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TEARING UP THE WEST By Doug Kennedy • Photos by Melissa Coker FOR A GOOD CHUNK of the 2020 season, it looked like a 23-year-old from Arizona was in line to win the prestigious IMCA Modified National Title. In the end, when all the points were counted and races were won, Chaz Baca ended up finishing sixth while winning the IMCA West Region and the Arizona State IMCA Modified points. Baca was disappointed that he was not able to hold onto the lead and win the National IMCA title. Tom Berry ended up winning the title with Baca finishing 17 points behind. He has three primary reasons that he couldn’t hold onto the lead: “We start the season earlier and then other divisions like the Midwest start kicking in.” Berry was one of those drivers from the Midwest who had more wins than Chaz as well. “Not having as many wins hurt me,” Baca said. “And having a little bit of bad luck contributed, too.” “It would have been huge to win that title,” Baca said. But winning the West Region was very important for Chaz. “When you look at how many states are in the region, it’s definitely exciting to have
accomplished this.” The points are decided by taking the best 20 finishes out of the first 40 races run by the end of September. Baca got off to a quick start following tracks re-opening by winning seven of his first 22 starts. He won two races in the Arizona Dirt Track Tour that included besting Arizona’s state racing hero Ricky Thornton, Jr. Overall, he won a career best 16 features this past season, including five at Cocopah Speedway and four more at Battle Mountain Raceway, winning track titles at both. Baca also travelled to some other states and tracks that included New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas to make up for the loss of races due to the pandemic. In all, he raced at 13 different tracks. JUST 23 BUT A LOT OF LAPS Baca began his racing career when he was nine in a go-kart. Four years were spent on the dirt and one other year he raced his kart on the asphalt. During his four years racing dirt karts, he picked off two state championships and four track
DIRT EMPIRE MAGAZINE | FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021
championships for the Arizona Karting Association. In his only year racing asphalt karts, Chaz won the championship at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association. Once he completed that, Baca moved to mod-lites in 2011. At the time, he was just finishing up his asphalt kart days. Through those five seasons, the Mesa, Arizona resident captured the Arizona Mod Lite Association championship. “I won a lot of features except for the one season, we didn’t run for track championships,” Baca said. “I was just racing and having some fun.” Midway through 2014, Chaz began racing a modified. In 2014, he captured the Southwest Modified Rookie of the Year. The following year he won the Central Arizona Speedway championship and then in 2016, he captured the Southwest Modified championship and two track titles, one at Central Arizona Speedway and the other at Arizona Speedway. In 2017, he won the Canyon Speedway Park championship and then repeated at Canyon the following season as well as another at Arizona Speedway.