BAKERSFIELD, California (February 11, 2017) – The seas parted for Austin Barnes Saturday night.
That’s what Scott Winters said in explaining how Barnes had passed him in lapped traffic with 15 laps to go and sped away to easily win the Spray Nine Race of Champions and open the 2017 season for the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by RAM Mounts at Kern County Raceway Park.
“He did a good job,” Winters said. “He made a good decision, the seas parted for him and he got by. We took a conservative position and it just didn’t work out.”
“We were running out of laps and I was going to have to do something pretty quick to move on him, but we ran into traffic,” Barnes said after picking up $5,000 for finishing 0.983 seconds ahead of Winters with Ryan Partridge third, Jason Irwin fourth and Travis Thirkettle fifth.
“I saw he went to the bottom and I threw it on the outside and tried to pinch him behind the lapped cars, use all of them as a pick, and cruised right on by him. That made it pretty easy.”
The pass in a way was overdue.
Winters got the benefit of a seven-car invert and started the 50-lap contest on the pole in the 23-car field while Barnes rolled off sixth, on the outside of the third row, and Winters was able to get a comfortable early lead while his pursuers sorted themselves out.
After 5 laps the order was Winters, Irwin, Barnes, Thirkettle, Dylan Cappello and Partridge and as that group began to pull away from the rest of the field it was clear that one of those six would be the winner. Barnes became the best candidate when he moved into second on lap 7, following the race’s only yellow caution flag and began pressuring Winters for about 15 laps.
“When we got on that run and I knew he was right there, half a car (length) or a car behind, I was holding the bottom, making sure we could go and trying to get a good run off the corner,” Winters said after debuting a new Ferrari Farms STR Chevrolet. “I was running it pretty hard but I didn’t want to give the bottom up. I figured I could hold the bottom the whole time and it just didn’t work out.”
Barnes said the lapped traffic was a major factor not only in his pass but in what happened next.
“I guess he (Winters) got stuck in traffic and couldn’t get by as quick and it gave me a pretty good lead right off the bat,” said Barnes, who averaged 63.676 miles per hour in his About Service Automotive/ElectroTech Powdercoating STR Chevrolet. “I kind of went into cruise control and as the laps went down I kept backing down more and more, and with about two laps to go I still couldn’t see him in my mirror all the way down the straightaway and I just didn’t want to do anything crazy.”
Barnes was able to take the cautious approach then because Cappello had fallen off the pace with carburetor issues, Thirkettle was struggling with the handling on his Stratasys Direct Manufacturing Race Car Factory Chevrolet and Partridge said he was anticipating the same kind of late-race cautions flags that had factored into his win in this event a year ago.
That made Barnes feel even better about the win, because he had led the race last year until Partridge used a caution flag restart to take the lead and the win.
The race did not count in the Hoosier Tire West point standings that will determine the series champion but it was the first of the three that make up the Spray Nine Race of Champions. The others will be at Irwindale (California) Speedway August 19 and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Bull Ring November 18.
The series 10-race championship season will get under way March 11 at Havasu 95 Speedway in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
SPRAY NINE RACE OF CHAMPIONS
Kern County Raceway Park, Bakersfield, California
50 laps on 1/2-mile high-banked paved oval
Saturday, February 11, 2017
1. Austin Barnes (51A), Escondido, Ca.; 2. Scott Winters (24A), Tracy, Ca.; 3. Ryan Partridge (9), Rancho Cucamonga, Ca.; 4. Jason Irwin (9i), Albuquerque, N.M.; 5. Travis Thirkettle (5t), Newhall, Ca.; 6. PJ Pedroncelli (33), Sonoma, Ca.; 7. Eric Hamilton (11h), Hanford, Ca.; 8. Doug Hamm (9x), North Las Vegas, Nevada; 9. William Camara (57), Fremont, Ca.; 10. Chris Cook (2), Tabiona, Utah;
11. Eric Price (57x), Rio Linda, Ca.; 12. Tom Elam ( 8), Powers, Oregon; 13. Sierra Furia (37), Lakeport, Ca.; 14. Jerry Toporek (40), Venice, Ca.; 15. Jim Coffey (8c), Bakersfield, Ca.; 16. Sal Lopez (02), Sacramento, Ca,; 17. Dylan Cappello (11), Peoria, Az.; 18. Linny White (99), Colton, Ca.; 19. Kyle Cline (98), Hesperia, Ca.; 20. Cameron Morga (54), Albuquerque, N.M.;
21. Michael Womack (3), Troutman, N.C.; 22. Dave Arce (5), Santee, Ca.
Margin of victory – 0.983 seconds; . Average speed – 63.676 mph; Lead changes – 1; Caution flags – 1; Fast qualifier – Partridge (9), 18.366/98.168