Hot summer night turns cool for Winters during Horsepower Heaven

Courtesy of Jim Short, Lucas Oil Modified Series

WEST VALLEY CITY – Maybe next year Scott Winters will have a routine night at Rocky Mountain Raceways. It hasn’t happened the past two years, but Winters probably didn’t mind too much last Saturday night.

The Tracy, Calif., resident had been a contender from the start of the 4 Wheel Parts 75 presented by GEICO – the Lucas Modified portion of RMR’s Horsepower Heaven event – and with 13 laps remaining he suddenly found himself in the lead after a little game of tit-for-tat took both race-long leader Kyle Tellstrom and race-long pursuer Dylan Cappello out of contention.

A few minutes later Winters found himself in the Lucas Oil Modified Series winner’s circle for the fifth time and unofficially on top of the Hoosier Tire West point standings after six of the 10 championship races.

It was poetic justice, in a sense, because last year Winters had gone into the series’ annual stop at the racy 3/8-mile oval as the points leader after six races and was running third with seven laps to go when he was caught up in an accident that left his Ferrari Farms STR Chevrolet badly damaged against the backstretch wall and pretty much ruined the second half of his season.

That race concluded with the closest and perhaps most dramatic finish in series history when Cappello and Austin Barnes slid across the finish line and Cappello got the win while the large crowd roared.

This time, before a gathering of about 8,000 that was the biggest crowd ever to see an event in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart, Winters once again was running third as the race neared a conclusion. That gave him the best seat in the house when Tellstrom and Cappello had their tete-a-tete.

Cappello got in the first punch with bump-and-run pass of Tellstrom in Turn 1 on a yellow-flag restart. Then Tellstrom got under Cappello in Turn 4, Cappello went spinning into the infield and both drivers went to the rear of the field, as the rules mandate.

That gave Winters the lead and the engineer showed his appreciation for the charitable donation by holding off a determined Doug Hamm to win by 0.312 seconds. Taylor Miinch was third, local favorite Eric Rhead of nearby West Jordan, Utah, was fourth and pole-sitter Linny White was fifth, just ahead of Hicks.

It was a fitting end to a high-competitive event that started with 31 of the 33 entries separated by just half a second in qualifying. Cappello was the quickest, with a lap in 15.260 seconds. He pulled a 4 for the inversion, however, which put White and Tellstrom on the first row and Miinch and Cappello in the second row.

Tellstrom quickly took the lead from White on the opening lap and Cappello took second from White the next time around. The two leaders ran in that order while Winters, White, Miinch and Hamm battled for the next four spots.

Cappello made a strong bid for the lead at the halfway point, but Tellstrom seemed to be pulling away from the field when the night’s third yellow caution flag waved on lap 62. When the green flag was shown for lap 63 Cappello performed his bump-and-run. Then Tellstrom bumped Cappello enough to spin him, and when the yellow was show again you could almost hear Winters saying “Hey, look what I just found.”

In other action Saturday on the America First Credit Union Super Oval, Dillion Lawrence won the 25-lap K-1 Speed Super Stock race, going wire-to-wire to take the checkered flag. Lawrence finished ahead of Jayden Park Joe Bowen and Tim Richter.

Abbie Coburn won the 15-lap Jr. Stinger race, besting Parker Jones and James Jette for the victory.

Up next for the AFCU Super Oval will be an RMR Oval Racing Series competition on July 30. Racing that day will feature University Federal Credit Union Super Oval Sprints as well as Midgets, 4-Bangers, Sommers Auto Wrecking Hornets and Brandon Park Roofing F-8 Trains.

Lucas Oil Mod racers talk about last year’s crazy “slideways” finish on AFCU Super Oval

By Jim Short
Lucas Oil Modified Series

CORONA, California – Dylan Cappello said the final lap of last year’s Lucas Oil Modified Series event at Rocky Mountain Raceways produced “the closest finish I’ve ever had or ever will have, probably,” and he won’t get any argument from anyone who was there.

Dylan Cappello and Austin Barnes spin out and cross the finish line at the end of the 2015 Lucas Oil Modified stop at Rocky Mountain Raceways.

