Christmas comes early at Cocopah Speedway

Christmas comes early at Cocopah Speedway

Christmas comes early at Cocopah Speedway

No lumps of coal as division leaders wrap up championship runs


Santa made an early stop Saturday night at Cocopah Speedway and didn’t leave  behind any lumps of coal.

Apparently the girls and boys were on the nice  list as the leaders in the four 2011-2012 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series  division championship races all survived a hectic last night of racing to claim  their respective hardware.

Imperial’s Duane Rogers won his first career  track championship in the Modified Division; El Centro’s Travis Dove took home  the Pro-Stock Division championship; Yuma’s Adolfo Noriega won his second  straight Street Stock Division championship and tied a track record in the  process; and Yuma’s Jimmy Davy won the first driving championship of his career,  taking the Factory Stock Division title.

Oddly, of the four championship  winners, only Noriega won his feature event Saturday. Rogers settled for eighth  place in the Modified feature, Dove was fourth in the Pro-Stock feature and Davy  was third in the Factory Stock feature event. The feature events were won  by Yuma’s Bobby Horton (Modified), Yuma’s Brett Simala (Pro-Stock) and Brawley’s  Joey Teague (Factory Stock).

“I felt everything went about as smoothly as  it could. It was a great finish to a great season,” said Greg Burgess, Cocopah  Speedway’s director of operations. “We had a great car count, some very exciting  racing, a great crowd, lots of excitement, even in our special event, the Powder  Puff race. “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the  season. “Now it’s on to 2013. We don’t have a lot of time to catch our  breath. We’ve only got 28 days to get ready.”

The 2013 season begins Jan.  5.

On Saturday night, however, nobody was looking that far ahead as the  title holders celebrated the moment with champagne, smiles, handshakes, hugs and  kisses.

“This championship validates the previous one,” said Noriega,  comparing his new crown with the one he earned in 2010-2011. “It proves that we  didn’t win with any asterisks or special circumstances. “The people who  understand racing know how and why championships are won. Winning races is  absolutely fantastic, but winning back to back championships makes a statement  that our team is the best right now and that if another team is going to  challenge that, they will need to have all their ducks in a row.

“I’ll  never say that we can’t be beat or anything like that, but when somebody beats  us, we will make them earn it.” Noriega’s feature event win Saturday  night put an exclamation point on his title. Lining up 11th on the 19-car grid,  Noriega demonstrated why he is the division champion by working his way through  traffic in trademark style, getting to the front, overtaking the leader, Yuma’s  Bobby Horton, on a restart and never looking back.

Noriega’s win was his  13th of the season, which tries the record for most feature event wins in a  single season, set by both Steven Daffern and Tony Lentz, both from Brawley, in  1998.

“I’m proud to have my name alongside those two heavy hitters,” said  Noriega. Ironically, Daffern was in the Street Stock lineup Saturday  night, driving his brother Tommy Daffern’s car, and finished second behind  Noriega. Third place went to Mike Harlan, of Alpine, Calif., with Yuma’s Pat  Stuebs finishing fourth and Yuma’s Dave Amos rounding out the top  five.

In drastic contrast to Noriega’s march to his championship, Dove  did not win a feature event during the season. Instead, he relied on consistency  as he was able to consistently finish races.

In the end that was the key  to his being able to hold off a determined charge by Yuma’s Brett Simala, who  won seven feature events during the season, including Saturday night, and  finished second in the title chase by 12 points. Simala again appeared to  be on a mission Saturday as he ran off with the division heat race win and was  untouchable in the feature event. Finishing second in the feature was  Brawley’s Jason Hickingbottom, with San Diego’s Steve Jonas third, Dove fourth  and Yuma’s Dan Westbrook fifth.

Rogers also had his hands full in the  race to the track Modified title, with youngster Cody Grabbe, from Yuma,  applying the pressure. Rogers found wins hard to come by too, with one  feature event trophy to his credit. In the final tally, Rogers beat out  Grabbe, who did not win a feature event, by 14 points. Saturday night Grabbe  finished one position ahead of Rogers in the feature event, in  seventh.

At the front of the 19-car field was Horton who notched his  second feature event win of the season. He started ninth on the grid, moved  through traffic and reeled in race leader Chris Toth, from  Holtville.

Then on a restart Horton, in the bottom groove, got a slight  edge on Toth as they entered Turn 1, didn’t blink, stayed on the gas and by the  time they exited Turn 4, had pulled ahead. After that, Horton was in full  control. Second place went to Mohave Valley’s Bill Meyer, followed by  Brawley’s Russell Allen in third, Imperial’s Steven McCollough in fourth and  Ramona’s Klye Morris in fifth.

In Factory Stock action, Davy’s drive to  the crown was not highlighted by a high number of feature event wins, although  he did win a division-best five, or by pressure from another driver. What made  him sweat was his own car.

A multitude of problems haunted Davy after he  entered a Street Stock Division race in May and crashed. The car sustained  severe damage and was never the same afterward. Consequently, his once  comfortable 69-point lead was cut to 31 at one point. But he persevered  and when the checkered flag flew Saturday night, Davy had the title firmly in  hand with a 70-point margin over Brawley’s Amy Teague, who sat out the final  feature event.

“Hindsight is always 20/20,” said Davy, reflecting on the  season, “so it’s hard to say that we would done anything differently. Of course  looking back, a guy could say, ‘If only we didn’t race that Street Stock race it  would have been all easy.’ “At the same time though, being a new to car  racing team, we learned so much. So looking back, I think all things happen for  a reason. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Saturday night Davy was hard on the  gas early in the feature event, but a throttle problem sent him briefly to the  pit. He came back out without losing a lap and managed to pull out a third place  finish.

The win went to Amy Teague’s husband, Joey Teague, in his wife’s  car. Second place went to Alpine’s Wayne Rebello, with Yuma’s Jason Beshears  finishing fourth and Yuma’s Steve Anthony finishing fifth.

In the night’s  special event, the Powder Puff race, Whitney Williams-Stuebs climbed into her  husband’s car and took the win. But it wasn’t without some excitement as  the early race leader, Brennan Grissom-Amos, in her husband’s car, spun as she  and Stuebs approached the finish line. Amos actually took the checkered flag  while going backward, finishing second, while Heather Raley-Harvick finished  third.

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