IMCA Winter Heat opening weekend provides 8 feature winners

IMCA Winter Heat opening weekend provides 8 feature winners

IMCA Winter Heat opening weekend provides 8 feature winners

Through the first two nights of the 2016 IMCA Winter Heat at Cocopah Speedway, fans have been treated to something they have never seen before — eight different feature event winners.

The fifth annual event at the Somerton oval, which attracts the country’s best drivers and cars in four different IMCA-sanctioned racing divisions, has so far been punctuated by diversity, with an exclamation point.

On Saturday night’s second round of action, Ricky Thornton Jr., from Chandler, drove off with the win in the showcase, 25-lap Modified Division feature event. In Friday night’s opening round, Hunter Marriott, from Brookfield, Mo., drove off with the win in the division.

On the Stock Car level, Yuma’s Joey Essay picked up the win in the 20-lap, 16-car feature event on Friday night, and on Saturday night the win went to Greg Wickham, from Bonduel, Wisc.

Essary’s win was his second straight after taking the season opener the 2016 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series back on Jan. 16. He was not in Saturday night’s lineup, however. He said before the Winter Nationals began that he would be in Phoenix instead, watching supercross racing.

Fred Ryland, from Brentwood, Calif., meanwhile, won Saturday night’s 22-car Sport Modified feature event after Wayne Dotson, from Bakersfield, Calif., won the Friday night feature.

And Scott Shaw, from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, won Saturday night’s Hobby Stock feature event after Yuma’s Bob Horton won the Friday night feature.

Horton, like Essary, had opened the 2016 season with a win the Cocopah Speedway Racing Series, but could not make it three wins in a row on Saturday after not being able to start the feature event.

In Friday night’s Modified feature event, Imperial’s Lance Mari, the defending division champion in the Cocopah Speedway Racing Series, finished second behind Marriott. It was the best finish ever in a Winter Heat, Modified Division feature event by a driver who calls Cocopah Speedway home. As a matter of fact, Mari was the only local driver to qualify for the night’s feature event.

Marriottl, meanwhile, joins a club of repeat Winter Nationals feature event winners. He also won the opening night feature event in 2015.

In contrast, in Saturday night’s Modified feature event four local drivers made it into the 24-car lineup, with Russell Allen, from Brawley, finishing 12th. Steven McCollough, from Imperial, was 13th, Mari was scored as a DNF in 18th, and Yuma’s Brett Simala was also scored as a DNF, in 21st place.

At total of 105 cars were in the pit for Friday night’s opening round of action, topped by 54 Modifieds, 25 Sport Modifieds, 16 Stock Cars and 10 Hobby Stocks.

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