Baldiviez, Essary resume see-saw Stock Car battle Saturday night at Cocopah Speedway
Look it up in the dictionary and you’ll find it reads, “an up-and-down or a back-and-forth movement or procedure.”
Look at the point standings in the IMCA Stock Car Division in the 2016 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series, and you’ll find exactly that, an up-and-down, a back-and-forth battle being waged currently between Manny Baldiviez and Joey Essary.
Since the series opened in January, the two Yuma drivers have traded the lead in the race to the 2016 title four times over five races.
Entering Saturday night’s show, Round 6 and the halfway point in the series, Baldiviez is the leader, ahead of Essary by two points, which is the largest margin either has enjoyed so far.
It is the second time Baldiviez has had the lead all to himself. But then, Essary has been alone at the top twice also.
When one considers each driver has two wins and two second place finishes in five starts, it is a title race that is rapidly evolving into the centerpiece event each time the series rolls out onto the Somerton oval.
The first green flag Saturday is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Mothers Day program will feature all four of the series’ IMCA sanctioned divisions – Modified, Sport Modified, Hobby Stock and of course the Stock Cars.
If one were to chart the remainder of the 2016 season based on the pattern of performance demonstrated so far by Baldiviez and Essary, Baldiviez would emerge the champion, claiming his second title and denying Essary his first.
The only problem with that formula is there are at least two other drivers in the chase who could throw in the proverbial monkey wrench – Yuma’s Jimmy Davy and Joe Haines. Davy has one win so far in 2016 and Haines has been knocking on the door to victory lane. Davy currently holds down the No. 3 spot in the standings, 14 points behind Essary, 16 points out of first place, and Haines is No. 4, one point behind Davy.
Also, Yuma’s sand drag racing transplant, Steve Anthony, has looked strong as of late.
As exciting as the Stock Car championship chase has become, it is not the only division with its share of drama, however.
In the IMCA Sport Modified Division, Yuma’s Adolfo Noriega got off to a fast start to the season – his first in a Sport Modified – by winning the first two feature events. Since then, however, the three-time Street Stock champion has struggled and now finds himself clinging to a one-point lead heading into Saturday night’s show. Hottest on Noriega’s tail is Yuma’s Timmy Reese, with Imperial’s Corey Clayton one point behind Reese. So, two points separate the top three drivers.
On the Modified level, meanwhile, the title race is now starting to tighten with Brawley’s Russell Allen, who had won three feature events in a row until April 23, closing to within four points of the leader, Imperial’s Steven McCollough, who is yet to win a feature event in 2016.
Added talking points in this division include the rise of Yuma’s Brett Simala to third in the standings, and the marked improvement of Yuma’s Doug Rivera, who has taken over the fourth spot in the standings.
In the Hobby Stock title race the story centers on Yuma’s Jim Robinson, who is yet to win a Cocopah Speedway Racing Series feature event, but keeps bobbing to the top of the standings and finds himself with a sizable seven-point lead heading into Saturday night’s show.
Also, Somerton’s Francisco Cordova has now assumed the No. 2 position behind Robinson, while one of the pre-season favorites to win the championship, Yuma’s Jason Beshears, has dropped into a tie for third place with Yuma’s Harvey Quinn, 10 points out of first place.
It would appear that a black cloud has settled over Beshears, who has been beset by crashes, mechanical problems and the last time out his car caught fire.
Another pre-season favorite was Yuma’s Bob Horton, who has gone from leading the hunt to oblivion, part in due to a disqualification and choosing to skip the last two races.
A team spokesman said, “The guys got tired of the drama,” referring to Horton’s missing two races along with teammates Miles Morris (Sport Modified) and Bobby Horton (Modified).
Perhaps the more interesting subplot in this division is its growth, as two new drivers have brought out cars in the last two races. Yuma’s Jordi Beeler made his debut on April 9, Ronnie Searle showed up with a new car on April 23 and more cars are reportedly on their way.
Cocopah Speedway is located at U.S. 95 and County 15th Street; the general admission gate opens at 5 p.m; first race is at 7 p.m. Tickets are: adults (13 and older) – $12; adult military with ID – $10; senior (55 and over) – $10; children 12 years old and under – free (main grandstand); family pass – $25; Skybox – $25; pit pass – $30 (per person). Tickets can also be purchased on-line at www.cocopahspeedway.com or at Cocopah Wild River or at the main gate on race day. Fans can get live racing lineups during the races and results afterward by going towww.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.