LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Yogi Berra should have been here. The late, great New York Yankees catcher and master of malaprops once said “it's deja vu all over again” and that was the case Saturday night.
Ryan Partridge had been in the winner's circle when the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart opened its 2016 season with a special event in late February, and when the series closed its season with another special event Saturday the talented driver from Rancho Cucamonga, California, and his Sunrise Ford team were the ones celebrating again.
The victories weren't quite the same, though.
The first one was worth $5,000 and came on the half-mile oval at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California, when Partridge out-foxed Austin Barnes on a caution restart with 10 of the 80 laps to go.
Saturday's prize was $4,000 and Partridge earned it by dominating the 101-lap 51FIFTY Energy Race of Champions after taking the lead from pole-sitter Taylor Miinch on the 38th lap around the 3/8–mile oval at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Partridge had served notice of being fast when he paced qualifying with a track record lap of 14.935 seconds at 90.90.392 miles per hour and added $200 to his prize total.
The race was run in two parts – 51 laps for the first half and 50 for the second – and when Partridge pulled a four for the invert he gave the pole to Miinch, who had won this race a year ago when the distance was 75 laps. Miinch was comfortable on the lead, too. He had been fast all season and had won the final points race three weeks earlier and wasn't unduly bothered to have Partridge looming in his rear view mirror.
Once Partridge got his Race Car Factory Chevrolet in front, however, he was able to open a comfortable lead during the 13 laps leading to the break. And once the race was restarted Partridge threatened to drive away from everyone else who remained from a starting field of 30 cars. On lap 70 his advantage over Miinch was .992 seconds and by lap 85, just before the last of the night's six caution flags, the gap was 1.377 seconds.
Miinch made a late run and trimmed his deficit from .953 to .467 seconds in the final three laps but never posed a threat for the leader. Kyle Tellstrom was third, 2.222 seconds behind, with Scott Winters and Dylan Cappello rounding out the top five after running there for most of the cool evening.
The series Hoosier Tire West standings had been decided after the 10th points race in late October at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and as a result many of the series usual entrants decided to sit out the Race of Champions. That left room for several new or infrequent competitors and several of them had impressive outings.
Trevor Cristiani, a 22-year-old from Boise, Idaho, finished his debut race in 11th after running in the top 10, North State Modified Series champion Darrin Knight was 13th in a new car and North State regulars Joe Rhodes Jr. and Sierra Furia were 16th and 20th, respectively, in their first outings in the Lucas Oil series.
The 2017 season is scheduled to begin with a special event at Bakersfield February 11. Partridge has it circled and underlined on his calendar.
LUCAS OIL MODIFIEDS (101 laps) – 1. Ryan Partridge (9), Rancho Cucamonga, Ca.; 2. Taylor Miinch (4T), Blossom Valley, Ca.; 3. Kyle Tellstrom (5U), Ukiah, Ca.; 4. Scott Winters (24A), Tracy, Ca.; 5. Dylan Cappello (11), Peoria, Az.; 6. Jim Mardis (51), Yucaipa, Ca.; 7. Aaron McMorran (22), Las Vegas; 8. Shelby Stroebel (24), Meridian, Idaho; 9. Wes Miller (87), Turlock, Ca.; 10. William Camara (3), Fremont, Ca.; 11. Trevor Cristiani (90), Boise, Idaho; 12. P.J. Pedroncelli (33), Sonoma, Ca.; 13. Darrin Knight (88), Kelseyville, Ca.; 14. Rich Lindgren (27), Rio Linda, Ca.; 15. John Zaretzke (51Z), Snohomish, Wa.; 16. Joe Rhodes Jr. (86), Sacramento, Ca.; 17. Lynn Hardy (4L), Salt Lake City, Utah; 18. Jimmy Waters (24W), West Jordan, Utah; 19. Jimmy Sloan (19J), Indio, Ca.; 20. Sierra Furia (37), Lakeport, Ca.; 21. Rod Proctor (21), Riverside, Ca.; 22. Pat Petrie (1), Henderson, Nevada; 23. Chad Guilford (24G), Highlands Ranch, Colo.; 24. William Guevara (55), Lake Havasu City, Az.; 25. Jerry Toporek (40), Venice, Ca.; 26. Mark Ith Jr. (84), Magna, Utah; 27. Doug Hamm (4X), North Las Vegas; 28. Clint Schubert (28), Calhan, Colorado; 29. Kayli Barker (34X), North Las Vegas; 30. Eddie Secord (35), Oak Hills, California.
-Lucas Oil Modifieds Press Release
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com