Austin Barnes took a year off from the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart after winning the 2012 championship. His rivals are starting to wish he’d go away again.
Barnes, a 19-year-old from Escondido, California, has been the dominant figure in the series since his return. He has been the fast qualifier at all four races and Saturday night at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway he drove to his second straight win after finishing second and third in the opening events of the season.
The win in the Lucas Oil Products 75 presented by BILSTEIN Shocks didn’t come without some good fortune, however. Barnes started third in the 26-car field, took the lead from pole-sitter JA Junior on the second lap and for a time threatened to drive away from the field.
Meanwhile, reigning champion Chris Gerchman was trying to work his way forward after starting 13th. He finally made it with the help of some traffic problems for Barnes and they crossed the starting line on lap 60 virtually side-by-side.
Two laps later Gerchman gave Barnes a little bump exiting Turn 4 on the .375-mile oval and drove by him for the lead, only to spin in Turn 4 and give the lead back. The moment was reminiscent of the most recent race, at Blythe, California, where Gerchman spun while by himself and said later he had no idea why. This time, though, the cause may have been oil from Jason Patison’s car, because race officials sent Patison to the pits after finding oil covering the rear end of his car.
Gerchman’s spin sent him to the rear of the field and left New Mexico resident Jason Irwin as Barnes’ biggest threat. But Irwin slid high in Turn 1 on the restart after the caution for Gerchman’s spin and dropped from second to eighth.
Dylan Cappello moved into second with 12 laps to go, but the 18-year-old who missed Friday’s practice so he could attend his high school graduation wasn’t able to pressure Barnes. He did hold onto the runner-up spot, with Larry Gerchman, Chase Catania and Tripp Gaylord completing the top five. Chris Gerchman finished 12th.
Dave Arce, who made series history by racing with a fuel-injected Chevrolet motor, had a disappointing day. He had to take a provisional starting position after a rocker arm broke during his qualifying run, started 24th after replacing the rocker arm and a valve lifter and pulled off the track just five laps into the main event due to problems related to the rocker arm failure.
Arce said the electronic fuel injection unit worked perfectly, however.
LUCAS OIL PRODUCTS 75 PRESENTED BY BILSTEIN SHOCKS
The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
.375-mile oval track
MAIN EVENT (75 laps) – 1. Austin Barnes, Escondido; 2. Dylan Cappello, Peoria, Arizona; 3. Larry Gerchman, Lake Havasu City, Arizona; 4. Chase Catania, El Cajon, California; 5. Tripp Gaylord, Golden, Colorado; 6. Jim Mardis, Yucaipa, California; 7. Scott Winters, Tracy, California; 8. Jason Irwin, Albuquerque, New Mexico; 9. Matthew Hicks, Lakeside, California; 10. Keegan Walmer, Charlotte, North Carolina; 11. JA Junior, Alhambra, California; 12. Chris Gerchman, Spring Branch, Texas; 13. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian, Idaho; 14. Jessica Clark, Ventura, California; 15. Jason Bamberg, Loomis, California; 16. Lynn Hardy, Salt Lake City, Utah; 17. Doug Carpenter, San Diego, California; 18. Kyle Niquette, Lake Havasu City; 19. Pat Petrie, Henderson, Nevada; 20. Tim Morse, Burbank, California;
21. Rich Lindgren, Rio Linda, California; 22. Jason Patison, Corona, California; 23. Linny White, Colton, California; 24. Eddie Secord, Oak Hills, California; 25. Doug Hamm, Las Vegas; 26. Dave Arce, Santee, California.
Margin of victory – 0.659 seconds. Average speed – 43.687 mph. Caution flags – 4. Fast qualifier – Barnes, 15.353 seconds, 87.931 mph. Trophy Dash winner – Irwin.
B MAIN (40 laps) – 1. James Cole, San Antonio, Texas; 2. Blake Dunkelberger, Simi Valley, California; 3. Chris Cook, Tabiona, Utah; 4. Jerry Toporek, Venice, Califormia; 5. Blake Rogers, Yuma, Arizona; 6. Thomas Pfundstein, Las Vegas; 7. Will Guevara, Lake Havasu City, Arizona; 8. Steve Durbin, Las Vegas; 9. Michael Hale, Salt Lake City, Utah; 10. Joe Deguevara, Las Vegas; 11. Sal Lopez, Sacramento, California; 12. Vanessa Robinson, Las Cruces, New Mexico; 13. Dennis Thomas, St. George, Utah; 14. Scott Osborn, Las Vegas; 15. Dustin Tilbury, Edgeweood, New Mexico; 16. Aaron McMorran, Las Vegas. (Bamberg, Walmer, Lindgren and Hardy were top 4 after 20 laps and transferred to main.)