Stories

Portis driver makes his mark

BOONE, Iowa -- Competing in the 31st annual IMCA Super Nationals can be a daunting task, especially for a rookie.

But Travis Coop wasn't fazed in the least. In fact, the hobby stock driver from the small town of Portis has been mixing it up with some of the best drivers in the nation -- and holding his own.

While Coop failed to make Saturday night's big show through the first two days, he wasn't about to let that spoil his week. He won his heat race late Tuesday, advancing to the night's A-main. He started 13th and finished 28th. Only the top eight advanced to Saturday night's feature.

"This is awesome, and there's some stiff competition," Coop said. "I'm running with the best of the best in the country. And, you know, I'm not quite up front with them, but I'm hanging with them. So I'm competitive, and I'm happy about that."

Coop finished fourth in his Race of Champions heat Tuesday, two spots shy of making the ROC race Saturday. A day earlier, he finished one spot shy of qualifying for a hobby stock qualifier for Saturday's main event.

What makes Coop's performance this week more impressive is he's the only hobby stock driver from Kansas competing in Boone. And he's never raced before this year -- unless you count chasing coyotes racing.

"I couldn't believe it," Coop said. "When I pulled into tech (Monday), they told me I was the only hobby stock here from Kansas. I'm trying to help the Sunflower State out here. We're trying our best."

Coop was runner-up to Garrett Hager of Hays for the track title at Elmwood Park Speedway in Norton this year.

No track in northwest Kansas was racing this weekend, so Coop headed northeast to Iowa on a whim.

"We thought, 'Why not?' " Coop said. "We weren't running anywhere around home this week, so let's go up and see if we can get in the big dance."

While most of his friends and family are several hours away, they're still keeping tabs on his progress at the annual event.

"I've got people back home calling, too, congratulating me and watching on the Internet," he said. "And I got to lead a few laps (Monday) night in the B feature. That was fun to get up front and lead a little bit."

* NICK SCHWIEN, HDN