‘Deacon Dick’ Memorial rolls out Friday, Saturday at Cocopah Speedway
Seneca Rautenberg says she’s a daddy’s girl.
And when your daddy is “Deacon Dick” Rautenberg, that explains why when Seneca wasn’t even old enough to say, “daddy,” she was already at her first dirt track race.
“I have been on the track with my dad since I was two days old, literally sleeping in the wrecker two days after I was born so he could race!” said Seneca as she talked about her dad and this weekend’s third annual Deacon Dick Rautenberg Memorial at Cocopah Speedway.
The two-night show begins Friday with a full schedule of racing in the 2016 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series, and finishes up with another full card on Saturday night. The first race both nights begins at 7 p.m.
The event is in honor of Rautenberg, an 11-time dirt track racing champion with 508 career wins, who was inducted into the Arizona Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007. He also was the Yuma County Citizen of the Year in 2009.
Rautenberg passed away in 2013 after a bout with cancer.
“I was at the track when I was two days old, but certainly was not driving, not at least until I was eight,” recalled Seneca Rautenberg with a laugh. “I still to this day drive with two feet. I’m pretty sure two race car parents will do that to a kid.”
Seneca’s mother, Linda Rautenberg, also was a dirt track racer and won a season championship in the 1980s at Quechan Speedway in Winterhaven.
“I was raised to be highly competitive,” continued Seneca, again with a laugh. “I have always strived to make my parents proud because they were such amazing examples of doing the right thing, treating people right and being kind.”
Seneca said her fondest memories of her father include how he would hand out quarters to children who would come up to him and shake his hand after a race. “He was building his fan club from very early on!” joked Seneca.
She also remembers how she and her friends would get paid to “scrape mud” from her dad’s race cars, and of course she had a front row seat for his numerous wins. “Dad soaked up every win with pictures and kissing the trophy girls,” she said.
And she was there for the other times, when her dad would receive a black flag for rough driving.
“That was often,” she said with a chuckle. “But rubbing was racing in Deacon Dick’s world. I loved when he would not leave the track when asked. He was every flagman’s nightmare driver!
“He also showed me how to not take anyone’s crap, to hold my own, to be aggressive and to win. He was my hero, my best friend and who I called and talked to three times a day until he passed away.”
When Rautenberg was inducted into the Arizona Motorsports Hall of Fame, he asked Seneca to be the one who presented him with his plaque. She said she was just as honored to be there with her father as he was to be an inductee.
“I am a daddy’s girl through and through, so just being there and being able to witness it was a night I won’t ever forget,” said Seneca. “I love him for never making any apologies for winning or having a great car. He worked so hard to the have the best of everything.”
Rautenberg won his first driving championship in 1968 and his 11th crown in 1997.
Friday and Saturday night, a handful of drivers who also know a little something about winning championships will try and live up to Rautenberg’s legacy.
Take Brawley’s Russell Allen for example, who won a Pro-Stock championship in 2011 and the 2013 Modified crown, both in the Cocopah Speedway Racing Series. He is trying to put away a third title, but it’s not going to be easy.
Entering Saturday night’s show, Rounds 19 and 20 in the 2016 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series, Allen is tied for the Modified Division lead with Steven McCollough, from Imperial. Both have 295 points.
On the IMCA Stock Car scene, meanwhile, defending champion Manny Baldiviez is trying to hold off another Yuma driver, Joey Essary, who has crept to within four points of Baldiviez.
The 2015 title was the first of Baldiviez’ career.
And in the IMCA Sport Modified Division, the series point leader is Yuma’s Adolofo Noriega, who may be a rookie in the division, but is no stranger to championship campaigns having won Street Stock titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Noriega will take the track Saturday night with a five-point lead over Yuma’s James Dupre, and a nine-point lead over Imperial’s Corey Clayton.
In contrast to Allen, Baldiviez and Noriega, the fourth IMCA racing division, the Hobby Stocks, finds Yuma’s Jim Robinson trying to win the first championship of his career. And he appears well on his way with an 18-point advantage over Somerton’s Francisco Cordova.
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) – $15; adult military with ID – $13; senior (55 and over) – $13; children 12 years old and under – free (main grandstand); family pass – $36; Skybox – $36; 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 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.