The track at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park, while not the most dramatic on the schedule, has always been a challenge to the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series competitors. Add in racing after dark under the lights, and it was sure to be eventful. As it turned out, eventful was an understatement.
Friday night’s wild action began with sports action star and rally ace Travis Pastrana going for a tumble that left him with some broken bones and a concussion, and ended with one of the most spectacular and frightening accidents the series has seen, with possibly the best possible outcome for the involved driver.
That incident ruined what was shaping up to be a spectacular run to the finish in Pro 4 on Friday night. Eric Barron had jumped out to the lead in his Toyota, pursued first by Round 2 winner Ricky Johnson then by Kyle LeDuc. LeDuc reeled in Barron and started to challenge as the laps counted down. LeDuc pulled inside Barron exiting the last turn and the pair went side by side over the first jump on the front straight. Barron went up onto the berm on the outside of the track, hit the K-Rail that protects the flag stand and start/finish bridge and went for a ride. He tumbled end over end then barrel rolled up and over the second jump. When the truck finally came to rest, it burst into flames.
Barron scrambled out of the burning truck a little dazed. He was transported to the hospital, but came back to the track with only a broken finger. The truck, though, was not repairable in the time the team had. Fortunately, Jerry Daugherty stepped up and loaned Barron his spare truck for Saturday night’s races. Kyle LeDuc, however, who had motored to the win once Friday night’s race restarted, was untouchable in his Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford on Saturday night, taking a double victory in Lake Elsinore to go with his win in Round 1.
Chad George was the other double winner, taking both Pro Buggy victories. Both times he had to get by Dave Mason Jr. to claim the wins in his Mickey Thompson/Redline performance Funco. On Friday night, it was fairly straightforward as he passed Mason Jr, who would soon fall down the order with a flat tire, a few laps from the end. Saturday, he had to work his way from third. Mason had bad luck again after getting passed by George, this time a broken suspension, but he managed to hold on for second.
Both Pro Lite races were tales of domination from flag to flag. On Friday night, it was Bradley Morris who started his K&N/Kicker Ford up front and was never headed. On Saturday it was Brian Deegan’s turn to score another Pro Lite victory to go with the one he took at Wild Horse pass in Round 1. Behind him, though, it was a wild fight between Morris, Sheldon Creed and RJ Anderson. Morris finished second to wrap up a good weekend in Pro Lite, while Anderson was third – on the track. Post-race, he was handed a penalty for rough driving, giving the position to Creed. The podium finish was Creed’s fourth in as many races in 2014.
It was the Pro 2 race on Friday night that started the eventful evening. With the usual cadre of players, plus guest appearances by Pastrana in a Menzies machine and Tanner Foust in Rob MacCachren’s spare truck, it was a packed track. Pastrana’s was the first incident of the evening, as he dipped his nose too low off the first jump and rolled hard. A red flag and full restart ensued, whereby Deegan and his Rockstar/Makita Ford got the jump on polesitter Carl Renezeder. Foust was the next incident, as he rolled in Turn 1.
Shortly after racing resumed, Jeff Seifert rolled off the big tabletop, marking the third truck to tumble in the race. Patrick Clark was the fourth, although his was a slow tip. That set up a green-white-checker finish that Deegan was probably none too happy to see. Robby Woods moved impressively at the restart, passing Renezeder and mounting a challenge to Deegan. Woods pulled alongside in Turn 1, but it was as close as he would get to the lead, and Deegan held on for the victory.
Deegan jumped out to the lead again on Saturday night. The race again featured plenty of yellow flags – and one red – although for less dramatic incidents than the previous evening’s. But the frequent cautions made it hard for Deegan to get away, and Bryce Menzies’ Red Bull/GoPro Ford was there to challenge him during the fourth restart. He got by Deegan headed into Turn 2, but then Deegan made it back by in Turn 3. The next lap, Menzies attacked in Turn 1 and held the lead, taking his second win of 2014. Deegan finished second to hold on to his championship lead.
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series next heads to Wild West Motorsports Park in the Reno/Sparks, Nev., area for the first of two rounds at the dramatic track. Rounds 5 and 6 will be held under the lights on Friday and Saturday, May 30-31.
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series
Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park
Lake Elsinore, Calif., April 25-26
Round 3 Winners
Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2: Brian Deegan
Pro Lite: Bradley Morris
Pro Buggy: Chad George
Mod Kart: Travis PeCoy
Round 4 Winners
Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2: Bryce Menzies
Pro Lite: Brian Deegan
Pro Buggy: Chad George
Mod Kart: Brock Heger
Junior 2 Kart: Dylan Plemons
Junior 1 Kart: Ricky Gutierrez