By Larry Ott
Jesse Cotriss has a bit of a dilemma this season, but it’s one every driver would love. Cotriss is set Friday evening to begin his title defense of the DIRT.car Sportsman season point championship at Ransomville Speedway.
His success at the Niagara County dirt oval last season, however, extended well beyond his championship laurels. In 2013, he also was named the Ransomville Speedway Driver of the Year, the Ransomville Speedway Most Popular DIRT.car Sportsman Driver and the Friends of Auto Racing (FOAR Score) Fan Club Driver of the Year.
For good measure the Medina driver also won two of the three-race Ransomville VP Sportsman Series events and captured the checkered flag when the traveling Sportsman Super DIRT.car Series made it’s annual stop at the track in September at Ransomville. Then came a big moment in his personal life – the birth of his first child, son Jax, on Dec. 14.
So what’s Cotriss’ dilemma?
“How can I possibly do anything to top what I accomplished last season at Ransomville?” he asked. “I don’t know what to expect this year, but surely winning the Sportsman championship again at Ransomville would be a major deal.”
Cotriss will again pilot his familiar Bicknell chassis No. 55C machine, which he co-owns for the third straight season with Roy Fearby.
Cotriss, 35, began his DIRT.car Sportsman career at Ransomville in 2007 after cutting his racing teeth at age 16 in motorcycles and Street Stock cars. In 2007 he hooked up with car owners Buzzie and Sharon Livermore to begin his DIRT.car Sportsman career. He has won many feature races and finished second in Ransomville DIRT.car Sportsman points in 2012.
“I enjoyed driving for Buzzie and Sharon, but three years ago they retired and now spend much of the year in the winter in Florida and wanted to get away from race car ownership,” said Cotriss. “They still have their race shop, and they let Roy and I keep and work on the car there. When the Livermores come back from Florida, they do still come to Ransomville and help out with the team. Soon Roy and I will have our own shop.”
Last season, Cotriss was involved in an intense three-way season-long joust for the Ransomville title, which also involved Don Spatorico, who had won several championships, and the young and talented James Michael Friesen.
Cotriss won the Ransomville championship with 772 points. Friesen was next with 757, followed by Spatorico with 752. Friesen had four point race wins on the season, while Cotriss and Spatorico enjoyed two wins each.
“It got really dicey and I remember that James Michael won four times last season and I won twice, but I was able to be consistent enough that when the final point race of the season arrived I had enough of a points lead over those two that I only had to take the green flag and the title was mine,” said Cotriss.
“For the last few years, I’ve chased Don for the title and I couldn’t beat him for it, so last year when I finally came out on top, it meant a lot more because of the strong competition in the Sportsman division.”
Cotriss received an extra thrill when he got to compete in Ransomville’s top headlining DIRT.car 358 Modified class for an evening of competition courtesy of the Joy family.
“When Nick Joy was out of town, his father Scott Joy asked me if I wanted to drive their Modified for that night,” said Cotriss. “I liked it and I learned that the Modified drivers are so good that if you make the slightest error they will quickly capitalize on it.
“As it was double feature night that night, I got to run two Modified and two Sportsman races that night, so it was very busy.
“I want to move up to the Modifieds, but it’s not possible financially right now. I can afford the Sportsman because my crate engine cost just $3,200.”
Cotriss was hoping to capture his third consecutive pole for Friday’s opening feature, but that opportunity was lost when rain washed out the April 25 time trial. Friday’s feature lineup therefore will be based on the heat races that will be run just prior to the feature race.
Sponsorship for the Cotriss-Fearby team is provided by Sandbox Union Advertising, Fearby Auto, Jay’s Auto, Rotten Ink Tattoos, HFI and All Metal Works. The crew is comprised of Roy Fearby, Ernie Stahl, Ken Hammond, Derek Wagner and Scott Oosterling. Team public relations and marketing specialists are Chris Cotriss and Jeremy Carr. “We’ll do our best this season and perhaps we can get the championship again,” said Cotriss. “Either way, I have fun racing and perhaps one day down the road I can look forward to getting my son Jax into a racing Go-Kart. As long as I’m still racing and having fun, that’s the main thing.”
• Elegant Builders Raceway Park in Lancaster will hold a stock car practice day from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, with safety inspections beginning at 11 a.m. The TQ Midgets have been added to the weekly stock car programs on three occasions this season, May 10, May 17 and September’s U.S. Open. The IHRA weekly drag racing points season begins at 7 p.m. Friday.
• Holland Motorsports Complex will host its annual McKinley Mall stock car show May 3-10. Holland will host three preseason practice sessions in advance of the May 24 season opener. Practices are May 15 and May 22, 6 p.m.-dusk and May 17, noon-4 p.m.
• Wyoming County International Speedway will host practice sessions from noon-5 p.m. on May 10 and May 17 and from 5 p.m. to dusk on May 21. The season opener set for 7 p.m. May 24.
• Veteran drag racer Mike Janis of Lancaster continues to make national news. This past weekend he won the Pro Mod class eliminations of the National Hot Rod Association’s 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals in Baytown, Texas, near Houston.