Burn, baby, burn!
Standing in a puddle of hot fluid in victory lane, with smoke and steam from his race car swirling around him, and a $3,000 check in his hand, Gary Dutton said he was only following orders.
“The car had been getting hot all weekend long, and the car owner told me, he said, ‘If you’re in the front, burn her to the ground.’
“And I think I did.”
Dutton, from Bakersfield, Calif., stood on the gas, put on a school on how to drive the high line at Cocopah Speedway, and went home with the 35-lap feature event win and 2012 Turkey Classic championship Saturday night.
And that’s not all. On Friday night Dutton ran the same high line and won the 25-lap feature event, which was worth another $500.
“I just had to keep ‘er wound up and keep on going,” said an exuberant Dutton after winning Friday night’s event.
Running at the top of the track, inches away from the wall, even tapping it once during Saturday night’s feature was not a pre-conceived strategy, he said, but the end result of observation.
“I was just paying attention, watching everybody run the bottom down here,” said Dutton. “And I just said, ‘Hey, ain’t nobody going up there,’ and it was my only shot. Whoo doggies!”
Second place in Saturday night’s feature event went to San Diego’s Mike Corning.
Brian Johnson, meanwhile, who made the trip all the way from Medford, Ore., ran third both nights.
“It was definitely worth the drive,” said a smiling Johnson after Saturday night’s feature. “I just wish I could have got more firsts than thirds.”
Fourth place Saturday night went to Chris Smith and fifth place to Tucson’s Daniel Stricker, who ran second on Friday night.
Dana Boatwright, from Tucson, ran fourth on Friday night, and Yuma’s Brett Simala finished fifth.
Simala’s effort on Friday was the best showing of the Yuma drivers entered in the event.
On Saturday Simala’s car hit the front crash wall hard during qualifying when the steering shaft in his car broke. He was not injured in the mishap, but he was done for the night.
Also on Saturday, Yuma’s Adolfo Noriega ran 14th in the 25-car feature event, Yuma’s David White finished 19th and Yuma’s Dan Westbrook was scored in 24th place.
Yuma’s Kent Rosevear, meanwhile, had motor problems both nights, as did Yuma’s Shane Darnell. Neither driver made it into either night’s feature event.
The third annual event attracted an initial field of 33 cars on Friday night, with 27 cars making it to Saturday night’s event.
“We’re growing. Little by little we’re growing,” said Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway’s director of operations. “We aren’t there yet, but we’re getting there.”
The 2011 event attracted 23 cars.
In the 2012 Turkey Classic undercard events, Yuma’s Bobby Horton drove to the win in the Cocopah Speedway Racing Series Street Stock Division feature event on Saturday night, and Yuma Miles Morris won Friday night’s Factory Stock Division feature event.
Saturday night’s Street Stock feature event saw a season-high 28 cars take the track.
Brawley’s Steven Daffern finished second, Yuma’s Adolfo Noriega was third, Yuma’s Joey Essary was fourth and Yuma’s Dave Amos, who had to go all the way to the back of the field after leaving the track with a flat tire, came back to finish fifth.
During Friday night’s Factory Stock feature, Ricky Schnereger, from Escondido, Calif, went for a wild ride, flipping his car on the back straight. He too was not injured in the mishap.
Finishing second in that race was Alpine’s Wayne Rebello, with Yuma’s Matthew Sharrar finishing third, Patti Rebello finishing fourth and Yuma’s Steve Anthony finishing fifth.
Yuma’s Jimmy Davy, the division’s current point leader, was leading the race heading into the white flag lap. But entering Turn 1, Morris’ car, running second, tapped Davy’s car, and both spun. But Morris kept moving and Davy stopped, forcing him to line up at the back of the field for the green-white-checkered finish with Morris on the pole.