4/18/2014 6:00:00 AM Another race, another new track for Scott Winters this weekend at Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway
Photo special to the Times
The Scott Winters get-acquainted tour will end Saturday night (April 19) at Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe, California.
Special to the Times
BLYTHE, Calif. - The Scott Winters get-acquainted tour ends April 19 at Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe. That's where the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart will run the E3 Spark Plugs 75 Laps to Victory presented by General Tire.
It will be the third race on this season's 10-event schedule, and the third on a track Winters never has seen before.
Winters, who has a Ph.D in mechanical engineering and works on fusion energy projects for the U.S. government, has been a dominant figure in Northern California Modified racing for the past decade with eight track championships and two NASCAR titles to his credit.
He has made infrequent appearances at Lucas Oil Modified races, however, so he and the Ferrari/Kramer Racing team began the season never having competed at Havasu 95 Speedway, Tucson (Arizona) Speedway, Blythe and Rocky Mountain Raceways in West Valley City, Utah.
The Tracy, Calif., resident said he's heard from the other racers that "Blythe is one of those places that you won't forget" and is sure "it will be interesting to get on that track and see what it's like.
Winters' knack for learning quickly was on display on the quarter-mile oval at Lake Havasu City, Ariz., when he qualified second and finished fourth behind Chris Gerchman, Austin Barnes and Chase Catania. On Tucson's 3/8-mile oval he qualified 18th and finished 24th due to transmission failure late in a race in which Gerchman, Tripp Gaylord and Barnes finished in the top three.
It could be a similar story in Blythe, too. Gerchman, the series' reigning champion, has won three of the past eight races on the tight quarter-mile oval, including the most recent one last September. Barnes has two wins as does two-time series champ Jim Mardis. The other one went to Doug Hamm, who is off to a slow start this year while sorting out a new car.
Winters made his debut in Modifieds in 1997 and raced sporadically for the next few years. He got his first championships in 2002, when he teamed up with car owner Ron Ostorero (who is now his crew chief) to claim the track title at LoanMart Madera Speedway and win the NASCAR Sunbelt Region championship.
After another Madera track championship in 2003 Winters went back to being a part-time racer until 2007, when he joined the team owned by walnut farmer Wayne Ferrari and engine builder Don Kramer. They've combined for six track titles (two at Stockton (California) 99 Speedway and four at All-American Speedway in Roseville, California, and a NASCAR California state championship. That came in 2012, when the 46-year-old Winters had 16 wins and 28 top fives in 32 races.
Winters does have a win in the Lucas Oil Modifieds, in 2008 in his first race in the series, and in 2011 finished second at Madera, fifth at Irwindale, Calif. and third at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he and the team have stayed fairly close to home. Then last winter they had a team get-together and, Winters said, "we just decided that we wanted to do something different, and we thought it would be a fun venture to come run the full season."
Fun is subjective, though. Winters said the trip from the team's race shop in Linden, California, to Tucson took more than 15 hours and Lake Havasu and Blythe both are in the 10-hour neighborhood. But Winters said the team had considered that while making its decision.
"On the Lucas Oil program we're running basically once a month. Clearly you have the travel, which is something we had to consider, but running one weekend a month versus two or three a month, it seemed to be somewhat of a push. Although the travel expenses are up, the time commitment and the balance between family and racing is nice with the Lucas Oil series.
At this point we're basically focusing on the Lucas series. We might run another race here or there, but we haven't penciled any of those into our schedule."
The Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart is supported by a potent marketing concept known as "Team Lucas" whose members include General Tire, GEICO, E3 Spark Plugs, Optima Batteries, Ole Smoky Moonshine, iON Cameras, Speedco Truck Lube and Tire, BILSTEIN Shocks, LoanMart and SuperClean.
Additional sponsorship is provided by Lucas Oil Products, Protect the Harvest, MAVTV American Real, Hoosier Tire West, Sunoco Race Fuels, K&N Filters, Aero Racing Wheels, ASI Racewear, Bosch, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Frank's Radios, Racing Plus and DJ Safety.
Detailed info on the series is available at www.LucasOilModifieds.com.