A first for Arizona as Baca wins Modified crown, IMCA names top champions, rookies of 2023

Consistency, team work and a new ride were all part of the equation that went into Chaz Baca’s Friesen Performance IMCA Modified national championship winning season. (Photo by Bobby McMorris)

VINTON, Iowa (Oct. 3, 2023) – After winning his career 100th feature in the division over the Memorial Weekend, Chaz Baca announced that his next goal for the 2023 season would be winning the Friesen Performance IMCA Modified national championship.

Goal accomplished.

The Mesa driver became the first Arizona driver to earn an IMCA national crown in any division, ending his drive to the title with six straight checkers and a career single-season best 25 feature wins in all.

“I’m excited, relieved, everything you can be at once. This is a ‘Wow !’ thing,” said Baca. “We switched to a (2021) Harris car and thought we had a shot at it at the beginning of the season. My whole team, family, friends and sponsors, was really the key. The whole thing wouldn’t have happened without them.”

Along with the national title, Baca raced to a career third Shaw Race Cars Western Region crown, track championships at Central Arizona Raceway, Cocopah Speedway and Deuce of Clubs Thunder Raceway and Arizona State title.

While 23 of his weekly wins came in his home state – the other two in California – Baca did some of his best racing halfway across the country during the IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals fueled by Casey’s, starting 14th and finishing second in the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational and winding up the week with an 18th place finish in the main event.

“We had a lot of good local wins and to perform as well as we did at Boone was another one of our highlights,” he said. “We went to Super Nationals as the national points leader, ran good and proved how good our team is.”

“To jump into a new chassis, be as consistent as we were and win the national championship, it was just a great year.”

Also winning career-first national championships were Tyler Drueke in the IMCA RaceSaver Sprint Cars, Zach Olmstead in the IMCA Sunoco Hobby Stocks, David Phillips in the Smiley’s Racing Products IMCA Southern SportMods and Randy Martin in the Mach-1 IMCA Sport Compacts.

Mike Nichols’ 12th IMCA Sunoco Stock Car national title extends his modern era record and matches Ernie Derr’s all-time IMCA career mark; Cory Dumpert added to a record of his own with a fifth straight IMCA Sunoco Late Model crown, Matthew Looft reigned in the Friesen Performance IMCA Northern SportMods for the sixth time and Dillon Raffurty paced Stealth Racing IMCA STARS Mod Lites for the third time in as many years that division has been sanctioned.

A 13-time feature winner, Drueke was champion at hometown Eagle, Neb., Raceway.

Olmstead, from Overton, Neb., edged Mike Smith in the closest national points battle of the season, winning 28 of his 50 starts along with the Big Daddy Race Cars Northern Region and Dawson County Raceway and RPM Speedway titles.

Bonus points from Phillips’ Boyd Raceway track championship vaulted him to the Southern SportMod crown. The Tuscola driver was a 12-time feature winner and Texas state champion as well.

Martin, from Springtown and the first Lone Star State driver to wear the Sport Compact crown, won 20 features and track championships at Boyd, Kennedale Speedway Park and Southern Oklahoma Speedway, along with Oklahoma and Texas state prizes.

Nichols’ 22 wins this season push his all-time IMCA-best total to 627. The EQ Cylinder Heads Northern Region king also ruled at Dawson County and at hometown Shelby County Speedway in Harlan.

Lightning quick from opening night, Dumpert of Newman Grove, Neb., complemented 15 Late Model feature wins with Off Road Speedway, Boone County Raceway and U.S. 30 Speedway track and another Nebraska State title.

Looft, from Swea City, sealed his latest championship run with 13 wins in his last 17 starts and 31 Northern SportMod checkers in all. He topped point standings at Arlington Raceway and Kossuth County Speedway.

And Raffurty, of Kansas City, Mo., added a third Mod Lite championship trophy to his collection in typical dominating fashion, accumulating 28 feature wins while en route to Valley Speedway and US 36 Raceway track and Missouri state honors.

Sean Leasure won the Junior National Championship and Lady Eagle honors went to Taylor Kuehl.

From Mansfield, Texas, Leasure was a nine-time Sport Compact winner. Arizona transplant Kuehl now calls Ames her home and totaled seven Northern SportMod victories.

Joining Baca as Modified regional champions were national runner-up Matthew Day in the GRT South Central, Jeff Larson in the Razor Chassis North Central, Jake Nightingale in the Jet Racing Central and Myron DeYoung in the DeVilbiss Racing Eastern.

Blake Clark repeated as champion of the EQ Cylinder Heads Southern Region for Stock Cars. Thomas Daffern paced the Big Daddy Race Cars Southern Region for the Hobby Stocks.

National rookies of the year were Kaleb Emerson in the Modifieds, Cade Richards in the Late Models, Tyler Rabenberg in the RaceSaver Sprint Cars, Jake Sachau in the Stock Cars, Tucker Richardson in the Hobby Stocks, Hunter Smith in the Northern SportMods, Cutter Spalding in the Southern SportMods, Stevie Throop in the STARS Mod Lites and Stephen Stiteler in the Sport Compacts.

Regional Modified rookies of the year were Emerson in the South Central, Andrew Pearce in the Western, Dyllan Ricks in the North Central, Garrett Taylor in the Central and Chase Rosebrugh in the Eastern.

Top EQ Cylinder Heads regional rookies were Sachau in the North and Chris McCurdy in the South.

Big Daddy Race Cars regional rookies of the year were Richardson in the North and John Thomas in the South.

All champions and rookies of the year will be recognized during the IMCA national awards banquet on Saturday, Nov. 25 in Lincoln, Neb.

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