Gerchman Survives Pressure to Win Lucas Oil Modifieds First Race in Utah
Photo courtesy of Action Sports Photography
By JIM SHORT
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (June 15, 2013) – Rocky Mountain Raceways rolled out the red carpet for the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart and the local drivers tried to pull it out from under the tourists.
The pull that made the difference, however, was the 8 fast qualifier Michael Hale drew to determine the invert for the starting lineup. That put two-time track champion Hale and five-time titlist Lynn Hardy on the fourth row and the Modified series all-time win leader, Chris Gerchman, on the front row.
Gerchman started outside local driver Zach Webster, took the lead in Turn 1 and stayed in front through 75 laps of the fast 3/8-mile oval to win Saturday night’s (June 15) BILSTEIN Shocks Great Salt Lake 75 presented by GEICO by 0.420 of a second over two-time series champion Jim Mardis, who briefly got inside Gerchman’s Peggy’s Sunrise Café/G-n-G Auto STR Chevrolet exiting Turn 4 on the white flag lap.
It was the 15th career win and second of this season for the Spring Branch, Texas, resident and unofficially gives him a 2-point lead over Mardis in the Hoosier Tire West point standings with the fifth race on the nine-race schedule coming up July 20 at Madera, California. It also got him a check for $2,000.
“They were definitely hungry behind me,” Gerchman said after surviving seven caution flags and race-long pressure first from impressive series newcomer Chase Catania, who finished third, and then from Mardis. “I’m just thankful the laps ran down.
“We’ve still got a long way to go in the season and we’ve just got to stay focused, but the win definitely helps.”
Mardis, one of four drivers in the race to gain 10 positions from start to finish, had moved from 12th at the green flag to fourth by lap 35 and took second away from Catania when the rookie bobbled momentarily on the backstretch on lap 62. He got his Bluewater Technologies/JAM Sportswear/K&N Filters STR Chevrolet onto Gerchman’s rear bumper quickly, but could never set up a pass.
“I wish it had been about 85 laps,” said Mardis, of Yucaipa, California. “We had the fastest car on the track from about lap 33 on. It was a fun race and I hope we put on a good show.”
Catania, from NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson’s hometown of El Cajon, California, had been sixth in his series debut in the RBK/Total Power Batteries/John’s Collision Center STR Chevrolet at Las Vegas May 11 and felt he was in a good position to win the race until the final laps.
“The first half of the race we had the fastest car and I was being patient, but the car just fell off the last part of the race.”
Some of the other fast cars didn’t last that long. Series regulars Tim Morse, BILSTEIN Trophy dash winner Shelby Stroebel and Jessica Clark all were caught up in early yellow flag incidents, local driver Mark Ith Jr. lost an engine on lap 44 after running in the top 5 until then, and the switch in series restart procedure from double file according to running order to “pick your place” cone racing resulted in strong local stars like Hale and Hardy getting caught in the shuffle.
Nineteen of the 26 starters finished on the lead lap and 23 of the 26 were running at the end of the series’ entertaining debut on the America First Credit Union Super Oval.
BILSTEIN SHOCKS GREAT SALT LAKE 75
Saturday, June 15, 2013
ROCKY MOUNTAIN RACEWAYS
West Valley City, Utah
Main event (75 laps) – 1. Chris Gerchman, Spring Branch, Texas, STR Chevrolet; 2. Jim Mardis, Yucaipa, California, STR Chevrolet; 3. Chase Catania, El Cajon, California, STR Chevrolet; 4. Doug Hamm, Las Vegas, STR Chevrolet; 5. Nik Romano, Menlo Park, California, STR Chevrolet; 6. Lynn Hardy, West Valley City, Race Car Factory Chevrolet; 7. Doug Carpenter, El Cajon, STR Chevrolet; 8. Michael Hale, Salt Lake City, Utah, Lefthander Chevrolet; 9. Jason Patison, Corona, California, STR Chevrolet; 10. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian, Idaho, STR Chevrolet; 11. Tripp Gaylord, Golden, Colorado, STR Chevrolet; 12. Dave Arce, Santee, California, STR Chevrolet; 13. Jessica Clark, Ventura, California, STR Chevrolet; 14. Aaron McMorran, Las Vegas, Wenteg Chevrolet; 15. Jeffrey Webster, Salt Lake City, Lefthander Chevrolet; 16. David Crouch, Manteca, California, Ellis Chevrolet; 17. Scott Osborn, Las Vegas, STR Chevrolet; 18. Pat Petrie, Henderson, Nevada, Howe Chevrolet; 19. Roger Brown, Corona, STR Chevrolet; 20. Tim Morse, Burbank, California, STR Chevrolet; 21. Devin LaHorgue, Grants Pass, Oregon, LaHorgue Chevrolet; 22. Zach Webster, Salt Lake City, Lefthander Chevrolet; 23. Larry Gerchman, Lake Havasu City, Arizona, STR Chevrolet; 24. Mark Ith Jr., Salt Lake City, Howe Chevrolet; 25. Vanessa Robinson, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Robinson Chevrolet; 26. Todd Beach, West valley City,. Windpusher Chevrolet.
Margin of victory – 0.420 seconds. Average speed – 36.322 mph. Caution flags – 7. Fast qualifier – Hale, 15.338 seconds/88.017 mph. BILSTEIN Trophy Dash winner – Stroebel.
B Main (20 laps, top 4 to main event) – 1. Petrie; 2. Osborn; 3. Robinson; 4. Beach; 5. Randy Ussery, Salome, Arizona, Lefthander Chevrolet; 6. Chris Cook, Tabiona, Utah, Ellis Chevrolet; 7. Keaton Swane, Gilbert, Arizona; 8. Nick Parker, Magna, Utah, Lefthander Chevrolet; 9. Abe Carter, Salt Lake City, Lefthander Chevrolet; 10. Garry Richards, Rio Rancho, new Mexico, Circle Burner Chevrolet; 11. Thomas Pfundstein, Las Vegas, Lefthander Chevrolet; 12. Elliot Stjerne, Madera, California, Jones Chevrolet.
Margin of victory – 0.361 seconds. Average speed – 27.652 mph. Caution flags – 3.
For more information contact Jim Short at jimshort65@sbcglobal or (951) 203-2649