There’s going to be a shootout at Tucson Speedway Saturday night, April 11.
It’s officially Top Gun Western Night at the 3/8-mile paved oval about 15 miles south of downtown Tucson and 60 miles north of Tombstone’s O.K. Corral and the famed Tombstone Gunfighters will be on hand to reenact some of the history written by the Earps and Clantons and others.
The Gunfighters might even be persuaded to give the “start your engines” command for the drivers in the Lucas Oil Modified Series when they make some history of their own in the GEICO Arizona Shootout 75 presented by General Tire.
This is the second of the 10 races that will determine the Hoosier Tire West point standings and the season’s champion driver. Austin Barnes is the early leader in that race thanks to his win in the season-opening event at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, March 14, and he’ll be one of the men to watch in the series’ third visit to Tucson.
The winner of the previous two races, in 2010 and last year, was 2013 series champion Chris Gerchman. He led 2012 champion Barnes and two-time champion Jim Mardis across the finish line in 2010 and was ahead of Tripp Gaylord and Barnes last year.
Gerchman is taking this season off, however, and also gone are Gaylord and fifth-place finisher Jessica Clark. That makes Barnes and Larry Gerchman the early favorites this week based on their performances in the other two races – a second and third for Barnes and a 10 th and fourth for Larry Gerchman, who is Chris’s father.
The list of likely challengers is lengthy, though, and one of them – Matthew Hicks – said patience may be more important than speed for the eventual winner.
“There’s more than one line but tire conservation is key,” Hicks said. “It’s a momentum track, but you cannot spin the tires. If you get them hot, you’re done. The track is so abrasive it just eats up tires. You’ve got to have patience.”
That is a virtue not normally associated with race car drivers and Hicks can attest to the fact it’s sometimes easier to practice when one is the pursuer instead of the pursued. That definitely was true in last month’s season-opener, when Barnes stalked race-leader Hicks from the start of the 100-lap contest and applied just enough pressure to force Hicks to use up his tires and give up the lead with 11 laps to go.
Patience was a key last year at Tucson when Chris Gerchman said he kept “trying different stuff” until the track changed in his favor and he moved through the field while mechanical issues sidelined early leader Doug Hamm, eventual series champion Dylan Cappello and others.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar scenario develop Saturday, when more than 35 drivers are expected to vie for a spot in the main event’s 28-car lineup.
A practice session from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday will set the stage for practice and qualifying Saturday afternoon and by the time series announcer Mike Flanders introduces the drivers at 8:30 p.m. everyone should be well-prepared for the GEICO Shootout 75.
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, Kawasaki, AutoMeter, iON Cameras, Speedco Truck Lube and Tire, BILSTEIN Shocks, LoanMart and SuperClean.
Additional sponsorship is provided by Lucas Oil Products, Protect the Harvest, MAVTV Motorsports Network, Hoosier Tire West, Sunoco Race Fuels, K&N Filters, Aero Racing Wheels, ASI Racewear, Bosch, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Frank’s Radios, Racing Plus and DJ Safety.
Detailed information on the series is available at www.LucasOilModifieds.com.
If you plan to attend the event, don’t forget your $5 off coupon for Tucson Speedway!