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Burgess, track took big step with first IMCA Nationals in 2012
When Cocopah Speedway’s new director of operations, Greg Burgess, said he was going to host a two-night national event, with the winner of the second night’s feature taking home $3,000, the nay-sayers came out of the woodwork.
Afterall, the Somerton oval had been operating for just over a year after being locked and closed since 1999, and some thought taking on an event of such large scale was too soon in the facility’s rebirth.
But a determined Burgess was later found to be right on the money as a capacity crowd packed the grandstand and 52 racers from across the country showed up to dice it out on the big, spacious clay track.
The big Saturday night winner was Salinas, Calif., driver Bobby Hogge. The winner of the Friday night feature was Jason Noll.
"I knew I was taking a gamble, but there was a great foundation already in place when I got here, and I just knew it would work," said Burgess. "Or, I was praying it would work."
He said he convinced the Cocopah Indian Tribe to go along with his plan, and with their support he then he started in on the track’s sponsors and the local racers, and he got the word out to other racing teams from coast to coast.
What helped make the weekend a success was Burgess’ willingness to combine his race with a series of races being run at Canyon Speedway Park outside Peoria. The combined series, dubbed the Winter Challenge Series, would culminate at Cocopah Speedway.
And when the races were over at Canyon Speedway Park, most of those racers hit the road, headed to Somerton.
"We got a lot of great support from those out-of-town drivers and teams," said Burgess. "I can’t say enough about what they did to make that first event a success."
For many of the teams, it was their first trip to this corner of the country, and nearly every one of them said they could not believe that such a facility was located here.
One IMCA official openly said he was expecting the worst, then asked when the Cocopah Speedway facility was constructed, when did it open, and on and on.
Drivers, including those who had a lot of success and those who didn’t fare so well, all agreed that the Somerton track was an outstanding place to race and could not wait to come back.
North Dakota farmer Marlyn Seidler commented that he wished the track would open earlier in the year, because "I’d sure like to get back out here as soon as possible."
"All in all, it was a great success," said Burgess. "It was a great, team effort. The staff did an outstanding, professional job, and I believe that is part of what impressed the drivers and teams the most, the way they were treated.
"I can’t argue though, that this really is just a great place to race too, I mean, from the view of the Yuma Valley from the grandstand to how this track is constructed and maintained, everything makes you want to come back."