Carl Renezeder and Kyle LeDuc are in a dead heat for the Pro 4 title heading into this weekend’s finale.
It’s every race series promoter’s dream: a tie in the championship points going into the final races. Sure, there have been some close ones; but not this close. Kyle LeDuc and Carl Renezeder go into Saturday’s final Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series points race at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park tied for the Pro 4 championship with 642 points apiece. Rob MacCachren, in third, is virtually shut out of adding the Pro 4 title to the Pro 2 title he already clinched.
Few watching the early part of the season would have believed it would have come to this. Renezeder was showing new form with BFGoodrich Tires on his Lucas Oil-sponsored truck, while LeDuc was struggling with mechanical issues, an unfamiliar position in the proven, Monster Energy/Toyo Tires liveried truck he named Steelo. It wasn’t until Round 5 in Ensenada that LeDuc scored his first victory of the season, and from that point forward he looked a lot like last year’s Kyle LeDuc, winning far more often than not. That, combined with some bad luck for Renezeder at Reno – including an impressive roll at the top of the hill entering Turn 4 – led us to this point.
LeDuc’s form indicates that Renezeder is going to have to have the drive of his life to take the title. At the most recent rounds in Lake Elsinore, both drivers were giving it everything they had, and LeDuc came out on top both times, with Renezeder breathing down his neck. If that happens on Saturday, the title is LeDuc’s. Even if Renezeder qualifies first and has the fastest lap, while finishing second to LeDuc, a points tie would go to LeDuc on the number of wins.
Throwing a big, old wrench into this whole affair is the fact that these two will be going at it – MacCachren has vowed to do his best to stay out of their fight for the title – on a new track. Yes, the series has paid many visits to Wild Horse Pass (formerly Firebird Raceway), including earlier this year for its season opener; but the track has undergone some pretty major changes in preparation for this event.
From Turn 1 to the entry to Turn 3, the track will look much the same, with the exception of some contouring in Turn 1 to help create more than one line. But from the exit of Turn 3, the track will look very different. The exit is reworked to create a better line into Turn 4, which is now the final turn on the track.
What used to be a pair of less-than-90 degree left-handers with two optional lanes (the optional lanes were eliminated before the first race of the year) is now one big sweeper. That means the trucks and buggies will be carrying a lot of speed onto the new, single tabletop on the front straight, where there used to be two. Like the changes made to some of the other tracks, the goal is to create more side-by-side racing. Drivers will not only have to battle each other, but come to grips with a new track as well.
Pro 4 isn’t the only tight battle. While Pro 2 is decided and Pro Lite is all but a lock for Jerett Brooks, Pro Buggy is a fight between four drivers. Seven points cover the top three of 2015 champ Garrett George (599), Mike Valentine (597) and Darren Hardesty Jr. (592), with Kevin McCullough still having an outside shot at 13 points behind George. The buggies are generally well-behaved and avoid contact, but they haven’t been so polite lately. This could be an all-out slugfest if the top three end up in an on-track battle with the title on the line.
In Mod Kart, Hailie Deegan hasn’t quite locked up the title, but at 18 points clear of her nearest competitor, it’s going to take something major for her not to leave Arizona with the championship and continue the family tradition. Trey D. Gibbs sits in second and 2015 champ Christopher Polvoorde is another seven points behind him.
After the championships are done and dusted, the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup races will take place on Sunday. With individual, big-prize races for Mod Karts, Pro Buggies and Pro Lite, plus the special addition of 1000 Production UTVs, the racing is always good. But the real show is the final Pro 4 vs. Pro 2 battle, where the Pro 4s start with a handicap and have to work their way through the Pro 2s in order to win it. It’s always interesting to see which steed those who have a choice will select, and see what effect it has on their race. And with a long off season to repair trucks or build new ones. Seldom are the drivers trying to preserve anything.
Carl Renezeder won the 2015 Challenge Cup at Lake Elsinore, and also won the Challenge Cup the last time it was held at Wild Horse Pass. But this race has shown that anything can happen.
The gates at Wild Horse Motorsports Park open at 8:30 a.m. both days, with the main events starting at 2 p.m. See Lucasoiloffroad.com for more information.