MADERA, Calif. — “When you’re good you’re good and we’re blessed,” Taylor Miinch said. “We’ve been blessed in a lot of ways in the last couple of years. We’ve put ourselves in the right spot and things have been happening.”
That was the case again Saturday night, when Miinch won the SpillVak 75 presented by Protect The Harvest at Madera Speedway.
The reigning champion of the Lucas Oil Modified Series has won all four races this season and five in a row going back to 2017. That ties the record set by two-time champion Austin Barnes in 2010-’11. Miinch has wins and hasn’t finished lower than fourth in his past 20 races dating back to July 2016
That wasn’t what everyone anticipated, however. Dylan Cappello seemed to have the race in hand with a comfortable lead over Miinch and five laps to go. Then the rear axle in his RBK-STR Chevrolet snapped, putting him out of the lead and the race.
Miinch, who had quietly worked his way from sixth to second, inherited the race lead, and on the restart after the caution flag to tow Cappello’s car off the track contact between then-second place Scott Winters and third-place Shelby Stroebel triggered a pile-up that only four cars managed to avoid.
Miinch was one of the four, and a few minutes later he led rookies Justin Johnson and Ryan Schartau across the finish line to bring the curtain down on one of the most contentious events in the series’ 13-year history.
It started with qualifying, where a blanket of .656 of a second covered fast qualifier Kyle Tellstrom and all but one car in the 25-car field and continued throughout the first of the series’ two races at Madera Speedway this season.
One of the first incidents brought out the caution flag and sent Tellstrom and No. 2 qualifier Johnson to the rear. Another left rookie Sierra Furia against the turn-three wall and continued the streak of bad luck that has plagued her, and for a while the race seemed to be in constant turmoil.
Finally, on lap 27 polesitter Cappello regained the lead from Winters and settled down while Winters, Jason Irwin, Stroebel and Miinch battled for second place. Winters held that spot until Miinch took it from him on lap 56, but a change in the identity of his closest pursuer didn’t affect Cappello, who had overcome some early brake issues, and he was almost a second ahead when the axle separated and gave Miinch the lead.
“I tried the inside line early and it wasn’t very good,’ Miinch said, “so I started moving all over looking for lines. I found something that worked and passed Irwin and Winters. I got within 8 or 10 car lengths of Dylan and then he spun and put us into the lead.”
Johnson, who had worked his way from last to second, thought he might have been able to race with Miinch at the end, but that became a moot point when the pile-up occurred.
“That wreck on the restart damaged the car,” he said. “It knocked the toe out and did something in the rear end and the car started going sideways on me. I feel like at Las Vegas and this race I had the winning car, but he (Miinch) was in the right place at the right time. I need to stop getting myself into situations that send me to the back.”
Schartau, who finished third, is the youngest driver in the series at 15 and was glad to celebrate an unexpected top three finish after going low on the track to avoid the late pile-up and overtaking Irwin in the closing laps.
Irwin finished fourth and Cody Kay was the third rookie in the top five with his fifth-place effort.
Taylor Miinch, Justin Johnson, Ryan Schartau, Jason Irwin, Cody Kay, Michael Mitchell, Eddie Secord, Wes Miller, Aaron McMorran, Kyle Tellstrom, Victor Machado, Dave Arce, Mark Allison, William Guevara, Jeremy Kay, Scott Winters, Shelby Stroebel, Chris Cook, Dylan Cappello, Blake Rogers, Brian Collins, Adam Coonfield, Doug Carpenter, Sierra Furia.