Cocopah Speedway crowns five champions
Winning isn’t everything.
If you don’t think so, talk to the five champions in the 2014 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series.
Yuma’s Bobby Horton, for example, won the 2014 IMCA Modified Division crown in the racing series driving a borrowed car to an eighth-place finish in the feature event, after his car was not drivable after being involved in crash earlier in the night.
And Yuma’s Adolfo Noriega won the Street Stock Division championship with a second place finish in that feature event, despite showing up at the track determined to beat the driver who was his nearest challenger.
Then there was Brawley’s Brent Ashurst, who won the Pro-Stock Division championship despite losing a motor in the feature event while trying to get to the front of the pack, and never seeing the checkered flag.
Yuma’s Josh Wood, meanwhile, took the track knowing where he needed to finish in relation to his nearest challenger to win the IMCA Sport Modified championship, and he did just that, taking the checkered flag in seventh place.
And Yuma’s Craig Ebers tried to get as much as he could out of his tired IMCA Hobby Stock, racing to a third place finish and his first championship.
“We had champions drive like champions tonight,” said Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway’s director of operations. “Each of them knew what they had to do to get the job done, and they went out and did it.
“I am very proud of our Class of 2014.”
The most closely contested title was in the Street Stock Division, where Noriega started the feature event with a three-point lead over Chula Vista’s Manny Baldiviez. In the worst case scenario, if Noriega didn’ win the race he had to make sure he finished no further than two positions behind Baldiviez to take the title.
“I’m a data analyst, so yes I knew exactly what I needed to do, even my kids knew,” said Noreiga about the points situation before the feature event started. “Everyone was watching, counting spots. But I kept not emphasizing that with my friends and family because I wasn’t here to finish two spots behind (Baldiviez), I was here to beat him.”
When they rolled out on the track for the final feature event of the season, Noriega and Baldiviez were lined up side by side, in the fifth row. And it was Baldiviez who started the charge to the front first.
“I saw Manny had a great start, and he started passing cars and I needed to not let him get too far,” said Noriega, “but he kept going forward, going forward, so I had to keep going forward. Then I got into traffic that was difficult to pass and I thought, ‘Wow, we can’t end up like this,’ so we just tried to take every opportunity that we could and at the end we were there.”
In the end, Baldiviez took the checkered flag for his sixth win of the season, and Noriega finished third, which was enough for the championship. Then the second place car of Tony Hill, from Colorado, was disqualified in post-race technical inspection, which moved Noriega up to second place.
The finally tally showed Noriega winning the title by two points over Baldiviez.
“I had to give it a little extra tonight and it was fun,” said a disappointed Baldiviez from victory lane afterward. “I knew whatever happens behind me happens. But I tired; I tried.”
Noriega also won the Cocopah Speedway Fall Series championship, with Baldiviez finishing second.
In the IMCA Modified Division, Horton got caught up in a four-car pileup in the first of three preliminary heat races. His car suffered some front end damage that could be repaired, but his fuel cell was also damaged and could not be fixed.
“When I walked in from the wreck in the heat race my buddy Keith Taber sent his crew guy over to tell me that if I needed to use his car I was more than welcome to use it,” said Horton. “My fuel cell got smashed in too far, and that’s not fixable, and I needed to borrow a car and luckily my buddy let me use his.”
In the standings Horton had a 24-point lead and needed to start the feature event to secure the championship. He rolled out in Taber’s car, managed an eighth-place finish and took his first career driving championship.
“This has probably been the best year of my racing ever,” said Horton afterward. “I mean, I’ve won a bunch of races and everything but to win a championship, that means everything. That’s why we do this, to win races and championships.”
He finished with a 29-point lead over Yuma’s Ty Rogers, who started the night in third place in the standings.
The feature event win went to Gilbert’s Tim Ward. Coolidge’s Brian Schultz finished third in the race and in the process won the Fall Series championship with Horton finishing second.
In the IMCA Sport Modified finale, Wood said he knew he had to finish eighth or better to keep Holtville’s Chris Toth from taking the championship. And Wood said he went out onto the track with a conservative game plan to get the job done.
“All I wanted was to not tear the car up, get wrecked or get put out of the race,” said Wood. “I figured we could finish better than eighth place.”
But he didn’t figure what the track conditions would be like, missed the setup and struggled a bit.
“We got the car too tight for the main event,” he said. “We adjusted like we usually do, but the track didn’t go away. And we got stuck behind a slower car, and I didn’t want to hit him because if he spun out they’d put me at the back.”
He said he tried to keep track of where he was during yellow flag conditions, and other than that was just doing the best he could.
Toth, meanwhile, who started the feature event in the fifth row alongside Wood, was on a mission, went to the front, and drove off with the win.
Wood finished seventh, and in the final tally beat Toth by two points.
“When the season started we were going to just come out and have fun when we had time to race,” said Wood. “And then the class is just so competitive, it’s just, you can’t get away from it.”
The championship is the first of Wood’s career.
The Fall Series championship went to Toth.
In the Pro-Stock finale, Ashurst, with a 41-point lead over Yuma’s Brett Simala, could have stayed home and won the championship. But he showed up, ran hard and lost a motor near the end of the feature event while in second place. It was the second motor Ashurst lost in the last three races.
“I’m glad it happened this race and not the other ones, because we’re all out of bullets now,” said Ashurst afterward.
“I feel like I just finished a marathon. Sixteen races didn’t seem like that many races, but man, it is work to hit all these races, especially when you pop motors like we do.”
He was credited with a fifth place finish in the feature event and wound up winning the title by 37 points over Simala who won the race.
“For the record, I have to thank my wife because she told me go for it this year,” said Ashurst, “and we did it, and I think she’s happy with the results, not right here at the end so much you know, because that’s all very costly.”
Simala’s win Saturday night was his sixth win of the season and gave him the Fall Series championship.
Ebers, like Ashurst, had an insurmountable lead — 45 points — when he pulled into the track for the IMCA Hobby Stock finale, and could have sat out the evening, especially when his nearest challenger, Yuma’s Brent Wofford, did not show up.
But Ebers rolled out onto the track for his 17th race of the season, tried to contend for the lead early in the 15-lap event, and then settled in to finish third.
“I really wanted to win,” said Ebers. “I wanted to finish the season on victory lane. I had my celebration dance all ready.”