IRWINDALE, Calif. — official release — Dylan Cappello had a coming out party Saturday night at the Irwindale Event Center.
The 18-year-old Lucas Oil Modified Series rookie from Peoria, Ariz., set a track record to pace the Speedco qualifying sheet, won the LoanMart Super Fast 75 presented by K&N Filters after a long back-and-forth battle with reigning series champion Chris Gerchman and took the lead in the Hoosier Tire West point standings with three races left in the season.
Then he went back to the Garcia Racing pit and washed and waxed the cars.
“This makes up for Tucson and (Lake) Havasu,” Cappello said, looking back at two early season races he was in position to win until encountering mechanical gremlins.
“The car was really good,” he said. “We worked on it a lot to get it there. When I hit my line perfect it felt like I was on a cushion.”
Cappello went into the race in a tie for second in the point standings, 26 behind 2012 champion Austin Barnes, who was at home in Escondido sitting out a one-race suspension and will return about 28 points behind Cappello, but fell only to second place.
Gerchman started on the pole and Cappello on the outside of the second row in the 30-car field after an invert of 4 and neither driver was out of the top five during the 75 laps over Irwindale’s half-mile oval.
Front row starter Doug Hamm took the lead from Gerchman on lap 2, but Gerchman got it back on lap nine and for a while rolled merrily along while Cappello, Hamm, Jason Irwin, Tripp Gaylord and Jason Patison fought to see who would be second.
Cappello settled into that position on lap 20, after a ragged opening segment that produced all four of the race’s caution flags, and for 55 laps he and Gerchman played cat and mouse.
Gerchman, back behind the wheel after missing one race to await the arrival of baby daughter Lilly (who finally appeared Monday morning), seemed able to get off turn four and onto the front straightaway a little better and he and Cappello traded the lead six times before Cappello pulled ahead for good.
“That was the most fun I’ve had racing, and it was cleanest racing,” said Cappello. From there, he said, it was “pedal to the metal all the way. I knew my tires were good because I’d saved them. The only thing I didn’t want was a yellow flag.”
Cappello took the checkered flag 0.850 seconds ahead of Gerchman with 2013 race winner Patison third, Irwin fourth and Matthew Hicks fifth in his return to the series after a two-race hiatus.