Brendon LaBatte
Brendon LaBatte

Brendon LaBatte
Weyburn, SK

O’Neil Bests Thornton Jr. in Cocopah Classic at Winter Nationals


Cocopah Speedway

O’Neil Bests Thornton Jr. in Cocopah Classic at Winter Nationals

By Mike Spieker

SOMERTON, Ariz. (January 16, 2020) – Some of the best racing seen to date at the 2020 Winter Nationals at Cocopah Speedway was displayed on Thursday night. The IMCA Modified field was 25 cars strong as Kollin Hibdon and Randy Havlik paced the field to the green from the front row.

Before the feature, the field gave the traditional four wide salute to the fans, but left the pole position open in memory of Jamestown, N.D. driver, Don Gumke, who passed away earlier in the week. Gumke competed at Cocopah Speedway the prior weekend.

As the field charged into turn one on the opening lap, Hibdon showed the way, but all eyes were on fourth-place starter Jake O’Neil. O’Neil made a bold three wide pass on the highside to drive from fourth to second in the first set of corners.

At the opposite end of the speedway, O’Neil powered around the outside of Hibdon to lead lap one.

Ricky Thornton Jr. moved his way up to the second spot from the fifth starting position by lap four and quickly set his sights on O’Neil. Thornton Jr. searched every inch of the three-eighths mile oval before taking command of the lead on lap 15.

O’Neil quickly mounted another charge on Thornton Jr. as the lead duo sliced their way through slower traffic. Thornton Jr. made some bold moves through the lapped cars to maintain the lead, but O’Neil cleared Thornton Jr. to take the point with four laps to go.

Thornton Jr. remained within striking distance in the closing laps, but O’Neil held on to take his second Winter Nationals victory.

“I was running the bottom and I really wasn’t that good down there, (Thornton Jr.) kept showing me a nose,” said O’Neil in victory lane. “I appreciate him racing me clean. I thought once he got by me it was over. Usually when that guy gets to the lead, there is no catching him. I just threw a Hail Mary at it and started running the heck out of the car and it ended up working out.”

Thornton Jr., Hibdon, RC Whitwell and Tom Berry Jr. rounded out the top five.

Defending Cocopah Speedway IMCA SportMod track champion, Miles Morris, raced to the SportMod victory. Morris held off the defending Duel in the Desert champion and 12th place starter, Cody Thompson, in the final stages to capture his first Winter Nationals victory of 2020.

Repeat winners were seen in the IMCA Stock Cars and Hobby Stocks. Canadian driver Brendon LaBatte came from seventh to claim the victory in dramatic fashion. LaBatte was in third as he crossed under the white flag, but passed Gene Henrie for second going down the backstretch before powering around the outside of Steffan Carey to win the feature in a drag race to the checkers.

Tim Gonska led the final 16 circuits of the Hobby Stock feature to win by 1.5 seconds over Scott Tenney.

Winter Nationals action continues Friday and Saturday from Cocopah Speedway. All the action can be seen on

IMCA Modifieds:

A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 0-Jake O’Neil[4]; 2. 4820-Ricky Thornton Jr[6]; 3. 48K-Kollin Hibdon[1]; 4. 96T-RC Whitwell[3]; 5. 11X-Tom Berry Jr[9]; 6. 98-Alex Stanford[11]; 7. 3Z-Randy Havlik[2]; 8. 75JR-Chaz Baca[8]; 9. 4TW-Tim Ward[20]; 10. 28H-Darrell Hughes II[5]; 11. 7S-Marlyn Seidler[18]; 12. 75-Spencer Wilson[7]; 13. 2-Casey Arneson[21]; 14. 77X-Austin Kuehl[12]; 15. 3AC-Austin Kiefer[13]; 16. 13-Jerry Flippo[24]; 17. 5T-Jeff Taylor[19]; 18. 23R-Russell Allen[16]; 19. 31M-Travis Mosley[15]; 20. 18Z-Zane DeVilbiss[10]; 21. 33BY-Braxton Yeager[22]; 22. 36-Bill Miller[23]; 23. (DNF) 44N-Jason Noll[14]; 24. (DNF) 33Y-Justen Yeager[25]; 25. (DNF) 4X-Joey Price[17]

