Toward the middle of the last racing season at Cocopah Speedway, Yuma's James Dupre was starting to raise some eyebrows.
In 10 feature event starts in the Street Stock Division of the 2011-2012 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series, Dupre had logged four second-place finishes.
But just when some felt Dupre was on the verge of getting his first win, he dropped off the radar — totally.
And the story gets even stranger. Dupre bowed out of the Street Stock title chase and bought another car to race in a division that didn't even exist.
As it turns out, however, everything went according to plan.
Ever since he purchased the new car and got it race ready, he's shown up at racing events at the Somerton oval and taken numerous hot laps, logging important seat time behind he wheel. And when the 2013 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series gets under way tonight — the first race starts at 7 p.m. — featuring the new IMCA Sport Mod Division, Dupre will be in the lineup.
It will be his first time on the track in the car with competition, but he feels the time he's already spent in the car gives him an edge over the competition.
Back when he purchased the car, he explained, “It's an advantage for me, because I get to go out there and practice every week and get seat time and work on getting the car set up.
“Once everybody else comes around and we start racing, I'll already have several trips.”
Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway's director of operations, said it's anybody's guess how many of the Sport Mods will be on hand for the Friday and Saturday program, but he has reports of eight cars being ready to go.
“I'm excited about the season starting, that's a given,” said Burgess. “But I'm really excited about this new division we're starting, too. There has been a lot of interest, and it's something that we needed to add, a level of competition leading up to the full-on Modified Division.
“It might take a little while to get a large field of cars in this division, but I'm confident it will grow.
“As we speak, I believe there are eight cars ready to race, and I know of at least two more drivers who are building cars.”
“We need the initial people to put these cars together and get out there,” said Dupre, “and the others will follow.
“We need six to start racing for points and money.”
The learning curve has not been easy, said Dupre, referring to the difference between driving a Street Stock and the Sport Mod.
“It's a lot lighter, a lot more squirrelly; it feels real loose; and it slides around,” said Dupre of his new ride. “It feels completely different; just slides around. But from what everybody who drives Modifieds tells me that's how they say they are.”
He explained that he made the abrupt switch because, “I had the opportunity to pick up a new car in another class that is going to progress.
“Also, I had a lot of trouble early in the (2011-2012) season, blew the engine twice. And since this opportunity presented itself I figured why not.”
Dupre said he decided to give dirt track racing a try after racing motocross, plus it also helped that he knows Adolfo Noriega, the track's two-time Street Stock Division champion.
“I started talking to him about it and he wanted me to come out and help him in the pits and stuff and get a feel for what it's like before I started racing. And I just went and bought a car,” said Dupre.
But the first car he bought, a Pro-Stock, was not a good experience as it had a number of problems, “and it didn't do a whole lot of good for me,” he said. “It seemed like I couldn't even get past hot laps when the motor would start having problems. And to build a Pro-Stock motor was completely out of my league, out of my checkbook.”
He then purchased a Street Stock from another Yuma racer, Bill Miller, before he bought the Modified of Bobby Horton.
“Hopefully I get some wins in this car,” said Dupre. “I was close in the other car; I was getting there.”
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.