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Determined Simala gets fifth win at Cocopah Speedway
There was no summer vacation for Brett Simala.
Instead of parking his race car after the June 16 race and waiting for his season to resume Saturday night, Simala worked in the heat, adjusting and readjusting his race car, did research, even went racing out of town.
In short, the veteran did his homework, and it paid off with his fifth Pro-Stock Division feature event of the 2011-2012 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series at Cocopah Speedway.
“The car is just about perfect right now,” said a smiling Simala from victory lane.
Saturday night's racing card was the first time the Pro-Stocks, IMCA Modifieds and Factory Stocks had been on the track in three months. The Street Stock Division got back in action two weeks earlier.
“We haven't been sitting, not doing anything,” continued Simala. “We ran in Tucson over the Labor day weekend. We wanted to go up there and shake everything down. We learned a lot and that helped us out a lot too, going up there to get some seat time in and coming out here for the practice.
“We've been working on the car, basically getting ready for the Turkey race.”
Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway's director of operations, commented that the track might experience a bump in the size of the Pro-Stock field from now until Thanksgiving weekend, when the third annual Turkey Classic is scheduled. And he was right as a field of 12 Pro-Stocks took the track Saturday night.
Still, the increased competition did not bother Simala.
“I knew nobody had anything. The car was hooked up tonight.”
What did bother him, was his back, which was starting to ache before the feature event ever started.
“I had been in the car for over an hour,” said Simala, referring first to being parked in the staging area for an extended period of time. That was while the preceding, caution flag-plagued Street Stock Division feature event took almost a half hour to complete, capped off by a last-lap crash that saw the car of Miles Morris roll in a violent crash in Turn 3. Morris was transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released.
Then once the Pro-Stocks took the track, Yuma's Bob Anderson was involved in a crash on the second lap, and he too was transported to YRMC where he was treated and released. The crash, however, caused the race to be temporarily stopped.
“That was insane,” said Simala. “I was just just ready to get it over with.”
When racing resumed, it was a two-car shootout between Simala and another Yuma driver, Frankie Rascon, who had won the last two feature events in a row. But Simala managed to pull away from Rascon.
Rascon, who was marking his 40th birthday, settled for second place, with Brawley's Steven Daffern finishing third, El Centro's Travis Dove fourth and Brawley's Brent Ashurst rounding out the top five.
In other racing action, Daffern also got behind the wheel of his younger brother Tommy Daffern's car and won the aforementioned Street Stock endurance feature race; Morris won the Factory Stock feature before taking his wild ride in the Street Stock finale; and Brawley's Russell Allen won his first career IMCA Modified Division feature event.
Steven Daffern, one of two drivers who owns the track's record for feature event wins in a season (13), said driving his brother's car was like “going back to my roots.” He was referring to the 1998 season at then-Yuma Speedway when he drove to the Factory Stock championship, winning all those races in the process.
“And it was fun,” said Daffern about his Street Stock ride Saturday night. He normally is a regular in the IMCA Modified Division.
“This was the first time I drove (Tommy's) car, and it was a lot of fun. It felt good. It was actually less work than driving the Modified.”
His trip to victory lane did take some work, however, as he battled defending champion Adolfo Noriega for the lead in the late stages of the 20-lap race.
But with four laps remaining and Noriega in the lead, his car suddenly lost power and coasted to a stop on the back straight. Noriega later explained that a problem with his motor's distributor ended his night early.
That opened the door wide for Daffern to drive to the checkered flag.
“I wish (Noriega) wouldn't have broke,” said Daffern, “just to see how the outcome would have been. I mean, that's the guy to beat.”
Second place went to Yuma's Joey Essary with Yuma's Pat Stuebs in third, Brawley's Sean Callens fourth and Morris credited with fifth place.
Earlier Morris' ride to the Factory Stock win was uneventful as he took control early in the Bob Horton ride, and was unchallenged on the way to the checkered flag.
Second place went to Yuma's Steve Anthony, Yuma's Jimmy Davy was third, Yuma's Jordan White was fourth and Brawley's Amy Teague was fifth.
In the night's showcase event, a field of 19 IMCA Modifieds rolled out onto the track which had turned dry slick and dusty. But that didn't keep Phoenix driver Brian Schultz from charging to the front early and setting the pace until a mechanical problem caused him to slow.
Allen, meanwhile, who hadn't been heard from until that point, then moved to the front, winning a battle with his Imperial Valley neighbor, Steven McCollough, and Yuma's Cody Grabbe for the lead which he would not relinquish.
It was the first IMCA Modified win for Allen, who won the Pro-Stock championship at the track last season.
“It's been a long, long hard road and a lot of torn up stuff,” said a grinning Allen in victory lane, talking about his move to the Modifieds. “It feels great.”
Grabbe settled for second place in what was the rookie's best showing this season, Imperial's Tom Smith was third, Chris Wilder, from Spring Valley, Calif., was fourth, and McCollough finished fifth.