Smooth sailing followed by crash-heavy races marked the fifth and sixth rounds of Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series at Utah Motorsports Campus
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series track at Utah Motorsports Campus is always tricky for the racers. The layout is tight and technical, and in the hot, dry, breezy conditions prevalent during the Toyota Utah Off Road Nationals especially, it goes from wet and slick to dry and slick quickly, without much in the way of a sweet spot. It makes setting up the truck tricky, but it can also make for some very entertaining racing.
Pro 2 on Saturday was a prime example. Jeremy McGrath qualified quickest, but drawing a six-place inversion left him in the danger zone to get beaten and banged around at the start. RJ Anderson was instead on the pole, alongside Bradley Morris, with Brian Deegan and Patrick Clark behind. Anderson seized the lead at the start, but it was only a couple of laps in when Morris got it wrong in the whoops known as the Unrhythm Section and ended up sliding sideways into Turn 5. Rob MacCachren, with nowhere to go, tapped him, sending him rolling, bringing out the race’s first caution – good timing for Jerett Brooks, who had a flat.
When the race resumed, MacCachren continued toward the front after starting fifth, and eventually took third from Rodrigo Ampudia. But almost at the same time, his hood, likely damaged in the incident with Morris, flew up in his face as he entered Turn 1, and he hit a K-rail in Turn 2, ending his race and bring out a lengthy race stop to move his battered truck and the displaced wall.
When racing resumed, Deegan was all over Anderson looking for a way to get by. He finally found his opportunity, giving the Monster Energy/Mickey Thompson Ford a good run out of Turn 4 through the whoops, taking the lead by Turn 5. Anderson came back at him, but could never find a way by. Meanwhile, while battling for third, Ampudia and McGrath got together, opening the door for a resurgent Brooks to slide into third.
“That was one of the funnest races I’ve ever had,” said Deegan. “R.J. was dipping in on me, going back and forth, and rubbing fenders. We ran each other clean. At the end of the day, I just had a great time.”
Sunday’s Pro 2 race was considerably less dramatic. McGrath once again qualified quickest, and once again drew a six-place inversion. That left Bradley Morris starting up front in his K&N Filters/Kicker Audio Pro 2, a position he used to full effect. Morris was never headed on his way to his first Pro 2 victory in six starts. The win completes a comeback from a broken neck suffered on a mountain bike three years ago, and returns Morris, who concentrated on Pro 4 in his return to short course last year, to a place he was well familiar with in Pro Lite and Pro Buggy, the top step of the podium.
“I’ve been racing two-wheel drive my whole life, and Pro 2 just makes a lot of sense to me, That was my sixth race and probably my 10th time in the truck, and to get a win is honestly the most amazing thing. I’ve been dreaming of this since I was 9 years old,” Morris said.
Pro 4 was somewhat the opposite of Pro 2 – a bit of a smooth sail on Saturday, then total chaos on Sunday.
Kyle LeDuc started his Monster Energy on the front row for Saturday’s Pro 4 contest alongside Doug Mittag in LeDuc’s old truck. With LeDuc continuing the form he showed last month in Ensenada, it meant that the race was for second. Mittag spun in the early going, dropping to the back and handing second to Doug Fortin. Fortin then spun, giving second to Adrian Cenni. Carl Renezeder, running fourth, made a big move into Turn 3 and passed both Eric Barron and Cenni. The running order was LeDuc, Renezeder and Mittag, who had worked his way back from last. Carl tried to give away second as the others had, going up on two wheels in the right-hand Turn 3, and Mittag slid past. Renezeder got back by, however, and they finished in that order.
“Those guys were back there scrapping, so I had kind of an easy race,” said LeDuc. “I had some issues with the truck, and I really had to maintain.”
The first half of Sunday’s contest was an example of the best racing Pro 4 has to offer – clean, hard racing all throughout the field, a pass attempt in every corner, and lots of rubbing but no one taking someone else out. LeDuc started fifth and started moving his way up immediately while MacCachren and Renezeder fought for the lead. LeDuc eventually took first from MacCachren just before the halfway caution. When the race restarted, MacCachren took the lead back in the whoops, just before one of the more bizarre incidents the sport has seen occurred.
Eric Barron was running third, hot on the heels of the leaders, when he came in a tad hot into Turn 5, side-slapped LeDuc, then spun. Renezeder was right behind and had nowhere to go, hitting Barron and launching the nose Renezeder’s truck into the air. Mittag was next on the scene and slid into Renezeder, pushing him further. Renezeder’s No. 17 came to rest fully on top of Barron’s Toyota, with Mittag’s truck locked in pretty good as well after Fortin and Cenni piled in behind.
While none of the drivers were hurt, the safety team was a bit perplexed as to how exactly to undo the tangle. They eventually succeeded in getting a tow truck to lift Renezeder’s truck – with him still in it – enough to then pull Barron’s truck out from underneath.
On the restart, LeDuc once again assumed the lead; but, after another caution, slid wide in Turn 2, allowing MacCachren’s Rockstar Energy/Makita Ford back through for MacCachren’s first Pro 4 win of the season.
Pro Lite on both days was relatively calm affair compared to the other two truck classes. Christopher Polvoorde started Saturday’s race on pole, but it wasn’t long before defending champion Jerett Brooks took the lead in his Rigid Industries/Bilstein Nissan, which he held for the duration. Much of the race’s excitement came from Ryan Beat, who started last due to problems in qualifying, and marched his way through the field to finish third behind Brooks and Polvoorde.
On Sunday, Cole Mamer and Brock Heger started on the front row, and Mamer took the lead at the start. Brandon Arthur took second from Heger and started after Mamer, but Mamer made it easy when he slid wide in Turn 2. Arthur then cruised to the win and his first podium finish of 2017 in the MAVTV/Pro Traffic Services Chevrolet, followed by Beat and Heger.
Bud Ward ran Saturday’s Pro Buggy race flag-to-flag in his Ramona Tire & Service Centers/Horsepower Ranch Funco. Ward looked for a while like he would repeat, but things didn’t quite work out in his favor. While Brady Whitlock started up front, he was quickly shuffled back. Trevor Briska assumed the lead, but Ward dived inside him in Turn 4 and the two made light contact, but it was enough to send Briska’s buggy onto its side. That gave Ward the lead, but he would eventually fall to Darren Harrdesty Jr. who then cruised to the win in his Bilstein/Racer X Motorsports Alumi Craft.
The next rounds for the Lucas Oil Of Road Racing Series will be at a new venue for the series, Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo. The series has built a spectacular – and spectacularly long – course at the motorsports complex. Rounds 7 and 8 will be held on July 22-23.
Round 5 Winners
Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2: Brian Deegan
Pro Lite: Jerett Brooks
Pro Buggy: Bud Ward
Pro 1000 UTV: Brock Heger
Round 6 Winners
Pro 4: Rob MacCachren
Pro 2: Bradley Morris
Pro Lite: Brandon Arthur
Pro Buggy: Darren Hardesty Jr.
Pro 1000 UTV: Brock Heger