BLYTHE, California — The Lucas Oil Modified Racing Series, presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, returned to action at the Lucas Oil I 10 Speedway in Blythe-California October 2nd. When the checkered flag fell on the Denny's 75, it was Chris Gerchman who crossed the line first after winning his fifth race of the season. To coin a very popular phrase from the Denny's Restaurant menu, Gerchman served up a "grand slam" on the full field of modifieds and led all but one lap of the Denny's 75.
"This is a tough little track, but the crowd here is just incredible"— Tim Morse
Gerchman's fifth win of the season places him in some very elite company. There has only been two other drivers in series' history to pull off the drive for five during a single season. Jason Patison was the first in 2007 during a season that saw him finishing second in the final championship standings that year. Jimmy Dickerson also found victory lane five times during his 2008 championship season.
After parking his Peggy's Sunrise Cafe,G&G Automotive, Bridgewater Homes modified in the Sunoco Race Fuels victory lane, Gerchman stood on his car and proudly held five fingers in the air. "I can't believe that we actually rolled in here tonight and set this car up as good as it was", he said adding "we just worked really hard here today and it was the best car that I've ever had."
Four caution flags hampered the race rhythm of the Denny's 75 during the course of the evening. The last of these caution flags caused a little concern for the race winner. At lap 50 Kwasnieski was slowly but surely reeling in the leader and making his presence known in this race. The last of the caution flags came out on lap 60 and Gerchman had to deal with Kwasnieski's presence on his back bumper for what would turn out to be the final restart. "There's always concern because you never want a car behind you on a restart," Gerchman noted adding "but we were able to do our thing, we kept the tires cool, I made sure we didn't break them loose and we just kept moving forward."
On the subject of lapped traffic, which is often a factor in the series' races, Gerchman said "I was trying hard to stack as many of them as I could behind me. It's definitely harder when you have to pass them so the more I can stack behind me, then the harder it is for the second place guy."
There was another reason why the weekend in Blythe was special for the racing Gerchman family. The following day the Lucas Oil I 10 Speedway held their awards banquet that saluted their champions from the 2009-2010 winter racing season. Larry Gerchman, the patriarch of the racing family, received the trophy for winning the speedway's modified track championship. It was the latest accolade in a long line of feature wins and track championships for the elder Gerchman. Chris Gerchman was understandably proud of dad's latest accomplishment but couldn't resist having a little fun with it when he said "Yeah, he gets the champion's trophy and he gets to redeem himself. He's been telling me all about it."
Dylan Kwasnieski in a short amount of time has become a major player in this series. He's already found success in the late models and ASA Speed Trucks and many observers feel it's just a short matter of time before he parks his Rockstar Energy Drink, Hard Rock Cafe, Phils Phrabrication modified in the Sunoco Race Fuels victory lane.
The Las Vegas based driver ran a rock solid race on the way to his second place finish. "It was an awesome run," he said adding "we had a really good car. But Chris Gerchman also had an awesome run and we just couldn't quite catch up to him. We had a really good set up and this is an awesome race track. I had a really good time."
Commenting on the issue of lapped traffic, Kwasnieski said " yeah, lapped traffic was a difficulty at times. But for the most part I was able to get by them really fast and it really wasn't really a problem. There were times that the lapped traffic made Gerchman fall back towards us during the race. It really wasn't that big of a problem."
Burbank-California's Tim Morse arrived in Blythe last weekend second in the series' championship standings only 12 points behind Jim Mardis. Thanks to a rock solid third place finish in the Denny's 75, he left Blythe only eight points from the top.
"This is a tough little track," Morse said adding "but the crowd here is just incredible. They were lined up all the way around the track tonight and it was a great time. We had a good car tonight, but I was just one little adjustment off so I couldn't quite get up to Dylan and Chris Gerchman. I could hang with them but that was about it. But basically our car was good right off of the trailer and we really didn't have to do a lot of work on it. It was all about track position. Sometimes where you start a race here is where you finish because it's so hard to pass." Morse also made it a special point to thank his sponsors for the help received in prepping his race car including Lee Power Steering, Ron's Rear Ends and Mike Slover.
