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Anthony picks dirt track over sand drags, takes home feature event win
Steve Anthony had to make a choice.
And he chose wisely.
Anthony showed up Saturday night for Round 16 in the 2011-2012 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series and drove off with the feature event win in the Factory Stock Division.
However, Anthony, who is also a sand drag racer, said he could have just as easily chosen to head out to Dome Valley for a weekend sand drag event there.
“But we're trying to stay in the third in the points (in the Cocopah Speedway Racing Series), keep our points up there,” said Anthony from victory lane. “We don't want anybody to catch us before the end of the season, so we came here to race.”
The win was the Yuma driver's third of the season and helped him solidify his position in the championship standings. He left the track with a 55-point lead over his nearest challenger, Yuma's Craig Ebers.
In other racing action Saturday night, Yuma's Bobby Horton got his first career IMCA Modified Division feature event win, Brawley's Brent Ashurst took the Pro-Stock Division feature event win and Yuma's Adolfo Noriega notched his 11th Street Stock Division feature event win of the season.
Some other drivers probably should have made the choice to head out to the sand drags as crashes and a fire caused racing to come to a scary halt on three occasions.
The first Street Stock Division heat race saw the car of Yuma's Dave Amos erupt in flames as it entered Turn 1 and coasted to a fiery stop at the exit to Turn 2. It was the first race for Amos in the new car. He was not injured in the mishap.
A short time later at the start of the Factory Stock Division feature event, a multi-car pileup on the opening lap resulted in newcomer Jason Beshears, from Yuma, going for a wild ride at the entrance to Turn 1, rolling over side to side numerous times before his car came to a rest on its wheels. Beshears climbed from the car shaken but unhurt.
And in the IMCA Modified Division feature, a restart near the end of that event also saw a multi-car pileup at the entrance to Turn 1, in which Yuma's Bill Miller made contact, climbed the outside crash wall and was launched into the air, landing an estimated 60 feet outside the track. He too climbed out unhurt, removed his helmet and threw it at his car in frustration.
After the wreckage in the Factory Stock feature was cleaned up, Yuma's Jordan White took command of the race. Anthony was running second and slowly reeling in White, but was running out of laps. Then a yellow flag flew and afterward drivers were signaled there would be green-white-checkered finish. Anthony, who said later that White was stronger on restarts, held the gas pedal down, drove his car hard into Turn 1, “and I prayed it was going to stick, and it did.”
He got inside and past White and held on for the win.
White settled for second, Yuma's Miles Morris was third, Brawley's Amy Teague was fourth and Yuma's Brian Johnson rounded out the top five.
The first-lap crash also involved the current point leader, Yuma's Jimmy Davy. His car, suffering front end damage, limped across the infield and lined up for the restart on the back straight under red flag conditions. But when the field got the signal to start moving again, he discovered he had a steering problem and wound up parking in the infield.
When the night started, Davy had a 31-point lead over Teague. When it was over, Davy, who was scored in eighth place, had a 27-point lead with three races remaining.
The IMCA Modified feature also came down to a green-white-checkered finish, in which Horton benefited from his competitors' over aggressiveness. On the first two, double-file attempts at the restart after a late yellow flag, Imperial's Lance Mari and Steven McCollough were both caught jumping the start, which resulted in the field being lined up single file.
Horton then stood on the gas, drove two flawless laps and held on for the win.
Afterward, an emotional Horton had only one word to say: “Finally!”
Mari finished second, Jeff Streeter, from Madera, Calif., was third, Brawley's Russell Allen was fourth and Yuma's Cody Grabbe was fifth.
McCollough, who appeared to have finished second, was disqualified after his car was found to be 19 pounds too light in the post-race weigh-in.
Early in the race Bill Meyer, from Mohave Valley, had pulled out to an enormous lead, but after a yellow flag erased his advantage, he twice restarted the race too early and was sent to the back of the field. He came back to finish ninth.
The restart bug also bit Yuma's Brett Simala, who was leading the Pro-Stock Division feature event, and on successive restart attempts was guilty of violations which resulted in his being sent to the back.
The penalty broke up what had been a tight race between Simala, Ashurst and Yuma's Frankie Rascon.
Simala came back to finish second, Steve Jonas, from San Diego, was third, Rascon was fourth and Yuma's Dan Westbrook was fifth.
In the Street Stock feature event, the crowd saw a familiar scenario unfold as Noriega and Horton, who was also driving a Street Stock ride Saturday night, got out front, along with Yuma's Timmy Reese. Steven Daffern, from Brawley, in his little brother Tommy Daffern's car, also joined the fray.
Horton, however, exited the battle early when a broken brake part cause him to slide into the Turn 3 wall.
That opened the door for Noriega to take command, and it also left Reese and Daffern to wage a fierce battle for second. Their duel turned out to be the race to watch, with Daffern eventually getting around Reese and pressuring Noriega before settling for second place at the checkered flag. Reese finished third, Brawley's Joey Teague was fourth and Yuma's Joey Essary rounded out the top five.
Afterward, Noriega said that when he had a big lead, his crew was signaling the same, “So, I put it on cruise control. Then I look over and suddenly they're giving me the sign that somebody is all over me. So I thought. ‘Wow! OK, it's time to push it.' I kicked it up a notch a little bit and managed to hold on.”