SOMERTON, Ariz. (Jan. 10, 2024) – A driver who learned a lot last season taught his Friesen Performance IMCA Modified foes a thing or two Wednesday night at Cocopah Speedway.
Ethan Braaksma raced to his second $1,000 IMCA.TV Winter Nationals win of the season, taking advantage of a late restart and leading the last six circuits in the 25-lap main event at Somerton.
“It’s crazy,” Braaksma said. “We didn’t have a real good year last year. We learned a lot but we didn’t get any wins. The start of this season has been awesome. We’ve just got everything in place.”
Braaksma had made his first visit to victory lane last Thursday, earning Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational qualifying eligibility with that W.
He was chased to the checkers by Jan. 5 winner Jeremy Mills, Grey Ferrando and defending series champion Tim Ward on his way back to the winner’s circle.
“Cocopah just fits my driving style,” he said. “There are a lot of guys here who have a chance to win so you’ve got to do well in your heat and earn a lot of passing points in order to get a good starting spot and win the feature.”
Braaksma made the trip to Cocopah this year with crew chief Drew Janssen and Medicine Hat’s Danny Meier. He’d previously totaled three wins following the Arizona Tour for Northern SportMods in 2017 and 2018.
Justen Yeager’s career third IMCA Sunoco Stock Car feature win paid $1,000 and made him B & B Racing Chassis All-Star Invitational qualifying eligible, while Cody Williams got the better of youngster Payce Herrera for his third Winter Nationals IMCA Sunoco Hobby Stock victory of 2024.
“I was fortunate to find the sweet spot early,” said Yeager, who made his way to the lead early in a Kevin Wright-owned ride and then stayed in front the rest of the way in a 25-lap contest slowed by just one yellow.
“It was a good race,” continued the Green River, Wy., veteran, a 162-time winner over the course of his IMCA Modified career. “Stock Cars are definitely easier for me to drive and you’re always battling side-by-side with two or three other cars. This class has been really fun for me.”
Multi-division stars Chaz Baca and Justen Yeager completed the top three.
Kansas speedster Williams saw his mulligan draw pay off, giving up a pole start for his heat race and pulling the “’lucky’ pill for the last-place starting spot. The passing points he’d then earn for winning the heat paid off with the pole for the main event.
Williams had won opening and second night features and had to get the lead back from hard charger Herrera, a plus 12 on the night, for his third win of 2024 and career 67th in the class.
“I was able to pass him (Herrera) on a restart with two laps to go. The kid is going to be a good shoe,” he said. “The competition is tough down here so we’ve had a really good start to our season.”
Former national champion Dillon Richards was third.
Tyler Bannister went back-to-back in the Friesen Performance IMCA Northern SportMods, with Nathan Speten and Jan. 4 and 5 winner Miles Morris next across the stripe.
And Chase Martin topped the Mach-1 IMCA Sport Compacts, ahead of Jan. 5 and 6 winner Oliver Monson and Billy Foultz.
Title sponsor IMCA.TV broadcasts night six of Winter Nationals on Thursday with all five IMCA divisions on the card.