LAKE HAVASU CITY, Arizona (October 28, 2017) – Mission accomplished. Taylor Miinch had clinched the championship of the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by RAM Mounts three weeks ago and didn’t have to bother showing up for the final points race. Miinch didn’t consider staying home, though. He said not only was he going to race in the DJ Safety 100 Championship presented by Hoosier Tires, he was going to make it his fourth win of the year. The 23-year-old did just that Saturday night at Havasu 95 Speedway by capping one of the most impressive seasons in the series’ 12-year history with a dominating performance at the picturesque quarter-mile oval.

Miinch was on top of the board during Friday night’s practice, his record lap of 14.787 seconds was the fastest among the 15 drivers who qualified under the old 15.173 record, and after taking the lead on lap 33 neither heat nor dust nor seven caution flags could stay him from the trifecta in his Casino and Resort STR Chevrolet.

The father of two took the checkered flag 1.9 seconds ahead of Jim Mardis, but the margin of victory doesn’t reflect his dominance. He was 4.5 seconds ahead and adding to that margin each lap when the first caution flag waved on lap 67 and had no trouble pulling away from the field on each of the caution restarts after that.

“The car was excellent, I couldn’t ask for much more,” Miinch said. “It was very easy to drive. There were no problems, no issues. Late in the race people were getting a little impatient and not giving each other room. I just focused on getting a good restart.

“Finishing second the last two races (at San Bernardino, Ca., and Madera, Ca.) was a little disappointing because I think I might have won them both, but we just wanted to be careful. Every time I’d feel like taking a chance my crew chief (John Blodgett) and my dad (Chuck) would say ‘stay calm, we’ve got a championship to win.’ It was nice to lock it up (at Madera) so I could go out and race the way I wanted to here and run every lap very hard.”

Miinch this season has four wins, two seconds and four thirds and in his past 16 races over two seasons has won five times and never finished lower than fourth. Unofficially he finished the 10-race championship 123 points ahead of runner-up Dylan Cappello and that is a series record. The previous biggest gap between first and second was the 56 points by which Austin Barnes beat Chris Gerchman in 2012.

Last season, Miinch also won the championship finale at Havasu 95 Speedway, but finished 4 points behind champion Matthew Hicks.

“It was definitely a team effort,” Miinch said of a season based on what might be termed a “run hard but be smart” philosophy. “I’ve always been a pretty safe driver, but my dad kept reminding us to be careful, we had the big picture to think about. There were definitely times I felt I could have won if we’d taken a chance, but we didn’t force the issue. To win 40 percent of the points races is pretty incredible.”

Early in Saturday’s race it looked like Miinch might have a fight on his hands from Jason Irwin, the consistently fast 19-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Irwin qualified second but started on the pole after the invert and led Miinch, Larry Gerchman and Mardis until Miinch claimed the lead on lap 33.

Irwin stayed in the top five with Miinch, Mardis, Gerchman and Scott Winters until one of those late-race incidents dropped him back in the pack. He finished eighth.
Two-time champion Mardis continued his strong late season with the runner-up finish ahead of Scott Winters. Idaho tourist Shelby Stroebel was fourth and Blake Rogers got up for fifth and finished in the top five in points in a borrowed car after his had been destroyed in an accident at Madera.

The championship point standings have been decided by there’s still one race left on the series schedule. That’s the RAM Mounts 75 presented by Spray Nine at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway November 18.

That race will be the final round of the three-event Spray Nine Race of Champions. The first race was February 11 at Bakersfield, California, with Barnes winning over Winters and Ryan Partridge. The second was August 19 at Irwindale, California, where Miinch beat Partridge and Winters.

Barnes leads the Spray Nine Race of Champions standings by 3 points over Winters and Partridge. “We’re going to run Las Vegas,” Miinch said. “We run good there. We’ve won twice and finished second a year ago. I think we’ll go there and see if we can win that too.”

Saturday, October 28, 2017
Havasu 95 Speedway, 1/4-mile paved oval, Lake Havasu City, Arizona

MAIN EVENT (100 laps) – 1. Taylor Miinch (4T), Blossom Valley, Ca.; 2. Jim Mardis (51), Yucaipa, Ca.; 3. Scott Winters (24A), Tracy, Ca.; 4. Shelby Stroebel (24), Meridian, Idaho; 5. Blake Rogers (57M), Yuma, Az.; 6. Linny White (99), Colton, Ca.; 7. Dustin Tilbury (17D), Edgewood, N.M.; 8. Jason Irwin (9i), Albuquerque, N.M.; 9. Michael Womack (3W), Troutman, N.C.; 10. Mike Mitchell (77), Loomis, Ca.; 11. Eric Hamilton (11H), Hanford, Ca.; 12. Dylan Cappello (11), Peoria, Az.; 13. William Guevara (55), Lake Havasu City, Az.; 14. Pat Petrie (1), Henderson, Nevada; 15. Mark Allison (115), Las Vegas; 16. Larry Gerchman (25), Lake Havasu City; 17. Dave Arce (5), Santee, Ca.; 18. Wes Miller (87), Turlock, Ca.; 19. Brian Collins (02), Camino, Ca.

Margin of Victory – 1.904 seconds. Average speed – 23.787 mph. Lead changes – 1 among 2 drivers. Caution flags – 7. Fast qualifier – Miinch, 14.787 seconds/60.864 mph (track recored). Trophy Dash (6 laps) – 1. Stroebel; 2. Gerchman; 3. Miinch; 4. Mardis; 5. Irwin; 6. Miller.