The lights of Las Vegas were shining brightly, on the night of August 15th, as they do on any given evening. But the lights in victory lane, at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Bullring, were shining even brighter where Chris Gerchman stood after winning the Hoosier Tire West 75 for his second win of the season in the SuperClean Modified Racing Series.
Gerchman Vegas luck began earlier that afternoon when won the Budweiser Pole award after touring the Bullring's three eighths of a mile oval with a lap of 15.529 seconds/86.934 MPH. However Gerchman luck was not so good prior to the pre race inversion ceremony. The inversion number didn't even have to be announced. You could tell by the expression on his face that he had drawn the number eight.
A full field of 23 modifieds, out of 27 entries, took the green flag to launch the Hoosier Tire West 75. Surprisingly, the field didn't make two laps before the first yellow flag came out when Tim Morse's car broke loose in the first turn and collected the cars of Dave Arce, P J Menga and Jentra Pisca. This incident was the first of five yellow flags that ocurred during this race within 39 laps which is highly unusual for this racing series that generally features wheel to wheel competition.
When the race returned to green flag status it appeared that a local racing hero might have the car to beat and could turn out to be the series' fifth consecutive winner. Las Vegas driver Doug "Hound Dog" Hamm appeared to be formidable and held off a repeated challenge by James Cole.
Hamm paced the field for the first 27 circuits of the race before a side by side challenge from Cole saw the two cars make light contact and bobble just a little bit. Chris Gerchman was right behind him in third and watching all of this. Recognizing opportunity when he saw it, Gerchman made a beautiful move coming off of turn four and made the jump from thrid to first.
It also turned out to be the race winning move. Gerchamn led laps 28 through 75 and at times appeared to be residing in his own private zipcode. No one was going to catch him on this night. James Cole, despite some notiecable smoke coming from the rear of the car during the final laps, was able to nurse the car to a second place finish and left Las Vegas as the new series' points leader. Doug Hamm, Andrew Phipps and Jim Mardis completed the top five.
After winning the Hoosier Tire West 75, the Lake Havasu City-Arizona driver made quick work of thanking his team of sponsors which includes G&G Automotive, Peggy's Surise Cafe, Hoosier Tires, K&N Performance Filters, Bridgewater Home and Gibbs Propellors.
Commenting on that stunning race winning move Gerchman said "the bottom line was I was just sitting there waiting patiently with those guys when they opened up the hole for me and I just took advantage of it. This win was definitely needed after that semi DNF that we had at the last race in San Bernardino. Now we need to keep the wins coming in order to make up the points we lost from that one race."
In addition to the $1,000 winner's check from Hoosier Tire West, Gerchman also picked up a $100 bonus from Budweiser for setting fast time in qualifying and earned another $100 bonus after being awarded the SuperClean Pass Of The Race.
Surprisingly,as good as his car performed during this race, it didn't start out that way. "When we rolled that car out of the box it was just horrible," he said adding "we really worked hard all weekend on this thing. Making things worse was the fact that we were short handed to begin with and we just busted our tails. We didn't get to sit down and relax once during this whole weekend.
Following his second place finish, James Cole stood by his car with a Texas sized smile on his face. Commenting on that whiff of blue-white smoke coming from his car at the end of race, the San Antonio driver said "I'm really glad that his race wasn't five more laps because we might have really been in trouble. But, prior to that, the car was really strong. I'm really proud of my guys for what they've done all year long. They've really worked their butts off and it's beginning to show. It seems that everytime we come out this car just seems to get stronger."
I think that early on we had something for him, (Chris Gerchman). I tried to work with the #4 car, (Hamm), as much as we could then we had our little incident there. But once we got into second I wanted to run down Chris as much as I could but he really ran a great race. We started to lose a little power with about 20 laps to go. It hurt us a little bit but overall we had an awesome run and I'm really proud of everybody."
After the race Doug Hamm was pleased with his third place finish and said "we started fading a little at the end and these other guys just had it together during that final long run. This is actually the first time that I've finished one of these (SuperClean Modifed Racing Series) 75 lap races. We've got a little home work to do but we're here to the end. It's really a good group of guys, a lot of hard racing and good job to the #11, Cole) and a good job to Gerchman for the win."
Greg Scheidecker, SuperClean Modified Series co-promoter, was very happy for his race winner and said "for Chris to come up here and set fast time, win the main event and win the Clean Pass Award tells me that everything tonight was in his favor. Obviously some of his toughess competition had some troubles but that's not to take anything away Chris. The man earned it. He started eighth and drove the car to the front. With this group that we have, along with the level of competition that comes with them, the man earned every bit of it."
Scheidecker also noted that the series' points championship has now hit a higher level of excitement and said " I think we're going to see our points standings get jumbled all the way back to the tenth position. This weekend was very unusual in terms of cars breaking motors. We normally just don't have this amount of carnage. 27 cars showed up for this race, only 23 of them made qualifying and the race. We had the car count tonight but it was just a case of everyone having to endure most unusual problems."
Series co-promoter Bill Rozhon was also very pleased with the end result of the Hoosier Tire West 75 and said "we had 27 entries for this race tonight. Our car count is still very solid and I'm really proud of that. With the economy in our country the way it is at this time, bringing 27 cars to any race track is really huge."
In addition to the title sponsor the SuperClean Modified Racing Series is strongly supported by a highly potent marketing concept known as "Team Lucas." Team members include: Lucas Oil Products Inc, E3 Spark Plugs, R&L Carriers, Dixie Chopper, General Tire and K&N Performance Filters.
There is also additional valuable support from a team of series sponsors that includes: SuperClean Products, Hoosier Tire West, Budweiser, Blue Water Resort & Casino, Sunoco Fuels, Frank's Radio, DJ Safety, Steve Teets of STR-Short Track Race Cars, Polydome Plastic Products and Racing Plus.