IRWINDALE, Calif. — Do your passing early and be conservative. That’s the slightly contradictory advice two veteran drivers have for their competitors when the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart returns to the Irwindale Events Center Saturday night.
The powerful, nimble modifieds made their debut at Irwindale in August, 2011, but there was no event last year, so when the 24 starters take the green flag for the LoanMart Hot August 75 presented by Aero Race Wheels it will be the first time many of them have raced on the fast half-mile superspeedway.
What they’ll find is a wide, banked asphalt surface that series promoter Greg Scheidecker refers to as a momentum track. Dave Arce and Jason Patison both say horsepower is a key ingredient in that momentum, though, and they have different thoughts on the strategy that may work best in pursuit of the $1,300 check that goes to the race winner.
Arce, who finished 13th in the 2011 race that Austin Barnes won over Jim Mardis and Tim Morse, builds many of the Chevrolet motors used in the series. The Santee, Calif., resident said “if your chassis is working well, you’ll do well” on the track, but “you’ve definitely got to have some horsepower there if you want to keep your momentum and speed up.
“There’s space to race. The track is very wide open, so I would suspect there are going to be very few incidents. Because the track carries so much speed I think it would be wise for somebody to be a little more conservative in their driving. If you let the car get away from you and go into the fence it could be ugly. It might not be good for the body and you’re pretty much going to destroy the car.”
In case you’re curious, Arce said that after considering factors like the eight-inch tires, the 2,500-pound weight, the suspension and overall capabilities of the modifieds he thinks 625 horsepower is the optimum for Irwindale.
“I figure anything outside of that is wasted energy and you can start going backward if you’ve got much more than that,” he said.
Patison wasn’t racing with the Modifieds in 2011, but over the years he’s been a familiar face in the Super Late Model division (he has two seconds in his two races this year) and knows the track and what it takes to do well.
“It’s a combination of things,” said Patison. “With the super late models it’s more about the horsepower and the (tire) grip off the corners. I like to run the bottom and in the super lates we have enough tire (a 10-inch width) to do so. With the modifieds I don’t think there’ll be enough grip to run low. I think the trick is going to be keeping up your momentum on the high side.
“I think the key is going to be to make your passes early while the tires have some life in them. It might be tough to pass later on because I don’t think we’ll be able to get the drive off (the turns) that we need.”
The race, the sixth of nine on this year’s schedule, will see Chris Gerchman and two-time champion Jim Mardis continue their title fight while Doug Hamm, Nik Romano, Aaron McMorran, Shelby Stroebel, Patison and others try to solidify their position in the top 15 of the Hoosier Tire West standings.