BLYTHE, California - September 28, 2013 - Chris Gerchman said he was racing more for points than for a win Saturday night at Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway. He got both and in the process got a stranglehold on his first championship in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart.
Gerchman's win in the Topless 100 presented by Canidae All Natural Pet Foods came courtesy of contact between leader Nik Romano and second-place Matthew Hicks with 10 laps to go on the tight quarter-mile oval. That resulted in both those drivers being sent to the rear of the field and Gerchman getting the lead, and after another restart attempt that turned Romano's car into a pile of junk at the start-finish line Gerchman held off Jason Patison and Chase Catania for his fourth win of the season.
By that time his only remaining challenger in the title fight, two-time champion Jim Mardis, was out of the race, and probably for the final two events as well, because he had contacted the wall trying to avoid other cars spinning and his car had been bent in a lot of the places it was supposed to be straight. Several other contenders were in similar dire straits. So the points Gerchman accumulated unofficially left the Spring Branch, Texas, resident 54 points ahead of Mardis and 108 ahead of anyone who might be able to run the final two races, when a maximum of 116 points will be available.
Romano and Mardis had been the dominant figures for the first 65 laps of the race, when Mardis got a love tap from behind and spun in Turn 4, after starting side by side on the front row of the 22-car grid thanks to an 8-car invert. Romano, a series rookie from Menlo Park, California, took the lead at the green flag and held it despite pressure from Mardis, Hicks and others until a nudge from Hicks sent him spinning in Turn 4 and elevated Gerchman from third to first.
Then, finding himself next-to-last after leading 90 laps, Romano said he was determined to pass as many cars as he could in the final 10 laps. He got quite a few on the brief restart, too, before trying and failing to get through a hole between two spinning cars and the outside wall exiting Turn 4 and bringing out the second red flag and 11th caution period of the night.
Gerchman, who leads the series in single-season and all-time wins and career earnings but never had won a championship, said he "learned a huge lesson" about patience after starting seventh and slowly moving up.
Now he'll have to exercise some of that patience during races at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, October 19 and The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway November 16 before bringing his seven-year quest for a championship to a successful conclusion.
LUCAS OIL MODIFIEDS TOPLESS 100
At Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Main event (100 laps)
1. Chris Gerchman, Spring Branch, Texas; 2. Jason Patison, Corona, California; 3. Chase Catania, El Cajon, California; 4. Dave Arce, Santee, California; 5. Tim Morse, Burbank, California; 6. Jessica Clark, Ventura, California; 7. Kyle Cline, Hesperia, California; 8. Charlie Graham, Fresno, California; 9. Shelby Stroebel, Meridian, Idaho; 10. Pat Petrie, Henderson, Nevada;
11. Doug Carpenter, El Cajon; 12. Elliott Stjerne, Madera, California; 13. Jerry Toporek, Venice, California; 14. Nik Romano, Menlo Park, California; 15. Matthew Hicks, Lakeside, California; 16. Keaton Swane, Gilbert, Arizona; 17. Roger Brown, Corona; 18. Jimmy Dickerson, El Cajon; 19. Jim Mardis, Yucaipa, California; 20. Aaron McMorran, Las Vegas;
21. Dog Hamm, Las Vegas; 22. Thomas Pundtsein, Las Vegas.
Fast qualifier – Patison, 14.313 seconds/62.880 mph. Trophy Dash winner – Morse.
Detailed information on the series is available at www.LucasOilModifieds.com.