LAS VEGAS — Austin Barnes took a year off from the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart after winning the 2012 championship. His rivals are starting to wish he’d go away again.
Barnes, a 19-year-old from Escondido, Calif., has been the dominant figure in the series since his return. He has been the fast qualifier at all four races and Saturday night at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway he drove to his second straight win after finishing second and third in the opening events of the season.
The win in the Lucas Oil Products 75 presented by BILSTEIN Shocks didn’t come without some good fortune, however. Barnes started third in the 26-car field, took the lead from polesitter J.A. Junior on the second lap and for a time threatened to drive away from the field.
Meanwhile, reigning champion Chris Gerchman was trying to work his way forward after starting 13th. He finally made it with the help of some traffic problems for Barnes and they crossed the starting line on lap 60 virtually side by side.
Two laps later, Gerchman gave Barnes a little bump exiting turn four on the .375-mile oval and drove by him for the lead, only to spin in turn four and give the lead back. The moment was reminiscent of the most recent race, at Blythe, California, where Gerchman spun while by himself and said later he had no idea why. This time, though, the cause may have been oil from Jason Patison’s car, because race officials sent Patison to the pits after finding oil covering the rear end of his car.
Gerchman’s spin sent him to the rear of the field and left New Mexico resident Jason Irwin as Barnes’ biggest threat. But Irwin slid high in turn one on the restart after the caution for Gerchman’s spin and dropped from second to eighth.
Dylan Cappello moved into second with 12 laps to go, but the 18-year-old who missed Friday’s practice so he could attend his high school graduation wasn’t able to pressure Barnes. He did hold onto the runner-up spot, with Larry Gerchman, Chase Catania and Tripp Gaylord completing the top five. Chris Gerchman finished 12th.
Austin Barnes, Dylan Cappello, Larry Gerchman, Chase Catania, Tripp Gaylord, Jim Mardis, Scott Winters, Jason Irwin, Matthew Hicks, Keegan Walmer, J.A. Junior, Chris Gerchman, Shelby Stroebel, Jessica Clark, Jason Bamberg, Lynn Hardy, Doug Carpenter, Kyle Niquette, Pat Petrie, Tim Morse, Rich Lindgren, Jason Patison, Linny White, Eddie Secord, Doug Hamm, Dave Arce.