Incredible racing year for Bronson's Robbie Cooper

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By Claude Lewis

Three things have to come together for the chance to dominate in auto racing – excellent equipment, a crack crew and a fearless hotshoe.

Those three, plus the intangible called luck, can add up to a lot of checkered flags.

Ask Robbie Cooper, who won 15 races this year and captured three series points championships in asphalt Open Wheel Modifieds.

The 37-year-old out of Bronson has won at tracks across the state in his flashy red No. 98 car. This was only his second year driving Modifieds.

Cooper won the Gulf Coast Modifieds Series, the Extreme Modified Series and Ocala's Modified Series.

Cooper also captured a $10,000-to-win race at Auburndale and won at Speedweeks in New Smyrna.

There was a second to Wayne Jefferson in the Blue and Gray 200 at Ocala back in February.

Jefferson is also regarded as one of the top Open Wheel Modified drivers in the Sunshine State.

There was also a second in a big race at Inverness that boasted "one of the best fields I've ever raced in,"according to Cooper.

Looking back over the past couple of years, Cooper has incredibly won at almost every short track in Florida – Lakeland, Orlando, Inverness, DeSoto, Punta Gorda and Lake City also falling victim to the 98 car.

All told, Open Wheel Modifieds can be pricey, costing anywhere between $20,000-$40,000.

Cooper's Modified garage consists of three Jimmy Cope cars. Cope was a top Late Model driver in Florida in the '80s and '90s.

"Everyone thinks you're a big shot because you have three cars, but we could never put all three on the track at once,"Cooper said. "We have to borrow parts to make one of them go fast."

Cooper, who owns and operates Bronson Lube off U.S. 27, got hooked on Cope-built cars after buying a Sportsman after 2000.

"I started racing around five years ago at Bronson,"he said. "At first, I built my own car, but then I bought a Cope car and won 11 or 12 in a row."

Cooper paid his dues in his first year racing Modifieds, as he totaled out three cars–broken ribs and a broken sternum.

This year, it all fell into place.

Cooper credits his crew chief Tim "T-Nut" Hagan, Marco "Half"Bowers, Russ "Caveman"McSwain and Keith "Chip" Lilly.

"It's more them than me,"a modest Cooper said of his success.

Cooper's family is also into racing. Father Tom used to announce at local tracks. Brother Brent races Street Stocks. Wife Angela and daughter Kellie are big fans of the No. 98.

Cooper said there are a couple of big races still left this year –Dec. 8 at Inverness and Dec. 15 at Lakeland.

Cooper is unsure if he'll hit any of those, or what his plans are next year.

"I've already sold one car,"he said. "I may sell the other two and do Late Models. I don't know yet. Right now, I'm pretty burned out. During the racing season, we work 80 hours a week and then we work on the race cars. It was a busy year. I'm just trying to catch up at the shop now."

We're sure Cooper will get that racing itch before we get too deep into 2008.

His 2007 sponsors included Music Moose Audio, Flagship RVs, Simpson, Doughboy Signs, Cool Coatz Ceramic Coating and Jimmy Cope?s Race Cars.