October 5, 2016, by Jim Short —
The Lucas Oil Modified Series makes its second appearance of the season at LoanMart Madera Speedway Saturday night (October 8) and there are plots and sub-plots in abundance for what may be the pivotal race of the season.
Matthew Hicks, the championship leader most of the year, will go into the LoanMart Thunder 75 presented by EFI University with two objectives. The first is a win and the season-best $5,000 purse that goes with that, and the second is to add enough points to his lead in the Hoosier Tire West standings to have a stranglehold on the title going into the finale later this month.
Scott Winters and Kyle Tellstrom will wage their own King of Madera competition with each trying for a third win in five races on the third-mile paved oval while at the same time keeping pace with or closing in on Hicks in the standings.
Linny White, Travis Thirkettle and Ryan Partridge each will be after his third win of the season, one that would keep White in the points race, strengthen Thirkettle’s lead in the DJ Safety Rookie of the Year standings and give Partridge another impressive performance in a season he has split between the Modifieds and NASCAR’s K&N West series.
Dylan Cappello will be looking for the winner’s circle after finishing second, second, third and fourth in the past four races. And Taylor Miinch would like to take the checkered flag and shed his role as the stealth contender for the series title.
Miinch (pronounced mench), a 22-year-old from Blossom Valley, California, has quietly positioned himself as a championship contender by finishing in the top five four times and the top 10 in all but one race while the attention has gone to others. His most recent outing resulted in a runner-up finish September 17 at Kern County (California) Raceway Park and he is third in the standings, 17 points behind Hicks and 12 behind Winters.
Miinch finished fifth in the point standings in 2015, his first full season in the ultra-competitive short-track touring series, and closed the year with a victory in the non-points Race of Champions at Las Vegas that he said was “huge for the whole team. We were in the right place at the right time, we had a really good race car and a good motor. The whole package came together. We were really stoked.
“We actually thought by this time we’d have our first win for the (current) season but we just haven’t been able to put it all together. Hopefully, the last couple of races of the year we can get a win.”
Miinch, who drives the Lineer/King Taco/C-Me Trim STR Chevrolet for a family-run team led by crew chief John Blodgett, will have help from 2006 series champion and seven-time winner Jason Patison in a second car for the season’s final events. That may provide more information and insight, but it probably won’t mean any dramatic changes in philosophy.
“We’ve been trying to just be consistent finishers,” Miinch said. “Top 5s, top 3s is what we’re going for and hopefully if we get those a win will come or even a championship. We try not to force the issue, but we do try to push when it’s a time to push. Maybe in the last couple of races we’ll be more aggressive, but we just want to get good, consistent finishes.
“I’ve won quite a few championships and tons of big races and it’s just come from forcing the issue when you can and being aggressive where you can. But probably about 80-85 percent of my racing is conserving, letting other people have a spot and just learning from them and capitalizing on other people’s mistakes. That’s just the approach I’ve taken my whole racing career and that’s what I’ll have until I stop racing.”