Throughout the split 80-lap Lucas Oil Modified Series feature during the second annual Winter Showdown weekend, it looked like the victory had all but been decided. Then when a few late cautions bunched up the field, it all changed hands when Ryan Partridge used the outside line to get around race dominator Austin Barnes for the lead and eventual win.
“The last restart it was just kind of paying attention the first couple restarts and seeing where I could get an advantage,” Partridge told Speed51.com powered JEGS. “It wasn’t easy. It was a tight squeeze. We almost didn’t have it.”
Even with an increased turnout of Modifieds from the inaugural year, Barnes repeated as the fast qualifier and favorite heading into the feature which was split into two 40 lap distances with the Winter Showdown Super Late Model qualifiers in between. After a five car invert, the defending series champion made quick work of early leader Taylor Miinch and led in convincing fashion into the break and beyond.
Unfortunately for Barnes, the eventual outcome at Kern County Raceway Park would again result without a trophy.
“We definitely had the fastest car this weekend,” the 15 career race winner said. “Starts certainly weren’t going our way and we kept getting caution after caution. I was just doing what I could and Ryan finally got a really good start on the last one and got to the outside of me and cleared me before we got to (turn) one.”
Barnes is now thinking big picture as the series has their first ever points race at the ½-mile Bakersfield, California facility later in the season.
“We’re coming back to run for points this year and I think we’ll have a lot of good information,” Barnes said. “We just didn’t have the carburetor settings. Restarts here are pretty hectic. There’s a lot of hemming and hawing, but we’ll take all of this and put it all toward later this year.”
The differences in strategy also played an interesting role. Partridge, who was not even a factor during the first half, had a best lap time in the entire distance on that final restart.
“It was kind of neat to see the different ends of the strategy, me, on one hand, dropping back to a conservative seventh trying to save my stuff,” said the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West regular. “Barnes went the other way. He drove out ahead and was saving his stuff once he got the lead. It was neat when we came together at the end. None of us had any tires left. We were kind of back to square one.”
The win was also very important for the Rancho Cucamonga home state driver because it was virtually in front of a national audience of Super Late Model competitors.
“These people come from all across the country so this is the bees knees of short track racing right here. It’s nice to showcase our stuff in front of them, show them the Mods, and how neat of a series it is.”
Miinch held on for third, while 2014 top finishers Dylan Cappello and Scott Winters each dropped out with mechanical problems during top five performances.
The first points race of the Lucas Oil Modifed Series season is March 19th at Havasu 95 Speedway in Arizona.
Speed51.com will have Speed Central coverage beginning mid-morning from Kern County on Sunday and our live single-camera, pay-per-view stream will begin for the Last Chance event.
1 9 Ryan Partridge
2 51A Austin Barnes
3 4T Taylor Miinch
4 5T Travis Thirkettle
5 28 Matthew Hicks
6 89 Kyle Tellstrom
7 11H Eric Hamilton
8 1A Mike David
9 87 Wes Miller
10 21 Blaine Perkins
11 10 Peyton Saxton
12 15 John Zaretzke
13 24 Shelby Stroebel
14 40 Jerry Toporek
15 55 William Guevara
16 50 Lars Wolfe
17 35 Eddie Secord
18 22 Aaron McMorran
19 27 Rich Lindgren
20 24A Scott Winters
21 11 Dylan Cappello
22 42 Brock Monroe
23 51X Kris Price
24 78 Kevin Nichols
25 33 PJ Pedroncelli