LOORRS season preview: Offseason changes set the stage for exciting 2018

LOORRS season preview: Offseason changes set the stage for exciting 2018

Lucas Oil Off Road

LOORRS season preview: Offseason changes set the stage for exciting 2018

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Since the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series began in 2009, there might not have been a bigger change from season to season than what’s come in the dormant months since the end of 2017 competition and imminent beginning of 2018 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on Saturday.

While no new tracks are in the offing for the main series, the schedule has been tweaked to hold more night races and more single-race events, meaning racers can go all-out without worrying about having to race again the next day.

But the big change is the departure of the Midwest-based The Off Road Championship and the addition of some tracks that form the spiritual home of short-course off-road racing into the Lucas fold. While Crandon International Raceway in Wisconsin, Bark River International Raceway in Michigan and ERX Motor Park in Minnesota might not be a part of the LOORRS series as we know it in 2018, four events they host will be part of the Lucas Oil Midwest Series and could be part of a full national series in 2019.

For the existing series, it will continue with Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona; the Baja International Short Course in Ensenada; Lucas Oil Raceway in Wheatland, Missouri, that was added last year; Wild West Motorsports Park in Sparks, Nevada; Utah Motorsports Campus and Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, before returning to Arizona for the finale. But the series will look quite different, in part because of several competitors coming from the other series.

While weather unfortunately forced the March season opener at Glen Helen to be postponed, it gave many teams coming into the series more time to prepare and perhaps others time to make new plans as the announcements surrounding the future of the sport unfolded.

As a result of new teams, series stalwart Carl Renezeder’s retirement and some other changes, the competition side will look quite different and perhaps the most competitive it has ever been.

“Kyle LeDuc has just been a machine in Pro 4 and we’ll see if anybody has anything for him, and there’s a couple of guys coming from the Midwest that might shake things up along the way as well,” says Ken Stout, who serves as one of the television commentators for the series and has been known to turn a wheel himself. As for LeDuc, he’ll be introducing a new truck and a new livery in 2018, but rest assured he’s keeping the same competitive drive that has allowed him to dominate the class for the past several years.

He’ll have a new challenge from short-course stalwart Scott Douglas. While this is expected to be his first full season in LOORRS, he’s made quite the impact in the series during a few previous appearances. Another newcomer is Randy Minnier, a former Pro Buggy racer who has purchased LeDuc’s 2017 championship truck, known as Evvo. Those newcomers will join returnees Greg Adler, RJ Anderson, Doug Mittag and Bradley Morris in trying to chase down LeDuc. Bryce Menzies also returns, although injury is forcing him to miss this weekend’s event and the “retired” Carl Renezeder is driving in his place.

Pro 2 crowned a new champ in 2017, and Jeremy McGrath heads into 2018 with a new look and full Maxxis sponsorship as he looks to defend his title. There’s a host of challengers, notably Rob MacCachren, who had three straight championships in prior years. He’s only racing in Pro 2 this year, intent on reclaiming the title. Brian Deegan would like another one as well after a disappointing return to full-time short course last season. Jerett Brooks is also concentrating solely on Pro 2 and not racing Pro Lite, and he and RJ Anderson will contend for wins and possibly the championship.

There will be some newcomers as well. Pro Lite standout Brandon Arthur is joining the Pro 2 ranks, and Colorado racer Brad Lovell is expected to join the series.

With Brooks out, Pro Lite will have a new champion. Brock Heger certainly has some unfinished business, and would like to add the Pro Lite title to the Production 1000 UTV championship he won last season. Arthur is going to make it tough on him, although running two classes could prove a distraction. Ryan Beat is back with General Tire, and still hungry for his first title. Ronnie Anderson and Hailie Deegan are eager to get some wins as well. Newcomers include Bridget Burgess, who joins her mother in Gear Alloy Wheel Pro Lites; Jimmy Weitzel, who has made a few appearances in the pro series already; and Mason Cullen. Jonathan Brenthel and Cole Mamer will be bringing Falken Tires into LOORRS on their Pro Lites.

A couple of Mod Kart drivers are moving up into Pro Buggy. Trey Gibbs and Chris Nunes join Elliott Watson, Sterling Cling, Bud Ward and Trevor Briska in trying to unseat Darren Hardesty Jr. as champion. The Production 1000 class appears to be getting stronger. Robert Stout, Ken’s son and a champion in sports cars, is joining the class to challenge Heger, but with some pretty deep talent in that field such as Ronnie Anderson, Jason Weller, Myles Cheek and Paul O’Brien, he’s got a steep hill to climb.

New for 2018 is the Turbo Production UTV class, and it’s already attracting a deep field of talented drivers. Former LOORRS UTV champion Corry Weller, along with double-dippers O’Brien and Anderson and Watson adding the class to Pro Buggy, should create a good show.

The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series will bring six classes plus three kart classes to each race on the schedule (with the exception of Lucas Oil Speedway in Missouri, which the Junior Kart teams will skip). It’s likely that as the season goes on and the situation in short-course off-road racing continues to develop, other drivers will join the series, especially at Wheatland. The series of four Midwest races begins at Crandon International Raceway on June 15-17, the week before Wheatland. It will visit ERX Motor Park and Bark River before culminating at the traditional Labor Day weekend event back at Crandon. How the changes in short course will affect the existing LOORRS series in 2018 remains to be seen, but it appears to be strengthening the competition.

“We’re ready,” says Lucas Oil Executive Vice President Bob Patison. “The truck count is strong, and the racers are excited and there are a lot of good things brewing right now. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed and see how things develop. Scott Douglas and his AMSOIL team and a couple of others are making the transition; I think this year is probably going to be the most competitive year we’ve had.”

For those not on the ground in Chandler this weekend, the races will be live-streamed on lucasoilracing.tv, and later broadcast on CBS Sports and MAVTV.

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