LAS VEGAS, Nevada — A season that began eight months ago will come to a close here Saturday night, November 17, when either Austin Barnes or Chris Gerchman is crowned champion of the Lucas Oil Modifieds Series presented by 1-800LoanMart.
The 1-800LoanMart Championship is expected to get the green flag about 7:30 p.m. PST at Las Vegas Motor Speedway">The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There will be 26 starters going 75 green-flag laps on the paved 3/8-mile oval for the $2,500 winner’s share of the $12,000 purse, and the MAV TV cameras will be recording all the action for a national broadcast at a later date.
Barnes and Gerchman have made the championship a two-man battle by dominating the winner’s circle this year. Each driver has won four of the eight races, but Barnes will go into the finale with an 18-point lead due primarily to his victory and Gerchman’s 14th-place finish after a black flag dispute at Blythe, California, September 29.
A maximum of 56 points will be available in Saturday’s race, 50 for the win (with 48 for second, 46 for third and so on) and 6 from the E3 Spark Plugs Bonus Program, which awards 2 points each to the driver visiting the Sunoco Winner’s Circle, setting the Budweiser Fast Time in qualifying and earning the Optima Batteries Hard Charger award.
Gerchman got 56 points for his win at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, October 20, to trim his deficit to 18 points. If Gerchman can repeat that effort Saturday night Barnes will have to finish fifth or better to take the championship.
In the series first appearance at The Bullring this season, on May 12, Barnes got 54 points for the race win, Winner’s Circle bonus and Fast Time award and Gerchman earned 48 for his runner-up finish.
The championship may be out of reach for the others in the field, but none of them should have problems finding motivation with many of the 15 spots in the Hoosier Tire West Points Fund still undecided and a total of $14,000 in cash and merchandise to be distributed at the series banquet in January.
Two-time reigning champion Jim Mardis and Doug Hamm have comfortable holds on third and fourth place, respectively, but Larry Gerchman is only 8 points ahead of Roger Brown in the fight for fifth, which is worth $500 more than sixth. Mardis also is trying to keep alive his streak of at least one race win in each of the past three seasons.
Tim Morse in seventh and Scott Osborn in eighth are separated by just 2 points, Doug Carpenter and Elliott Stjerne are 4 points apart for 10th, as are Pat Petrie and David Lord for 12th, and Dennis Lovelady and Chris Cook are tied for 14th.
The series champion will collect $3,500 from the Points Fund, $2,500 in cash and $1,000 in Lucas Oil products. Second place is worth $1,500 and third $1,100.
In addition, the champion will travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the International Motorsports Industry (IMSI) Trade Show December 8-11. That trip will include visits to the Hoosier Tire headquarters, the Lucas Oil Late Model Series awards banquet and the NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans December 9 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lucas Oil Modifieds promoter Greg Scheidecker said there were 38 entries as of Thursday morning and 26 cars will start the race. Of those, 18 will qualify in time trials, 4 will be provisional starters based on the point standings and 4 will advance from the B main. Scheidecker said depending on the final entry count there could be two B mains, and if that occurs the top 2 finishers in each will advance to the main event.
Spectator gates at The Bullring will open at 2 p.m. Saturday. Single-car 2-lap qualifying for the Lucas Oil Modifieds is scheduled for approximately 3 p.m. with the B main shortly thereafter. Opening ceremonies and the National Anthem are scheduled for 5 p.m. before the first of the night’s seven races.
The West Coast Asphalt Short Track Championships, the final event of the year at The Bullring, includes the SPEARS Southwest Tour, USAC Midgets, Legends Cars and Late Model, S2 Late Model and Bomber stock cars.