Cocopah Hosts 55th Western World USAC Sprints

By: Richie Murray
SOMERTON, AZ-If at first you don’t succeed, then dust yourself off and try again.
Logan Seavey lived and breathed this particular 21st century proverb through and through during both nights of last year’s Western World Championships.
On opening night, the Sutter, Calif. native led 25 of 30 laps before one tiny mistake cost him the victory. The following evening, Seavey vowed not to repeat his misfortune nor his ultimate fate, and instead, led all 30 circuits, only briefly relenting the top spot to C.J. Leary just past the halfway mark.
Now Seavey will attempt to make it back-to-back scores at a first-time venue for the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship this Friday and Saturday, October 28-29, at Somerton, Arizona’s Cocopah Speedway, an event co-sanctioned by the AMSOIL USAC CRA Sprint Cars.
The 3/8-mile dirt oval on the deep southwest border of Arizona will serve as a first-time host of one of the most venerable events in all of dirt track racing – the 55th Annual Chapman Chevrolet of Yuma Western World Championships Presented by Yuma Insurance and Avanti.
Reigning race winner Seavey will pilot Dwight Cheney’s No. 42 in the event, a car in which he has finished as the runner-up in during his past two USAC National Sprint Car feature starts. He’s one of a multitude of past Western World Winners looking forward to the challenge of competing at Cocopah, which last hosted a USAC National event in 1989, a midget feature won by Robby Flock.
Among the past Western World victors looking to challenge for Friday’s $6,000 and Saturday’s $10,000 top prizes are Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) who captured a 2021 opening night triumph. Bacon’s Western World record is impeccable. He won two 360 c.i. non-wing sprint car races at Tucson, Arizona’s USA Raceway in 2009 and repeated in the same division there once more in 2010 with the ASCS Canyon Region series.
Furthermore, at Peoria, Arizona’s Canyon Speedway Park in 2012, Bacon was an ASCS Winged 360 Sprint Car feature winner. He returned to USA Raceway in 2015 to add a USAC National Sprint Car triumph on a prelim night. When Western World migrated to Arizona Speedway in San Tan Valley, Ariz., Bacon’s winning ways continued with USAC Southwest 360 Sprint Car scores in 2016-17-18, followed by a USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget win in 2019.
Bacon resides second in USAC National Sprint Car points entering the event behind Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) who holds a 76-point lead as he pursues a first career series driving championship. Grant has won three preliminaries in Western World competition. He took a 360 Sprint prelim in 2015 followed by a USAC National Sprint Car score in 2018 and a USAC National Midget win during the 2021 opener.
Robert Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) will make the trip west with the USAC national tour to compete as a driver for the first time since 2017. Ballou was spectacular during the 2015 season en route to the USAC National Sprint Car championship. His 13th win that year came during Western World on a prelim night.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) makes the venture to Arizona with Michael Dutcher Motorsports, a combo which hasn’t hit the west since the 2015 season. KTJ found Western World victory lane with the midget back in 2019.
USAC Southwest Sprint Cars’ winningest driver, R.J. Johnson (Laveen, Ariz.) posted a pair of Western World prelim Sprint Car wins with the 360s in both 2009 and 2013. He’s also experienced success at Cocopah, winning a USAC Southwest round there in 2015. His most successful run with the USAC National Sprint Cars in his home state came in 2017 with a 3rd in the closer. R.J.’s father, Ricky Johnson, collected a non-wing 360 sprint car win at Western World in 1995.
Like Johnson, Brody Roa (Garden Grove, Calif.) has also tasted the sweetness of success at Cocopah, capturing the USAC CRA Sprint Car feature there in 2012. This past January with USAC CRA at Cocopah, Roa tabbed results of 4th, 5th and 6th in consecutive outings. His success expands to Western World as well where he stamped a victory on the final night of the 2015 event with the USAC Southwest 360 Sprint Cars.
