2013 Cocopah Series opens Friday-Saturday
Ready or not, the 2013 racing season at Cocopah Speedway is going to start Friday night.
Racers are not the only ones who must get last-minute details and adjustments to their race cars taken care of, however.
Personnel at Cocopah Speedway are also hurrying to make final preparations as the first race of the season will also include the unveiling of the new, bigger, concrete main grandstand.
As of early this week it appeared the new structure would not be 100 percent complete, missing the final section of the four-section grandstand.
“We're still going full speed ahead,” said Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway's director of operations. “Even with the three sections that are finished and ready to go we have more seating than we ever had had before.
“I would have liked to have had the entire project completed, but we just ran out of time. Les Evans (owner of Evans Custom Concrete) did everything he could to get it finished in time, and I know he can work miracles, but even this was too much to ask.
“He and his company have done a wonderful job, and I believe the fans will be awestruck when they see what has transpired since they were last here in December.”
Down on the track race fans will also be in for a treat when the 2013 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series rolls out onto the clay oval with five divisions instead of the traditional four.
New to the lineup in 2013 is the IMCA Sport Mod division which, according to IMCA, “is its fastest growing division. This division gives new competitors the chance to experiment with modified racing at the lowest possible cost, while still experiencing the rush that only IMCA racing can provide.”
Burgess conceded the new division will feature a low car count at the outset but he expects it to grow as the season progresses.
The new division joins the four established divisions on the racing card, the IMCA Modified, Pro-Stock, Street Stock and Factory Stock divisions. All divisions will be running Friday and Saturday night.
The special two-night show was necessitated by the construction of the grandstand. Originally, the season was to begin Jan. 5, but when it became clear the grandstand would not be finished in time, the opener was postponed and changed to a two-night event.
Racing begins both nights at 7.
“As excited as I am about our new grandstand, I also can hardly wait to see racing again on the track,” said Burgess. “As thrilling as the 2011-2012 season was, I fully expect the 2013 season to be even better, as hard as that might be to imagine.”
The most notable aspect of the track's 2013 racing series is the fact that two of the defending division champions are moving to new divisions, Factory Stock title holder Jimmy Davy stepping up to the Street Stock Division, and Pro-Stock champion Travis Dove switching to an IMCA Modified.
Staying put are two-time defending Street Stock champion Adolfo Noriega, and IMCA Modified champion Duane Rogers.
With Davy moving out and another talented Factory Stock driver, Steve Anthony, moving up to Pro-Stock, the run to the division title “is going to be interesting, that's for sure,” said Burgess.
Top returners include Amy Teague, who finished second in last season's title hunt, along with Jordan White, Rick Hibbard, Rookie of the Year Craig Ebers and 2010-2011 champion Matthew Sharrar.
In the Pro-Stock Division, Dove's departure leaves the run to the title wide open, with top contenders being Brett Simala and Frankie Rascon, who finished second and third, respectively, in the 2011-2012 standings.
“I hope Steve Anthony knows what he's getting himself into,” said Burgess. “Those two guys (Simala and Rascon) are hard drivers. They are going to be hard to beat.”
The same can be said of Noriega in the Street Stock Division. Last season the veteran made 22 feature event starts and won 13 of them on the way to defending his crown.
“I don't care how you look at that statistic, and I don't care who the driver might be, that is an impressive number to put up,” said Burgess. “It demonstrates that Adolfo is the man to beat in that division, and until someone proves otherwise, he will be the man to beat for a long time.
“That being said, there a number of drivers who really stepped up their programs in the latter half of last season, and even Adolfo admitted he was beginning to feel the heat. The big question now is if those other drivers can reach the same level of consistency as Adolfo. He's set the bar pretty high.”
Those anxious to dethrone the perennial champion include Rookie of the Year Joey Essary, Joey Teague, Timmy Reese and Henry Buijnorouski, the division's No. 2 through No. 5 drivers, respectively, last season.
Throw in Pat Stuebs, Miles Morris, Tommy Daffern and Dave Amos, “and I don't think I would be wrong to say this could be our showcase division this season,” said Burgess.
Unless you look at the IMCA Modified lineup, where Cody Grabbe, the 2011-2012 Rookie of the Year, has his sights set on the title after finishing a scant 14 points behind Rogers at season's end.
Also, a handful of other drivers from the Imperial Valley are expected to make things interesting, not to mention Yuma's Bill Miller, Bobby Horton, Jared Hall and Johnny Swenson.
In the new Sport Mod Division, James Dupre got a headstart on the others in the field, switching gears near mid-season in 2011-2012 and getting out of his Street Stock and into a Sport Mod.
Joining him are a handful of drivers said to already have cars ready to go or close to being ready, including Cody Daffern, Jared White and Brian Kerwin.
SPARE PARTS: 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 — $10; junior (7-12 years old) — $5; adult military with ID — $8; senior (55 and over) — $8; children 6 years old and under – free (main grandstand); Skybox — $25; adult season pass — $325 (includes all events); senior season pass — $275 (includes all events); pit pass — $30 (per person); 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.