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Bruce Jr. ready to go for race at Cocopah
Don't bother giving Tony Bruce Jr. a road map to Cocopah Speedway.
Chances are Bruce's car will find the track and victory lane all on its own.
That seems to be story for Bruce, a veteran of the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series presented by MavTV. When he or any tour makes a first-time appearance at a track, Bruce is the first-time winner.
It happened last week at Canyon Speedway Park north of Phoenix. ASCS had never staged a national tour event at the facility. Bruce had never been there. And Bruce won the opening-night feature race.
In 2008, during his first season driving full-time with the World of Outlaws, Bruce won the tour's first-ever event at 34 Raceway in West Berlington, Iowa. Bruce had never been there either.
“For some reason I seem to go good at places that we've never been before, so I'm definitely looking forward to coming to Yuma,” said Bruce Thursday morning, talking by phone from a truckstop outside of Phoenix.
Tonight's program begins at 7 p.m. The field will then take the track again Saturday for another full program, also starting at 7 p.m.
It marks the first-ever stop at Cocopah Speedway for the ASCS national tour. The event will also be televised via tape-delay by MavTV.
“This is a big one for us,” said Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway's director of operations. “This weekend we are in the national spotlight. I believe everyone will see what a marvelous facility we have here, not to mention the wonderful people who make this track work and the fans who have embraced everything we've given them to see so far.
“We've got drivers and teams arriving from all around the country — north, south, east and west — ready to put on a great show. If everybody else is as excited about this show as I am, well, I don't know what else to say.”
Bruce, from Owasso, Okla., arrives at Cocopah Speedway for tonight's full program as the No. 2-ranked driver in the ASCS National Tour, four points behind the series leader, Brady Bacon, from Broken Arrow, Okla.
After winning the season opener a week ago, Bruce also ran strong in the Saturday night show, finishing fourth.
“That was our first race at Canyon. I'd say at least 80 percent of the people that were there hadn't been there, and we won the first night,” said Bruce.
“We can adapt to places real quick and hopefully we can get out of the gate real fast (at Cocopah Speedway) and pick up another one.”
After spending just over two seasons racing with the World of Outlaws, Bruce said he's happy to be back as an ASCS national tour regular. He made the transition back to 360 sprint cars at the start of the 2009 season.
“It does feel good,” said Bruce. “I really enjoy the series. It is obviously the No. 2 traveling series in the country but the competition level is just as stiff as the Outlaws. I mean, a lot of those guys can come down and race with us and the proof is that they will even struggle. It's one of those deals where it's really competitive.”
The $60,000 prize for winning the series title is also an incentive, said Bruce.
“When Lucas Oil got on board with the ASCS tour, the money went up, and they had a television package, and to be honest with you, it's kid of hard to compete with Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart's teams.
“The reality of it was, eventually we could get access to a lot of the things they were having and running, but it would be a day late. And you know as well as I do that whenever you're a day late, you're the guy that's behind.”
Emmett Hahn, the ASCS creator and owner, said in news conference Thursday at Cocopah Casino that one of the strengths of his series is the number of up-and-coming drivers who compete in national events and the regional series.
In the national touring series alone, Bruce, at 27 years old, is one of those drivers. Bacon is 22. Third-ranked Jason Johnson, from Eunice, La., is 36, No. 6 Brad Loyet, from Sunset Hills, Mo., is 25 and No. 9 Dustin Morgan, from Broken Arrow, Okla., is 23.
The oldest driver in the Top 10 as the series heads to Cocopah Speedway is 54-year-old Gary Wright, from Hooks, Texas.
Wright, who has won four series championships, is also the winningest driver in ASCS history with 127 checkered flags.
SPARE PARTS: Cocopah Speedway is located at U.S. 95 and County 15th Street; general admission gates open at 5 p.m.; tickets are: adults – $17; adult military with ID – $15; seniors (55 and older) – $15; children 12 years old and under – free; family pass – $35 (two adults and up to four teens), per night; for more information call 344-1563 or go to www.cocopahspeedway.com.