The one that got away
Randy Hoeft @YumaSunSports
You shoulda’ seen the one that got away.
Fishermen are known to spin those tales, but Paul McMahan’s story about a whopper that slipped through his fingers is all fact.
The veteran from Nashville, Tenn., had the series championship in the inaugural Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown at Cocopah Speedway all but wrapped up last January, only to see it vanish on the final night when he failed to qualify for the last feature event.
“We sure would have liked to have won the championship there, but we had a hiccup on the final night and it cost us the championship for the five-day event,” said McMahan from his home in Nashville earlier this week.
“The first four of the five nights we were very fast. We won one, ran second, third and had a ninth and then on the final night we stubbed our toe and couldn’t get out of the B main and make the show.
“That’s what that event is all about, the way the format goes, you gotta be good every time you hit the race track and we weren’t very good on the final night.”
After the final race was run, another veteran, Danny “The Dude” Lasoski, from Dover, Mo., had slid in and taken the series crown.
As a consolation, McMahan still holds the distinction of being the very first Winter Heat feature event winner, and it is an accomplishment he does not take lightly.
“To win the very first winter heat race was very cool,” he said. “It’s something that will go down in the books as being the first guy to win it, the first main event there. I just wish we had won the championship there too.”
He begins his quest for the title that got away on Friday, New Year’s Day, during the first night of racing in the 2016 Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown. Racing is also scheduled Saturday, Tuesday and Jan. 8 and 9. Each show begins at 7 p.m.
McMahan is returning to the Somerton oval with a new race team, driving for Destiny Motorsports, out of Williston, N.D., and reuniting with crew chief Scott Benic, who McMahan worked with in 1997.
The team will use the Winter Heat as a get reacquainted opportunity as well as an opportunity to test and tune for the upcoming 2016 World of Outlaws tour.
“Me and Scott Benic, my mechanic, we are back together after being apart,” said McMahan. “We worked together back in 1997, so we’re back together and we’re going down there and we want to win races. The biggest thing is we want to get our communication back and getting on the same page with different race cars than I ran the last few years, getting comfortable.
“Our intention is to go there and win races and learn at the same time.”
“Paul McMahan is a veteran World of Outlaws driver that we are lucky to have,” said Benic. “We were able to show speed at times throughout the 2015 season, and having McMahan climb in our car, I feel confident we will be contending for wins in 2016.”
In the last three seasons McMahan has been a force in the World of Outlaws, finishing third in the prestigious series point standings in two of the last three seasons. He also has the third most wins in that stretch, ranked only behind Daryn Pittman and Donny Schatz.
“It’s nice to have this opportunity, to come to Cocopah and the Winter Heat and do this before we actually start with the World of Outlaws in February,” added McMahan.
McMahan said his trip to Cocopah Speedway in 2015 was his first to the track, which he said made him feel like he was home.
“I’m originally from California so this reminded me of being home again, just a lot nicer weather in January,” said McMahan.
“It’s a beautiful place. Greg (Burgess, director of operations at Cocopah Speedway) and the guys do a heck of a job with the race track. The facility is awesome and everything around it is really nice.”
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.