Once the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series championships are decided, it’s time to have some fun. The Lucas Oil Challenge Cup races at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park are only for glory and a better payday, and with the whole off-season to fix things, no one cares if the race cars go home in buckets. There are no points to earn, no championships to pursue, and if you’re not on the podium, you might as well not show up. That equals excitement.
Each class in the series has its own race, except for the Pro 4 and Pro 2 trucks, and that’s where things get interesting. The Pro 2s start well ahead of the Pro 4s in dual standing starts, and to win the thing – and a Pro 4 driver usually does – the Pro 4 racers will have to make their way through the whole Pro 2 field. Not only are the Pro 4s faster, but they have many more options on where to place the trucks in the corners, making it easier to pass a Pro 2, and very tough for the Pro 2 to defend.
Rob MacCachren led the Pro 2 field. Although he races both, he chose the Pro 2 because his crew discovered a transmission problem on the Pro 4 on Saturday night.
“Normally, when we race the Pro 4, we don’t have the fastest Pro 4 on the track, but we can have the fastest Pro 2,” MacCachren explained. “I don’t know which one we would have picked. I probably would have qualified both and then made the decision. Last year we went with the Pro 4 and probably should have chosen the Pro 2, so that might have weighed on the decision.”
MacCachren was never headed by another Pro 2 truck and seemed to have the measure of the Pro 2 field as he led Patrick Clark and Jerett Brooks while the Pro 4s pursued.
Bradley Morris led the Pro 4 field with Adrian Cenni alongside. Two of the favorites that have won the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup multiple times, Carl Renezeder and Kyle LeDuc, were starting fourth and sixth in Pro 4 – 12th and 14th overall.
LeDuc (pictured above) moved quickly up to third in the Pro 4s, behind Morris and RJ Anderson. But then he went sideways off the front straight tabletop, and braking sent his nose toward the wall and the field went by while he recovered.
For the first few laps, it seemed that the Pro 4s weren’t making a lot of headway into catching the Pro 2s; then came the first caution, on lap 5. MacCachren was still leading, but the caution put the Pro 4s right on the tail of the Pro 2 field, dashing any hopes for a Pro 2 victory. The Pro 4s started quickly moving through the Pro 2s, and when the next caution flew two laps later, Mittag was second overall behind MacCachren, followed by RJ Anderson, Renezeder, Brooks in the next Pro 2, Adrian Cenni and, having recovered nicely from near disaster, LeDuc.
The next restart saw Mittag attack and pass MacCachren in Turn 2. He was followed through by RJ Anderson, who went wide on the exit of 3 and hit Renezeder on re-entering. That scuffle continued all the way to the front straight and over the tabletop.
It left Renezeder, who in the opening ceremonies had been saluted as he was about to start his final race, with a broken truck and unable to continue. At the same time, a caution flew for Cenni’s rolled truck. The top three were now Mittag (in the truck he bought from LeDuc at the end of last season), LeDuc and MacCachren.
When the race resumed for the final time, LeDuc was all over Mittag trying to find a way past. But he never got the opportunity to make his big move, because Mittag had a flat on his left rear. LeDuc sailed his Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford past, as did Anderson. Mittag kept pushing his flailing truck, coming home in third. MacCachren’s Rockstar Energy/Makita Tools Ford was fourth overall, and he earned the consolation prize for highest finishing Pro 2.
“Thirty grand, gone,” said LeDuc as he described his feelings after his early-race mistake that put him in last place. “Have you ever put it all on red and lost? That was it. It’s a worst-case scenario to go backward like that. But we don’t mess around. You get pissed off, you get angry, and you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
LeDuc admitted that for a lap or two, he thought he had no chance. But then, “I saw a little glimmer of hope,” he said. “We had some battles, I took some advantages when I could. Me and Mittag had a great, clean battle. I would have had him regardless – it would have to get done. There were parts where he was driving over-aggressive. But then he had the failure and, whooo, money!”
The Challenge Cup win was LeDuc’s fourth win in the end-of-season Pro 4 vs. Pro 2 battle.
The afternoon began with Pro Lite. Brandon Arthur, who has an impressive record at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, qualified sixth but drew a six-position inversion, and jumped his MAVTV Pro Lite into the lead from the pole, followed by Hailie Deegan, Ronnie Anderson and Jerett Brooks. Brooks attacked for third on lap 3, and Christopher Polvoorde and Brock Heger also started making moves on Anderson.
Brooks, Polvoorde and Heger were then battling for third, which became a battle for second when Deegan had an issue that required a visit to the pits. Polvoorde spun, Brooks had an issue and Heger was now third. That third became second when Anderson had a hub failure, although Anderson kept pushing the truck, with smoke pouring from the wheel, to finish third. But it was all Arthur out front in a caution free race.
Pro Buggy didn’t run caution free – a crash in Turn 1 resulted in a full restart, and then it looked like it was going to be newly crowned two-time champ Darren Hardesty Jr. in a runaway. But Kevin McCullough, running second, didn’t let him get too far ahead, and McCullough was pursued by Eliott Watson and Trevor Briska. Eventually McCullough reeled in Hardesty, and the two made contact in Turn 2 when McCullough made a move for the lead. That contact resulted in a broken right-front suspension fro Hardesty, and he eventually also lost second to Watson. McCullough took the victory in his DA8 Strong/Stapleton Roofing Alumi Craft.
Lucas Oil Challenge Cup results:
Pro 4 vs. Pro 2: Kyle LeDuc
Pro Lite: Brandon Arthur
Pro Buggy: Kevin McCullough
Production 1000 UTV: Mickey Thomas
Mod Kart: Cole Keatts
Junior 1 Kart: Broedy Graham
Junior 2 Kart: Carson Etter