Final round of competition crowns 2017 champions in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series
For the 2014 and ’15 seasons, Kyle LeDuc ran away with Pro 4 to claim his second and third Lucas Oil Off Road Racing championships. But for the past two years it has come down to the final race to determine who would be champ. Last year was a points title with Carl Renezeder. For 2017 it came down to LeDuc and Rob MacCachren. While LeDuc may have played it safe at the beginning of the race, in the end he was not only champion, but improbable race winner as well.
Qualifying quickest at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in the final points-paying round of the year, LeDuc (pictured above) would have started on the front row. But before the green flag waved he moved his Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford to the back, doing his best to stay out of trouble. So LeDuc is running around at the back while Eric Barron leads RJ Anderson and MacCachren – in this position, the championship is MacCachren’s. First Barron has an issue. Then Anderson over-rotates in Turn 3. And now MacCachren is leading, and there are five trucks in between he and LeDuc, too many for LeDuc to claim the title. It’s time for him to race, and he starts moving up.
Just as he does, though, MacCachren over-rotates in Turn 3 and Carl Renezeder, running second, gets into him and both grind to a halt. MacCachren’s title hopes are now effectively dashed. Not only has LeDuc sealed it, he could race for the win, although that seemed unlikely.
“We wanted to create our own destiny,” explained LeDuc of his strategy. “If we start up front and potentially go for the win, we could hurt the truck going at 100 percent. Also, running up front puts you at risk if you don’t go 100 percent – I’m at risk of somebody else taking me out. So if I flip the tables – and I did it last second so nobody could prepare … it freaks everybody out. It’s just a game. So lets play the game as it unfolds. Watch Barron lead, watch Rob Mac lead. I figure it’s a Pro 4 race, so before the caution there might be four dudes out. But it wasn’t like that. We got to single file, and I was like, ‘Oh no, I might have to actually race, I might have to pass some trucks.’
“I picked the pace to stay with those guys, and crash after crash, mistake after mistake, they just gave it to me. I was in the right spot at the right time, Bradley [Morris] was leading, and I was very cautious, I was happy where I was at. He made a mistake, got a flat, whatever. So those last four laps I was at full throttle, full pace to just solidify it and feel good driving. It was just an epic race. Couldn’t have planned it.”
LeDuc came home the winner of both the race and the tight points battle, the satisfaction and relief clearly visible as he secured his fourth straight championship, and fifth in six years.
“We’ve done it in three different trucks in five years. I’m excited for my team and my family and myself for what we’ve done. It’s a small team; we’re as factory as you can get, but we try to keep it casual and have fun,” he said.
Pro Lite was effectively, if not mathematically, sealed once the green flag waved, although Brock Heger did everything he could to put himself in position to win the title. He stalked leader Hailie Deegan until a restart after a caution, then got inside and pushed her wide to claim the lead in his Icon Vehicle Dynamics/Maxxis truck. But to steal the title he would need a lot help from points leader and defending champion Jerett Brooks, and he didn’t get it, as Brooks (pictured above) came home in third to claim his second consecutive Pro Lite title in his Rigid Industries/General Tire Pro Lite.
“That was kind of the whole thing we wanted to do, was come out here and defend the championship,” said Brooks. “Especially in Lucas, it was kind of a big deal for me to prove myself in Lucas, just because we got a TORC championship in 2014 and ’15. To get a championship in the hardest series was even better and we just wanted to defend it. We had our work cut out for us.”
Darren Hardesty Jr. (pictured above) had his second consecutive Pro Buggy title in hand once the green flag waved. But, starting out front, he sealed it with a flag-to-flag victory in his Bilstein Suspension Alumi Craft.
Like Hardesty, by halfway through the Pro 2 race, Jeremy McGrath had the Pro 2 title, adding his first short course off road championship to his seven AMA Supercross championships. Running sixth with RJ Anderson out front, he was the champion. But Anderson suddenly slowed, handing the lead and the win to Patrick Clark’s Budweiser Chevrolet and moving McGrath, running a special pink livery for breast cancer awareness, up to fifth – a somewhat significant development for McGrath’s 2017 stat book.
“I can’t actually believe it yet,” McGrath (pictured above) said. “It’s been 10 years in the making. It takes a lot of time to put this puzzle together This year we had a great season, all top fives every race. We had eight podiums and four wins. So pretty much a dream season for me, Ive been working at it a long time and I think the best position I ever had was fifth or sixth in points. We showed good signs for last year led the points toward halfway, then started having some problems. This year we seemed to put it together. Got a little luck when we needed it, got some wins, and here we are with the championship. I’m really proud of my guys and grateful for all the great partners we have. Maxxis tires helps us a lot, Icon Suspension helps us a lot. There’s a ton of people that go with this program, and I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Other drivers claiming 2017 titles include Heger in Production 1000 UTV, Trey D Gibbs in Modified Kart, Brayden Fischer in Junior 1 Kart and Megan Mitchell in Junior 2 Kart.
Round 13 winners:
Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2: Patrick Clark
Pro Lite: Brock Heger
Pro Buggy: Darren Hardesty Jr.
Production 1000 UTV: Brandon Arthur
Mod Kart: Trey D Gibbs
Junior 1 Kart: Broedy Graham
Junior 2 Kart: Connor Barry