With there being only three races left after the Polaris Silver State Showdown presented by Rockstar Energy Drink at Wild West Motorsports Park near Reno, Nev., Rounds 9 and 10 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series looked pivotal to either solidify a championship hope or make it disappear completely.
Carl Renezeder is trying to close the gap in Pro 4 to Kyle LeDuc, and did everything possible in Round 9 on Saturday to make that happen. LeDuc started on pole thanks to a six-place inversion and jumped out to the lead with Doug Mittag following.
Renezeder made a good show of it, first getting past Mittag than putting a move on LeDuc to claim the lead and take his third win of the season in his Lucas Oil/Dirt Movie Pro 4. He didn’t gain much on the second-place-finishing LeDuc, though, because LeDuc earned an extra point for running the fastest lap, so the net was a single point.
Sunday looked like it was going to be much better for Renezeder. Starting on pole, again thanks to the inversion, he took the lead while LeDuc hit trouble. Fastest qualifier Eric Barron slowed exiting Turn 3 for the long run up the biggest hill. That caused LeDuc to move to avoid hitting him, and LeDuc instead made contact with Greg Adler. That would leave LeDuc out of contention.
Renezeder was out front, but hounded by RJ Anderson. Anderson even got by at one point when he got a good run out of Turn 2 and made it by with a bit of bumping and banging, but a caution for Adler’s stalled truck came out before they reached the start/finish line, so the order reverted to where it was on the previous lap. Anderson only had to be patient, though, as Renezeder soon hit mechanical trouble, and left Anderson all alone up front in his Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR (pictured above). It was Anderson’s first Pro 4 victory since he added the class to his repertoire this season.
“Pro 4 has been a little bit of a struggle for me,” Anderson said. “This is my first year, I’m the only real rookie in the class, so I didn’t expect it to be easy. There are a lot of good drivers and good trucks in the class. It wasn’t just handed to us. A lot of times these first wins, you get it because of a little break, but we worked for it – we earned it. We had the fastest truck on the track.
“Right at the end I started to have a little part failure. The last couple of laps I started to feel a vibration. Literally, the last corner it let go and I had to finish with only front-wheel drive. It’s always something; these tracks punish us.”
Mittag finished second, and while Renezeder only lost a couple of points to LeDuc thanks to both of them having mechanical difficulties, he lost some ground to Rob MacCachren on Sunday, who had to leave the track to tend to a family emergency. Bradley Morris stepped into MacCachren’s Pro 4 and brought it home third on Sunday (Renezeder subbed for MacCachren in Pro 2).
Anderson also took his first win of the year in Pro 2 on Saturday. That would have propelled him into the thick of the title fight had he not struck trouble on Sunday. Instead, Sunday belonged to Jeremy McGrath (pictured below), who has led the championship since Round 4 in Ensenada.
McGrath started second, next to Rodrigo Ampudia. RJ Anderson started third next to fast qualifier Brian Deegan after a four-place inversion. Anderson got spun in Turn 1, and was slow for the remainder of the race.
Ampudia was out front, followed by McGrath, who was trying everything possible to get around him. It finally happened when Ampudia over-rotated in Turn 2. McGrath, with nowhere to go and eager to keep Morris behind him, hit him and then helped him around to get going.
McGrath and Morris pulled away from the rest of the field and battled until McGrath eventually left him behind. That’s when the race took a bizarre turn. Deegan, a lap down after a visit to the pits but now apparently driving the fastest truck on the track, was pushing through the field. When he was trying to get by Ampudia, Ampudia flipped several times, bringing out a yellow.
When the race restarted, Deegan kept pushing, clearly eager to get back on the lead lap. On the final circuit, he and McGrath were battling hard in a fight that could benefit neither – Deegan had nothing to gain if he passed McGrath, as there wasn’t going to be another yellow to bring him around to the tail of the field; and McGrath had nothing to lose if Deegan got by. It was a throughly pointless squabble, if highly entertaining to the crowd. But no harm was done and McGrath took the victory in his Maxxis Tires/Icon Vehicle Dynamics Pro 2, his third of the season, to solidify his championship lead over Deegan.
“It’s unfortunate that [Deegan and Anderson] had trouble, but what a day for us,” said McGrath. “We got track position today – the truck wasn’t the fastest truck all weekend, but I was driving it pretty decent, today much better than yesterday. Once I got around Rodrigo, I thought, ‘Hey, this is my race to lose.’ Fortunately I didn’t have to deal with RJ or Deegan, until Deegan did what he did on the last lap, being a lap down. At the end of the day, we won the race and got all the points. That’s what we came to do.”
McGrath’s teammate, Brock Heger, had a great weekend by sweeping both Production 1000 UTV races and winning Pro Lite on Saturday in the Icon Vehicle Dynamics/Maxxis Tires truck (above). He started up front and led every lap, followed across the line by closest title rival Jerett Brooks and Brandon Arthur. Heger and Brooks went into Round 10 tied on points, but Sunday it was Brooks’s turn.
Christopher Polvoorde started on pole in Round 10, but was quickly swallowed up by the drivers behind him, with Brooks taking the point and towing Heger and Ryan Beat. Heger tried everything he could to get by Brooks, with his most promising move seeming to be the run to Turn 2, but could never complete the pass. Brooks went on to take the victory in his Rigid Industries/General Tire truck. Heger was second and Polvoorde ended up third and was credited with the fastest lap. Brooks left Reno with a slim three-point margin over Heger.
Sterling Cling had been on the podium in Pro Buggy the last four rounds, but couldn’t quite make it to the top step. But on Saturday, with a push from his spotter (and a depleted supply of tear-offs) he pushed his way to the front. He was there for the duration on Sunday, completing a sweep of the weekend for his first Pro Buggy victories.
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series heads next to Glen Helen Raceway near San Bernardino, Calif., for the penultimate weekend of competition. A pair of night races will be held on Sept. 15-16.
Round 9 winners:
Pro 4: Carl Renezeder
Pro 2: RJ Anderson
Pro Lite: Brock Heger
Pro Buggy: Sterling Cling
Production 1000 UTV: Brock Heger
Mod Kart: Ricky Gutierrez
Round 10 winners:
Pro 4: RJ Anderson
Pro 3: Jeremy McGrath
Pro Lite: Jerett Brooks
Pro Buggy: Sterling Cling
Production 1000 UTV: Brock Heger
Mod Kart: Chris Nunes