Driver notches 100th IMCA win at weekend races
Sam Green/Cortez Journal
Sure, race fans love the glitz and glamour of NASCAR, but does anything really compare to small-town, dirt-track, stock car racing? Fans attending last weekend’s races at Fairgrounds Speedway in Cortez would likely say no.
Featuring an array of exciting races, local drivers and a family atmosphere, the races, held at Fairgrounds Speedway on June 21 and June 22, did not disappoint. No, Cortez is not quite on par with Daytona, but even so, races at the small-town track never fail to deliver a memorable experience.
Kicking off the racing on a brisk Friday night, Josh Smith competed as the only driver in the newly created Sport-Compact class. Smith did a good job of keeping his car on the track, finishing his heat race and later coming away victorious in the A-Main.
“The Sport-Compact class is something new that we are really trying to push this year,” said race promoter, Regan Tafoya. “It’s a four-cylinder, front-wheel drive car that is very affordable. You put a roll cage in it, a race seat in it and you can drive it. I want to emphasize that almost anyone can enter this class.”
Following the Sport-Compact class, Hobby Stock racers rolled their cars onto the track and put on a show. After a relatively clean round of heats, Freddy Brooks of Aztec edged out local driver Jim Griffin for the victory.
Rookie driver Brooklynne Kibel, racing out of Mancos, also turned in an impressive performance in the A-Main. Racing in only her second event, Kibel piloted her car to a fifth-place finish, showing poise that could one day make her a special driver.
“It’s exciting to drive in front of so many fans,” she said. “I love having my brother here. For us, racing is a family affair.”
The family affair continued as Brooklynne’s brother, Dakota, joined a strong class of Sport-Mod drivers to put on some of the most exciting races of the night. In the first heat, Cortez driver Tony Hill showed veteran savvy, hugging the inside line to hold off a hard-charging Randy Eitel of Aztec.
“The Cortez track is so slick,” said Hill. “With a slick track, results are more about the driver than the horsepower of the car. The slick track makes racing in Cortez a lot of fun.”
In the hotly contested Sport-Mod A-Main, the necessity of driving skill was on full display. Early in the race, Dakota Kibel worked his way into second place behind Brian Carey of Aztec. Hill slipped into the fourth spot. After a caution following a crash on lap seven, Hill crashed and eventually wound up finishing 10th. Kibel briefly fell to third after lap 12 but regained the second position on lap 13 and finished second. Carey held on for the win.
For Dakota Kibel, racing in Cortez is always a fun experience.
“Cortez is a fun and fast track,” said Kibel. “This is my fourth year racing in the Sport-Mod class. Before this, I raced mini-stocks and hobby-stocks. “It’s great to race close to home.”
Highlighting Saturday’s action, Rex Higgins of Bloomfield recorded his 100th IMCA Series win in the Stock Car class.
“Getting 100 series wins is a big deal,” stated Tafoya. “There are probably about 8,000 racers in the IMCA series and about only about 20 or 30 have recorded 100 wins.”
Also coming away victorious in Saturday’s events were Leon Shim in the Hobby-Stock class, Jordan Eddelman in the Sport-Mod class, and Ricky Alverado in the Modifieds.
Along with entertaining fans, the races at Fairgrounds Speedway are valuable in that they provide economic benefits to the local community.
“The races really support the community,” explained Tony Hill. “A lot of cars come in from out of town and (their drivers and fans) support our restaurants, hotels, parts stores and everything.”
“It brings a lot of people into the community to spend some of their hard-earned dollars,” echoed Kibel. “Having races here in town really means a lot.”
“This really is a family event,” said race announcer Ray McDonnell. “This is a place where kids and families can go on a Friday or Saturday night to have a great time.”
After two nights of action-packed racing, it would be hard to disagree. No, this may not be Daytona, but Fairgrounds Speedway is a great venue with much to offer. For fans who may have missed last weekend’s races or for fans who are eager for more, Fairgrounds Speedway will again host races on July 19 and 20.
If last weekend was any indicator, next month’s races will be an exciting event for all.