MADERA, California – Dylan Cappello flew a long way to get here and drove a long time after he did but made it all worthwhile by leading every lap and winning the SuperClean 75 presented by Protect The Harvest Saturday night at Madera Speedway.
It was the second win in a row at Madera for Cappello, the 2014 champion of the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by RAM Mounts, and it vaulted the 21-year-old from Peoria, Arizona, from sixth to second in this season’s Hoosier Tire West point standings.
That all made a couple of cross-country flights worthwhile. Cappello flew to California from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he’s spending the summer as an intern with the Stewart Haas Racing NASCAR team, and was starting his return trip from San Jose at 6:30 Sunday morning. He didn’t mind too much, though.
“I really like this track,” he said, with his record of two wins and four top 5 finishes in six starts as evidence. “I’m ready to come back here again.
“We (he, crew chief Dean Kuhn and his team) really worked on it,” he said of the RAM Mounts/Sears Garage Doors STR Chevrolet. “We knew we were pretty good Friday night and we felt confident coming in here with the notes we had from last year.”
Cappello qualified fourth, behind Austin Barnes, Taylor Miinch and Scott Winters, but started on the front row beside pole-sitter Travis Thirkettle after Barnes drew 5 for the invert. Cappello took the lead from Thirkettle early on the opening lap and then managed to remain in front and stay awake through six lengthy yellow flags.
“It was a real long night; it was getting ridiculous,” said Cappello, who finished 75 laps of the third-mile oval 4.107 seconds ahead of Thirkettle, with Miinch third, Jason Irwin fourth and Linny White fifth.
The first caution flag waved on lap 2 and the sixth on lap 33, at which point series officials began counting yellow flag laps, something that is not normally done. After the final restart on lap 46 the race was green to the finish, but by that point series promoter Greg Scheidecker and the officials had seen enough of what one observer described as “bumper tag” racing.
“We’re not happy with it at all,” Scheidecker said. “It was unbelievable. I know our fields are so close (the top 23 qualifiers were separated by just .486 of a second) there’s bound to be some incidents, but this was too much.”
One early victim of the mayhem was Winters, who had won twice and been in the top five three times in the past five races at Madera. He started on the inside of the second row behind Cappello, who had had four top five and last year’s win in his past five starts at the track, but their anticipated battle ended when Winters was sidelined by an involuntary meeting with the wall while running fifth after 7 laps.
Meanwhile Cappello, Thirkettle and Miinch ran one-two-three all night.
“I was really focused on the restarts, getting clean jumps and a good cushion going into the first corner,” Cappello said. “The car was really tight for the first couple of laps after every start, then it would come to me, and on that last run it stayed with me the whole time.
“With about 10 to go I got into some heavy lapped traffic. I was clear by about four seconds so I just tucked in behind and kept my eyes on them so I wouldn’t get caught in it if something happened.”
Nothing happened other than Thirkettle posting his best finish and third top 10 in three races at the Madera County Fairgrounds track and Miinch running his streak of finishing fourth or better to 10 races.
Miinch headed home to Rancho San Diego, California, unofficially 35 points ahead of Cappello and 44 in front of Blake Rogers of Yuma, Arizona, with four of the 10 championship events completed.
Shelby Stroebel went into the evening second in the standings and came out of it seventh after finishing 15th and Michael Womack dropped from fifth to 10th with a 23 rd-place finish.
Earlier in the evening, Matthew Hicks made a guest appearance in the North State Modified Series main event and won that 60-lap contest. Hicks, the 2016 Lucas Oil Modified champion, took this year off from the series to stay closer to home and family in Lakeside, California. He drove one of friend PJ Pedroncelli’s cars Saturday night, was the fastest qualifier in the 24-car field, and took the lead from Jason Philpot with 2 laps to go in route to the victory by .714 seconds.
The next stop for the Lucas Oil Modifieds is Kern County Raceway Park, the ultra-fast half-mile oval on the outskirts of Bakersfield, California, for round five of the championship season July 1.
LUCAS OIL MODIFIEDS PRESENTED BY RAM MOUNTS
SUPER CLEAN 75
Madera Speedway, Madera, California
1/3-mile paved oval
RESULTS FOR SATURDAY JUNE 10, 2017
MAIN EVENT (75 LAPS) – 1. Dylan Cappello (11C), Peoria, Az.; 2. Travis Thirkettle (5T), Newhall Ca.; 3. Taylor Miinch (4T) Rancho San Diego, Ca.; 4. Jason Irwin (9i), Albuquerque, N.M.; 5. Linny White (99), Colton, Ca.; 6. Blake Rogers (4B), Yuma, Az.; 7. Jim Mardis (51), Yucaipa, Ca.; 8. Eddie Secord (84), Oak Hills, Ca.; 9. Larry Gerchman (25), Lake Havasu City, Az.; 10. Austin Barnes (51A), Escondido, Ca.; 11. William Guevara (55g), Lake Havasu City, Az.; 12. PJ Pedroncelli (33), Sonoma, Ca.; 13. Dustin Tilbury (17D), Edgewood, N.M.; 14. Mike Mitchell (77), Loomis, Ca.; 15. Shelby Stroebel (24), Meridian, Idaho; 16. Eric Hamilton (11H), Hanford, Ca.; 17. Chris Cook (2), Tabiona, Utah; 18. Mark Allison (115), Las Vegas; 19. Cameron Morga (54X), Albuquerque; 20. Dave Arce (5), Santee, Ca.; 21. Wes Miller (87), Turlock, Ca.; 22. Doug Hamm (4X), North Las Vegas; 23. Michael Womack (3), Troutman, N.C.; 24. William Camara (57), Fremont, Ca.; 25. Scott Winters (24A), Tracy, Ca.; 26. Sierra Furia (37), Lakeport, Ca.
Margin of victory – 4.107 seconds. Lead changes – 1 among 2 drivers. Caution flags – 6. Fast qualifier – Barnes, 14.513 seconds/82.602 mph (top 23 separated by .486 seconds).
B MAIN (20 laps) – 1. Jerry Toporek (40), Venice, Ca.; 2. Sal Lopez (02), Sacramento, Ca.; 3. Kevin Nichols (78), Bakersfield, Ca. (Morga, Furia, Allison and Guevara were the first four and advanced to the main event.)
Lucas Oil Modifieds Press Release. Photo Credit: Madera Speedway Facebook Page.