WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Shelby Stroebel, the dominant Modified driver in the Pacific Northwest for many years, Saturday got his first win in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart at the series race closest to his Meridian, Idaho, home.
The 41-year-old Stroebel started the BILSTEIN Shocks Great Salt Lake 75 presented by Optima Batteries on the outside of the second row in the 28-car field, took the lead from pole-sitter Michael Hale on lap 11, and finished the 75 laps around Rocky Mountain Raceway’s 0.375-mile paved oval 0.756 seconds ahead of fast qualifier Jason Irwin, with Dylan Cappello, Jay Linstroth and Chase Catania rounding out the top five.
Stroebel and his crew, including daughter Caitlin, who is a promising Modified driver, had to travel about five hours from their Idaho home to this Salt Lake City suburb, but that qualifies as a hometown race for them after many trips of 12 hours and more.
Stroebel, who in 2012 had gone undefeated at Meridian Speedway and won the American Speed Association national championship, had struggled to be consistently competitive since joining the Lucas Oil Modified Series full-time in 2013.
He came into Saturday’s race, the sixth of 10 on this year’s schedule, off a strong fifth-place finish at Madera, California, that left him ninth in the Hoosier Tire West point standings and backed that up by qualifying fourth here, behind Irwin, Mark Ith Jr. and points leader Austin Barnes, who had his streak of fast qualifying efforts snapped at five.
Stroebel quickly confirmed that he was ready to win. He had moved up to second by lap 5, roared by Irwin on lap 11, and opened a lead that might have stayed large all evening were it not for eight cautions and two red flags. The driver of the LoanMart STR Chevrolet never relinquished the top spot, however, despite pressure from Irwin and Barnes on the restarts.
Barnes looked to be the primary challenger until a brush with the back straightaway wall and a spin in Turn 3 while dueling with Linstroth ended his bid and Irwin was always close, but never close enough to attempt a pass.
Cappello, who used a provisional to start 25th after problems in qualifying, continued his strong rookie showing. The Peoria, Arizona, 17-year-old has been fifth, second, second and now third in his past four starts.
Cappello’s Garcia Racing teammate, Tripp Gaylord, was sixth, followed by Keegan Walmer, Doug Hamm, Jason Patison and Michael Hale to round out the top 10.
Missing from the results, and from the track, was reigning champion Chris Gerchman, who had won this race a year ago. With the birth of their first child imminent Gerchman stayed home with wife Lauren in Spring Branch, Texas.
That means he also missed 71-year-old Sal Lopez barely missing a spot in the main event but winning the 30-lap iON Camera B main after Madera race winner Scott Winters had won the 6-lap BILSTEIN Trophy Dash.
BILSTEIN SHOCKS GREAT SALT LAKE 75
Round 6 of the Lucas Oil Modified Series
At Rocky Mountain Raceways (.375-mile paved oval), West Valley City, Utah
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Main event (75 laps) – 1. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian, Idaho; 2. Jason Irwin, Albuquerque, New Mexico; 3. Dylan Cappello, Peoria, Arizona; 4. Jay Linstroth, Citrus Heights, California; 5. Chase Catania, El Cajon, California; 6. Tripp Gaylord, Golden, Colorado; 7. Keegan Walmer, Charlotte, North Carolina; 8. Doug Hamm, Las Vegas; 9. Jason Patison, Corona, California; 10. Michael Hale, West Jordan, Utah;
11. Austin Barnes, Escondido, California; 12. Jessica Clark, Ventura, California; 13. Doug Carpenter, San Diego, California; 14. Jim Mardis, Yucaipa, California; 15. Dustin Tilbury, Edgewood, New Mexico; 16. Mark Ith Jr., Magna, Utah; 17. Pat Petrie, Las Vegas; 18. Vanessa Robinson, Las Cruces, New Mexico; 19. Nick Parker, Magna, Utah; 20. Larry Gerchman, Lake Havasu City, Arizona;
21. Scott Winters, Tracy, California; 22. Lynn Hardy, Salt Lake City, Utah; 23. Tim Morse, Burbank, California; 24. Dave Arce, Santee, California; 25. Chris Cook, Tabiona, Utah; 26. Rich Lindgren, Rio Linda, California; 27. Dennis Thomas, St. George, Utah; 28. Kyle Tellstrom, Ukian, California.
Margin of victory – 0.756 seconds. Average speed – 23.264 mph. Caution flags – 8 (2 reds). Speedco fast qualifier – Irwin, 15.491 seconds; 87.147 mph. BILSTEIN Trophy Dash winner – Winters.
B main (30 laps) – 1. Sal Lopez, Sacramento, California; 2. William “Will” Guevara, Lake Havasu City, Arizona; 3. Marty Deluca, Las Vegas; 4. Parker; 5. Carpenter; 6. Robinson; 7. Thomas; 8. Steven Durbin, Las Vegas; 9. Rus Ward, Boise, Idaho. (Parker, Carpenter, Robinson and Thomas were the top 4 after 20 laps and transferred to the main event.)
Margin of victory – 0.340 seconds. Average speed – 51.528 mph.
– By Jim Short, Lucas Oil Modifieds PR. Photo supplied by Lucas Oil Modifieds