However, no driver in the field has experienced as much success at Cocopah as Damion Gardner (Concord, Calif.) who has won each of the last five visits by USAC CRA to the track since 2013. He won three-in-a-row at Cocopah on consecutive nights this past January. Gardner also owns a Western World prelim victory in 2005 at Manzanita. The nine-time USAC CRA Sprint Car champion currently holds a commanding 188-point lead in the series standings as he eyes a record 10th series title.
THE NATIONAL TRAVELERS
In addition to Seavey, Bacon, Ballou and Thomas, the USAC National travelers include the likes C.J. Leary, Emerson Axsom, Jadon Rogers, Kyle Cummins, Mitchel Moles and Matt Westfall.
Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) has won four USAC-sanctioned sprint car events in the state of Arizona, all of which have been with either the CRA or Southwest series. The 2019 USAC National Sprint Car titlist’s Michael Motorsports-owned machine won a Western World prelim in the 360 division back in 2013 with R.J. Johnson as his driver.
Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) is the top Rookie in USAC National Sprint Car points coming into the weekend, buoyed by two feature victories. While it’s his first Western World sprint car attempt, it’s not the first rodeo for his Clauson Marshall Newman Racing team. CMNR won the sprint car portion on the final night of Western World during a three-year stretch between 2018-19-20.
Rogers (Worthington, Ind.) is taking on the west for the first time in his young career after just recently winning his first USAC National Sprint Car feature during mid-September’s Haubstadt Hustler at Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.
Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) has won each of the last two events on the USAC National Sprint Car schedule and four overall during the 2022 season. He’ll make his Western World debut driving an Arizona-bred machine, owned by Yeley-Petty Racing.
Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) has performed superbly throughout his Rookie USAC Sprint Car season with a pair of feature wins and seven fast qualifying times. He rides with a team that has Arizona origins to the core – Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports.
Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio) is among the veterans traveling to Western World for the first time. Westfall has turned in a wonderful with the USAC National Sprint Cars and currently sits a career-best eighth in the series standings.
CRA IN ‘ZONA
The most recent USAC CRA regular to defeat the USAC National Sprint Car contingent was Brody Roa at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway in 2017. CRA competitors do hold the upper hand in terms of experience at Cocopah with several participating in January’s three-night show earlier this year.
The Williams brothers were all quick at Cocopah this winter with Austin Williams (Yorba Linda, Calif.) scoring a runner-up feature result and a fast qualifying time during the weekend. Cody Williams (Corona, Calif.) set the one-lap USAC CRA track record of 16.213 at Cocopah and finished a best of 5th in the main event. Logan Williams (Yorba Linda, Calif.), meanwhile, notched finishes of 6th, 7th and 7th.
Tommy Malcolm (Corona, Calif.) and Eddie Tafoya Jr. (Chino Hills, Calif.) each grabbed solid second-place finishes on nights two and three at Cocopah in January. Chase Johnson (Penngrove, Calif.) and Ricky Lewis (Oxnard, Calif.) slotted into the third spots in the finishing order during the first two evenings of racing.
Tye Mihocko (Phoenix, Ariz.) may hail from the Grand Canyon State, but he has spent the bulk of the season racing in the Midwest, collecting a Lincoln Park Speedway track championship in Putnamville, Ind. this year. He does possess Cocopah experience, however, finishing 7th with the USAC Southwest series in 2016. Sterling Cling (Tempe, Ariz.), likewise, spent much of his summer racing in the Midwest but returns home for a Western World run.
Verne Sweeney (Lomita, Calif.) had the biggest night of his racing career in Arizona when he won the CRA season opening night feature at Manzanita in 1991. He ran 10th at Cocopah earlier this year.
The ever-popular Charles Davis Jr. (Buckeye, Ariz.) finished inside the top-five on all three nights of racing at Cocopah to begin the 2022 USAC CRA season, taking 4th, 4th and 5th. Shon Deskins (Phoenix, Ariz.) ran 3rd at Cocopah with the USAC Southwest Sprints in 2015.
