Taylor Miinch

CORONA, California (October 23, 2018) – Taylor Miinch and Justin Johnson will square off Saturday night (October 27) in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, in one final battle to be the 2018 champion of the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by MAVTV.

The sports betting establishments in Las Vegas do not accept wagers on this sort of thing, but if they did the oddsmakers probably would make Miinch a 1-9 favorite and Johnson a 50-1 longshot, and those odds would accurately reflect what each driver has to do to claim the title in the Hoosier Tire Championship 100 presented by Downforce Racing Products at Havasu 95 Speedway.

Miinch, the reigning champion, will enter this 10th race of the championship season with a 37-point lead over Johnson in the Hoosier Tire West point standings, and that makes Johnson’s task clear.

There are 77 points available to the race winner – 75 for the victory and 2 bonus points for either posting the fast time in qualifying or getting the Hard Charger award for gaining the most positions in the race – and Johnson must get them all. That won’t be easy, obviously, and even if the 37-year-old from Pahrump, Nevada, can do it, it may not be enough.

A 77-point win for Johnson would give him enough points (674) to force Miinch to finish 17th, and golfers would call that a gimme for the 23-year-old from Blossom Valley, California, since he hasn’t finished below sixth in his past 27 races.

The fact Miinch loves Havasu 95 Speedway is even worse news for Johnson. Miinch had the championship clinched and didn’t even have to race last year’s finale at the track but did, and won it going away after setting fast time in qualifying. He came back March 10 to open this season, set fast time and led all 75 laps of the race to win by 7.8 seconds.

That March win gave him three victories in the past four races on the tricky quarter-mile oval, the first of those coming in late October 2016 in circumstances much like those in place this weekend.

Miinch went into that race trailing points leader Matthew Hicks by 19 points and second-place Scott Winters by 3. He set fast time in qualifying and won the race, his first series victory. But Hicks, who needed to finish seventh, took the checkered flag in sixth and won the championship by 4 points after what he called the hardest race he ever drove in the series.

The two-man battle for the championship will be the focal point, but Miinch and Johnson won’t have the track to themselves. Winters, Blake Rogers and Dylan Cappello usually run well, and there’ll be a special guest named Austin Barnes, who has five wins and nine fast qualifier awards at the speedway.

Barnes, a two-time champion, has trimmed his racing schedule to attend flight school in Conroy, Texas, and obtain a commercial pilot’s license. He agreed to fill in for usual driver Shelby Stroebel in Garcia Racing’s No. 24 STR Chevrolet, though, and he’s capable of having an impact on the race.

Johnson, who got his first series win at Madera, California, October 6, is going to have a profitable weekend whether or not he wins the championship. The title is worth $6,000 in bonus money and Lucas Oil products plus a trip to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the Lucas Oil awards banquet. Second place pays $3,000 in bonus money. And Johnson has clinched the Downforce Racing Products Rookie of the Year Award that’s worth an estimated $4,000 more.

The top three in the point standings are secure, with Cappello in third 24 points behind Johnson. But the drivers in fourth through eighth – Cody Kay, Winters, Rogers, Ryan Schartau and Aaron McMorran – all could change places, and the remaining positions in the top 15 could undergo a major revision.

The Hoosier Tire Championship 100 is the featured event on a Havasu 95 Speedway program that includes Street Stocks, Factory Stocks and Outlaw Karts. Spectator gates will open at 4 p.m. and racing will begin at 6 p.m.

General admission tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, military personnel and handicapped, and $6 for children 6 to 16. Children 5 and under are free. There’s also a Family Pack (2 adults and 2 children) for $25 and VIP seating for $25.