Of the 40 or more Modified drivers expected to roll into Lucas Oil Speedway on Saturday for the 8th annual USMTS Slick Mist Show-Me Shootout Presented by Foley Equipment, few will have less help or bigger dreams than Joe Duvall and Scott Drake.
Duvall, the veteran racer from Claremore, Okla., and Drake, the Joplin-area resident, have been working together for about three years. Drake serves as Duvall’s crew chief though often – with this weekend an example – Drake will be behind the wheel of Duvall’s second car.
“There are times when we do real good and there are times when we downright suck,” Duvall said. “But you won’t find two guys having any more fun than us.”
Duvall and Drake will attempt to make a push against some of the nation’s best as Lucas Oil Speedway plays host to race three on the USMTS Hunt for the Casey’s Cup.
“There would be nothing more cool than for us to finish 1-2,” Duvall said. “I’m as big a fan of his as he is of me. I wouldn’t mind running second to him the same as he wouldn’t mind running second to me. Either way, we’re both winning.”
Wherever they finish, Duvall and Drake earn their way. Help is limited, or not at all. They do nearly all their own work on the cars, ahead of time and on race nights.
“From time to time, we have a friend who will go along or if we’re racing close enough, somebody comes and helps us,” Duvall said. “But usually, it’s just me and him.”
That can create quite a hectic schedule. Duvall said it behooves them to qualify straight from their heat races into the feature. If both wind up running B-Mains, he said “then we’re kind of hosed.”
“(But) we know each other and what the other thinks, we’re wired so much alike,” Duvall added. “We sort of know what the other is thinking. Very seldom do you find a partnership like this that works, but ours really works.”
Duvall’s had some past success in national-level Modified events and doesn’t back down from the challenge. With an eye toward the Show-Me Shootout, he came to Lucas Oil Speedway twice earlier this summer with one feature win and another start that didn’t go so well.
He’s hopeful that the extra track time pays off on Saturday.
“Lucas is a cool place to win at. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Saturday night show or one of the big events,” Duvall said. “If you stroll into that place and win, you’ve done something.
“If would be good to park it on the front stretch Saturday night. Now that would be big. There’s a lot of people that watch what goes on there from a weekly standpoint. People from all over notice. Maybe it gives you some bragging rights.”
Running up front is a priority for Duvall, who has an impressive 20 top-10 finishes in 37 starts this season. But he’s only won twice, which is less impressive to him. He’s yet to win a USMTS main event, but has at least a dozen career top-five finishes in the premier series.
“It’s never exactly what you expect of yourself,” he said. “Even a top-10 finish, a lot of times, you should be celebrating. But that’s not what you go after. They give ice cream to winners.
“You don’t want to be a sore loser, but there’s nothing like winning. Or at least running top-three.”
Duvall, 44, hasn’t taken the typical path in his racing career. He raced flat-track motorcycles for years, into his 30s, and only stopped that, he laughed, “because I got too old, basically.”
“So I came home and raced cars with the family,” he said. “I’ve been racing cars since about 2004. Originally, I thought I would race at home. That only lasted a few years and I got back to what I know and that is racing on the road.”
Over the last several years, he’s balanced a busy racing schedule with running his own business, Duvall Electric. He said he enjoys driving Modifieds over Late Models because they’re a unique combination of power and balance.
“You have to drive these things hard,” he said. “I have weird analogies when I look at life and a lot of things. Driving a Modified is like having a fat kid on the other end of the teeter totter. You have to be real careful to not let him slam into the ground, but at the other end you have to be real careful not to let yourself get thrown into the trees.
“A Late Model, you can be more aggressive and they’re more forgiving. These things, you have to kind of walk a tightrope.”
It’s a high-wire act that he hopes will find himself or Drake near the front of the field on Saturday night.
Along with the USMTS standouts, a strong cast of local favorites in the Lucas Oil Speedway Pitts Homes USRA Modified division are expected. There will be two track provisional starting spots in the feature available to Lucas Oil Speedway weekly drivers who don’t otherwise qualify for the main event.
Gates open at 5 p.m. with hot laps at 7 and racing at 7:35.