WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – The Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart makes its second appearance at Rocky Mountain Raceways this weekend and that means there’ll be a race within a race.
The main event is Saturday’s (July 26) BILSTEIN Shocks Great Salt Lake 75 presented by Optima Batteries, the sixth of 10 events on the series schedule. The subplot is a modern twist on a Western movie, with the local racers defending their community from an attack by marauding forces.
“I think so, at least on my side,” said Michael Hale, a resident of nearby West Jordan, Utah, resident. “I don’t know how much is about protecting your turf. You just hope you can make a good enough showing to at least represent your town well.”
“Of course there’s some of that going on,” Salt Lake City resident Lynn Hardy said. “This is our backyard and you always want to do good there.”
Hale and Hardy did that at least year’s race in mid-June, qualifying first and second, respectively, and finishing sixth (Hardy) and eighth (Hale). Eventual series champion Chris Gerchman won the race with Jim Mardis second and Chase Catania third.
Gerchman, Mardis and Catania will be among an estimated 30 series regulars expected to take on Rocky Mountain Raceway regulars Hale, Hardy, Mark Ith Jr., Abe Carter, Nick Parker and possibly others.
A field of 28 drivers made up of the 20 fastest qualifiers, four provisional starters and four survivors of the B main will take the green flag for the 75-lap main event, with $2,000 awaiting the winner.
Mardis will be adjusting to a different car, however. The Bluewater Technologies/K&N Filters Lefthander Chevrolet the two-time series champion had driven in the first five races this year was destroyed June 28 at Madera, California, in an accident that left Mardis hospitalized overnight with contusions and a badly strained back.
“It’s still sore, and when I get tired it really gets bad,” Mardis said, but he’ll be at the track in the Wenteq Chevrolet usually driven by H-Town Racing owner Thomas Pfundstein.
“It’s different than all the other cars I’ve driven, but we’ll go and see what happens,” Mardis said.
Ironically, the hometown drivers have to make some adjustments, too, because of the differences in the rules for the Lucas Oil Modifieds and the Maverik Modified division that runs at Rocky Mountain Raceways on a regular basis.
The Lucas Oil Modifieds use open motors up to 410 cubic inches that produce about 600 horsepower. The Maverik Modifieds use the GM 602 “crate” motor that produces 350 horsepower and is sealed by the factory so no changes can be made.
Ith said the difference between the two is “a half a second, for sure. Our last race here the fast time was a 15.81. When the series was here it was a 15.2.”
Hale’s actual pole-winning time last year was 15.338. RMR regular Todd Beach ran a 15.811 and was 23rd. So those who have the option take their crate motors out and put an open motor in, a process that takes time and leads to other changes because, Hardy said, “it will definitely give you different handling characteristics than the crate motor.”
So do the tires. The official tire for the Lucas Oil Modified Series is the Hoosier 700, which has a small 8-inch tread width and is ideal as a way to limit the amount of horsepower that can be used effectively. The Maverik Modifieds use the Hoosier 970 that Hardy said “is a bigger, taller tire with a little softer compound that will take a little more power.”
Hale said his fast time in qualifying came when he was “able to pull it all together for one good lap,” but he struggled in the race because “it was hard getting the tires figured out. The longer we’d run the more they would fall off, at least with my set up.”
The Utah drivers do have one thing in their favor. They have intimate knowledge of what Hardy said is a “pretty bumpy track. It’s fast, but it’s got some whoops in it,” and he cites his own struggles at recent Lucas Oil Modified races in Las Vegas and Madera as evidence of the value of local knowledge.
“We know our way around that track (RMR),” Hardy said. “The tires and horsepower give us a little different deal, but I’m certainly hoping for one of my better finishes since I’ve been running with the series.”
Ith is optimistic, too.
“We had a pretty good run last year,” he said. “I qualified eighth and worked my way up to third. I was running with Catania and Gerchman and lost the motor. I’ve got a new J&S motor in there now. I think we’ve got a pretty nice piece and I’m pretty excited.
“I don’t know it’s so much to defend the home turf. I just feel like we’ve got a pretty good chance to run with them because we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of laps around this track. But the guys in the series that ran here last year will have a better understanding of how to get around the track and most of them are veteran guys so it doesn’t take them too long to figure things out.”
The Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart is supported by a potent marketing concept known as “Team Lucas” whose members include General Tire, GEICO, E3 Spark Plugs, Optima Batteries, Ole Smoky Moonshine, iON Cameras, Speedco Truck Lube and Tire, BILSTEIN Shocks, LoanMart and SuperClean.
Additional sponsorship is provided by Lucas Oil Products, Protect the Harvest, MAVTV American Real, Hoosier Tire West, Sunoco Race Fuels, K&N Filters, Aero Racing Wheels, ASI Racewear, Bosch, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Frank’s Radios, Racing Plus and DJ Safety.
Detailed information on the series is available at www.LucasOilModifieds.com.