353 days down
By Randy Hoeft @YumaSunSports
Three hundred fifty-three days down.
Three to go.
Aaron Reutzel isn’t anxious to get back to Cocopah Speedway or anything. He’s just had the date for the 2016 Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown marked on his calendar since the day he left back in January.
“I’ve been counting down the days to come back to this event,” said Reutzel on Monday as he and his team passed through El Paso after leaving home in Clute, Texas, bound for Somerton.
The 2016 Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown begins on New Year’s Day, Friday, and continues with races on Saturday night, Tuesday and Jan. 8 and 9. Each race begins at 7 p.m.
Back on Jan. 10, 353 days ago, Reutzel drove to the feature event win on the final night of the inaugural Winter Heat program.
While he was excited to get that win, what made it even more special was the fact that his appearance at the Winter Heat was his first time behind the wheel of a 410-cubic-inch, winged sprint car.
But even bigger and better things were in store for the Texan after leaving Cocopah Speedway.
Reutzel went on to win seven feature events in the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series for 360 winged sprint cars, on the way to winning the national championship in that series. He also raced at the famed Knoxville Nationals, for 410s, and was named the Rookie of the Year at the prestigious event.
Overall in 2015, Reutzel raced 69 times, had 12 wins, 31 top-fives and 43 top-10s.
And it all started at the Winter Heat. So it really should come as no surprise to anyone that he is anxious to get back here.
Although Reutzel won one feature event at the Winter Heat, the untold story is that he could have easily won three times if it were not for bad luck. In the inaugural Winter Heat opener, Reutzel was the early leader until the top wing on his car broke. Then, on the second night, he was the feature event leader again, until a flat tire ended his bid.
His success, he said, “surprised us big time. We showed up there last year with just hopes of making the ‘A’ main. It was our first 410 show.”
Then to almost win three feature events, “it just makes me think that if we can get all of our ducks in a row, which you know we learned from our mistakes last year, running older parts and what not, if we get all of our stuff in a row we should be able to contend for that many wins.”
The Winter Heat win along with his strong showing overall served as a spring board into what turned out to be a spectacular season for Reutzel.
“We got a few things figured out there. It all definitely fell together,” said Reutzel. “Our success out there definitely gave us a lot of confidence going into the year.”
In 2016 Reutzel plans on running approximately 20, 410 shows and to defend his ASCS championship.
Truth be known, Reutzel likes racing at Cocopah Speedway so much, he wishes he could race here every day of the year, starting with New Year’s Day on Friday.
“It doesn’t matter which day it is, I wish we could run there all year long,” said Reutzel.
“The track prep is second to none. As a driver you can’t ask for anything better.”
He was also impressed with the operation of the first Winter Heat.
“The professionalism, the very well organized format, Tommy Estes and Greg Burgess, they did a phenomenal job running the show,” said Reutzel, referring to Estes, the Winter Heat race director and Burgess, director of operations at Cocopah Speedway. “And they did a phenomenal job of picking dates for the show, they nailed it perfectly for people who don’t go over to Australia.”
Cocopah Speedway is located at U.S. 95 and County 15th Street; the general admission gate opens at 2 p.m.; pit open for fans from 2-5 p.m.; first race is at 7 p.m. Tickets are: adults – $32; adult military with ID – $30; senior (55 and over) – $30; children 12 years old and under – free (main grandstand). Tickets can also be purchased on-line at www.cocopahspeedway.com or at www.cocopahwinterheat.com. Fans can get live racing lineups during the races and results afterward by going to www.cocopahlive.com. Fans can also access live in-race scoring and lap times by going to mylaps.com. For more information call 344-1563 or go to www.cocopahspeedway.com.