CORONA, California – Whatever happens to Mark Allison in this year’s Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by RAM Mounts will be because of a telephone call from Dana Stahl.
Stahl, a Northern California race car builder, was looking for automobile frames to use in building chassis. He called Allison, who knew someone in Las Vegas who had 20 frames gathering dust and rust and arranged for them to be sent to Stahl. In return Stahl sent Allison a rolling chassis he had built on one of those frames.
Allison said that “at 59 I didn’t plan on buying a new car.” But once he had the chassis he decided to put a Lucas Oil Modified body on it and then said “let’s go try this and have some fun.”
The third event on the 10-race championship schedule, the General Tire Bull Ring 75 presented by Sunoco Fuel, comes up Saturday night (May 20) at The Bull Ring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and so far, Allison’s rookie season has been more try than fun.
While Austin Barnes was coming within four cars and a yellow flag of lapping the field en route to a win at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, March 11, Allison was watching from the pit grandstand after winning the B main but failing to qualify for the 24-car feature.
The next time out, April 8 at Tucson, Arizona, things got better. Allison was 23rd fastest of the 28 qualifiers for the main event and finished 18th in a 75-lap race while Taylor Miinch took the win and the lead in the Hoosier Tire West point standings.
Allison is patient. He’s been racing long enough to know that “you very rarely walk into a series like the Lucas Oil Modifieds and run up front right away,” and Saturday night he’ll try to take another step in that direction.
Allison does know a thing or three about running up front, too, because he’s done a lot of it since his first race in a Limited Stock at Craig Road Speedway in Las Vegas in 1978. He said that over the years he’s driven about every class of stock car on about every kind of short track and for a while now he’s “been having fun running my Late Model at Havasu (95 Speedway in Lake Havasu City).”
He’s had most of his success on dirt, though. He was the IMCA Western Region Rookie of the Year in 2000; the Western Region champion in 2002 when he beat over 570 drivers; and 32 track championships including Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Central Arizona Raceway and Imperial Valley (California) Speedway in 2002, Perris (California) Auto Speedway in 2003, Pahrump Valley (Nevada) Speedway in 2012 and Tonopah (Nevada) Speedway in 2013.
“I took to dirt track racing like a fish to water,” said Allison, a construction manager who’s currently working on the Interstate 11 highway project. “The dirt modified just fit me. Dan Geiger and I raced together for 15 years and if we didn’t win we were top three all the time. From 2002 to 2006 or 2007 we chased those big money races all across the country. Any race that paid over $5,000 to win we went to them and we won our share.
“I average about 25 to 30 races a year now. Any Saturday I can find a place to take that dirt car within a 4- to 6-hour drive.”
Allison familiarized himself with the Lucas Oil Modified Series by running one race in 2014 and two in 2015 in a car he said the owner “brought to me in a basket” and had an inherent, unsolvable problem. About a year later “the Dana Stahl deal came up and I thought ‘let’s try again with a real car that may work.’”
The key word there is may. Allison said he knows the car sponsored by K&N Filters, Hypercoils, Precision Engine Parts and Performance Associates has speed, he just needs to learn how to apply it. However, that process is being hindered by the same gremlin that plagued Scott Winters, Shelby Stroebel and many others during their early years in the series.
“I run a conventional set-up (on his other cars) and this is a bump stop car,” Allison said. “It has bump stops on all four corners (to control shock absorber travel and suspension compression). They handle different. The feel of them is different. When we make a change to make it do what I want it doesn’t do it, so we call Dana and tell him what it’s doing and he tells us what he thinks we should change.”
Stahl, who can’t travel to every race, is scheduled to be at Las Vegas and Allison is hoping that will help him avoid another night like he had at Tucson last month, when he wore the two rear tires almost down to the core in 75 laps even though he “thought I was being really careful with it.
“I think a conventional set-up would be faster in the long run,” Allison said. “We’ve just got to figure it out.”
The General Tire Bull Ring 75 activities will begin with practice from 3:30 to 9 p.m. Friday (May 19) for the Lucas Oil Modifieds, SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour and the track’s Bandoleros, Legends Cars and Thunder Cars.
Saturday, each group will have additional practice beginning at 1:30 p.m. Qualifying will get under way at 5 p.m., opening ceremonies are scheduled for 6:45 and racing will begin about 7 p.m.
The Lucas Oil Modifieds will race at The Bull Ring for the 18th time in the final main event of the evening.
-Lucas Oil Modified Series Press Release & Photo