It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that Cooper Hicks is having something of a dream season. Having racked up nine wins in 10 races, Hicks has been the driver to beat in Spec Miata in and Teen Mazda Challenge in the NASA SoCal Region in 2023.

At last event this season at Willow Springs International Raceway, Hicks notched the top time in Saturday qualifying to secure pole position.

For the start on Saturday, a late green flag tripped up Hicks on the start and he was passed by Sophia Storey in Turn 1, but Hicks was able to get back around her on the first lap. The two diced for a bit, but Hicks finally established a healthy lead and took the win.

“I didn’t get the best start. She passed me on the start, then I got her going into Turn 3,” Hicks said. “But after that I just kind of stayed ahead, made sure I didn’t make any mistakes and then I kind of pulled a little gap and just maintained it for the rest of the race.”

Storey hung with Hicks for a bit, but she was having some mechanical troubles, and out-of-class traffic didn’t help her case.

“I stuck with him at the beginning and I was having a little bit of an overheating issue, so I was trying to manage that as well,” Story said. “It was one of those situations where it’s hard to judge whether or not you’re going to make it to the apex, to get by the slower car. So, you know, it was decent. I think at the end we were running like almost exactly the same time after lap after lap. So I’d gain a tenth and he’d gain a tenth, but there wasn’t much I could do about catching him.”

Saturday’s hardest charger was Christian Hoagland, who was relegated to starting from the rear of the field the entire weekend and was not allowed to pass until after Turn 1 on lap one. Hoagland had been signed off to race, but had not yet completed a competition school, thus the restrictions, which didn’t seem to hamper him from marching up through the field, finally passing Daniel Verity to finish third.

“He was kind of far away from me when I broke through the first pack, but thankfully the way everyone scattered out was pretty good,” Hoagland said. “He was far, but I kind of reeled him in after a little bit.”

The Teen Mazda Challenge podium was Hicks followed by Storey in second and Joey Andrews in third.

Sunday’s qualifying race grid spots are determined by the fastest lap in Saturday’s race. That put Storey on pole. She opted for the outside position to take advantage of the track layout and the entrance to Turn 2. The trick didn’t seem to matter to Hicks, who went on to take first in the qualifying race.

From pole, Hicks lost the lead, but got it back on lap two. Storey’s car was running better and Hicks’ was acting up. Hicks eventually went on to take the win, but Storey was on his bumper the whole time.

“It was a really fun race. I was struggling with the car a lot. I was fighting the car more than anything else,” Hicks said. “So, that was a struggle, but it was a really good race. It was challenging with her just breathing down my neck the whole time, so I was having to drive a little bit defensive at some points.”

In her second year of Spec Miata and Teen Mazda Challenge competition, Storey is inching closer to the front, but wasn’t quite able to keep Hicks behind her for long enough to bring home the win.

“I got out into the lead on the first lap. I stayed there until the front, straight on the second lap and then I just kind of stuck behind Cooper the whole time,” Storey said. “But withlike two laps to go, we ran into some lapped traffic and I kind of caught him in the middle of the corner and couldn’t tell if he was going to turn in on me or not. So I hesitated a little bit and threw it all away. I caught back up a decent amount, but not enough to pull off the win.”

Starting again from last, Hoagland clawed his way forward to finish third again, his second podium in his second race.

“Today was a lot different. Everyone was a little bit faster. It felt like temperatures are a little different, very squirrely out there. I had a couple people going off in front of me. It was pretty wild, I’m not going to lie,” Hoagland said. “Thankfully the car held up. New tires are awesome. I just lowered tire pressures a little. It felt better. I think it was temperature.”

The TMC podium was Hicks in first, Storey in second and Spencer Douglass in third in his first season of TMC racing.

“The race director told me beforehand I had to run two good, clean races and that’s what I set out to do,” Douglass said. “I had a really good lucky start where I was able to get behind Daniel Verity and follow him for most of the race. Christian started creeping up in front of him, so I took that opportunity to get behind Christian and kind of read both of them and followed both of them as best I could, and I just held consistent laps from there on out.”



Image courtesy of CaliPhoto


  1. So proud of Spencer Douglass! Junk yard motor and a unknowledgeable dad setup, He wheeled an imperfect car the best he could..

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