modifieds 2013 irwindale

Corona, California - August 26, 2013 - Chris Gerchman has an open road to the championship, but Jim Mardis will be trying to create enough obstacles to throw his rival off course in the final three races for the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart.

That won't be the easiest task Mardis ever has undertaken in his motor sports career, because Gerchman added 10 points to his lead August 17 at the Irwindale Events Center and is 16 ahead in the Hoosier Tire West point standings with races remaining at Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe, California, September 28, Havasu 95 Speedway in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, October 19 and The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway November 16.

Mardis is the series only two-time champion, however, so he has a pretty good idea of what he needs to do to win a third. The question is whether or not he can recapture his trademark consistency in time to do it.

No one else is in the title fight. Doug Hamm is a solid third in the standings following his fifth-place finish at Irwindale. The Las Vegas truck driver is 20 points ahead of rookie Nik Romano of Menlo Park, California, but 50 points behind Mardis. Romano in turn is 4 points ahead of Shelby Stroebel, who is fifth, and 14 in front of Irwindale winner Jason Patison, who is eighth, and watching those five talented drivers sort out their positions in the point standings will be an interesting sidelight to the championship battle.

Las Vegas resident Aaron McMorran, who hit the wall due to oil on the track and finished 22nd, slipped to ninth in the standings, 10 points behind Patison. But Santa Barbara (California) City College student Jessica Clark is at No. 10 after qualifying fourth, starting on the pole and fighting handling problems to finish 13th.

The championship protagonists have much in common, but some notable differences, too.

Mardis, 28, is a pickup and delivery driver for United Parcel Service and lives in Yucaipa, California, with wife Danielle. Gerchman, 26, is an apprentice high voltage lineman for the City of New Braunfels, Texas, and lives in Spring Branch, Texas, with wife Lauren.

Mardis drives an STR Chevrolet with engines built by Dave Arce and sponsored by Bluewater Technologies, JAM Sportswear, K&N Filters and Premier Wraps. Gerchman drives an STR Chevrolet with engines built by his father, Larry Gerchman, and sponsored by Peggy's Sunrise Café, G-n-G Automotive and Sign Source. Peggy is Chris's mother and G-n-G is a family business.

Both have driven in the series since 2007, although not always on a full-time basis, and they are the top two on the all-time money winnings list, Gerchman with $50, 361 and Mardis with $45,666. They also are among the leaders in all-time wins, Gerchman at No. 1 with 16 (including 3 this season) and Mardis tied for fourth with 6, including one at Blythe in April that extended his series record to five seasons in a row with at least one victory. Each man has been to victory circle at all of the remaining tracks.

Gerchman still is trying to win his first championship, though. He's been a contender every year he's run all the races (second in 2012, third in 2008, 2009 and 2010), but has fallen victim to various misfortunes. Last season it was a black flag dispute that relegated him to a 14th-place finish in the fall race at Blythe and engine problems that sidelined him early in the finale at Las Vegas. Mardis won that Las Vegas race to keep his win streak alive and finish third in the standings.

"We've had opportunities to win a championship in the series, but we came up short," Gerchman told Mike Adaskaveg for a cover story in the August issue of Speedway Illustrated magazine. "We're running smart this year. We've stepped up the maintenance. It is absolutely a goal to win the championship."

The Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart is supported by a potent marketing concept known as "Team Lucas" whose members include Lucas Oil Products Inc., E3 Spark Plugs, General Tire, GEICO, Canidae All Natural Pet Food, MAVTV-American Real, Speedco Truck Lube and Tire, Optima Batteries, iON Cameras and LoanMart.

Additional sponsorship is provided by BILSTEIN Shock Absorbers, K&N Filters, Hoosier Tire West, Budweiser, Blue Water Resort and Casino, Sunoco Race Fuels, Frank's Radio, Racing Plus, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Aero Racing Wheels, DJ Safety, ASI Racewear and Protect the Harvest.

Detailed information on the series is available