Baldiviez does his homework, wins on final night before summer vacation
School’s out for summer.
Out ‘til fall.
We might not come back at all.
With apologies to Alice Cooper, Yuma’s Manny Baldiviez sees things a little differently.
On the last night of racing in the 2016 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series before taking a long, 17-week summer break, Baldiviez, the defending series champion in the IMCA Stock Car Division, schooled the rest of the competition, even said doing your homework is important, and will be back on the track in September when the season resumes.
During Saturday night’s Round 7 event Baldivez looked unstoppable on the way to winning his second straight feature and fourth of the season.
It was the final race at the Somerton oval before racing resumes Sept. 24.
“You have to do your homework, if you want to be a main event winner,” said a smiling Baldiviez in Budweiser Victory Lane after Saturday night’s show.
Baldiviez was a master the dry-slick racing surface, motoring away from the competition.
“The car works for everything I do,” said Baldiviez. “I just had to read other drivers, to see what they were going to do. If they were going to go high I’m going to go low. If they’re going to go low, I’m going high.”
In other racing action Saturday night, Brawley’s Russell Allen continued to show his own dominance in the IMCA Modified Division, winning his second feature event in a row and fifth in his last six starts; Holtville’s Chris Toth notched his first IMCA Sport Modified feature event win in the Cocopah Series; and Yuma’s Jim Robinson won his second straight IMCA Hobby Stock Division feature event.
In the Stock Car finale, Baldiviez started eighth on the 10-car grid but was up front dicing it out for the lead before the 20-lap race was three-laps old. Then after taking control of the race he was nearly untouchable on the way to taking the checkered flag, leaving a pack of cars to race for second place.
Yuma’s Joe Haines ended up running second behind Baldiviez, Yuma’s Joey Essary was third and Yuma’s Steve Anthony was fourth with Mesa’s Cody Center rounding out the top five.
Allen was just as dominate in the Modified feature, taking the lead away from the early leader, Imperial’s Steven McCollough, and then pulling away from the field.
“It’s just one of those years when things seem to go your way,” said Allen, who won the series championship in the division in 2013 and appears headed to another title in 2016.
Imperial’s Lance Mari finished second behind Allen, McCollough was third, Yuma’s Josh Wood was fourth and Yuma’s Doug Rivera was fifth.
In contrast to Baldiviez and Allen, who each have a series championship to their credit, Robinson is in the hunt for his first career title in the IMCA Hobby Stock Division, and he gave notice Saturday night that he is a genuine force to be reckoned with.
“I think now maybe I’m legitimate,” said Robinson, who has now won two features in a row and is firmly entrenched at the top of the standings.
Of course winning has its down side too.
Robinson said during the 2015 season he struggled with heating problems with his race car and other drivers in the division were willing to jump in and lend him a hand.
But now, “since I got those heating issues solved some of the guys said, ‘We’re going to have to stop helping you now,’” said Robinson with a laugh. “They said, ‘We’re going to have to take you seriously.’
“It’s a dream come true,” continued Robinson. “I can’t even explain it.
I hope it keeps going and going.”
Finishing second behind Robinson on Saturday was Yuma’s Scott Jeffery in the maiden voyage for his new Hobby Stock. Third place went to Somerton’s Francisco Cordova, with Yuma’s Brent Wofford finishing fourth and Yuma’s Harvey Quinn finishing fifth.
While Robinson hopes his streak of good luck keeps going, Toth’s win in the IMCA Sport Modified feature meant the end to the beard he’s been growing since January.
“Oh shoot, you know what this means?” said Toth in victory lane. “I won tonight so I’ve got to shave.
“My wife, she kept telling me, ‘When are you going to shave? When are you going to shave?’ And I said, ‘When I win a race.’”
The beard is evidence it’s been a long dry spell for the defending series champion in the division. Toth said it’s been since November 2015.
“It’s been a long time,” continued Toth with a note of relief in his voice. “But I think we finally got the car worked out.”
It was obvious, as Toth ran a hard and fast heat race to get the win, then came back out for the feature and put on the same show. He started eighth on the 18-car grid, drove underneath and past the early race leader, Charlie Wahl, from Las Vegas, just a few laps into the 20-lap affair, and then checked out.
Wahl would finish second, followed by Yuma’s James Dupre in third, Yuma’s Timmy Reese in fourth, and Yuma’s Adolfo Noriega, the division point leader, in fifth.