Dylan Cappello and Austin Barnes spin out and cross the finish line at the end of the 2015 Lucas Oil Modified stop at Rocky Mountain Raceways.

The final three laps of that 75-lap race featured eventual series champion Austin Barnes trying to catch and pass 2014 champion Cappello. Their two cars touched several times, including twice on the final lap, and they were essentially locked together when they slid across the finish line at about a 30-degree angle.

A few minutes after the checkered flag had waved and series officials had compared notes and looked at television replays Cappello was named the winner. Then the two men shook hands and congratulated each other on a race well run.

“It was insane,” said Cappello, who with Barnes will be among the 30-plus drivers returning to the West Valley City, Utah, track July 23 for the 4 Wheel Parts 75 presented by Geico.

“It was two guys just doing whatever they could to get a win. I didn’t know who won it until they called it. A finish like that, it’s pretty well understood that it’s just luck at that point. It was a good finish for the fans, that’s for sure.”

Dylan Cappello talks with a reporter and camera man from MAV-TV after winning the 2015 Lucas Oil Modified stop at Rocky Mountain Raceways.

Dylan Cappello talks with a reporter and camera man from MAV-TV after winning the 2015 Lucas Oil Modified stop at Rocky Mountain Raceways.

Cappello said the first bump from Barnes on the final lap, to his rear quarterpanel as they came off Turn 2, “got me crossed up pretty bad. I had to get the car gathered up again so I had to slow down a little. Then going into Turn 3 I hit the bump stop (with the front suspension) and bottomed out. That’s why I washed up off Turn 4 and opened the door for him.”

It was an opening Barnes hadn’t expected to get. He said that “on a long run I thought I had a better car,” but he had been frustrated by seven yellow flags and two red flags and was mentally preparing for a second-place finish.

“All of a sudden I realized I was catching him,” Barnes said. “I was sitting right there (in second) coming to the white flag and I thought I could get there. Coming out of (Turn) 2 he held his car down farther than I expected and we hit.

“He got out of shape and I was afraid he was going to lose it and I was gonna get sent to the back. He managed to hang onto it, he definitely made the best save I’ve ever seen in my life. Going into 4 he drove in a little too deep and that shot him up the track. When we both came out of there I went up (from the bottom of the track) and he went down and that got us into a slide and made a heck of a finish out of it.

Austin Barnes' No. 51 Lucas Oil Modified spins across the AFCU Super Oval infield.

Austin Barnes’ No. 51 Lucas Oil Modified spins across the AFCU Super Oval infield.

Dylan Cappelo's No. 11 Lucas Oil Modified sit on the infield of the AFCU Super Oval.

Dylan Cappelo’s No. 11 Lucas Oil Modified sit on the infield of the AFCU Super Oval.

“It was such an awesome moment. When we were sitting there in the infield we could hear all the fans losing their minds in the stands. It was really cool. That was about as good a race as you’re ever going to get. From first through 20th there was racing all the way through the field.”

Barnes felt there was one thing wrong with the evening, though.

“To this day I think I won the race,” said Barnes, who is sixth in the Hoosier Tire West point standings but without a win as the series opens the second half of its 10-race season.

Cappello said he thinks he may have won because “I was more sideways” at the finish line and he wouldn’t mind a repeat. The Peoria, Arizona, driver is 12th in the point standings and also winless and feels like he’s a victim of all the bad luck he avoided his first two seasons.

“I’m hoping to win it and lead all the laps and not have to worry about it,” he said. “But if it comes down to it I’ll slide across the finish again, there’s no doubt about it.”

The 4 Wheel Parts 75 will be the series’ fourth race on the 3/8-mile oval at Rocky Mountain Raceways. Chris Gerchman won the inaugural over Jim Mardis and Doug Hamm in 2013 en route to the championship; Shelby Stroebel beat Jason Irwin and Cappello in 2014 and last season Irwin nipped hometown favorite Lynn Hardy for third behind Cappello and Barnes.

The Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart is supported by a potent marketing concept known as “Team Lucas” whose members include General Tire, GEICO, E3 Spark Plugs, Optima Batteries, Carlyle Tools-NAPA, BILSTEIN Shocks, Super Clean, 4-Wheel Parts and LoanMart.