CORONA, California — This week’s lucky number is three. At least it might be.
The Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by RAM Mounts will makes its 10th visit to Madera Speedway this weekend for Saturday’s (October 7) Lucas Oil 75 presented by K&N Filters, and two of the drivers will have three on their minds.
Dylan Cappello and Scott Winters both have an opportunity to become the series’ first three-time winner on a fast 1/3-mile oval that is one of the drivers’ favorites and, in Cappello’s case, the first to win three in a row.
The 21-year-old Cappello got his first Madera win in this race a year ago. In June of this year he made it two in a row by leading all 75 laps to beat Travis Thirkettle and Taylor Miinch, and went on to win the next two events on the schedule in similar fashion.
Winters, a past track champion, also got his wins back-to-back, in June 2014 and June 2015, with Cappello second each time.
It would seem, then, that the list of favorites to take home the winner’s $3,000 reward Saturday night should start with the Northern Arizona University senior from Peoria, Arizona, and the mechanical engineer from Tracy, California, who is a leader in the design and production of laser optical systems at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Curiously, since Rich Lindgren won the inaugural event in 2011 there have been four two-time winners and all of them won back-to-back races, as if they had been given a formula for success with a two-race shelf life.
Chris Gerchman was the first. The retired 2013 series champion won in July of 2012 and July of 2013, when the series raced at Madera only once a year. Then it was Winters, in June of 2014 and June of 2015, the year a second race was added to the schedule. Kyle Tellstrom won that second race, in October 2015, and repeated in June 2016, but isn’t racing in the series this season.
Then it was Cappello’s turn. He was followed to the finish by Tellstrom, Matthew Hicks, Taylor Miinch and Winters in October 2016 and by Travis Thirkettle, Miinch, Jason Irwin and Linny White in June.
So, based on “what have you done for me lately,” Cappello has an edge on Winters in the favoritism department. Past performances support that too, if you don’t mind splitting hairs. In his six races at Madera Cappello has two wins, two seconds, a third and a fourth while in the same number of races Winters has two wins, a second, a third and two fifths.
Several others have shown an affinity for Madera’s racing surface as well. White has a pair of seconds and four top 5s in six starts; Doug Hamm has been seventh or better five times; two-time series champion Jim Mardis has a half-dozen top 10s and won the series most recent race, at San Bernardino, California, September 23; Eddie Secord and Thirkettle both have three top 10s and Irwin has three top 5s in three tries.
Then there’s the quietly excellent Taylor Miinch, who leads the Hoosier Tire West point standings by 58 points over Cappello and 87 over Blake Rogers with this race and the finale at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, October 28 remaining in the championship season.
Miinch, from Blossom Valley, California, has two thirds, a fourth and a sixth at Madera. He’s also finished fourth or better in his past 14 starts and has three wins this season in his Zotto Mattress/Lineer/Viejas Casino STR Chevrolet.
The Lucas Oil 75 shares the program with Madera’s fifth annual Short Track Shootout, a 150-lap, $10,000 to win race for Open Late Models, and a 75-lap race for Junior Late Models.
Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and the racing will get under way immediately afterward. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and military personnel and $7 for juniors 6 to 12. Children 5 and under are free.
-Lucas Oil Modified Series Press Release
-Photo Credit: Madera Speedway