Late last season Jesse Cotriss was in pursuit of his second straight DIRT.car Sportsman season point championship at Ransomville Speedway.
Fresh off his successful 2013 Ransomville DIRT.car Sportsman title run, the first championship of his Ransomville career, Cotriss appeared poised to add another championship trophy to his collection.
However, last year’s title fell from his grasp in the final laps of the season.
The Medina driver came into the Ransomville point finale with an 11-point lead over Greg Martin and a 19-point edge on James Michael Friesen. If Martin won the race, Cotriss needed just a fourth-place finish or better to secure the title. A cruel fate would betray Cotriss in the waning laps.
Martin and Friesen were battling for the race win, with Cotriss cruising behind them comfortably in fourth. Then it happened.
Cotriss suffered a flat left rear tire just past the midway point of the race and had to go to the pits. He returned to the fray to place 13th. Friesen went on to win the race and Martin placed second. The results derailed the Cotriss championship bid and Martin walked away with a well-earned title in the season’s 11th hour.
“I thought I had it,” Cotriss said. “I was running fourth and I knew that James Michael and Greg were battling for the lead in front of me. All I had to do was avoid trouble in the last few laps and take the checkered flag and start to celebrate. It didn’t turn out that way.”
Martin grabbed the title with 823 points, followed by Friesen with 819 and Cotriss with 810.
A year earlier, all Cotriss had to do the final night was take the green flag to start the race to clinch the title, which he did.
As Ransomville prepares for the extra distance DIRT.car Sportsman 30 on Friday, Cotriss is once again enjoying a banner season, leading the DIRT.car point parade with 365, followed by Friesen with 344 and Martin at 334. Cotriss has finished in the top five in six of Ransomville’s first seven races. Cotriss also has scored a pair of Ransomville wins, on May 22 and 29. He placed second on May 1, 8 and June 26, and was fourth on June 5.
Cotriss was involved in an accident and placed 16th when Martin spun in front of him on June 19. Cotriss said the accident did $1,200 worth of damage to his car.
Cotriss came out of the gate strong this season, determined to get another Ransomville point crown in the car he co-owns with Roy Fearby. Sponsorship is provided by Investor’s Service/All-Metal Works/Hydro Fabrication Inc.
“I think that our success so far this season is because we have used a lot of our setup stuff that we’ve used in the past and we’ve put that into our new 2015 Bicknell car,” Cotriss said. “As the season has gone on, we have adjusted our baseline setup a little bit from week to week.”
Cotriss knows that things will get tougher at Ransomville the remainder of the season.
“Because I am the point leader we will be starting each feature race each week from about mid-pack due to Ransomville’s handicapping rules,” he said. “That’s OK. I’m used to dealing with that. It will be much tougher to get into the top five from there but hopefully we can get there and be a point contender all season long.”
Change of hands
Sunoco Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour owner/director Andrew Harpell is selling the franchise to Lancaster native Joe Skotnicki. Skotnicki is vice president of strategy and operations for Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway.
The sale, effective Jan. 1, includes both the ROC Asphalt Modified and ROC Dirt Modified tours plus the annual Sunoco Race of Champions Modified 200 asphalt event, held each September at Oswego Speedway.
“We are both excited to move forward,” Harpell said. “This will provide me time to do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do and it gives the series new energy that I want it to have. I’m confident in what Joe and I have put together moving forward and will certainly assist in any way moving forward.”
The Race of Champions Asphalt Tour will next appear in this area July 11 for the Holland 100 at Holland Motorsports Complex. Harpell says he will focus on the operation of his family-owned dirt track, Five Mile Point Speedway in Kirkwood.
Skotnicki, a veteran of nearly 25 years of motorsport management with various racing organizations, will continue his duties at Lancaster.
“Andrew Harpell has done a great job for the sport of Modified racing and never truly received the recognition he deserves,” Skotnicki said. “This is not an easy decision on either part. There is much more involved than anyone truly recognizes but Andrew and I were able to work through the important items and bring this together. Our intent is that we continue the success that Andrew has established and build upon it for the future.”