Weekly Notebook presented by JRi Shocks
Notes: Cooley is riding hot streak into Magnolia
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
With six victories in the past four weeks, Eric Cooley is riding the best streak of his career. He’d like to add to it with a solid performance in this weekend’s Clash at the Mag at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss.
While Cooley, 22, of Fulton, Miss., will certainly face some tough competition in the $20,000-to-win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event, he’ll at least do so with plenty of momentum. After getting a late start to the season, Cooley has won the past two Super Late Model weekly racing events at Magnolia’s 3/8-mile oval and added two more Super victories and a pair of Crate Late Model wins across town at Columbus Speedway during his recent hot streak.
“So far, this has probably been one of the best years I’ve had,” said Cooley, a former Crate Late Model standout who now splits time between both Crates and Supers for Bryson Motorsports. “We got a late start to the season, but once we got started everything’s just kinda fallen in place and our cars have been running great. Everything’s just been clicking for us.”
A former NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series champion, Cooley is no stranger to success. Still, the past few weeks have far surpassed any streak he’s had before. Cooley can’t quite pinpoint the source of his recent improved performance, other than finally finding some good luck.
“We’ve really just maintained what we’ve always done,” said Cooley, whose prior Super Late Model success includes the 2011 championship on Mississippi’s short-lived Promoters Racing Organization tour. “It’s just really been one of those years so far where everything’s finally rolling along really good. The monkey’s not been on our back and everything’s just fell into place at the right times.”
Cooley hopes things will continue to go his way this weekend. He’ll take all the luck he can get in facing the national travelers of the Lucas Oil Series.
Cooley knows how tough it can be racing against the tour’s regulars when they visit his home state. He’s made both of the last two Clash at the Mag feature lineups, but hasn’t made good of those feature starts with 17th-place finish in both races. This year, he hopes to change that with a solid run.
“I’ve ran Magnolia’s Lucas race the last two years, and we’ve been fortunate enough to make both races,” said Cooley. “The competition seems to get tougher each year. But we’re hoping we can go back and make the race again and shoot for a top 10 this time.”
If he is to find success this weekend at Magnolia, Cooley knows it all starts with time trials. Posting a solid lap time during Friday’s time trials and earning a starting spot near the front of heat race is crucial to a solid weekend.
“Qualifying is huge,” said Cooley. “If you get behind in qualifying, it’s hard to catch those guys. It’s really hard to make up for your mistakes, because they most likely ain’t gonna make any.”
Cooley is modest about his goals for the weekend, saying that he’d be happy to once again make the feature lineup and maybe come away with a top-10 finish. But if he can continue his streak of good luck, he feels he might have a shot at even better.
“I think we can really run with them if we have some things go our way,” said Cooley. “We’ve got a great car and a great shock package that we’ve got put together. If I can lay down a good (qualifying) lap and we have some luck the rest of the weekend, I think I have as good a chance as anybody to be there at the end.”
• At Dixie Speedway on June 8, Frank Ingram visited victory lane twice. The first time was to congratulate Ray Cook on his $3,000 Bill Ingram Memorial victory, a makeup race at the Woodstock, Ga., track honoring Frank’s late father. The second came during the night’s regular feature as Ingram drove the Buster Goss No. 24 to victory.
• Scoring a sweep for the second straight weekend, David McCoy of Franklin, N.C., grabbed Crate and Limited Late Model features June 8 at Hartwell (Ga.) Speedway.
• With a June 7-8 sweep, Zack Olger of St. Johns, Mich., extended a personal three-race win streak at Tri-City Motor Speedway in Auburn, Mich., and Crystal (Mich.) Motor Speedway.
• Jeff Smith of Rocky Face, Ga., scored a June 8 sweep at North Georgia Speedway in Chatsworth with Limited and Crate Late Model victories; his Crate triumph paid $1,500.
• On June 8 at Lucky 7 Speedway in Colson, Ky., Stephen Breeding earned $3,000 for a victory in the Millard Combs Memorial.
• With his June 7-8 sweep at Wisconsin’s Manitowoc County Expo Speedway and Sheboygan County Fair Park, Justin Hirt of Tigerton, Wis., became the first two-time winner in Wisconsin Dirt Late Model Association points races.
• At Winchester (Tenn.) Speedway’s SummerFest, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth of Northport, Ala., topped Tim Busha and Riley Hickman for a $3,000 victory on June 8.
• Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., had a two-victory Super Late Model weekend at Stateline Speedway in Busti, N.Y., and Eriez Speedway in Hammett, Pa.
• In Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway’s sportsman division, Andy Anderson of Bunker Hill, W.Va., swept both June 8 features.
• With his June 8 victory at Tyler County Speedway, Sonny Conley of New Martinsburg, W.Va., earned his first checkered flag in three seasons at the Middlebourne, W.Va., oval.
• Adam Erickson of Traverse City, Mich., lowered Merritt (Mich.) Speedway’s track record with a 13.06-second lap on June 8; Curtis Roberts previously held the record at 13.29.
• At Marion Center (Pa.) Speedway, Clate Copeman of Greensburg, Pa., slipped by Jerry Redden on the last lap June 8 for a Super Late Model victory.
First things first
First-time occurrences at the dirt track:
• At Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway, hometown driver Jim Stephans notched his first-ever Super Late Model victory June 8. “I lost the lead on a restart two weeks ago and I was determined not to let that happen again,” Stephan said.
• Pierce McCarter of Sevierville, Tenn., won his first outing in a new Bloomquist Race Car June 8 at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn.
• With car owner Lynn Geisler joining him in victory lane. Mike Pegher Jr. of Wexford, Pa., notched his first Super Late Model victory at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., on June 7.
