Chris Gerchman said he used what typists call the hunt-and-peck method to win the Arizona Shootout 75 presented by Super Clean at Tucson Speedway March 22.
Gerchman, the reigning champion in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart , overcame challenges by series veterans Doug Hamm and Austin Barnes and newcomers Tripp Gaylord and Dylan Cappello to win for the second time this season and the 19th time overall in the popular touring series.
"I was trying different stuff, just trying the track, and it changed on me,” Gerchman said, but most of the time the low road was the best road for the Spring Branch, Texas, resident. That’s where he was when he took the lead from Las Vegas resident Doug Hamm on lap 51 and that’s where he stayed when Gaylord and Barnes pressured him during the final laps.
It was only following a restart with four laps to go, after the sixth and final caution, that Gerchman was able to put enough space between himself and his pursuers to relax.
“Doug was strong,” Gerchman said of Hamm, who took the lead from Cappello on lap 18 and pulled away from the others in the 28-car field after him and Gerchman ran side-by-side and traded narrow leads on laps 25, 26 and 27. “Doug was a serious player and I thought I might be in trouble.”
That might have been true, too, if the yellow flag hadn’t waved for the first time after Roger Brown and JA Junior touched wheels in Turn 1 on lap 49. Gerchman was running second and had used the low line to close the gap between himself and Hamm and Hamm’s Phil’s Phabrication Chevrolet had developed the rocker arm problem that eventually sidelined him with 20 laps to go.
Gerchman swept into the lead on lap 51, with Cappello and Barnes chasing him. But during a flurry of cautions between laps 59 and 71 Cappello’s STR Chevrolet was hampered by an electrical problem. Cappello dropped back and Garcia Racing teammate Gaylord took his place stalking the leader.
Gaylord, the son of former NASCAR driver Scott Gaylord, did get the lead briefly by grabbing the inside line and roaring by Gerchman on the restart after a red flag to clean up the oil left on the track by Scott Winters’ engine explosion. Unfortunately for Gaylord, that restart was negated by another yellow for Doug Carpenter’s oil-induced spin in Turn 4, and on the final restart Gerchman drove away from Gaylord and Barnes, who finished second and third, respectively.
“I guess it wasn’t meant to be this time, but I’ll get it next time,” said Gaylord, who got a post-race hug from his father and a handshake from NASCAR star Hershel McGriff. “The restarts helped me a lot at the end. The car stuck to the bottom and I worked around a lot of people.”
Barnes, the 2012 series champion, was the fast qualifier for the second time in as many races since returning to the series, but never really made a run for the lead and said “the finish was better than the car was. It wasn’t a top three car tonight” because of persistent handling problems.
It was Gerchman’s second straight win at Tucson. The first one came in June, 2010, when the series last appeared at the track.
The 10-race series will resume with the E3 Sparks Plugs 75 Laps to Victory presented by General Tire April 19 at Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe, California.