Lucas Oil Modifieds

Corona, California (February 5, 2016) - It's not hard to find Chris Bray at the race track because his exes mark the spots.

3X. 4X. 9X.

Those were the numbers of the cars driven last season by Jack Madrid, Doug Hamm and Jason Irwin, respectively, all of them built and maintained by Chris Bray and his father Fabian at their Phil's Phabrication shop in Las Vegas.

Those cars were the latest iterations of the first Modified the team built, in 1999, and all three wound up in the top 10 of the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart. Irwin was fourth, Madrid ninth after a season that earned him the DJ Safety Rookie of the Year Award, and Hamm 10th in what he has indicated was his final season as a full-time driver.

Hamm has been the team's primary driver for all but a couple of seasons since its move into Modifieds. Irwin and Madrid rented their cars, and the Brays also lent advice and an occasional helping hand to Linny White and Dustin Tilbury, who both own their Phil's Phabrication cars but do their own maintenance and preparation.

It's in the latter area that Bray hopes to see continued growth.

“I think two to three cars as a rental is my limit, as far as personnel is concerned,” said Bray, whose middle name is Phillip. “It's tough to take care of that many cars. The more (customer) cars we get out there that are like Linny and Dustin, I think I'll (be able to) just keep that down to two as far as rentals. It's tough to answer questions when I'm underneath a car all the time.”

Bray has been in, around or under race cars all his life. It started when he tagged along with his father while Fabian raced throughout the West in the 1970s and 1980s and continued when he began driving himself, first on the Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and then at The Bullring, where he won the Late Model championship in 2006.

There was one constant along the way, however. “Built a lot of race cars and won lots of races,” Bray said. “We've always built our own cars. We never really ran other peoples stuff, it's always been our own stuff.

“When I wanted to push to get us into it was in the mid-90s. We built Doug a Modified and we built dad a Modified and I worked on a couple of Super Late Model teams as a crew chief and stuff like that. It just kind of progressed from there. Doug won a (Bullring) championship with the first Mod we did in '99, then dad won in 2000 and 2001.”

Last season the team made a clean sweep of the podium spots in the Bullring's Grand American Modified point standings with Irwin first (for the second year in a row), Hamm second and Vinny Raucci Jr. third. The Lucas Oil Modified Series and Bullring results are manifestations of the planned growth the team has enjoyed since Bray “kind of opened up the shop to come after the tour” in 2008.

“We built a couple of cars to run on the tour and Doug pretty much drove ever since, except for his couple of years there with Sonny (Boeckman). We're still running two of the cars that we ran in 2008, but we've cut them up a lot and made a lot of changes and updates to them. Everything that's been coming off the plate new is a lot different.”

One of the drivers who made important contributions to the company was Dylan Kwasniewski, who's now trying to get a foothold in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The 20-year-old won twice in 16 starts over five seasons in the Lucas Oil series and captured back-to-back K&N Series titles with Bray as his spotter.

Bray said he “kind of pushed business off to the side” during that time, but when he decided it was time to focus on Phil's Phabrication again the business included a rental car division that wasn't on the original competition blueprint.

“The rental thing came about with Dylan, when his mom (Jennifer) called,” Bray said. “They were trying to race that (Speed) Truck series and when they got into it it had just about died. She called me about setting up their Late Model and things like that. We were doing some stuff there and I kept telling her we need to go race this Modified series, that he'll get the best experience in this. I finally talked her into it.

“I think it's (Lucas Oil Modifieds) a good place for the young kids to start. They can't get any better experience than (in) these cars and on these tracks. It's not going to get any better for anybody.”

Fabian Bray had up-close views of the development and decline of several West Coast touring series that he said “went from backyard stuff to megabucks in a hurry” and he calls the Lucas Oil Modifieds “an awesome series. This series has been holding its own for 10 years. It's not gone wacko like the rest of them.”

The series and its offshoots also has propped up a struggling industry.

“Pretty much build-wise it's Modifieds,” Bray said. “We do have some Super Lates (in their shop), but they're other manufacturers that we've had for a while. Nobody really builds anything (on speculation). You build to order; that's it.”

There's competition there, too, because in recent years most of the orders have gone to Bray and Steve Teets, whose Short Track Racecars (STR) have been the dominant cars in the series.

“You don't want to take anything from anybody but I wanted to take some of his business,” Bray said with a smile. “We talk when we need to and it's always been good, but we won't have Thanksgiving dinner together. It's definitely competition.

“I think it's good competition. The series is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I think there's room for us here and there'll probably be somebody else stepping in it soon.

“It's tough. You really have to push after it. You've really, really got to know what you're doing to stay in the ball game.”

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, Carlyle Tools, Kawasaki, AutoMeter, iON Cameras, Speedco Truck Lube and Tire, BILSTEIN Shocks, LoanMart and SuperClean.

Additional sponsorship is provided by Lucas Oil Products, Protect the Harvest, MAVTV Motorsports Network, 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 information on the series is available at www.LucasOilModifieds.com.

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Monrovia, CA 91016
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