For the first time in three years, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series visited a new track. Long in the making, the new short-course off-road circuit at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, was the longest track the series has seen, with the biggest jumps and the fastest turns along with some of the tightest sections the drivers have raced. It proved rewarding, not only to the drivers, but the fans, many of whom had hungered for short-course off-road racing since the World Series of Off Road Racing used a makeshift track built on the facility’s dirt oval 10 years ago.
“Most of the people I’ve met have been following this racing for years, and a lot of them that were here 10 years ago, it seems, are here at this event,” said Carl Renezeder, who won the races then as well as the first Pro 4 race on the new track. “People are driving from Florida, from Iowa. The fans are phenomenal; it’s different than any place I’ve been before.”
There was an audible gasp from the crowd the first time the Pro 4 field flew over the big 150-foot tabletop on the backstretch. That tabletop was one of several signature elements, such as a big, high-banked sweeper, a crossover jump and a tight section of Esses. The track drew praise from drivers and fans.
“The whole spirit of the track is pretty cool. I’m a fan of it,” said Pro 4 and Pro 2 racer RJ Anderson. “It really puts the teams to the test seeing how quickly they adapt and how quick they tune the trucks. Some of the course is really fun, some of it is really tight. The first half of the track is where you do your racing; the second half you just have to make no mistakes. I’m pretty impressed with this facility in Wheatland.”
Mid-season points update
With eight rounds down and five to go, the battles for the championships are both heating up and becoming clearer. Yet, at the same time, some of the points battles are much closer than they often are at this point in the season.
Pro 4 is a four-way battle at the top, with defending champion Kyle LeDuc (pictured above) holding the lead. But only two points behind – the difference of a single finishing position in a single race – is Rob MacCachren, on a quest for his first Pro 4 championship since rejoining the class five years ago. Renezeder, who tied on points with LeDuc in 2016 but lost the title based on wins, is 15 points back of MacCachren. Rookie Anderson has been consistently near the front, although still seeking his first victory in the class, and is 27 points out of the lead.
Jeremy McGrath holds a stout 21-point lead over Brian Deegan in Pro 2 after a great weekend in Wheatland. Deegan actually closed the gap by a few points, as both took victories at Lucas Oil Speedway. Anderson is six points behind Deegan and is having his best Pro 2 season yet. The surprise is that MacCachren, who has won the class two years running, is 39 points out of the lead. Rookie Jerett Brooks is only two points behind MacCachren.
Pro Lite has been a tight two-way battle between Brooks and Brock Heger. Heger got the early jump on the championship with three wins in the first three races, but a tough weekend at Utah allowed defending champion Brooks to edge ahead. The two are separated by only four points. Rookie Hailie Deegan is in the mix as well, but 20 points out of the lead.
2016 champion Darren Hardesty Jr. and Eliott Watson are fighting tooth and nail in Pro Buggy. Each has three wins, each has seven total podium finishes, and the two are separated by a single point, with Hardesty having the edge. Sterling Cling is 24 points behind Hardesty.
In the new Production 1000 UTV class, it’s a battle of the Pro Lite stars who are double-dipping in the class. Heger has a solid 27-point lead over Brand Arthur. Jason Weller is the first of the UTV-only racers, sitting in third another 11 points back of Arthur and five points ahead of Dustin Nelson.
The points battles resume at Wild West Motorsports Park in Sparks, Nevada, just outside Reno, on Aug. 26-27.