Logan Calderwood and Chris Bonneau each competed with the ASCS Southwest Region Winged 360 Sprints at Cocopah back in May of this year. Calderwood (Goodyear, Ariz.), the grandson of famed 1990 USAC car owner Dave Calderwood, finished 4th in that event while Bonneau (Phoenix, Ariz.) took 5th.
USAC CRA regulars returning for their second visit to Cocopah this year include Santa Rosa, California’s Nate Schank (11th), Warner Springs, California’s Shane Sexton (11th), Riverside, California’s Matt McCarthy (14th) and Riverside, California’s Austin Grabowski (15th).
RACE DETAILS
The Western World Championships feature the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship and AMSOIL USAC CRA Sprint Cars along with IMCA Northern SportMods and IMCA Hobby Stocks.
Each night, the pits open at 3pm Mountain Time with the grandstands opening at 5pm and hot laps at 6pm with qualifying and racing to immediately follow.
There is a practice night on Thursday night, October 27. Grandstand admission is free. Pit passes are $30 apiece. A pit party will follow practice courtesy of Yuma Auto and RV Center featuring a free rib tip meal with sides for anyone with a pit pass wristband.
Advance tickets are on sale now at www.racecocopahspeedway.com.
Friday and Saturday’s events will be aired live on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3OivVbj.
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USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-2232, 2-Brady Bacon-2154, 3-C.J. Leary-2103, 4-Robert Ballou-2032, 5-Emerson Axsom-1970, 6-Logan Seavey-1898, 7-Chase Stockon-1711, 8-Matt Westfall-1569, 9-Jadon Rogers-1545, 10-Jake Swanson-1448.
AMSOIL USAC CRA SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Damion Gardner-1112, 2-Austin Williams-924, 3-Matt Mitchell-920, 4-Eddie Tafoya Jr.-901, 5-Tommy Malcolm-806, 6-Logan Williams-768, 7-Cody Williams-745, 8-Brody Roa-740, 9-Charles Davis Jr.-698, 10-Matt McCarthy-637.
PAST WESTERN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS FINAL NIGHT WINNERS:
1968: Bob Cleberg (Non-Wing Sprint)
1969: Bob Huebner (Non-Wing Sprint)
1970: Jerry McClung (Non-Wing Sprint)
1971: Jan Opperman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1972: Jan Opperman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1973: Earl Wagner (Non-Wing Sprint)
1974: Rick Ferkel (Non-Wing Sprint)
1975: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1976: Bubby Jones (Non-Wing Sprint)
1977: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1978: Lealand McSpadden (Non-Wing Sprint)
1979: Tim Green (Non-Wing Sprint)
1980: Jeff Swindell (Non-Wing Sprint)
1981: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1982: Steve Kinser (Non-Wing Sprint)
1983: Steve Kinser (Non-Wing Sprint)
1984: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1985: Steve Kinser (Winged Sprint) & Lealand McSpadden (Mighty Midgets of Arizona)
1986: Bobby Davis Jr. (Winged Sprint) & Ron Shuman (Mighty Midgets of Arizona)
1987: Steve Kinser (Winged Sprint) & Lealand McSpadden (Mighty Midgets of Arizona)
1988: Mark Kinser (Winged Sprint) & Jack Yeley (Mighty Midgets of Arizona)