Austin Barnes is another young driver in this series that many feel will soon find the Sunoco Race Fuels victory lane. In fact he came extremely close to that first win last month at the Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino. Barnes started his evening at the Lucas Oil I 10 Speedway off on a strong note by winning the Budweiser Fast Time Award in qualifying. He toured the quarter mile oval with a lap clocked at 14.424 seconds.
After the race in Blythe, the Escondido-California driver commented on his night and said "my first time here I was told how hard it can be. But it seems that I've found something good at this track that has really helped me out. It's my third race in a row where I've won the pole here. In the main we were good at the start but later I just go loose and I was losing just enough ground to the point where I couldn't do anything." Barnes also made it a point to thank his sponsors including San Deigo Dot Com, Electro Tech Powder Coating, Print World, Rusty's Breakfast and Diner and MLP Imaging.
Series points leader Jim Mardis brought his modified home to a fifth place finish. Commenting on his race he said "It wasn't good but it really wasn't bad. The Rockstar Energy Drink Chevrolet was good although we did struggle a little in qualifying and I think that just killed our effort. I had to really work my way through there to get this finish. Basically everybody just picked up their game, they were all running the same speed and that made it really tough to pass. You just had to ride it out and hope someone made a mistake. Unfortunately, nobody made a big enough mistake for us to improve our position. All in all we did have a good points night, we'll move on to the season ending race at Lake Havasu and hopefully we'll be able to pass some cars there."
Bill Rozon, series race director, was very pleased with the Denny's 75 and was also very excited about the impending points race while heading into the season's final event. "Boy do we ever have a points race with Jimmy, (Mardis) and Tim, (Morse) only eight points apart. That just shows how competitive this division really is. Man, what a night we had. The guys raced each other really clean, it was just a great night."
Commenting on the qualify of the Denny's 75 was series promoter Greg Scheidecker who said "it's just amazing, Chris Gerchman wins five main events in a single year. It's unbelievable that he's only third or fourth in the points. Then you take your points leader who finishes fifth tonight. I'm telling you the competition in our series is tough."
One of the outstanding qualities of this racing series is the strong sense of camaraderie between the teams off of the track. That theory was certainly exemplified prior to the race at the Lucas Oil I 10 Speedway. The process began when Hayden Smith crashed in practice, Randy Ussery blew an engine and David Gerchman Sr crashed during qualifying.
In the aftermath of this harsh racing luck came the element of camaraderie. Larry Gerchman loaned Randy Ussery the use of his back up engine. Then Ussery, after learning of Gerchman Sr's crash, offered him the use of his car because he knew Gerchman was trying to remain in the top 15 in points which pays a post season bonus. Meanwhile members of several race teams lent a helping hand. The result was all three drivers made the line up and started the Denny's 75.
Commenting on the team's willingness to lend a helping hand, Scheidecker said "that's what racing is really all about. These modified teams subscribe to a theory that says they don't want to get beat in the pits. They want want to be beat on the race track. For members of numerous race teams stepping up to help other teams the way they did tonight is really something. Then they go back to fighting like cats and dogs on the track for positions because the competitive levels are so unbelievably high. This is a shining example of why our teams are so strong."
The series returns to action, with the championship night, on October 23d at the Havasu 95 Speedway in Lake Havasu City-Arizona.
The Lucas Oil Modified Racing Series, presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, is strongly supported by a highly potent marketing concept known as "Team Lucas." Team members include Lucas Oil Products Inc, Magnaflow Exhaust Products, E3 Spark Plugs, General Tire, K&N Performance Filters, GEICO Powersports, CANIDAE All Natural Pet Food, MAV TV, Dart Machinery and Rockstar Energy Drink.
The series is also supported by a group of associate sponsors including Eibach Springs, Hoosier Tire West, Budweiser, Blue Water Resort & Casino, Sunoco Race Fuels, Frank's Radio, and Racing Plus.