They can't say he didn't give them advance warning of his intentions..

A little under five months ago, Bobby Cottrell, driver of Bucky Austin's AA/FC, stood in the winner's circle and answered questions about his dominating California Hot Rod Reunion victory at the Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Ca.

"We’re just going to start off strong and go from there," Cottrell said of the 2018 season.

Starting off strong was epitomized with a No. 1 qualifying effort and the Funny Car title at the Good Vibrations 60th Bakersfield March Meet. 

Cottrell defeated defending series champion Ryan Hodgson to capture the event title. 

"It worked out for the best," Cottrell said.  "It got real cold real quick, so we backed the car off, and our main goal was to get from A to B. I’ll tell you what man, Bucky had this thing, it was like a bracket car. I couldn’t have asked for a better car. He made my job look a lot easier."

Cottrell stopped Brad Thompson, Shane Bowen and Steven Densham to reach the final. With elapsed times ranging from a 5.58 to a 5.62 on a track which lost temperature as the day went along.  Running on the ragged edge can be tricky, but Cottrell and Austin made it look like no big deal at all. 

"Coming into the final obviously we were kind of worried about [the track temperature]," Cottrell explained. "I tried not to worry about it at all because my main goal is to drive the car to the best of my ability, and if I was worried about stuff, I couldn’t do that. I had all the faith in the world in Bucky. He did the absolutely right calls for the conditions, and it worked out for the best. I’m so happy for him, the team, just all of us. It’s like a dream come true."

Cotrell pulled double duty last season driving not only the Funny Car but also running 7.0 Pro where he clinched the 2017 series championship. He's chosen to focus solely on the Funny car this season. He's very much capable of doing both, but he's making a statement with his actions. 

"I was doing both cars last year, and I actually work on the car, so it’s a little bit hard to kind of go back and forth," Cottrell explained.  "So I’m going to stick with Bucky this year and see what happens." 

"I did both last year because we, I started mid-year, so I didn’t want to leave my other crew hanging. You know, I don’t like sitting around. I would much rather drive two cars, but I want Bucky to know I’m in this thing one hundred percent." 

Cottrell is no different than many of his peers whose ultimate dream is to one day to play on the big stage of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. 

"My ultimate goal is to drive big show and be a paid driver," Cottrell said. "But you’ve got to bring a bunch of money, and that’s the one thing I don’t have. I’m just having a really good time with Bucky and Mike and everybody in this crew. So I’m just trying to enjoy the moment."

The best part of the team, Cottrell is those surrounding him. 

"I’m around Mike O’Brien and Bucky [Austin] and, [Steve] Plueger’s here, just I have a great crew," Cottrell said. "I wanted to drive for this team for a long time. Obviously, I’m here, and I just try to sit back sometimes and enjoy the moment." 

Cottrell understands there was a large contingent of drivers seeking his ride, but he feels he brings a value to the team. 

"I work on cars, and I build cars for a living, so I think the one thing that I bring is feedback," Cotrell said. "I think I do a pretty good job of giving them feedback and in turn, we can turn the car around and put a better tune up on it every pass. Thank God last year every round we actually improved

"I do the right cylinder head so me and Mike O’Brien, we work really good together and I enjoy that. I’m just trying to do the best job I can and not get fired." 

Cottrell might be a bit of a Cole Trickle, the fictional natural NASCAR driver in the movie "Days of Thunder."

Trickle's most memorable line, "They told me to get in the car, and drive, and I drove."

Cottrell has the ability to be that kind of seat of the pants driver.  

"I think that’s what attracted me to Bucky so much is he knew I could kind of hold my own when it comes to that," Cottrell revealed. "I’m just trying to do the best job I can for him every round and see what happens."  

In the end, the plan came together. 

"That was our main goal is to start off where we ended and hopefully continue this deal all year round and get the championship at the end of the year," Cottrell said. "We’re just going to take it race by race and round by round just like we always do. So, just not trying to get ahead of ourselves."