Eric Hamilton, driver of the No. 11H
machine, is in his third year competing
in the Lucas Oil Modified Series
presented by RAM Mounts after racing
a similar car in the dirt for several
years. He’s been on a steep learning
curve ever since as he gets to grips with
the particulars of racing on pavement.
“In the dirt Modified, if the car’s
a little bit off, you just stand on the
throttle and drive through it,” the
21-year old from New Mexico explains.
“But this is a lot more car and less
driver – the car has to come to the track
and be perfect. Technique-wise, a lot of
it is just being consistent. That was the
hardest thing we fought. On dirt, it’s
25 laps and you’re done. Here it’s being
fast the first lap and being fast the
last lap, and being fast in between.”
Racing on dirt, where throttle control is
critical, gives a driver a pretty sensitive
foot, so keeping the tires hooked up and
conserving them is something Hamilton
was good at from the beginning. But
there are a few lessons he’s had to learn
along the way. Qualifying – going out and
putting down two quick laps – is one
thing he had to adjust to coming from
dirt. Another was braking.
“When we ran [at Kern County] in
February, I was driving the car in two
to three car lengths harder into the
corners than anybody else on the
track,” he recalls. “We’d catch people
in the corners, but in the middle and on
exit speed, we’d lose out. You’ve got to
keep your momentum up down the long
back straightaway. Brakes and getting
through the corners are really
important to being competitive.”
Eric Hamilton has raced Modifieds
on dirt and on pavement and
knows the nuances of both.
(MAIN) Getting ready to rumble
at Kern County Raceway, Calif.
Setup and strategy plays a big
part in the Lucas Oil Modified
Series presented by RAM Mounts.
Eric Hamilton’s experience on dirt gave him a
headstart on some aspects of pavement racing
(ABOVE), but it’s still been a steep curve.
FOR MORE ON LUCAS OIL MOTORSPORTS AND ITS RACE-PROVEN LUBRICANTS, GO TO LUCASOIL.COM/MOTORSPORTS
DIRT TO PAVEMENT
qualify well, because that puts you in good
track position right at the start. I’ve had
races where we’ve had a fast racecar but
we’d qualify so bad that by the time you
get to the front, you’ve already worn out
your tires. You’ve got to have a plan.”
There’s sufficient variety of tracks in the
Lucas Oil Modified Series, which runs on the
West Coast including California, Arizona,
Nevada and Utah, that the tasks of planning
and setup become tricky. From the
wide-open spaces of Kern County to the
tighter confines of Havasu 95 Speedway,
there’s a variety of paved ovals to master.
“Every time you show up at a new track,
it’s a new car, a new setup,” says Dustin
Tilbury, the 18-year-old driver of the No. 17D
PG Enterprises, Flashcraft Modified. “My
favorite is probably Tucson – multiple grooves
and it’s really racy. It’s the perfect size.”
The variety of tracks and the television
coverage are two draws of the Lucas Oil
Modified Series. Plus, Cappello says it’s the
fact that it’s not going to be the guy with
the best engine or the nicest car that wins,
but rather the one that’s smart, as well as
fast. Larry Gerchman, the series’
longest-running competitor, has a different
explanation for the series’ appeal.
“The consistency and the camaraderie of
it,” says the driver of the No. 25 Peggy’s
Sunrise Cafe car. “The guys all get along;
there’s nobody who won’t help somebody
else. You need a motor out of somebody
else’s pits, they’re going to give it to you.
That’s the way the series has always been.
I’ve been in it since day one, and it’s a great
series. They try to be as fair as they can,
and it’s a great bunch of guys to run with.”
Thus why setups may change drastically
for the race. A setup that’s fast for a couple
of laps may leave you with no tires at the
end of a 75-lap race. The Lucas Oil Modified
Series usually has a practice on Friday night,
and that’s where race setups are sorted.
“You’re going to be changing the car
constantly,” Cappello, who’s nickname is
“Hitman,” explains. “During Friday night
practice, we’re mostly working on how we
“It takes a lot of knowledge
throughout the whole race, knowing
when to save and when not to”
want the car to be during the race. You have
to come in ready for practice – you can’t be
chasing brakes or chasing something else on
Friday night, because that’s your time when
the track is cooled down; that’s going to be
your race conditions, so you’ve got to
come out of the trailer swinging and figure
out what you want for the race.”
On Saturday morning, it’s time to figure
out how to make the car fast for qualifying,
and that usually means two different
setups – everything from springs and
shocks to panhard bars and alignment.
After qualifying, switch back to the race
setup and figure out strategy from there.
“It take a lot of knowledge throughout
the whole race, knowing when to save and
when not to,” says Cappello. “Also
strategy…where you want to be at the end
of the race, knowing where you want to be
in the early laps. You obviously want to
tire diameters on
No. 17D machine.
How the skinny,
grooved Hoosier tires
hook up is crucial.