• Brandon Morton of Broken Arrow, Okla., notched his first Late Model victory at Monett (Mo.) Speedway on June 7.
• On June 8 at Winchester (Va.) Speedway, Travis Stickley of Keyser, W.Va., notched his first Limited Late Model feature victory.
• Cody Smith of Holt, Fla., won for the first time at Deep South Speedway in Loxley, Ala., on June 8, earning $1,500 in an unsanctioned Super Late Model special.
• Kyle Bryant of Navarre, Fla., scored his first NeSmith Weekly Racing Series victory on June 8 at Southern Raceway in Milton, Fla.
Weekly points chases
UMP DIRTcar (Super Late Models): Former champion Rusty Schlenk of Weston, Ohio, is on top through June 2 events with 1009 points. He leads Brandon Sheppard (983) of New Berlin, Ill., and Brandon Thirlby (957) of Traverse City, Mich.
UMP DIRTcar (Crate Late Models): Aaron Heck of Mount Vernon, Ill., continues to lead the way with a healthy 192-point lead over Nick Lyons of Centralia, Ill., and Jeff Walston of Paducah, Ky., is another 10 points back in third.
IMCA: Through June 2 events, Nick Marolf of Moscow, Iowa, leads with 408 points over fellow Iowans Tyler Bruening (380) of Decorah and Todd Cooney (379) of Des Moines.
WISSOTA: Kyle Peterlin of Hibbing, Minn., leads an all-Minnesota top three with Zach Johnson of Kensington 13 points back in second and Jeff Wildung of Nassau another 13 points back in third.
WDLMA: Justin Hirt of Tigerton, Wis., leads with 153 points. Reigning champion Russ Scheffler (141) of Waukesha, Wis., is second, followed by Tim Buhler (125) of Glenbuelah, Wis.
AMRA: Reigning champ Chris Garnes of Evans, W.Va., has a 19-point lead over Andy Bond of Coolville, Ohio, while Ronnie Mayle of Chesterhill, Ohio, has moved to third, 72 points out of the lead.
ULMA: Justin Russell of Henley, Mo., continues to lead with 715 points, while reigning champ Jason Russell is just two points back in second. Chris Cox is third, 26 points out of the lead.
NeSmith Chevrolet Series: Derrick Mackmer of Purvis, Miss., has taken over the points lead on the Georgia-based Crate Late Model organization. With 439 points, Mackmer leads Michael Arnold of Hattiesburg, Miss., by four points with Sid Scarbrough of Florence, Miss., fourth, just three more points back.
RUSH: John Over has taken over the lead in the chase for the first-year Crate Late Model organization’s $5,000 title, while Michael Lake, Garrett Mott, Joe Martin and Dennis Lunger Jr. complete the current top five.
SECA: Michael Brown of Pageland, S.C., leads the first-year Southeastern Crate Association presented by City Chevrolet by six points over Trent Ivey of Union, S.C., and nine points over Mac Owens of Woodruff, S.C.
Upcoming weekly specials
Among non-touring and independent special events at dirt tracks around the country for the upcoming weekend:
Electric City Speedway, Great Falls, Mont. (June 13): The three-race Wild West Late Model Tour kicks off Thursday.
Southern Ohio Speedway, Wheelersburg, Ohio (June 14): The third annual Southern Showdown pays $3,000-to-win for the 30-lapper; three other divisions also on the car and a lucky fan gets to wave the green flag for the main event.
Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway (June 14): The Midwest Big 10 Series is in action with four other divisions.
Raceway 7, Conneaut, Ohio (June 14): Super Late Models make the first of three visits, joining the track’s five regular divisions.
Gallatin Speedway, Belgrade, Mont. (June 14): The second night of the Wild West Late Model Tour.
Northwest Florida Speedway, Blackman, Fla. (June 14): The $1,000-to-win event is the first Late Model race in more than two years at the track.
Clary’s Speedway, Brinkleyville, N.C. (June 14-15): Late Model drivers get two cracks at victory lane during the track’s Double Down weekend.
Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway (June 15): The Pappy and Bob Allen Memorial pays $2,000-to-win for the Late Model division.
Winchester (Va.) Speedway (June 15): The 35-lap Paul Johnson Memorial pays $3,000-to-win for Super Late Models.
Macon (Ill.) Speedway (June 15): The Miller Lite Bear Twin 50s include a 50-lapper for the Midwest Big 10 Series; a first-time Macon visitor cracking victory lane receives a $300 bonus from S&S Auto Sales in Decatur, Ill.
East Bay Raceway Park, Gibsonton, Fla. (June 15): The Scott Thompson Memorial pays $3,800-to-win for the third-mile oval’s Late Models.
BMP Speedway, Billings, Mont. (June 15): The finale of the three-race Wild West Dirt Late Model Tour.
Southern Raceway, Milton, Fla. (June 15): The track’s monthly Super Late Model Series event pays $1,500-to-win.
North Georgia Speedway, Chatsworth, Ga. (June 15): Super Late Models return to the program paying $2,000-to-win (or $1,500-to-win for 15 or fewer entries).
Hartwell (Ga.) Speedway (June 15): The $2,000-to-win Fastrak All Star Challenge highlights the night’s racing.
Granite City (Minn.) Speedway (June 16): The $1,500-to-win WISSOTA event is the track’s first for Late Models since 1982; modifieds, street stocks, mod fours, pure stocks, hornets and hobby stocks are also in action.
Rome (Ga.) Speedway (June 16): The 40-lap Super Late Model Championship pays $3,000-to-win.