By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Bobby Thomas
FLOWER MOUND, Texas — Each time we've taken a closer look at the premier Modified division at tracks all over Texas, we've heard about complicated chassis setups and a high level of competition. So how, you may ask, can any driver dominate the class at any one track and win more than a few times?
For 39-year-old short track veteran Sam Cox, the answer is easy. It just takes the right car, the right people working on it and plenty of power under the hood to put it all together. Cox won seven times in 12 starts and has locked up the USRA Modified title at Monarch Motor Speedway with one race to go.
“We had a really good year at Monarch, things went our way for a change,” Cox said. “I had only raced there once or twice before this season. I don't usually race for points, but changes in my work schedule and family vacations allowed us to race every event.
“I think that track fits my driving style, mainly. We've also done a lot of homework in the shop. It's mainly just me and my Dad in there, he and I have always done this together. We brought in Jeff Cox (no relation) to help us out, he's sharp and has been around racing a long time.”
With father and son adding a veteran wrench to the mix, solid results came early in 2020.
“Jeff and I work really well together,” Cox added. “We've studied a lot of things and have finally got our program to where it needs to be. We had struggled the last four or five years in quite a dry spell. It had us beat down, I won't lie. But we're not quitters, so we kept at it and this year it all came together.”
Cox got a later start in racing than most of his rivals, but honed his skills wisely.
“As I was growing up, my Dad raced in the Mini Stock and Hot Stock classes at the local track,” Cox said as his family pride stated to show. “I was only four when he started, but never raced myself until I turned 16. There weren't many kids racing back then like there is today. I started out in the Hot Stock division.”
It didn't take long for the teenager with talent and racing in his blood to have the torch handed his way.
“Dad had a nice old Camaro for the Hot Stock class, and once he stopped driving I took over the wheel,” Cox explained. “He offered to pay for my racing as long as I continued to do well in school. I ran that class for three or four years, then we bought a Modified from a good friend of ours in 2001.”
From there on out, Cox honed his skills in the top open-wheel division, against some stiff competition.
“I started running some Outlaw stuff, like the UMP series, and have been racing Modifieds ever since. I broke my back in a non-racing related incident, so I was out of the sport for the 2008 season. I came back in 2009 and started racing in the IMCA Modifieds. We went back to Outlaw stuff in 2015.”
To be that good in such a high-level division requires good equipment. Cox has a fairly new chassis and says there's a reason he chose that brand. He also says he's more than thrilled with his engines.
“We run an IRP chassis my Dad bought from Jason Ingalls about three years ago,” Cox explained. “This is my third season with it, and now we finally have it figured out. We chose to go with IRP for two reasons, the state-of-the-art design and guidance after the sale. Jason has been very good to us. It was a toss-up when we were shopping for a car. I had driven a Smiley's car, and also a Shaw car.
“We chose IRP because they are a little closer to us, and everybody we know had good things to say about Jason. When any team is choosing a brand of chassis, they go with who can support them as they get it dialed in. Jason always answers our calls and is super helpful. We've had no regrets at all.”
When it comes to power, Cox also said his choice was clear after years of struggling with engines.
“During that five-year dry spell we had, there were a lot of engine troubles,” he explained. “We ended up going with Wells Racing Engines, and they've done our motors the last three years. So far, they have been bulletproof. I've beat the heck out of them and haven't had any issues. Dennis Wells is excellent.”
While car counts may not have been super high this year at Monarch, those who are there come to win.
“It's always nice when you pull in at Monarch and see guys like Kale Westover there,” Cox said. “You know he'll be tough, and there are other fast guys, as well. The setups on these things today are just so technical; everything has to be just right or you're out to lunch. Those guys will eat you up in a flash.”
Along with that great combination of IRP chassis and Wells power, Cox also has some key people who work hard behind the scenes to keep his racing program moving forward.
“I have to thank my parents, Dwight and Connie Cox, for all they do for me,” Cox said. “I also need to thank Jeff Cox, my wife Kimberly, and my kids, Peyton and Rylie. I couldn't do this without them all.”
We all know it takes more than good people to be successful in short track racing, it also takes money. Cox has some excellent partners supporting his efforts, and he's given them a solid return in 2020.
“I am blessed to have some great companies on board this race team,” Cox explained. “I want to thank Cox Custom Remodeling, Advance Auto Parts, Platinum SLV, B&C Gear and Machine, Wells Racing Engines, MoBags Suspension Technology, Abilene Powdering Coating, IRP Race Cars, Best Deal Services, Eddie Montgomery Master Repair, Allstar Signs by Wesley, Neuline, BSB Manufacturing and Wehrs Machine. We could not compete at this level without their support, and I truly appreciate them.”
As the 2020 season quickly draws to a close, Cox says he may or may not run the final points race. With his title locked up (he leads Brandon Pinson by 120 pts.), he may opt to attend a birthday party.
“I have my father-in-law's birthday the same time as that finale, so depending on weather conditions and such I might not make that one. We usually gather our whole family together, but they also know sometimes racing gets in the way. We'll make that decision at the date gets closer.
“There's a couple of TOMS series events coming up I may run, including one this weekend and one at Southern Oklahoma Speedway at the end of next month. After that, we'll call it a year and get ready for 2021. As of right now, we'll be back at Monarch to defend our title. We really had a dream season there.”