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Arizona driver wins West Coast Shootout at Cocopah Speedway
As it turns out, the West Coast Latemodels Shootout was an ambush.
The traveling troupe headquartered in California and made up almost entirely of drivers from the Golden State, showed up at Cocopah Speedway for a special appearance Saturday night and ran into Arizona's fastest gun, R.C. Whitwell, who rode off with the feature event win in convincing fashion.
It was Whitwell's first time competing in a West Coast Latemodels Shootout series event, and it was his first time racing on the Somerton oval.
“It feels good,” said Whitwell, talking about being an Arizona driver going home with the win.
As it turns out, however, Whitwell, from Tucson, had a Grand Canyon State posse with him, which, along with Whitwell, took four of the top five places in the feature event, and six of the top 10s. Ricky Thornton, from Chandler, finished second behind Whitwell, and Phoenix's Lonnie Parker was fifth.
“I came into this weekend knowing these California guys were going to be here, but I didn't know this guy was going to be here,” said Whitwell, motioning toward Thornton, “and he was probably the scariest of them all.
“But it was good competition. I knew it would be tough competition, I knew my car had to be good, and really my car wasn't as good as I hoped it would be. If I had left it alone after the dash it would have been a little better but the track changed a bunch even after that dash.
“I was just lucky I started in the front. That little girl who pulled me that two in the dash is really who I owe this to.”
Whitwell started on the pole for the 30-lap feature event and led the race from start to finish. Thornton, running second, was making up ground on Whitwell late in the race but was never got close enough to challenge for the lead.
Whitwell's starting position was determined by the results of the six-lap trophy dash, which he won, earning him the pole in the feature.
The “two in the dash” he referred to was the starting position drawn for him in the trophy dash by a young girl in the audience. The “two” allowed him to start on the outside of the front row of the dash.
The six cars in the trophy dash were the top two finishers from each of the three preliminary heat races.
That was the only thing Whitwell didn't win Saturday, his heat race. He finished second.
Also, Thornton set the fast time in qualifying, touring the oval in 18.495 seconds.
In other racing action Saturday night, Yuma's Jordan White drove off with his second feature event win in the 2011-2012 Cocopah Speedway Racing Series, Factory Stock Division.
The rookie diced it out briefly with Yuma's Craig Ebers and Steve Anthony in the feature before Anthony, who had won the heat race, had to go to the pit with a flat tire.
White then got around Ebers and opened a sizable lead which he maintained all the way to the checkered flag.
The only problem he had to deal with was being all alone at the front.
“Really, at that point you are racing your own race, you're basically racing yourself,” said a smiling White from victory lane. “The only person who can make you lose is, you, by losing focus and spinning out or something.
“It was a good race, it was fun.
“There was a gnarly pothole going into (Turn 1) that you had to avoid, but after you got around that, everything was good.”
Finishing second was Brawley's Amy Teague, with Ebers in third, Anthony coming back to finish fourth and Brian Johnson in fifth.