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Defending Winter Nationals champion headed back for another run at the big money
The good news is, defending Cocopah Speedway IMCA Modified Winter Nationals champion Bobby Hogge is headed this way.
The bad news, at least for his competition, is he’s bringing the same car and motor that powered him to the $3,000 payday in 2012.
"We’re really creatures of habit," said Hogge from his office in Salinas, Calif. "When we find something that works, we stick with it until it’s pretty much worn out."
Hogge said he and his crew are looking forward to again making the 13-hour trek from northern California to the Somerton oval for the 2013 Cocopah Speedway IMCA Winter Nationals presented by Sun Graphics.
The defending champion said his first trip was not only profitable but he found the track to be just to his liking and the facility as a whole, "I mean, it’s nice."
"It is one of the smoothest tracks I’ve ever been on," said Hogge. "When you get to a place like Yuma, the car is actually able to do what it is designed to do; you’re using the shocks; you’re using the springs; you’re trying to finesse the car, not just trying to manhandle the thing.
"Just the smoothness of the track and the facility, it’s nice. The track is plenty wide enough for good racing."
The three-night 2013 event, like the two-night 2012 event, will be the first race of the season for Hogge. A year ago he said he pretty much used the first night of racing to figure out the track and his car’s setup. That night he finished fifth, but a disqualification of the fourth place car moved Hogge up a position.
"But we were a fifth place car for sure that night," said Hogge. "And we just kind of did our homework that night and the next morning. I knew we definitely needed to make some strides to get those next few spots.
"And honestly I think we probably had one of the best race cars we’ve ever had when we were there the second day. From hot laps on I knew we had made some good decisions, and hopefully we can kind of do the same thing this year."
Hogge, 35, has been racing on dirt and asphalt since he was 16, and currently splits his time between Modified races and Late Model events.
"But we don’t run the dirt Late Model as much as we want to," he said. "In our racing family we try to make racing support itself, so we really pick and choose where we go. Even the Yuma race is kind of a stretch for us."
Still, he had planned on returning to Cocopah Speedway for the West Coast Late Model Shootout show in November 2012, but motor problems caused him to change his mind.
So he is hoping to make the show when the West Coast Late Model Shootout returns this November.
"I would love to get the Late Model on that track, I really like the bigger tracks like that and I was disappointed that we missed it last year," said Hogge.
Truth be known, Hogge would race anything, anywhere, if given the chance.
"To me the excitement would be no different if we were racing pedal cars and had all the drivers that I like to compete with," he said.
He is also partial to dry, slick racing surfaces versus wet, "heavy" tracks.
"I like the slicker stuff, just simply because it takes all of the horsepower out of the deal," he said. "It’s not what I call a stomp and steer race track where as long as you can get the car pointed in the right direction and mash on the gas you’re going to go fast.
"I like to think of myself as a finesse type driver and someone who has a pretty good knowledge of setup. When you are trying to make traction to be faster, I think that’s when everything gets a lot more technical. When the track is heavy, it’s just not that way.
"When the track is slicker, slower and smoother you are focused more on keeping the car straight and learning how to work on your tires and your setup."
Hogge’s competition take note: That’s how he cashed in in 2012.