1989: Sammy Swindell (Winged Sprint) & Gary Faucett (Midget)
1990: Steve Kinser (Winged Sprint)
1991: Danny Lasoski (Winged Sprint), Wayne Bennet (Non-Winged 360 Sprint) & Ron Shuman (Arizona Midget Racing Association)
1992: Steve Kinser (Winged Sprint), Bob Ream Jr. (Non-Winged 360 Sprint) & Bob Broseman (Midget)
1993: Lealand McSpadden (Non-Wing Sprint)
1994: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1995: Lealand McSpadden (SCRA Sprint), Ricky Johnson (Non-Wing 360 Sprint) & Josh Pelkey (Midget)
1996: Steve Kinser (World of Outlaws Sprint)
1997: Mark Kinser (World of Outlaws Sprint)
1998: Tyler Walker (World of Outlaws Sprint)
1999: Donny Schatz (World of Outlaws Sprint)
2000: Jay Drake (SCRA Sprint)
2001: Jeremy Sherman (SCRA Sprint)
2002: Bud Kaeding (SCRA Sprint) & Jeremy Sherman (360 Sprint)
2003: Tony Elliott (SCRA Sprint) & Jeremy Sherman (360 Sprint)
2004: Bud Kaeding (USAC Sprint) & Josh Ford (360 Sprint)
2005: Dave Darland (USAC Sprint) & Cory Kruseman (360 Sprint)
2006: Josh Wise (USAC Sprint) & Cory Kruseman (360 Sprint)
2007: Jerry Coons Jr. (USAC Sprint) & Cory Kruseman (360 Sprint)
2008: Kevin Swindell (USAC Sprint) & Jesse Hockett (360 Sprint)
2009: Brady Bacon (ASCS Non-Wing Sprint) & Sammy Swindell (ASCS Winged Sprint)
2010: Brady Bacon (ASCS Non-Wing Sprint) & Donny Schatz (ASCS Winged Sprint)
2011: Tracy Hines (ASCS Non-Wing Sprint) & Donny Schatz (ASCS Winged Sprint)
2012: Bryan Clauson (ASCS Non-Wing Sprint) & Wayne Johnson (ASCS Winged Sprint)
2013: Bryan Clauson (USAC Southwest Sprint & USAC Midget)
2014: Matt Rossi (USAC Southwest Sprint) & Darren Hagen (USAC Midget)
2015: Bryan Clauson (USAC Sprint) & Brody Roa (USAC Southwest Sprint)
2016: Chris Windom (USAC Sprint) & Brady Bacon (USAC Southwest Sprint)
2017: Chase Stockon (USAC Sprint) & Chris Windom (USAC Southwest Sprint)
2018: Tyler Courtney (USAC Sprint) & Brady Bacon (USAC Southwest Sprint)
2019: Tyler Courtney (USAC Sprint) & Brady Bacon (USAC Midget)
2020: Tyler Courtney (USAC CRA Sprint) & Buddy Kofoid (USAC Midget)
2021: Logan Seavey (USAC Sprint) & Chris Windom (USAC Midget)
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS IN ARIZONA:
5-Bryan Clauson
3-Jerry Coons Jr. & Tyler Courtney
2-Brady Bacon, Dave Darland, Bud Kaeding, Chase Stockon, Kevin Swindell, Chris Windom & Josh Wise
1-Mario Andretti, Robert Ballou, Don Branson, Bob East, Chet Fillip, A.J. Foyt, Damion Gardner, Justin Grant, Darren Hagen, Tracy Hines, Rick Hood, Levi Jones, Mike Martin, Lealand McSpadden, Thomas Meseraull, Andy Michner, Logan Seavey & Brian Tyler
RECENT CRA / SCRA / USAC CRA SPRINT CAR WINNERS AT COCOPAH SPEEDWAY
CRA
9/29/1989: Ron Shuman (Alex Morales #2)
3/7/1992: Lealand McSpadden (Frank Lewis #91)
11/7/1992: Mike Kirby (Danny Pivovaroff #59)
SCRA
3/6/1998: Richard Griffin (Ron Chaffin #50)
USAC CRA
6/2/2012: Brody Roa (BR Performance #91R)
4/19/2013: Damion Gardner (Mark Alexander #4A)
4/20/2013: Damion Gardner (Mark Alexander #4A)
1/27/2022: Damion Gardner (Mark Alexander #1)
1/28/2022: Damion Gardner (Mark Alexander #1)
1/29/2022: Damion Gardner (Mark Alexander #1)