CORONA, Calif. – This weekend could prove pivotal in the chase for Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by RAM Mounts championship.
The SuperClean 100 presented by Optima Batteries on Saturday at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, Calif., will be round eight of the 10 that count in the Hoosier Tire West point standings, and if Taylor Miinch can extend his excellent adventure of a season for at least one more night he could go into the final two rounds feeling about as much pressure as a Mensa member taking a kindergarten test.
When the series’ 12th season got under way in March Miinch said one of his goals was to win four races. He got his third in the most recent event, at Irwindale, Calif., on July 19, and boosted his string of consecutive finishes of fourth or better to 13 over two seasons.
At the same time 2014 champion Dylan Cappello struggled to finish 14th after winning three in a row, and that enabled Miinch to expand his lead to 52 points over Cappello and 59 over Jason Irwin, who was seventh on Irwindale’s half-mile oval.
There are a maximum of 77 points available each race, 75 for a win and 2 for being the fast qualifier or the hard charger. Second place gets 70 points and there’s a decline of two points for each ensuing position down to 26 for 24th, which will be the numbers of main event starters on Orange Show’s quarter-mile oval.
That means there’s a possibility of a 51-point swing during the 100-lap race on a tight track that adds a major degree of difficulty to dealing with traffic and working up through the field. So there’s perhaps more importance on qualifying and the inversion (between one and four) here than at other venues.
This will be the series’ eighth appearance at the historic track and the only fast qualifier returning from the past seven races is two-time series champion Jim Mardis, a newlywed resident of Yucaipa, Calif., who paced the field on July 11, 2009.
Mardis also is one of just two winners at the track, having taken the checkered flag on Sept. 11, 2010. The other past winner is Scott Winters, who won his debut race in the series at Orange Show Speedway on July 2, 2008.
Winters’ victory came in the series’ first visit to San Bernardino. Mardis’s win came in the last of five races in a three-year span and the series did not return until Aug. 29, 2015, when Austin Barnes topped the qualifying list and Matthew Hicks won the race. Hicks won again last year after Kyle Tellstrom was the fast qualifier.
Linny White, like Mardis a multi-time Orange Show champion in other classes, finished second to Hicks the past two years. White struggled early in the season while dialing in his Pinnacle Peak Steak House/Reeves Complete Auto Center Phil’s Phabrication Chevrolet, but in his past four starts has finished fifth three times and ninth once and could be ready to return to the winner’s circle.
Mardis has shown that potential with a sixth in Utah July 22 and a fifth at Irwindale in his Smart & Final/Blue Water Technologies STR Chevrolet.
Larry Gerchman, Shelby Stroebel and Doug Hamm completed the top five in 2015 and last year Cappello, Miinch and Winters were third through fifth, respectively, which would seem to indicate that it’s anybody’s guess who might win this weekend.