LoanMart pays its second visit of the season to Havasu 95 Speedway, teenager Austin Barnes will be making some strategic changes.
The 17-year-old from Escondido, California, has shown in his four years in the West’s most competitive short-track series that he can go fast and win races. Now the driver of the Master Craft Safety/1-800LoanMart/STR Modified needs to show he can slow down and play defense if that’s what it takes to win a championship.
That’s the scenario created three weeks ago at Blythe, California, where Barnes earned his fourth victory of the year and Chris Gerchman was credited with a 14th-place finish after a black flag dispute.
Those results returned Barns to the top of the standings he has led after all but one race and left Gerchman 26 points behind going into the October 20 Optima Batteries 75.
Spectator gates at Havasu 95 Speedway will open at 5 p.m. and racing will get under way at 7 p.m.
Barnes has been in similar situations before while capturing titles in other series and he has veteran guidance in father and team owner Ted Barnes, car builder and crew chief Steve Teets and spotter Jimmy Dickerson, the 2008 series champion. He also knows that with just two races left caution often can be a good thing.
“You always want to go out there to win,” Barnes said after the Blythe race, “but with only two races left this title run is really going to be about maintaining our points, so we’re just going to get out there, bide our time and put our focus on the championship.”
Gerchman, who’s finished third in the standings three times, knows what he has to do, too – go out and win. He’s done that three times this season and is the only driver other than Barnes to visit the Sunoco Winner’s Circle.
A member of Lake Havasu City’s First Family of racing who now lives in Texas, Gerchman has run well on Havasu 95 Speedway’s scenic asphalt quarter-mile, too. He won there once in 2009 and twice in 2010, when he had a series-best six victories, finished third twice last year while running a limited schedule, and was second in this season’s opener on March 24.
The down side for Gerchman is that Barnes also has run well at Havasu 95 Speedway, with two wins, a second and a third in his past four starts. The latest victory came in that March 24 event, when he beat Gerchman by 1.3 seconds.
Overall, Barnes has won 9 of the past 13 races and had a streak of 12 straight fast qualifying times ended three weeks ago at Blythe, where Doug Hamm did the honor.
That record of consistency has been especially helpful this season by enabling Barnes to dominate the new E3 Spark Plugs Bonus Program that offers a total of 6 points per race in addition to the usual finishing points (50-48-46, etc.). Two points each are awarded for posting the Budweiser Fast Time in qualifying, earning the Optima Batteries Hard Charger award during the race and ending the night in the Sunoco Winner’s Circle. Barnes has accumulated 22 bonus points. Gerchman has 6.
While Barnes and Gerchman are settling the top two spots in the standings several others will be trying for strong finishes.
Reigning two-time champion Jim Mardis got his fourth top 5 finish with a second at Blythe and has won at least once in each of the past three seasons. He’s also trying to maintain his edge over Hamm for third place and just 30 points separate Hamm, Larry Gerchman, Roger Brown, Tim Morse and Scott Osborn in the standings that will determine the Hoosier Tire West Points Fund awards.
The nine-race season will conclude November 17 in the Bull Ring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
For more information regarding this incredibly exciting open wheel racing series, visit the official website at www.lucasoilmodifieds.com.
The Lucas Oil Modified Racing Series, presented by 1-800LoanMart, is powered by a highly potent marketing concept known as "Team Lucas." Team members include Lucas Oil Products Inc., E3 Spark Plugs, General Tire, GEICO, CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods, MAV TV, SpeedCo Truck Lube and Tires/Firestone and Optima Batteries.
The series also is strongly supported by a group of associate sponsors. That group includes Eibach Springs, Hoosier Tire West, Budweiser, Blue Water Resort and Casino, Sunoco Race Fuels, Frank's Radio, Racing Plus and Go Pro Cameras.