The Model T has certainly come a long way – on the race track.
Dirt track racing, or to be more specific, sprint car racing, dates back to the 1930s when drivers would strip down a Ford Model T and turn it into a race car. This was referred to as “dirt track racing.”
Somewhere around 1950 the term “sprint car racing” was introduced and this weekend, the sport that has evolved from Model Ts racing on dusty, dirt fairground tracks to state-of-the-art, 800-horsepower race cars capable of turning 100-plus mph laps on clay race tracks, will make the ground shake at Cocopah Speedway.
The 2013 Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series for non-winged sprint cars will race Friday and Saturday night at the Somerton oval, with both events scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
The races are the fifth and sixth on the Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series schedule, and mark the first time the traditional sprint cars have been back to Cocopah Speedway since the 2012 season. In that race, the series' 2012 Rookie of the Year, Brody Roa, won his first career USAC/CRA feature event.
It was also Cocopah Speedway director of operations Greg Burgess' first time seeing non-winged sprint cars. And when the show was over, he said he couldn't wait to have them back.
“These guys are drivers!” said Burgess, recalling the 2012 event. “I'm not sure there is anything that compares to watching these guys throw these 800 plus horsepower machines into a corner at the end of the long Cocopah straightaways with nothing more holding them to the track (other) than their tires and the skill required to do so.
“What a treat it was to watch them, and I wanted to make sure they were back on our schedule this season.”
The feeling is mutual. Drivers like five-time series champion Mike Spencer and Sprint Car Hall of Fame driver Rip Williams, along with Roa, had nothing but good things to say about Cocopah Speedway and are anxious to make the trek back to this corner of the country.
“I remember it being fast,” said Spencer, who is still looking for his first feature event win of 2013. “I'm looking forward to going back over there.”
“Ever since we left last year I've been looking forward to coming back this year, and when I found out it was on the schedule I was excited, especially for a two-day show there,” said Roa.
“The track really suited me, I really enjoyed driving there, it was really big and slick and that just kind of suites my driving style.”
Burgess had much the same thought.
“I expect to see a whole lot of three and four-wide racing from these guys,” he said. “Our track suits them perfectly and if they are not saying that yet … by the end of Saturday night's event, I'm betting that it will be a unanimous feeling.”
Nic Faas, the 23-year-old hot shoe from Huntington Beach, Calif., will lead the series troupe to Cocopah Speedway. Faas, who won the fourth race on the schedule on April 6 at Perris Auto Speedway, is the current series point leader.
But he has no breathing room to speak of with his teammate, Damion Gardner, from Concord, Calif., a scant four points behind.
In 2012, Faas ran sixth in the feature event. Gardner will be making his first trip to Cocopah Speedway.
Also expected to be in the field is Yuma's Mike Martin.
The two nights will also feature undercard racing in the form of the Cocopah Speedway Racing Series Factory Stocks on Friday night, and the Street Stocks on Saturday night. Both events will be for series points.
On the Factory Stock level, Yuma's Miles Morris comes in as the series point leader, but he has not won a feature event since January, when he won back-to-back features.
The hot hand currently belongs to newlywed Jordan White, of Yuma, who has won the last two feature events since taking the night off to get married.
On the Street Stock scene, Brawley's Steven Daffern has won the last two feature events in that division and enters Saturday's race as the division point leader.
“There really is no comparing these non-winged sprint cars with our stock cars,” said Burgess, “but then again it wouldn't be fair to, not when you are talking about speed.
“But if it's excitement you're talking about, our local drivers can certainly serve it up, and they will be fun to watch this weekend.”
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 – $17; junior (7-12 years old) – $5; adult military with ID – $15; senior (55 and over) – $15; children 6 years old and under – free (main grandstand); Skybox – $30; 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.