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Backseat Driver: Hard hit on wall sends TTS driver to hospital

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Posted: Monday, March 26, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 11:44 am, Mon Nov 5, 2012.

Crash!

You could hear the sickening sound of a metal race car making high-speed contact with concrete above screaming engine noise as the laps wound down in Saturday night's Texas Twister feature race at Texas Thunder Speedway.

To make matters worse, it was the race leader who went nose first into the turn four retaining wall.

James "Digger" Cochran, who has become a force to be reckoned with in the class, had his car in total command at the time, holding what looked like an easy cruise to the checkered flag, until disaster struck.

Safety personnel got the 15-year-old Harker Heights driver out and said on the radio he was lucid and responsive, but complaints of leg and neck pain hastened a trip to the hospital via Killeen Fire Department ambulance, where doctors found no problems, except for lower body black-and-blue bruising from his safety belts.

Digger dodged a bullet there, and after the red flag was lifted, track officials decided on a green-white-checker, two-lap finish, which wound up with Killeen's Gage Fuller in Victory Lane.

Who was it that said stock car racing and basketball are supposed to be non-contact sports?

Cochran's Crash was the only high drama of the night, unless you count a driver's 50th sanctioned IMCA win to be of "The Hunger Games" proportions.

In the IMCA Stock Car main, Richard Valentine of Harker Heights put his No. 96 out front early and had a three-length lead, but the field was bunched up after a caution to clear up a wreck between Peter Delavan and Michael Crandall. Valentine was leading after the restart, but the two guys you don't want to see on your rear bumper had worked their way forward.

Jason Batt and Eric Jones were relentlessly chasing down Valentine, when Batt made an inside move for the lead, but had to give it back when the yellow came out for an engine compartment fire on Crandall's car.

Valentine went back to the front on green, but Batt pulled ahead with one to go and put his Harker Heights-based Chevrolet in the Winner's Circle, giving the defending track champ his first victory of the year and No. 50 overall.

There was plenty of excitement left, since Salado driver G.W Egbert IV used a pretty exciting move to take over the lead on lap nine of the IMCA Modified feature.

Crawford driver Jimmy Helona led the first eight circuits, but was pressured hard by Pflugerville's Ben Ketteman and Taylor racer Hardy Henderson. In a gutsy move coming out of turn four, Egbert slid the 717 car between Helona and Ketteman with inches to spare on each side. The former national modified rookie of the year then had to hold off Charles Brewer of Abilene to pick up the win.

A few races earlier, Gatesville driver Sid Kiphen made his IMCA Southern SportMod win look almost easy. The national points leader was in charge from the git-go and only had to contend with one caution, when Bobby Sanford got tangled up with Kevin Green. No harm, no foul. Kiphen goes flag-to-flag and perches in Victory Lane.

It was nearly as easy for Killeen's Zach Riley in the IMCA Hobby Stock A-main. Riley had the 110 car out front for all but a few seconds, when Belton driver Charles Cosper pushed ahead by inches at one point. Riley was able to edge away and win it, despite a furious challenge from Cosper and Waco driver Andy Roller.

A rash of early caution flags slowed down progress in the Street Stock feature race, which eventually ran past its 30-minute time limit and caused officials to declare a green-white-checker ending. The early leader was Bertram's Brad Jordan, but he lost the lead on lap seven when Chris Florio of Copperas Cove passed and held on to win.

It was Florio's first win of the season and the Florio family's second trophy of the weekend, since daughter Taylor Florio was runner-up Friday in the Junior Mini Stocks at Heart of Texas Speedway in Elm Mott.

When the Outlaw Twisters came out, many eyes were on the 51 car of Kempner's Tommy Hultz after last week's fuel cell fire. Hultz didn't flare up this time, but his car did break down on turn one with two to go.

Killeen driver Brian Bagent became the first two-time winner of 2012 with his victory in the 45 car.

We had "The Fireman" by George Strait ready to play if Hultz had won, but with Bagent in Victory Lane, a quick change to his song "Secret Agent Man" had to be pulled off.

If nothing else, Hultz has a new nickname, bestowed by my announcing partner Sarge Masom. He will now and forever be known as "Hot Seat" Hultz.

This place is more fun than beating my mother-in-law at a game of Uno.

See ya at the track!

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