By JIM SHORT
CORONA, California (July 2, 2013) – They’ve turned into coneheads!
It happened so suddenly there was no chance to prevent it. One moment on a pleasant Saturday night in mid June the amazingly talented drivers in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart were going about their business as usual. Then a track official plopped an orange cone down in the middle of Turn 4 at Rocky Mountain Raceways and everything changed.
There’ll be no going back, either, because series co-founder and competition director Bill Rozhon said turning everyone into coneheads is “probably the best thing we’ve done with the series” that returns to action July 20 at Madera Speedway in central California.
It probably should be mentioned here that the Modified coneheads have nothing in common with the alien family from Saturday Night Live except the borrowed name.
The SNL Coneheads, as portrayed by Dan Akroyd, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman, were all about fun. The Modified coneheads like to have fun, too, but they’re serious about what they do on the race track. Sometimes they can be too serious, in fact, which is the main reason for the change that was introduced for the race in West Valley City, Utah, June 15.
Late last season Modified Series officials began testing a double-file procedure for restarts after caution flags and put it into effect this year. Using that procedure, the race leader would be in front of the field alone and everyone would be lined up side-by-side until the green flag waved.
“The double-file restart is very important to the success of the Modifieds and the Lucas Oil MAV TV programs,” Rozhon said. “It’s very good for TV, and TV is what brings the guys a lot of the money we’re able to give them (in purses).”
The restarts have made the races more exciting. Unfortunately, since the drivers lined up based on their position when the caution was called (second was on the low side, third high, fourth low, fifth high and so on), there often were extended yellows while drivers jockeyed for what they felt was a better position.
The solution was the cone, which has been a part of oval short-track racing for years. Using that procedure, usually with one lap to go in a caution period a cone will be placed on the track somewhere between the Turn 4 exit and the start-finish line and when reaching the cone the driver has the choice of using the inside or outside line for the restart. Once the field has passed the cone, it is removed.
That allows the driver to plan his or her own strategy and offers the possibility of a quick position gain. If, for instance, the top five all decide to stay low on the track, the one in sixth can move onto the high line and take the green flag side-by-side with the second-place driver.
“It’s the driver and his spotter’s decision where to go. It takes it out of the officials’ hands,” technical director Allan Brown said, and series promoter Greg Scheidecker said if everyone decides to take the same line “that’s fine. We don’t care.”
“Prior to the Utah race we were mandating where you had to restart,” Scheidecker said. “Now we’ve put it back in the driver’s control. He determines where he’s going to restart based on a judgment call of going low or high. It’s their choice.”
Scheidecker praised the drivers and spotters for the way they handled restarts in Utah and said the cone will be used throughout the season. Its location may vary, depending on the track configuration. At Madera and Irwindale (California) Speedway, for instance, the cone will be “in a high visible place” on the inside apron the track. At other places, it may be in the middle of the track.
“I have some concerns when it comes to safety (for the official handling the cone),” Scheidecker said. “We’re going to discuss it and make it as safe as we possibly can. But I don’t see us changing again.”
The Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart is supported by a potent marketing concept known as “Team Lucas” whose members include Lucas Oil Products Inc., E3 Spark Plugs, General Tire, GEICO, Canidae All Natural Pet Food, MAVTV-American Real, Speedco Truck Lube and Tire, Optima Batteries, iON Cameras and LoanMart.
Additional sponsorship is provided by BILSTEIN Shock Absorbers, K&N Filters, Hoosier Tire West, Budweiser, Blue Water Resort and Casino, Sunoco Race Fuels, Frank’s Radio, Racing Plus, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Aero Racing Wheels, DJ Safety, ASI Racewear and Protect the Harvest.
Detailed information on the series is available at www.LucasOilModifieds.com. For more information contact Jim Short at jimshort65@sbcglobal