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Cocopah Speedway winds down 2011-2012 season Saturday with Championship Night, Power Puff race
Champagne will be flowing Saturday night.
And not just to toast the champions in the 2011-2012 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series.
No, many others will also be toasting the end of the season that at times seemed to have no end. It was 13 months ago that the series began, in September 2011.
Now, hundreds of laps later, it's coming to a close Saturday with Champions Night. The final racing program will feature a full schedule of Modifieds, Pro-Stocks, Street Stocks and Factory Stocks. The first green flag flies at 7 p.m.
When it's all over, everyone will know who the champions are in the four racing divisions.
“It's shaping up to be a really fun night,” said Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway's director of operations. “Along with what I believe will be a very exciting racing program, we're going to recognize all of our champions, and we've got a special Power Puff Race planned too.
“It's going to be a fitting end to what I also agree has been a very long season.
“What I find most interesting is the fact that through all of the races we've run and all the laps these guys have driven since September 2011, we still have three championships that are not decided. In my mind, that speaks volumes about the quality of competition the fans have been able to watch.”
Entering Saturday night's show, the three division championships which are not locked up are the track Modified title chase, the Pro-Stock chase and the Factory Stock chase.
At the top of the Modified point standings sits Imperial's Duane Rogers. He will take the track Saturday night with a 17-point advantage over Yuma's Cody Grabbe. Realistically, it is an insurmountable lead, barring any catastrophic problems for Rogers.
For example, if Rogers should break during hot-laps or his heat race and not answer the bell for the feature event, Grabbe could sneak in and take the title away with just a top-10 finish.
And Rogers knows this.
“The checkered flag has not dropped to determine (the championship) yet,” said Rogers this week. “My experience is anything can happen to cause you to lose a championship.”
Earlier, in September 2012, Rogers locked up the IMCA Modified crown at the track. He won the same crown during the 2010-2011 season.
The championship he is chasing Saturday night encompasses all Modified races run since September 2011, of which he's won one feature event.
In the Pro-Stock title hunt, El Centro's Travis Dove enters the final show in much the same position as Rogers – with a 15-point lead over Yuma's Brett Simala. If Dove should stumble, the result could be disastrous.
Simala, who has won six feature events this season, will be coming back from a nasty crash during the Turkey Classic on Thanksgiving weekend in which the front of his car was destroyed. But with the help of local race car fabricator and former driving champion Scott Jeffery, and driver Bobby Horton, Simala's car is reportedly ready to take the track again.
Dove, on the other hand, skipped the Turkey Classic.
Yuma's Jimmy Davy is also finding it hard to breathe easy in the Factory Stock title chase, although he has a 32-point cushion. With a top-five feature event finish worth anywhere from 48 to 44 points, Brawley's Amy Teague, currently second in the standings, could conceivably still snatch the crown.
Adolfo Noriega, meanwhile, could show up Saturday night in shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops, not even look at his car, and still win his second straight Street Stock championship. A 72-point lead over your nearest challenger, in this case Yuma's Joey Essary, can do that for you. In this case, if Noriega was a spectator and Essary won his first career feature event, there still are not enough points available to catch Noriega.
But Noriega won't be sitting and watching. He's won 12 feature events so far, which puts him in position to tie the track record for feature event wins in a single season (13).
The dilemma facing Noriega is whether or not to race again in 2013. As of this week he had not made a choice.
“I haven't decided yet,” he said. “At one point late in the season, I was pretty convinced that I was going to shut down my racing and walk away from it. I could come up with a hundred reasons why this would be good for me and my family like: time, money, effort, neglect of other important things, etc.
“To say that racing is a big sacrifice for me would be the understatement of the year. However, I continue to be very excited about what Cocopah Speedway is doing and evolving into. Part of me doesn't want to miss out on it. There are things about racing that I do love and only racing can fulfill. Fortunately for me, my family understands and is behind me all the way, no matter what I decide to do.”
Noriega, Rogers and Davy all agreed that they are happy to see the marathon season come to an end.
“This has been the longest racing season of my life,” said Noriega, “so I'm pretty happy that it's finally coming to an end. It has been another great season for us, but it will be nice to put closure on it so we can take a breath and enjoy our accomplishments.”
“I'm pretty happy,” said Rogers. “It has been a long season and with only three weeks to get ready to start a new season.”
The 2013 racing season begins Jan. 5.
“This season has for sure been a long one, filled with peaks and valleys for our team,” said Davy. “We are happy for the season to come to an end, but at the same time are very excited to start up the new season, with the new car, in a new class, in a few short weeks.”
Title or no title Saturday night, Davy will be moving from the Factory Stock ranks to the Street Stock Division in 2013.
“It is going to be a fun season in the Street Stocks,” he said. “I'm so excited to race with Noriega, (Bobby) Horton, (Tommy) Daffern, (Timmy) Reese, Essary, (Dave) Amos, (Pat) Stuebs and (Joey) Teague. I just hope by the end of the season to be able to be up front with those guys dicing it out.”
In Saturday night's special attraction, the Powder Puff race, Burgess said wives, girlfriends and female family members will get behind the wheel ofStreet Stocks and Factory Stocks and drive the wheels off their cars for 10 laps.
The event is scheduled after the conclusion of the Pro-Stock feature event, before the Modified feature event.
“This should be entertaining to say the least,” said Burgess. “I can't wait to see the racers watch the girls behind the wheel of their race cars.”
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 – $8; adult military with ID – $6; seniors (55 and older) – $6; children 12 years old and under – free; family pass – $25.
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.