WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Shelby Stroebel, the dominant modified driver in the Pacific Northwest for many years, got his first win in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart Saturday at the series’ race closest to his Meridian, Idaho, home.
The 41-year-old Stroebel started the BILSTEIN Shocks Great Salt Lake 75 presented by Optima Batteries on the outside of the second row in the 28-car field, took the lead from pole-sitter Michael Hale on lap 11, and finished the 75 laps around Rocky Mountain Raceway’s .375-mile paved oval .756 of a second ahead of fast qualifier Jason Irwin, with Dylan Cappello, Jay Linstroth and Chase Catania rounding out the top five.
Stroebel and his crew, including daughter Caitlin, who is a promising Modified driver, had to travel about five hours from their Idaho home to this Salt Lake City suburb, but that qualifies as a hometown race for them after many trips of 12 hours and more.
Stroebel, who in 2012 had gone undefeated at Meridian Speedway and won the American Speed Association national championship, had struggled to be consistently competitive since joining the Lucas Oil Modified Series full-time in 2013.
He came into Saturday’s race, the sixth of 10 on this year’s schedule, off a strong fifth-place finish at Madera, California, that left him ninth in the Hoosier Tire West point standings and backed that up by qualifying fourth here, behind Irwin, Mark Ith Jr. and points leader Austin Barnes, who had his streak of fast qualifying efforts snapped at five.
Stroebel quickly confirmed that he was ready to win. He had moved up to second by lap five, roared by Irwin on lap 11, and opened a lead that might have stayed large all evening were it not for eight cautions and two red flags. The driver of the LoanMart STR Chevrolet never relinquished the top spot, however, despite pressure from Irwin and Barnes on the restarts.
Barnes looked to be the primary challenger until a brush with the back straightaway wall and a spin in Turn 3 while dueling with Linstroth ended his bid and Irwin was always close, but never close enough to attempt a pass.
Cappello, who used a provisional to start 25th after problems in qualifying, continued his strong rookie showing. The Peoria, Arizona, 17-year-old has been fifth, second, second and now third in his past four starts.
Cappello’s Garcia Racing teammate, Tripp Gaylord, was sixth, followed by Keegan Walmer, Doug Hamm, Jason Patison and Michael Hale to round out the top 10.
Missing from the results, and from the track, was reigning champion Chris Gerchman, who had won this race a year ago. With the birth of their first child imminent Gerchman stayed home with wife Lauren in Spring Branch, Texas.
Shelby Stroebel, Jason Irwin, Dylan Cappello, Jay Linstroth, Chase Catania, Tripp Gaylord, Keegan Walmer, Doug Hamm, Jason Patison, Michael Hale, Austin Barnes, Jessica Clark, Doug Carpenter, Jim Mardis, Dustin Tilbury, Mark Ith Jr., Pat Petrie, Vanessa Robinson, Nick Parker, Larry Gerchman, Scott Winters, Lynn Hardy, Tim Morse, Dave Arce, Chris Cook, Rich Lindgren, Dennis Thomas, Kyle Tellstrom.