B Feature 1 (15 Laps): 1. 23R-Russell Allen[1]; 2. 7S-Marlyn Seidler[4]; 3. 4TW-Tim Ward[11]; 4. 33BY-Braxton Yeager[3]; 5. 13-Jerry Flippo[5]; 6. 44K-Kelsie Foley[2]; 7. 18-Thomas Daffern[7]; 8. 8-Nate Warren[9]; 9. 5-Mike Magee[6]; 10. 71-Brent Schlafmann[14]; 11. 24-Craig Zinke[13]; 12. (DNF) 55X-Marvin Mueller[10]; 13. (DNF) 38T-Michael Thing[8]; 14. (DNS) 1R-Doug Rivera; 15. (DNS) 3-Bobby Horton

B Feature 2 (15 Laps): 1. 4X-Joey Price[2]; 2. 5T-Jeff Taylor[3]; 3. 2-Casey Arneson[9]; 4. 36-Bill Miller[1]; 5. 33Y-Justen Yeager[6]; 6. 27-Mark Carrell[4]; 7. 19SB-Lance Mari[5]; 8. 15G-Anthony Giuliani[13]; 9. 73-Beau Speicher[12]; 10. 33F-Jardin Fuller[8]; 11. 13H-Anthony Hofbauer[10]; 12. 68-Shawn LaRocque[11]; 13. (DNF) 7-Tyson Evans[7]; 14. (DNS) 7G-Gary Fraser

IMCA Northern Sportmods:
A Feature (20 Laps): 1. 3-Miles Morris[2]; 2. 25C-Cody Thompson[12]; 3. 57CT-Chris Toth[8]; 4. 74-Wayne Dotson[4]; 5. 5-Ron Schreiner[7]; 6. 144-Jimmy Davy[1]; 7. 2K-Taylor Kuehl[5]; 8. 1S-Shelby Frye[14]; 9. 77B-Manny Baldiviez[13]; 10. 55C-Brian Carey[6]; 11. 6K-Kyle Salo[20]; 12. 77W-Mike Wells[11]; 13. 41-Bill Lundock[17]; 14. 28-David Pitt[15]; 15. 69-Jackie Frye[18]; 16. 413H-Chase Alves[3]; 17. 35-Slade Pitt[19]; 18. (DNF) 216-Camron Spangler[16]; 19. (DNF) 8T-Ty Rogers[10]; 20. (DNF) 13-Javier Navarro[9]; 21. (DNF) 23-Justin Brierley[21]

IMCA Stock Cars:
A Feature (20 Laps): 1. 57-Brendon LaBatte[7]; 2. 3C-Steffan Carey[9]; 3. 2H-Gene Henrie[4]; 4. 7D-Loren DeArmond[3]; 5. ZERO1-Troy Jerovetz[8]; 6. $-Cody Center[11]; 7. 16-Aaron Spangler[17]; 8. 7-Nuggett Shupe[15]; 9. 00-Jody York[10]; 10. 007-Tony Hill[13]; 11. 47-Jake Smith[14]; 12. 28Z-Tyler Vache[12]; 13. 70D-Raymond Doyle[16]; 14. (DNF) 74-Wayne Dotson[1]; 15. (DNF) 8J-Leslie Gill[2]; 16. (DNF) 6-Chanse Hollatz[6]; 17. (DNF) 81-Austin Daffern[18]; 18. (DNF) 00X-Andy Altenburg[5]

IMCA Hobby Stocks:
A Feature (20 Laps): 1. 5G-Tim Gonska[5]; 2. 21T-Scott Tenney[1]; 3. 04J-Joshua Cordova[4]; 4. 43-Brad King[3]; 5. 64-Jason Beshears[9]; 6. 171-Andy Pearce[7]; 7. 32-Oscar Duarte[10]; 8. 98-Jason Penny[8]; 9. 04-Francisco Cordova[2]; 10. (DNF) 18-Jeffrey Callis[12]; 11. (DNS) 31-Jim Robinson; 12. (DNS) 33-Jason Duggins

Article Credit: Mike Spieker

Submitted By: Jackson Braun

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