Winter Heat’s 3rd night might eclipse Saturday’s speeds

Winter Heat’s 3rd night might eclipse Saturday’s speeds

Greg Burgess knew the 2016 Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown would be an exciting event.

But when it was reported that a radar gun caught Craig Dollansky, from Princeton, Minn., and Kyle Larson, from Elk Grove, Calif., cruising down the front straight at Cocopah Speedway during Saturday night’s event at 124 mph, the track’s director of operations said even he was surprised.

“I knew we had some very good, very fast sprint car drivers with us for the Winter Heat, and I knew they were capable of turning in some impressive lap times, but I really didn’t think they were going to go that fast,” said Burgess.

And he’s forecasting them to go even faster tonight.

“I expect it to be the fastest track of the week and possibly break that 124 mph speed mark,” said Burgess.

“People need to come out and see these guys drive into a corner at that speed.”

Tonight’s show, Round 3 in the five-race Winter Heat series, is expected to go on as scheduled, despite rain that fell Monday and more forecast for today.

“It is my intent to race (tonight). The pits are wet but will be fine, and the track is fine. We are pumping water from the corners, and we will be ready to put on another outstanding show.”

The first green flag flies at 7 p.m.

The biggest problem the Somerton oval faces following rain storms is water collecting at the bottom of Turns 1 and 2, and Turns 3 and 4. That requires pumps to be set up to remove the water and allow the track to be prepared for racing.

“We are getting everything in order to put on another great show,” said Burgess.

“So far I feel everything has gone well aside from the lights going out.”

The track’s lighting system twice went dark during Saturday night’s show, once at the end of one of the qualifying races, and one during a qualifying race. The drivers on the track, however, handled the situation with ease and brought their cars to a stop without incident.

The cause, said Burgess, “was too many driver souvenir trailers being plugged into one circuit.”

That has been resolved, he said.

Along with Burgess’ prediction of faster speeds tonight, he also pointed out that the third round of the Winter Heat will be the only time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kasey Kahne and Larson will be in the same show.

Kahne missed the first two nights while racing in Australia but is now headed to Cocopah Speedway for the last three nights of the Winter Heat. He raced all five nights in 2015.

Larson, meanwhile, raced both of the first two nights of the 2016 Winter Heat, winning the feature event on Saturday, and will leave for Daytona and Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing and practice after tonight’s show. He did the same thing in 2015, leaving for Daytona where he drove for his NASCAR car owner, Chip Ganassi, and with teammates Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Jamie McMurray, co-drove the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost DP to the championship.

“I’d sure like to see Kyle here for all five nights, he is so exciting to watch,” said Burgess. “But I understand he has other commitments, and we are lucky to have with us for three nights.”

A year ago Larson was making a bid to win his second straight Winter Heat feature event during the Tuesday night show, trading the lead with World of Outlaws legend Steve Kinser, before a flat tire ended Larson’s charge. He said he was disappointed in not getting that second win, which went to Kinser.

So far, however, Larson is the only driver to come back in 2016 and win again. Last year’s four other feature event winners have struggled a bit, with Danny Lasoski, from Dover, Mo., finishing ninth on Friday and third on Saturday; Kinser, from Indiamapolis, finishing 15th and 14th, respectively; Aaron Reutzel, from Clute, Texas., not making the show on Friday and finishing 12th on Saturday; and Paul McMahan, from Nashville, failing to finish the Friday night race and running 21st on Saturday.

The Friday night winner, meanwhile, Dale Blaney, from Fowler, Ohio, notched a third place finish on Saturday night and enters tonight’s show as the overall series point leader. It is a stark contrast to Blaney’s 2015 Winter Heat when he struggled and did not win a feature event.

SPARE PARTS: 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 towww.cocopahspeedway.com.

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