CORONA, California – This week, the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by MAVTV will be in Tucson, Arizona, and chances are if you ask any of the drivers to sum that up in one word, they’ll say tires.
That’s true almost anywhere the West’s best short-track touring series visits, of course. But nowhere else is it as meaningful as it is at the 3/8-mile oval where they’ll run the SuperClean 75 presented by Hoosier Tire on Saturday, April 14.
It’s been that way since at least 2015, when Matthew Hicks and Scott Winters both talked about the effect the 8-inch Hoosier 700 tires would have on the outcome.
“There’s more than one line but tire conservation is key,” Hicks said before the race. “It’s a momentum track, but you cannot spin the tires. If you get them hot, you’re done. The track is so abrasive it just eats up tires. You’ve got to have patience.”
Winters won that year by moving to the front early and leading 44 of the 75 laps. He said his plan had been to “save the tires and lay back,” but his car had been so good he could lead without pushing it too hard.
The Tracy, California, resident didn’t change his thinking about the track, either, because before the 2016 event he said Tucson Speedway “likes to wear out tires day and night. That’s a given. It’s very abrasive.”
The key therefore becomes tire management and being in position to win in the closing stages of the 75-lap race, and that favors a conservative approach in the early going.
That’s the approach Ryan Partridge used to win the 2016 event, and afterward he said that while “we did our job as far as conserving” it was “really frustrating. These are 700-horsepower, 2,500-pound cars on a treaded tire and toward the end of the race we were literally (using) 1/16th throttle down the straightaway (because of poor traction).”
Last year, when Taylor Miinch started on the pole and led every lap of an event full of caution flags, there wasn’t any talk of tires. But it’s a given that there will be this weekend when Miinch, Winters and the others campaigning in the series’ 13th season return to Tucson for the second event in the 10-race championship season.
Miinch used last year’s Tucson victory as a springboard to the most dominant season in series history. The 23-year-old from Rancho San Diego, California, had four wins, never finished out of the top three and won the championship by the widest margin ever.
He’s not showing any signs of slowing down, either. He opened this season at Havasu 95 Speedway March 10 with his sixth career win, by 7.8 seconds over Kyle Tellstrom, and has finished fourth or better in his past 19 starts over three seasons.
The early list of potential challengers starts with Winters and Larry Gerchman. Winters has finished seventh and ninth at Tucson the past two seasons and Gerchman, at 63 the oldest driver in the series, had finished fourth, eighth and third and won the Trophy Dash twice before a sub-par 16th-place outing in 2017. He also began this season with a third at his hometown track in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
Blake Rogers of Yuma, Arizona, debuted a new car with a fourth-place finish on opening weekend and Jason Irwin of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was fifth. Rogers was sixth and Irwin eighth after being the fast qualifier last year at Tucson.
The Lucas Oil Modifieds will be the feature attraction on a program that includes the Tucson Modifieds, Pro Stocks, Outlaws, Hobby Stocks and Hornet Stocks.
General admission tickets, good for both Friday night (April 13) practice and the races, are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors (55 and over) and military personnel and $9 for juniors ages 10 to 16. Children under 10 are free with a paying adult. There also is a $40 Family Pack good for two adults and two juniors.
Spectator gates will open at 5 p.m. and racing will get under way with the Lucas Oil Modifieds’ 6-lap Trophy Dash at 7 p.m.
-Lucas Oil Modifieds Press Release. Photo Credit: Lucas Oil Modifieds