CORONA, California — The way Scott Winters talks about it, racing at Tucson Speedway proves the truth of the old television commercial that claimed what matters most is where (and how) the rubber meets the road.
Winters said since he’s only raced there twice he doesn’t know all the idiosyncrasies of the 3/8-mile paved oval where the Lucas Oil Modifieds presented by LoanMart will run Saturday night’s (April 9) GEICO Arizona Shootout presented by General Tire.
The event will be shown live beginning at 7 p.m. on LucasOilRacingTV.com, a worldwide internet subscription motorsports network, and at a future date on MAVTV the Motorsports Network.
One thing Winters does know is that it is “definitely a multi-lane track. I’m sure at times you’ll see cars three wide. There’s a real low, low groove, a middle groove and an upper groove. You can definitely run side-by-side for a lot of laps and it makes for really good racing from that perspective.”
Another thing Winters knows about the track is that “it 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.
It’s the same approach Winters advocated last year, when he qualified second, started fifth, led 44 laps and got his Ferrari Farms STR Chevrolet to the finish line almost a second ahead of Jack Madrid.
“Believe it or not I was saving the tires. That’s what was crazy about it,” the Tracy, California, resident said. “Last year my intention was not to be a jackrabbit, but even when I was being conservative I had pretty good speed.
“I think that’s still the key. You’ve got to save the tires and keep the car under you. But you need a good-handling car that has speed while you’re saving the tires. I think it’s much, much more about the handling of the car (than horsepower). Horsepower is for some of the other tracks.”
The victory at Tucson was the first of two in three races for Winters, who led the Hoosier Tire West point standings at mid-season and finished third after two unavoidable wrecks in the final five events. He opened this season with a seventh at Havasu 95 Speedway March 19.
“We kind of stumbled a bit right out of the gate at Havasu,” Winters said of himself and the Ferrari/Kramer Racing team. “We had mechanical problems and fought those pretty much all night Friday and all day Saturday before qualifying. Then we had some contact early in the race.
“It was one of those weekends, but we’re definitely not satisfied with seventh.”
Linny White of Colton, California, won the March 19 race by 4.7 seconds over Matthew Hicks, with Taylor Miinch, Kyle Tellstrom and Aaron McMorran rounding out the top five. It was the first series win for the veteran White, who has won track championships on pavement and dirt and showed he was getting comfortable in the Lucas Oil Modifieds by finishing second twice and third once in the final four races last season.
Miinch was fifth and Hicks sixth at Tucson a year ago. Both have been fast everywhere, although Miinch isn’t sure what to expect this weekend because he’s debuting a new Lineer/King Taco STR Chevrolet without having been able to do any testing.
Also fast and almost certain to be factors at some point are reigning champion Austin Barnes, who battled Winters for most of the race last year before finishing third for the second year in a row, and Larry Gerchman, who has back-to-back top 10 finishes.
The GEICO Arizona Shootout is the second of the 10 races that determine the series champion.
-Lucas Oil Modified Series Press Release
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com