Championship Saturday: 2016 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series concludes
By Randy Hoeft @ YumaSunSports
Photo Credit: N2Photographics
Manny Baldiviez said it felt like he was wearing ice skates Saturday afternoon.
The only problem is, he was at Cocopah Speedway and no where near any ice.
But that’s how Baldiviez described his drive to his series-leading eighth feature event win on the final day of the 2016 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series.
“I think this is the slickest race track I’ve raced on, ever, that’s how slick it was,” said Baldiviez, who mastered a dry, slick, dusty oval to win the IMCA Stock Car Division feature event.
At the same Baldiviez also won his second straight division championship.
“It felt like being on ice skates, it really did. You couldn’t go full throttle on the straightaways because you would sit there and roast the tires. It took patience, a lot of patience. It was a mind game.”
Baldiviez’ win left him with a 13-point lead over Yuma’s Joey Essary, who finished third in Saturday’s finale.
Baldiviez’ championship comes in his fourth season of racing. He said winning championships has not been a goal of his, but rather, “I enjoy make the car go faster.”
And he’s obviously figured out how to do that.
In other racing action Saturday afternoon, Yuma’s Adolfo Noriega first drove to a win in the IMCA Hobby Stock Division feature event, then climbed into his IMCA Sport Modified and finished second in that feature event.
The second place finish, however, had much more significance than the Hobby Stock win, because it locked up the series championship in the Sport Modified Division, in which it was Noriega’s first season.
In all, it is Noriega’s fourth driving title at the track after winning three Street Stock championships, but this one, he said, is more meaningful because he had to adapt to a new car, having never before driven a Sport Modified.
Saturday’s feature event win went to Yuma’s James Dupre. It was Dupre’s third series win in a row, but was not enough to catch Noriega in the point standings. Dupre finished second, 11 points behind Noriega.
In the Hobby Stock feature, finishing second behind Noriega was Yuma’s Jim Robinson, who locked up that division title. It is Robinson’s first career racing championship.
Ironically, he used to be a member of Noriega’s pit crew during Noriega’s Street Stock championship season in 2014.
“I was hoping I would catch Adolfo,” said Robinson, “I wanted to beat him. He’s kind of like the gauge, you know.
“I started out working on his team and now I’m here, popping a (champagne) cork on a championship. It feels great, it feels really great.”
The afternoon’s finale saw Jason Wolla, from Ray, N.D., put on a dominating performance on the way to winning the IMCA Modified Division feature event.
Finishing fourth was Brawley’s Russell Allen, who didn’t get to park in victory lane but still got to stand atop the checkers and pop a champagne cork, along with Baldiviez, Noriega and Robinson, after winning the series title in the Modified Division.
Allen started the day with the championship locked up, he had that big of a lead. But he drove like the title depended on it, starting 13th on the 23-car grid.
The title is Allen’s third in the Cocopah Speedway Racing series, having won the Pro Stock Division championship in 2010 and his first Modified crown in 2013. That year he did not win a feature event. This year, he won six.