Like many of the young guns in the Mod Lites series the past couple of years, Kaden Cochrun often ran well but came up short of rolling into Victory Lane.
That’s because his mentor Zack Forster, the man behind getting the division off the ground at Bakersfield Speedway, was giving hard lessons: Forster was the rabbit and trying to beat him to the checkered flag proved to be a futile effort.
Forster, who houses around 11 of the cars in a shop behind his house, started this year with three-straight wins before deciding to leave the arena.
“We were all getting real close to him, second, third and fourth,” Cochrun said. “Then he told us he isn’t going to run any more at Bakersfield. That he was going to let us have at it.
“Instantly, I thought I could knock a couple (of wins) off and the first race I went there and won. That was pretty cool,” Cochrun, 15, said. “J.D. (Brown) won the next one and the last one I got again. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever won two races in a season at Bakersfield Speedway.”
Cochrun will be trying to make it three wins tonight as Mod Lites, IMCA Modifieds, Western Racesaver Sprints and Mini Dwarfs are in action starting at 7 p.m.
The growth in the Mod Lites divisions has stagnated and after hearing some criticism that his winning was the reason, Forster decided to step away.
“I heard people weren’t buying cars cause they could not beat me,” Forster said. “It kind of hurt my feelings a little. If I put a helmet on I’m just not going to let somebody win.”
But Forster, who is running for national points on the Mod Lites circuit this year, saw the plusses if he quit racing on a consistent basis at the Speedway.
“I figured I’d just help (the other drivers) and see if the program will build more with me stepping away from driving and doing more promoting. I’ve already got some sponsors and we’re going to be running both nights of the Bud Nationals (in October) for $1,000 to win both nights. That’s big money for us and I’m expecting a lot of cars.”
From his viewpoint, even while not winning, Cochrun said he was developing as a driver and acquiring the tools to win.
Forster has a basic setup on cars in his shop and he allows drivers to tinker with them and find out what works for them. After a couple of years learning with the basic setup, Cochrun wanted to find something he thought would fit him better.
“My dad (Kenny) and I spent a lot of time (in the offseason) working on the car and changed a lot of things,” he said. “We bounced ideas off each other and got the car to where I like it and where I can just drive (into the corners) pretty hard this year.
“It got my confidence up and confidence is everything in any race car you get into. You know what the car is going to do. You don’t have to think about it.”
Like many of today’s drivers in various divisions, Cochrun got his start in Mini Dwarfs, which he said was valuable experience.
“You just mainly learn how to drive on dirt,” he said of his Mini Dwarf years from age 7-12. “Those little Honda engines make so much power and the cars are so light they teach you throttle control and car control."
And those are two key factors in the Mod Lites.
“These cars have so much power and are so light,” Cochrun said. “Throttle control and car control is everything.”
While he misses racing against those he’s taught, Forster says he’s glad to see them battling for wins amongst themselves.
“I’ve told them to enjoy it and have fun,” he said. “I think it helps their confidence a lot to win.”