IRWINDALE, California – Travis Thirkettle called his shot. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Babe Ruth’s called shot back on October 1, 1932, but it had more than enough drama for Thirkettle.
All Ruth had to was hit a Charlie Root fastball. Thirkettle had to overcome 28 Lucas Oil Modifieds and seven caution flags on his way to victory in the SuperClean Spring Shootout presented by BILSTEIN Shocks Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway.
“I love Irwindale. It’s the best race track in the country,” Thirkettle said after finishing 0.493 seconds ahead of Ryan Partridge after 75 laps around the fast, high-banked half-mile oval where both Thirkettle and Partridge have enjoyed great success.
Thirkettle, who led the final 60 laps, now has 39 wins at the track where he won a Late Model championship and the Toyota All-Star Showdown. Partridge has 51 wins and a pair of Late Model titles.
Thirkettle predicted the victory, too, in a way. He said a few days before the race that Irwindale “is my house and I’m going to take it back” even though he’s still learning all the nuances of driving a high-powered, open-wheel Modified on 8-inch Hoosier tires and he did it in style.
Partridge had the advantage early in the evening by turning a track record 18.470-second lap to win the pole in a 30-car field that saw the top 18 grouped with a half a second. But much of that edge was blunted when he drew an 8 for an invert, putting himself on the outside of the fourth row at the start.
Eddie Secord and Dylan Cappello were on the front row and Thirkettle was on the outside of row 10, right behind Partridge. At the start it was Thirkettle who was able to find running room, however. While he was moving forward Partridge was stuck between 6th and 8th and when Thirkettle took the lead from Cappello on lap 16 Partridge was 7th.
From then on Thirkettle’s biggest problem was the frequency of the yellow caution flags that erased the comfortable leads he managed to build rather easily over Cappello, Taylor Miinch and Kyle Tellstrom while at speed.
Partridge made it a head-to-head battle when he took second away from Miinch just past the halfway point. Then it became a question of whether Thirkettle running the high line could ward off Partridge’s frequent assaults from low on the track.
Thirkettle’s lead was 2.03 seconds on lap 45 and 1.47 when the yellow waved on lap 53. The Newhall, California, resident went back to work and was 2.04 ahead when the sixth yellow came out on lap 71. The restart this time was single file and after repelling Partridge’s final bid for the lead Thirkettle won going away in his National Papers/Ketl Koi Farms/Ron’s Rear Ends Race Car Factory Chevrolet.
Partridge, Matthew Hicks, Cappello and Tellstrom rounded out the top five.
“I really didn’t have anything for Travis,” said Partridge, who had won at Tucson, Arizona, three weeks ago. “He had a ton of drive down the straightaway. I knew if he just did his job there was no way I was going to get by him.”
Thirkettle, who had raced infrequently in recent seasons, dedicated what he said was his first win in five or six years to his father Jim, who recently was elected to the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and helps his son at the track.
“We had a good ride,” Thirkettle said. “We knew it was good when we unloaded and we knew what we had to do to win.”
Next up for the Lucas Oil Modifieds presented by LoanMart is a visit to the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway May 21.
SUPERCLEAN SPRING SHOOTOUT RESULTS
at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway
1/2-mile banked, paved oval
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Main event (75 laps) – 1. Travis Thirkettle (5T), Newhall, Ca.; 2. Ryan Partridge (9), Rancho Cucamonga, Ca.; 3. Matthew Hicks (28), Lakeside, Ca.; 4. Dylan Cappello (11C), Peoria, Arizona; 5. Kyle Tellstrom (89, Ukiah, Ca.; 6. Scott Winters (24A), Tracy, Ca.; 7. Doug Hamm (4X), North Las Vegas, Nevada; 8. Taylor Miinch (4T), El Cajon, Ca.; 9. Eric Hamilton (11H), Hanford, Ca.; 10. Aaron McMorran (22), Henderson, Nevada; 11. Austin Barnes (51A), Escondido, Ca.; 12. Shelby Stroebel (24), Meridian, Idaho; 13. Blake Rogers (4B), Yuma, Arizona; 14. Eddie Secord (35), Oak Hills, Ca.; 15. Wes Miller (87), Turlock, Ca.; 16. Larry Gerchman (25), Lake Havasu City, Arizona; 17. Shane Skaggs (28X), Albuquerque, N.M.; 18. John Zaretzke (15), Snohomish, Washington; 19. Jason Patison (80), Corona, Ca.; 20. Dustin Tilbury (17D), Edgewood, N.M.; 21. Dave Arce (5), Santee, Ca.; 22. Jerry Toporek (40), Venice, Ca.; 23. Kyle Cline (98), Hesperia, Ca.; 24. Sal Lopez (02), Sacramento, Ca.; 25. William Guevara (55), Lake Havasu City, Arizona; 26. Blaine Perkins (21), Bakersfield, Ca.; 27. Tim Morse (36), Burbank, Ca.; 28. Linny White (99), Colton, Ca.; 29. Michael Womack (57), Troutman, N.C.; DNS – Forfa (34), Redlands, Ca.
-Lucas Oil Modified Series Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com