24 hours later
How do you spell irony?
How about having some of the best sprint car drivers in the world talk about how the weather is one of the major attractions for them coming to Cocopah Speedway for the 2016 Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown, on a day when the show is rained out?
That was the situation Tuesday afternoon during a special Winter Heat news conference when five drivers from the field of 46 talked about the Yuma area’s great weather, moments after it was announced that the Tuesday night show was going to be postponed because of rain in the forecast.
“Due to the weather, we are pushing tonight’s event to Wednesday,” said Greg Burgess, director of operations at Cocopah Speedway, speaking at the news conference about the scheduled Tuesday night show. “Hopefully the forecast will look better tomorrow.”
He added that all tickets purchased for the Tuesday show will be good for tonight’s show, which begins at 7 p.m.
Sitting next to Burgess and Tommie Estes Jr., the Winter Heat racing director, were drivers Dale Blaney, Greg Hodnett, Christopher Bell, Danny Lasoski and Wayne Johnson.
When asked about what drew them to the Winter Heat, Blaney, from Fowler, Ohio, started by saying, “Racing, and Ohio winters are not the best.”
Hodnett, from Thomasville, Pa., added, “To come out to the sunniest place in the U.S., of course it’s raining today, so that didn’t really work out, but to get a chance in January to go from Pennsylvania where it’s probably 8 (degrees) right now to come to Yuma, Arizona, I really can’t argue with that logic.”
Lasoski, from Dover, Mo., who is the defending Winter Heat series champion, said, “For us, like the guys said, it’s definitely a way to get out of Missouri, it’s not real warm in Missouri right now, and come out and race against the best in the country … I feel this is probably one of the toughest races, next to the Knoxville Nationals and World Finals. It’s just a pleasure to come out here and race. I hope this continues long after I’m done racing.”
“It’s definitely the weather, that’s the first thing,” said Johnson, from Knoxville, Iowa.
Bell, from Norman, Okla., said it’s the high level of Winter Heat competition that intrigues him.
“Sprint car racing is so tough, and there’s not very many other groups of race cars or fields of race cars where you go to an Outlaw race or to a race like you’ve got here where we’ve got some of the best Outlaw guys, some of the best All Star guys, you know Danny is a 10-time Knoxville track champion, so it’s cool to be able to come out here and race with the best sprint car drivers in the world,” said Bell.
When Bell, 21, is not driving sprint cars, he’s driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, and in 2015 won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 1-800-CAR-CASH Mud Summer Classic at famed Eldora Speedway. It was Bell’s third career Camping World start for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
It is a feat, Hodnett pointed out, that should inspire fans to get out and see young guns like Bell and Kyle Larson in a sprint car, “because I don’t think they’re going to be racing in this venue very much longer, because they’re that good.”
Hodnett was in position to win the feature event during the second night of the Winter Heat on Saturday, but hit a hole in Turn 2, damaging his car while leading the race. That opened the door for Larson, who drives full-time for Chip Ganassi in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, to drive away with the win.
Larson was scheduled to leave for Daytona and the Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing and practice after Tuesday’s show, but has postponed that trip for another day, allowing him to race tonight, said Burgess.
Larson did the same thing in 2015, leaving after the Tuesday show for Daytona where he drove for Ganassi, and with teammates Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Jamie McMurray, co-drove the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost DP to the championship.
Blaney, meanwhile, the 2015 All Star Circuit of Champions champion, won the Winter Heat opener on New Year’s Day, and is the current Winter Heat series leader.
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.