The Lucas Oil Modified Racing Series, presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, returns to action this Saturday night at the Havasu 95 Speedway, the quarter mile paved oval located in Lake Havasu City-Arizona. It's Rockstar Energy Drink Championship Night and the famed open wheel racing series will be crowning its 2011 champion at the conclusion of the 75 lap main event.
"you have to ask yourself is the real story here about how fast, successful or even lucky is Austin Barnes or is the real story about how smart is Jim Mardis by just keeping Austin Barnes in sight? "— Greg Scheidecker
When it comes down to winning a championship Jim Mardis knows how to get the job done. He's the 2010 Lucas Oil Modified Series champion and, at the beginning of this season, he made it crystal clear that he was planning on scoring a repeat title. He will be arriving at the Havasu 95 Speedway this weekend with a lead of 18 points over Barnes.
Mardis' 374 points this season are based on a feature win and a season long string of eight top five finishes. Commenting on championship night this Saturday, Mardis said "it's never over until it's over. But I feel really comfortable about the last race of the season, Havasu is a very comfortable track for us. Just one more to go and the only thing we can do is put our Rockstar-Makita modified in victory lane and the rest will take care of itself. Sometimes it gets frustrating with these second place finishes, but the consistency pays off in the end."
Austin Barnes has been on fire during the last half of the Lucas Oil Modified Series season. His 356 championship points are based on four wins, including winning the last three races in a row, along with six top five finishes and 2 top ten finishes. Making up an 18 point deficit in one race will not be easy but it's not impossible either. Barnes is well aware that anything can happen, during the course of one of these modified races, within a fraction of a second that could greatly alter the championship profile.
Pre race track position will be important Saturday night and qualifying is yet another area where Barnes shines. In eight series starts he has set the fast time in qualifying, worth a $100 bonus from Budweiser, six times. However setting the fast time does not guarantee a front row starting position for the race. The series employs a pre race inversion ceremony and the selected number could relocate the fastest qualifier to as far back as the fourth row. Saturday night could turn out to be the most important inversion ceremony of the entire season.
The efforts of these open wheel drivers, who finish within the top 15 of the final points standings, will be rewarded by cash bonuses from the Hoosier Tire West points fund as well as product packages from Lucas Oil. The post season bonus program, worth a combined total of $16,000, pays $2,500 in cash from the points fund along with $1,000 worth of Lucas Oil products to the series' champion.
While the focus Saturday night will be on which driver is going to win the 2011 series championship, there are plenty of other points battles that will also bear some attention. That includes drivers Tim Morse and Aaron McMorran, third and fourth in the standings, who are only separated by a mere two points.
The Hoosier Tire West points fund awards a bonus to drivers who finish in the fifth, tenth and 15th in the final points standings. The fifth position pays $900 plus $500 in Lucas Oil Products. Brian Collins currently holds down the fifth position but he will have to keep an eye in his rear view mirror for the presence of Doug Hamm and Doug Carpenter. Hamm, a previous race winner this season, is only four points behind Collins while Carpenter is only six points out of fifth.
Tenth in the series' final standings pays $400 from Hoosier Tire West, a $100 bonus from CANIDAE All Natural Pet Food plus $500 in Lucas Oil Products. Series veteran Randy Ussery currently holds down that coveted tenth position in the points. However, he only holds a six point advantage over Pat Petrie who would love to collect that extra bonus incentive by advancing his final points status.
The 15th points position pays $100 bonuses from CANIDAE All Natural Pet Food and Eibach Springs plus $500 in Lucas Oil Products. Drivers Mike Salm and Chris Gerchman are ranked at 15th and 16th with 142 championship points each. This normally would not be much of a points situation because Gerchman left the series, and his Lake Havasu City home, to move to the state of Texas where he's reported to be enjoying a greatly enhanced personal and professional life.
However Gerchman will be in Lake Havasu City this weekend visiting his famous Gerchman racing family. He will also be transporting his well known green and white #26 modified to the Havasu 95 Speedway. Chris Gerchman is no stranger to checkered flags and track championships at this race track. A strong run from him Saturday night could elevate him to as high as 13th in the final standings before he returns to Texas. It's also very likely that his presence Saturday night could make things very interesting for pre race favorites Jim Mardis and Austin Barnes.
Greg Scheidecker, General Manager of the Lucas Oil Modified Series, offered some insight, regarding the Rockstar Energy Drink Champions Night, and said "you have to ask yourself is the real story here about how fast, successful or even lucky is Austin Barnes or is the real story about how smart is Jim Mardis by just keeping Austin Barnes in sight? It could be all about the big picture. Obviously Austin has won four main events this year and there's no doubt about it he peaked right in the middle of the season. But, at the same time, Mardis got off to a good start this year and the bottom line is he's driving smart races. He's not tearing up his car."
Commenting on finishing his season at the Havasu 95 Speedway, Scheidecker said "the thing I like about going to Havasu is the fact that we have more race track there. We have a two groove situation and I think it's the perfect place to close off a championship season. The track gives everybody, pretty much, a equal opportunity. We're expecting a really good car count for this particular race. Let's not forget that Chris Gerchman is going to be there and the bottom line is that's his back yard and the man runs hard there."
Adding to the the excitement of the series' Champion's Night is the fact that the Rockstar Energy Drink 75 will be a full 75 green flag laps. This series does not count yellow caution flag laps. Fans can also expect the typical intense wheel to wheel action, from the front of the pack to the rear of the field, that this series is famous for delivering.
The Lucas Oil Modified Racing Series, presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, is supported by a highly potent marketing concept known as "Team Lucas". Team members include: Lucas Oil Products, Magnaflow Exhaust Products, E3 Spark Plugs, General Tire, K&N Performance Filters, GEICO, CANIDAE All Natural Pet Food, MAV-TV, Dart Machinery LTD, Rockstar Energy Drink, MasterCraft Safety Equipment and Speedco Truck Lube and Tires.
The series also has the strong support of a group of associate sponsors including: Eibach Springs, Hoosier Tire West, Budweiser, Blue Water Resort and Casino, Sunoco Racing Fuels, Frank's Radio, Racing Plus, Roush Yates Performance Parts and J E Pistons.