CORONA, Calif. – Three-wide racing, lap times under 16 seconds and an open-arms welcome.
Those are a few of the things the drivers in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart can expect Saturday when they return to Tucson Speedway for the first time in four years.
The Arizona Shootout 75 presented by Super Clean is the second of 10 races on this year’s schedule and a lot has changed since the series’ last visit to the area on June 12, 2010.
The track that began life in 1968 as a clay oval was paved in 1992 and for a time while owned by International Speedway Corp. was a regular stop for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the home of NASCAR’s Winter Series. But ISC sold the track in 2002 and after eight years of struggles with various operators it closed following the 2010 season.
The three-eighths-mile oval track on the Pima County Fairgrounds reopened last year with a new management group that changed the name from Tucson Raceway Park to Tucson Speedway to fully divorce itself from past regimes and began the process of rebuilding.
Saturday’s race represents a giant step in that process. The Lucas Oil Modifieds will be the first touring series to race at the track under the new management and P.J. Megna said, “The whole community is really looking forward to it.”
Megna, a 39-year-old Tucson resident, is looking forward to it, too. He’s “doing some fine-tuning” on the setup of his Lefthander chassis and plans on racing with the series regulars for the first time since April 28, 2012.
He’ll be one of an anticipated 40 or so entries trying to earn one of the 28 starting spots by being one of the fastest 20 in qualifying or holding one of the top four positions after 20 laps of the B main. The final four positions on the grid will be filled by provisional starters based on the Hoosier Tire West point standings. Those 28 will race 75 green-flag laps with the winner taking home $1,500 and all starters getting at least $300.
Track race director Tim Rominger said super late models have been turning laps in the low 16-second range and expects to see at least a few of the Lucas Oil Modifieds dip into 15-second territory.
Then, after the green flag waves, “you can expect three-wide racing, first of all,” said Megna, who has driven in the track’s X-Mod series.
“The cars are going to be very fast. They just resealed the track three or four weeks ago. The track is fast and the surface is beautiful. They’ve taken all the bumps out and it’s really smooth compared to what it used to be. For old asphalt it’s really in good shape,” Megna said. “If you can get your car hooked up on the bottom better than the next guy you’re going to pass a lot of cars. That’s basically where I run. You end up going down to the white line basically every lap.
“You drive to the wall out of corner and then dive to the bottom. That’s pretty much the line around Tucson.”