Noriega keeps winning at Cocopah
A turkey was roasting in the oven.
Mashed potatoes were, well, being mashed.
And families and friends were gathering to give thanks.
It was Thanksgiving 2011, four months ago, or in Cocopah Speedway standard time, the last time Adolfo Noriega didn't win a feature event.
And from the looks of things, it might not be until everyone sits down to another Thanksgiving feast or maybe longer before Noriega loses another race.
Saturday night the defending track champion in the Street Stock Division notched his fifth-straight feature event win in what was quite possibly his most impressive driving performance to date. And that says a lot when one considers that Noriega, since the start of the 2011-2012 season, has won eight out of 11 feature event starts.
The evening's racing card was the first for the Cocopah Speedway Racing Series since Jan. 21, but the time off apparently made little difference to Noriega. The veteran racer picked up right where he left off, first winning his heat race and then moving to the front of the 24-car feature event field, figuring out a dry-slick track in the process to get the win.
“That was probably the hardest win this year,” said Noriega afterward from his familiar position in victory lane. “You have to stay focused because it's so slick, all the while searching for traction, where I can exit the corners a little bit better, get through there a little bit faster without looping the car, without spinning.
“Sometimes you test it a little bit and it gets sideways on you and you can't catch it. It happened it to me two times, and I said, ‘OK, there's the edge.'”
One of those two times occurred between Turns 3 and 4 while Noriega was trying to hold off Yuma's Bobby Horton. Noriega drove his car in hard and nearly lost it and the lead.
“It was all I could do to save the car,” he said. “I scrubbed off a ton of speed and I thought I might get passed on it but I was ahead enough to recover and get back on it.”
The race started with pole sitter Timmy Reese, from Yuma, getting out front early before a rash of caution flags erased his advantage. Later a mechanical problem sent Reese to the pit. The battle for the lead then came down to a shootout between Noriega and Horton, who had started the race side by side in the fourth row.
“Tonight there were so many cars, so many good cars and lots of them starting in front of us,” said Noriega. “I knew it was going to be tough to get out front, and I was a little more urgent about going forward early on because I didn't want to be stuck in that mess back there.
“With so many cars on the track and some newbies and some people who haven't been behind the wheel in awhile, I knew that there was a high probability of some carnage.”
And there was, with numerous caution flags dragging out the race — including one red flag for the rollover of Yuma's Steve Keist when his car hit the wall after exiting Turn 2 — before Noriega got the checkered flag first with Horton settling for second, Brawley's Tommy Daffern finishing third, Brawley's Joey Teague finishing fourth and Yuma's Pat Stuebs finishing fifth.
Keist was not injured in the rollover in which his car landed on its wheels.
In other racing action Saturday night, Robert Adams, from Red Rock, got past North Dakota driver Marlyn Seidler late in the IMCA Modified Division feature event to take the win, Tucson's Daniel Stricker won the Pro-Stock Division feature event and Yuma's Jimmy Davy won the Factory Stock Division feature event.
Adams' trip to the Somerton oval did not start off well when his car had to be towed off the track after a crash in his heat race. Then when he rolled out onto the track for the 24-car feature event, he was positioned inside the ninth row, the 17th car on the grid.
But Adams managed to stay out of numerous crashes that plagued the race and steadily made his way to the front where he caught Seidler, who appeared to have the win locked up.
On a late caution flag, however, Adams had made his way into second and lined up outside Seidler in the top groove for the restart, and the top groove is where Seidler had been having the most success. Adams was able to take advantage of the traction, beat Seidler into Turn 1 and went on to take the win.
“We got into a heck of a crash in the heat race and my crew put this thing back together. It was nonstop,” said Adams afterward. “We didn't get to set the car up. That (No. 7) car (Seidler) was way better than we were. We just got lucky.”
Seidler, from Underwood, N.D., won the Jan. 21 feature event at Cocopah Speedway and finished ninth in the IMCA Modified Winter Nationals.
Before Saturday night's program got under way, he said he was ready to head home but wanted to race one more time in Arizona before hitting the road and chose to come to Cocopah Speedway.
He had to settle for second place, with Brian Schultz, from Casa Grande, finishing third; Ricky Thornton Jr., from Chandler, finishing fourth; and Imperial's Keith Smith finishing fifth.
In Pro-Stock action Stricker, who was last at the track for the Turkey Classic in November, took the win with Imperial Beach, Calif., driver Joseph Altig finishing second, Yuma's Brett Simala finishing third, El Centro's Travis Dove finishing fourth and Brawley's Brent Ashurst rounding out the top five.
Davy's win in the Factory Stock Division feature was his fifth of the season, but like Noriega it was not easy to come by. The second-year driver nearly looped the car early on in the feature and then set out to make up ground on the early leader, Miles Morris, from Yuma.
And if it had not been for lapped traffic playing a role, Davy said he's not sure he would have got the win.
“I got lucky with traffic and made up a bunch of ground lapping a couple of cars. Miles was on it, he was so fast it felt like I was barely inching up on him and I would have never caught him if we didn't catch some traffic.
“It was exciting. I made a big mistake in the beginning of the race and almost spun out in (Turn 2). It was so slippery; you had to really, really baby it around.”
Morris settled for second place, Yuma's Steve Anthony was third, Yuma's Craig Ebers was fourth and Yuma's Jordan White was fifth.