The Lucas Oil Modifieds officially opened their season with a 100-lap show at the quarter-mile oval of Havasu 95 Speedway just outside Lake Havasu City, Arizona. As the sun beat down and the temperature got hot in the Arizona desert, Linny White got hot as well. White took the checkered flag by over a straightaway ahead of Matthew Hicks to score the win in the first points race of the season.
Havasu has never been one of White’s best tracks, but after his performance on Saturday evening, that may be changing.
“This isn’t my good track,” White told Speed51.com powered by JEGS in victory lane. “It’s just not my good track. But now I’m taking a liking to it. It’s going to be one of my favorites soon. It’s very demanding from the seat. It’s just a great race track and it makes for great racing.”
White ran near the front of the field all race long after starting in the fifth position. He used the outside groove to move up to the top two, along with two-time and defending series champion Austin Barnes.
Barnes got by White in the early going, and took over the lead from pole-sitter Jason Irwin, on lap 30. White followed Barnes by Irwin to move into second.
The defending champion quickly started to stretch his lead out over White, but his lead was short-lived.
On the initial start of the race, Barnes got into the back of Jim Mardis, sending Mardis around in front of the field. A few laps after Barnes took the lead he closed in on Mardis to put him a lap down off turn two.
As they came off turn two, Mardis’ machine moved low, right in front of Barnes. Then Mardis rapidly slowed down with smoke pouring out from his tires. Barnes pushed Mardis all the way down the backstretch and into turn three. Barnes then slammed Mardis in the back in the center of the corner and got to the outside of Mardis. That’s when things got wild.
Mardis’ no. 51 made a hard right turn and slammed the left-rear corner of Barnes’ No. A51, sending Barnes spinning into the infield in turn one.
As a cloud of dust kicked up from Barnes’ car, the yellow flag was displayed and Mardis quickly left the race track in turn three. Barnes climbed out of his car and ran down the frontstretch in search of Mardis, but never found him.
Mardis was disqualified by race officials and quickly left the speedway property without being reached for comment.
Barnes was able to rebound to finish 13th, just one lap down, and afterwards he offered up his opinion on what happened.
“It was pretty obvious that he waited for me and wanted us out,” said Barnes. “We came out of two and he turned down right in front of me. He spun us down into the infield and over the curb. It tore up half of the car and the bottom of the car, but we recovered well. We had a really solid race and we’ll go into Tucson.”
After the mayhem was all said and done, White was the main beneficiary. He inherited the top spot after the incident and from there he put on a driving clinic out front.
“That was an unfortunate event out front,” said White. “At the end of the day we got the win, but that’s not how you want to get them.”
The restart after the Barnes incident turned out to be the final one of the race. The final run was almost 70 laps long, and White encountered a ton of lapped traffic throughout that run, but was able to continue an extension on the gap over second place.
When the checkered flag waved, White beat Hicks to the line by 4.716 seconds. Taylor Miinch, Kyle Tellstrom, and Aaron McMorran completed the top five.
White said he and his team went into this year going “trophy hunting,” and in the first points race of the season he partially accomplished that goal.
“I wanted everyone to know we are here,” said White. “I wanted to make my mark. I’m coming for that trophy at the end of the year. That’s been my goal. I said it at the end of the year (last year). At the end of this year I’m looking for that trophy. I’m here and I’m going to stay.”
For an on-demand replay of Saturday afternoon’s Trackside Now coverage presented by PFC Brakes from Havasu 95 Speedway, click here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
Lucas Oil Modifieds 100
Havasu 95 Speedway, Lake Havasu City, Arizona