Defending champ sort of ready for this year’s event
November 23, 2011 5:53 PM
Brent Ashurst is ready to hit the road, bound for the 2011 Turkey Classic.
And that worries him.
Not the race, but the fact that the driver from Brawley, Calif., is packed and ready to go ahead of time.
“We tore the whole car down and did a complete prep on it. We are surprisingly ahead of schedule, which maybe isn’t a good thing,” said Ashurst from his home in Brawley earlier this week.
A year ago Ashurst and his crew installed a new motor in his car for the event and thought they were ready to go at this very same time, ahead of schedule. Then water was discovered in the motor’s oil and he and his crew worked non-stop to get another motor installed.
The effort paid off, however, as Ashurst drove off with the win in the 50-lap race.
The defending champion and a field of Pro-Stock Division cars estimated to reach as many as 30 will take the track Friday night for heat races and semi-main events, with the top finishers advancing to Saturday night’s feature event.
Saturday those drivers who have not yet qualified for the feature will run another series of races to get into the feature.
The first green flag each night will wave at 7 p.m.
The program will also feature the Cocopah Racing Series Factory Stock Division as the undercard on Friday night, and the Street Stock Division on Saturday night.
Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway’s new director of operations, who is gearing up for his first Turkey Classic, said he has received calls from multiple states and tracks, from racers and fans alike, asking about this weekend’s two-day event.
“I think promoters get as hyped up about big shows as racers and there is plenty of hype about the 2011 Turkey Classic,” said Burgess. “The race has such a long, rich history, and everyone wants to be part of it. I am really looking forward to a great two-day event.”
So is Ashurst.
Along with going out to win his second straight Classic, Ashurst also has a point to make with the Cocopah Speedway regulars in the Pro-Stock Division.
“We’ve kind of been chasing our tails with these younger rookie guys, well not younger, but these new guys,” said Ashurst. “We kind of went into the season thinking we were going to win every race because they were, you know, rookies.
“But it hasn’t been happening that way. As it turns out, they’re pretty good. They are very fast and they are going to be hard to beat.”
Specifically, he was referring to Yuma’s Ryan Hancock and Brett Simala, both newcomers, and second-year driver Frankie Rascon.
Simala, who has one feature event win this season, and Rascon will both be on hand for the two-day race, but Hancock is reportedly finished after winning two races and selling his car.
Interestingly, Simala won this event in 1997 when it was called the Wild Turkey 50. He also won the Pro-Stock track championship that year.
The race format for the 50-lap feature calls for a red flag after lap 25, at which time the field will be brought to a stop on the front straight. There, crews can fuel their cars and drivers can get out for a break. But no adjustments can be made to the cars.
If adjustments are to be made, they can only be made in the pit. But the penalty for going to the pit is forfeiting track position. Any driver who goes to the pit will restart the race at back of the field.
Ashurst knows all about that. He went to the pit at the break a year ago, lined up at the back of the field for the restart and then drove to the front.
“I went out and the car just got better and better,” said Ashurst. “This year we’re going to play it by ear. It all depends on what the car is doing. That was our plan last year and it seemed to work out and it’s probably what we’ll do this year. We’ll keep an eye on the track and how the car is reacting.”
Attrition also plays a role in mid-race decisions, said Ashurst.
“If we start with 24 cars and at halftime there are only 10, there is really no reason to not pull into the pit,” he said. “If you are running up front you can run up front again. Hopefully a lot of the troublemakers are already out.”
The defending champion said the top visiting drivers he expects to see on the track include Lee Jensen, from Bakersfield, Calif., who led almost every lap of the 2010 race until a broken transmission took him out of the running, Chris Smith, from Corona, Calif., and George Fronsman, from Surprise.
Also, defending Cocopah Speedway Pro-Stock Division champion Russell Allen, who made the jump to Modifieds this season, will bring his old car back out for the Classic.
“He said this is a win he’d really like to have,” said Ashurst of his neighbor from Brawley.
“It seems like the cream always rises to the top, and that means guys like Lee Jensen and Chris Smith are going to be there at the end,” said Ashurst.
“Hopefully they’re just behind us at the end.”