Cooper Hicks has found his stride in 2023, his third season in Teen Mazda Challenge. Coming into Buttonwillow in June, Hicks had won nine of 10 races during a hugely successful season in Spec Miata.

Hicks continued his winning ways at the NASA SoCal Buttonwillow in June. After snaring pole position on Saturday, Hicks took the early lead on Saturday’s first race, with Rob Burgoon hot on his tail. Burgoon dropped out on the first lap because his hood popped open.

Storey advanced to second place with Christian Hoagland in third and Daniel Verity in fourth. As the race  continued, Hicks began to build his lead over Storey, and went on to take the win.

“It went pretty well. I kind of pulled out to a pretty big gap, and was maintaining that for the whole race,” Hicks said. “I got into lapped traffic pretty early on, but other than that it was just a smooth race.”

Teen Mazda Challenge driver Cooper Hicks leads the field on his way to the win on Saturday at Buttonwillow.

After some engine problems during qualifying, Storey advanced from her fifth-place start, then held her own behind Hicks for second place, as the battle for third began to take shape.

“I gained a spot on the start and then just put my head down and kept making up places,” Storey said. “There was some lapped traffic that caused me to lose a place somewhere around the middle of the race, but I got it back and then just slowly caught up to Cooper.”

Just behind Storey, Hoagland and Verity were running tight, with Hoagland looking a little loose. In the end, Verity was able to get around Hoagland to finish in third.

“I saw the driver in front of me was struggling a little bit with the grip, so I figured if I stayed consistent and on my points, I would be able to get by him, assuming he would make a mistake, of course,” Verity said. “And so, I was able to get by him, so I got third.”

Daniel Verity waited for a mistake ahead of him, and then pounced to get third place on Saturday.

The Teen Mazda Challenge podium was Hicks in first, Storey in second and Joey Andrews in third.

Hicks’ fast lap earned him pole position for Sunday’s qualifying race, but Rob Burgoon got around him to take the win. Burgoon was followed by Hicks in second and Storey in third, the top three for Sunday’s main.

Burgoon took the green and led the field for a lap or two until a mistake in the Sunset turn. Hicks got around him to take the lead with Storey in second, and then Storey took the lead. Burgoon caught them and tried to make a move in Riverside, a long 90-plus-mph turn, which turned into a four-off and the loss of a few positions.

There was still a fair amount of time left in the race. Storey and Hicks swapped positions a time or two, but when the checkered flag flew, it was Storey up front, taking the first Spec Miata win of her career since coming out of karting.

“I think Cooper had passed me once or twice throughout the race, but I tried to stay ahead as much as I could, Storey said. “The car felt really good, so it wasn’t terrible. I mean, it was cutting out a little bit though. There’s certain spots where I’d be on the throttle and it cut out, but besides that, it felt really good.”

Hicks finished second just .315 seconds behind Storey.

“Sophia and I started battling, and then Rob went off track in our battle trying to stay around on the outside of Riverside,” Hicks said. “So from that, Sophia pulled away a little bit, and then lapped traffic kind of brought her back to me. From there till the end of the race, it was a lot of fun. It was really close.”

After starting from sixth, KC Cook battled his way forward to vie for the  third spot on the podium. It ended up being another exciting finish, with Burgoon, Cook and Verity all within spitting distance for the last three or four corners.

“Sure enough on the white flag lap, we’re coming up to a 944 into Phil Hill, and coming out of Phil Hill we all get a good run,” Cook said. “We’re all nose to tail, bumper to bumper going underneath the 944. So we’re all shallow going into Star Mazda. And we all over-brake and we all get into the back of each other. And now we’re like two, three wide coming out of Star Mazda. We fall into single-file line, Rob’s in third, I’m in fourth, Daniel’s in fifth. I got a good draft on Rob, cut in from behind him, coming out of the final left leading up to the final corner. I got on the inside, held him out there, and was able to take third from the last corner to Start/ Finish line.”

In Teen Mazda Challenge, it was Storey with her first TMC win, with Hicks in second and Andrews in third.

No. 23 KC Cook made a last-lap, last-corner pass to take third place on Sunday in Spec Miata.



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