Two drivers opened their defense of their Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series championships in the best possible way, with victories. But in both cases, newcomers nearly stole the show. In the first round of races at Wild Horse Motorsports Park – formerly Firebird Raceway – in Chandler, Ariz., both Pro 2 champ Rob MacCachren and Pro Lite titlist Brian Deegan celebrated wins.
Deegan looked solid at the beginning of the Pro 2 race, as well, which opened the pro classes for the day. He jumped out into the lead from pole, but by the end of the first lap was well down the order. He got a bit sideways, and appeared to be helped completely around by Bryce Menzies. Menzies, not exactly a newcomer but back in the series full time after a some time away, – then took over the lead and appeared in control.
MacCachren was in fourth, with Greg Adler and Carl Renezeder in between he and Menzies. MacCachren worked his way up with some aggressive moves, then Adler got into an indecisive Renezeder at the entry to the split section at Turn 4 and put Renezeder sideways. It was down to Menzies and MacCachren, and while MacCachren went deeper into the turns, Menzies squirted out faster. It was enough to hold MacCachren off, until Menzies parked his truck on the exit of Turn 1 with suspension damage, leaving MacCachren to take the win in his Rockstar/Makita Ford. Deegan had worked his way back up from eighth to finish second.
“It kind of sets the tone for the season,” said MacCachren.” It lets everybody get on a high from winning. Last year, we didn’t do so good our first weekend. We still won the championship, but it’s definitely good to start on a high note. The guys worked really hard during the off-season, as everybody did. It’s very competitive in Lucas Oil. We’ve added a couple of guys this season. The classes aren’t as big as they used to be, but they’re getting more competitive. You’ve got to work your butts off and test and work on your reliability and consistency.”
After the Pro Buggy race, Deegan was back out and on pole once again for Pro Lite. This time, he jumped out into a lead he would never relinquish. Right behind him, though, was Pro Lite rookie and Mod Kart champ Myles Cheek. Cheek followed Deegan for the first half of the race, finally going into attack mode in the latter half. Just as he did, a yellow flag slowed the field – and Deegan slowed faster than Cheek, so Cheek got into him, making his truck a bit uglier than it had been, but doing no substantial damage to either.
Cheek continued to hound Deegan’s Rockstar/Makita Ford after the restart, but made no real progress. In the meantime, RJ Anderson, sticking with Pro Lite in addition to his new Pro 2 effort, worked his way past Sheldon Creed, but it didn’t last and Creed ended up third.
While the defending champs in Pro 2 and Pro Lite emerged victorious on Saturday, they had no such luck on Sunday. In Pro 2, Menzies ended up out front again – after switching to a backup truck because of the suspension damage – and obviously had no interest in a repeat of Saturday. He was followed by Deegan and MacCachren. Menzies cruised to victory in his Red Bull/KMC Wheels Ford, followed by Deegan for his second podium of the weekend, and the points lead. MacCachren had a brush with the wall and parked his truck a short time later, and Renezeder finished third.
Deegan started Pro Lite in seventh, but was dead last after a spin in Turn 2 on the opening lap. Sheldon Creed had started his Traxxas/Trench Shoring Dodge on pole, and despite the best efforts of Justin “Bean” Smith, would not be headed.
Attrition played a big part in both Pro 4 battles. On Saturday, Todd LeDuc started on pole, but slowed just past Turn 1, causing MacCachren to land on top of him… it was pure luck that kept him from rolling. Adler was left in front, and led until he bicycled in Turn 3, almost going over and coming to a stop. That left Kyle LeDuc in the lead, a familiar position for him. Eric Barron was in third, but came together with MacCachren, running second at the time, and took the position. He set out in pursuit of LeDuc to no avail, and the No. 99 Monster Energy truck came home in first.
Barron started the Sunday Pro 4 contest on the pole and leapt out front at the green. Behind him, Renezeder over-rotated, and Kyle LeDuc got caught up in Renezeder’s spin, injuring both trucks. The left MacCachren in immediate pursuit of Barron, followed by Ricky Johnson and Adler. MacCachren shot by Barron a few laps later as Barron headed for the pits. MacCachren looked to have the measure of Johnson until MacCachren, too, had a mechanical problem and pulled off after the final turn. Thus Ricky Johnson, in his first weekend back in the series after a three-year absence, took the victory in his Red Bull/KMC Wheels Ford and gave Menzies Motorsports the Sunday sweep.
Garrett and Chad George introduced a pair of new Funco Pro Buggies at Wild Horse Pass, and started them on the front row on Saturday. The pair kept them up front, with Garrett leading the way to the checker in his Anenberg/Mickey Thompson machine, his first in the series.
On Sunday, Chad led the first part of the race, but was passed early on by Bradley Morris in the Maxxis/K&N Alumi Craft. Morris led the way to the checkers.
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series resumes action on April 25-26 for Friday and Saturday night affair at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park in Southern California. For television information for the events, see www.lucasoiloffroad.com.
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, Round 1 Winners
Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Chandler, Ariz., March 22-23
Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2: Rob MacCachren
Pro Lite: Brian Deegan
Pro Buggy: Garrett George
Round 2 Winners
Pro 4: Ricky Johnson
Pro 2: Bryce Menzies
Pro Lite: Sheldon Creed
Pro Buggy: Bradley Morris