LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. — The race was one of those drivers dream about, so when it was over Jim Mardis said he was going to have to pinch himself when he woke up to make sure he really did win Saturday night race at Havasu 95 Speedway.
The reason for his skepticism is that drivers don’t borrow a race car, scramble to get it ready, then go out and set fast time and win the race. But that’s just what Mardis did in the Speedco Truck Lube and Tire 75 presented by K&N Filters.
“From zero to hero in a couple of weeks,” Mardis said after beating hometown favorite Chris Gerchman and preventing Gerchman from clinching his first championship in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart.
Gerchman went into the eighth of the season’s nine races with a 54-point lead over two-time champion Mardis, whose own car had been destroyed in a wreck Sept. 28. He finished with 52-point lead and needs only to take the green flag for the Nov. 16 finale at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to claim the crown.
Gerchman had hoped to do it in front of his family and friends in Lake Havasu City and felt good about his chances early on, but never made a serious bid for the lead during the 75 laps on the paved quarter-mile oval.
Mardis was having a much different weekend in the Lefthander Chevrolet he had borrowed from Tom Pfundstein, a 62-year-old Las Vegas businessman who is one of the owners of the H-Town Racing team that includes Aaron McMorran (who was fifth Saturday) and Pat Petrie (20th).
Pfundstein said the biggest reason he drives is because he enjoys being around the competitors and the series and he didn’t hesitate to offer Mardis his car because “if the situation had been reversed he would have done the same for any one of us, and we know it.”
Mardis, who changed cars with the blessing of sponsors Bluewater Technologies, JAM Sportswear, K&N Filters and Premier Wraps, said: “Tom gave us anything and everything he could and it took a lot of people to make this happen. It wasn’t easy.”
Mardis said he and the crew changed all four springs and all four shocks and “put some of our touches on it that we thought would be good.”
Instead, “When we unloaded we were horrible. We were almost a second off the pace,” Mardis said. “We just kept working at it and finally hit on something that the car liked.”
Mardis set fast time in qualifying, started on the inside of the second row after pulling a 3 for the field inversion, then stalked polesitter Chase Catania for 54 laps before taking the lead.
Mardis beat Gerchman by 0.480 seconds, with Doug Hamm third, Matthew Hicks fourth, McMorran fifth,
“I’ll have to pinch myself tomorrow” to make sure it wasn’t all a dream,” Mardis said. “I can honestly say this is the best race car I’ve ever driven, by far. It came with ease. I didn’t even have to drive it hard.”
Mardis will be in the same car for the Las Vegas race.
“I just want to go get two (wins) in a row for H-Town,” he said. “Other than that, whatever happens happens.”
Jim Mardis, Chris Gerechman, Doug Hamm, Matthew Hicks, Aaron McMorran, Chase Catania, Shelby Stroebel, Jason Patison, Roger Brown, Jessica Clark, Nik Romano, Dave Arce, Doug Carpenter, Collin Milroy, Keaton Swane, Tim Morse, David Crouch, Randy Ussery, Kyle Niquette, Pat Petrie, Kyle Cline, Dustin Tilbury.