Deja vu all over again? Yuma’s Baldiviez hopes not

Deja vu all over again? Yuma’s Baldiviez hopes not

By Randy Hoeft Yuma Sun Photo Editor

If Manny Baldiviez tells you he’s got the “Twilight Zone” theme song playing in his head, don’t be surprised.

A year ago at this same time in the 2014 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series, Baldiviez had won two feature events, and was the point leader in what was formerly the Street Stock Division. Barring a melt down of major proportions, he seemed destined to win the season driving championship.

Fast forward to 2015. Entering Saturday night’s Round 3 event in the Cocopah Speedway Racing Series, Baldiviez has two feature event wins, he is the point leader in what is now the IMCA Stock Car Division, and he again appears to be on his way to winning the season championship, barring a catastrophe.

Now you can hear the Twilight Zone music too, right?

Unfortunately for Baldiviez, in 2014 he missed winning the first championship of his racing career by two points.

That experience has him thinking about what can happen before the 2015 season is over. Therefore, he’s not taking anything for granted.

In fact, he’s fully expecting the remainder of the IMCA Stock Car field to give him all he can handle between now and the final race of the season on Dec. 5.

“These other guys are having some motor issues,” said Baldiviez. “Once they get back into the game they are going to give me a lot of competition. I don’t doubt any of these guys can be right in front of me and then I’ll be chasing them.”

As gracious as Baldiviez is trying to be, the facts are still the facts, and it’s hard to ignore how dominant he has been so far in 2015.

In the IMCA Winter Nationals in February, Baldiviez won two of the four Stock Car feature events. And he’s followed up that showing by winning both of the Cocopah Speedway series feature events. All total, if you include the final race of 2014, he’s won five times in his last seven starts, and three straight going into Saturday night.

“It’s like Manny is on a mission,” said Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway’s director of operations. “He showed everyone how strong he was last season, and I believe he’s building on that momentum.

“That’s not to say he can’t be beat. He had his hands full with Joey Essary the last time (March 6), and it’s kind of like what Manny said, once everyone in the division gets their racing programs in order, he’s going to have some stiff competition.

“The only question is, how far ahead in the standings will Manny be when that happens?”

Saturday night’s program will feature all four of the Cocopah Speedway Racing Series divisions – IMCA Modified, Stock Car, Sport Modified and Hobby Stock.

The first race begins at 7 p.m.

The program is also Round 4 in the inaugural Battle at the Border, six-race series between Cocopah Speedway and Imperial Valley Speedway. Round 3 in the series is scheduled tonight at Imperial Valley Speedway.

In the Cocopah Speedway series, Burgess made two interesting notations, the first in the IMCA Modified Division, where a virtual newcomer to the Somerton oval, Jeff Sheppard Jr., from Golden Valley, is the current point leader.

Sheppard has not won a feature event, yet, but in two starts has finished third and fifth, accumulating enough points to lead the field into Round 3.

“I don’t know where Golden Valley is exactly,” said Burgess, “but I’m told it’s a long way from here. And if Jeff Sheppard is going to keep coming all that way to race with us, all I can say is you have to admire his determination.”

Burgess’ other notation was in the Hobby Stock Division, where after two rounds of racing two different drivers have been in the top spot, and neither one has ever been there before. The leader after the opening night was Yuma’s Leonard Jones, and the leader after Round 2 is Jason Beshears. Jones is now second, one point behind Beshears.

“When you look at what is going on in that division, you have to be excited for those guys,” said Burgess. “Neither of them has ever won a championship, mush less been in first place in the standings.”

In the remaining IMCA Sport Mod Division, Holtville’s Chris Toth, who missed winning the 2014 title by two points, is the current point leader.

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