The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series hit one of its longest, fastest tracks, and the one with the biggest elevation changes, for a single-night event, the K&N Silver State Showdown at Wild West Motorsports Park near Reno/Sparks, Nev. As it did on the second day at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., weather played a big part.
Unlike at Wheatland, the serious rain didn’t hold off until after qualifying was done, and the accompanying lightning forced officials to scrub the last two qualifying sessions, for Pro Lite and Pro 4 (pictured above), the grids for which were set on points. When the hour-long rainstorm began to slack off, track crew went to work grading, scraping, ripping and working to give the racers a decent surface to race on. The dirt at Wild West is a bit more sandy than Wheatland, so the mud doesn’t become nearly as sticky and rain doesn’t slow the track down as much.
But as much as the track crews worked, the track was still going to be slick. So officials moved the karts to the end of the night, and put all the four-wheel-drive classes – Production 1000 UTV, Turbo UTV and Pro 4 – at the beginning. As the Production 1000 UTVs were circulating with Brock Heger firmly in command, the setting sun peeked beneath the clearing clouds, signaling that the rain was done and that the track would just keep getting better as the night progressed.
The Pro 4 field was small, but didn’t lack for action. RJ Anderson, starting on pole thanks to being the class points leader, jumped out into the lead as outside front-row starter Doug Mittag faded back, and Adrian Cenni and Kyle LeDuc set off in pursuit of Anderson. LeDuc got by Cenni and chased down Anderson, aided by the halfway competition yellow. He passed Anderson right after the restart, but Mittag rolled to a stop almost simultaneously, bringing out another yellow, so there was a full restart.
However, during the yellow, Anderson ducked to the pits to change a flat, giving LeDuc the lead anyway. But LeDuc’s truck was spewing water, and it foreshadowed what was to come.
With Anderson at the end of a five-truck train, LeDuc slowed as the race resumed. Anderson made quick work of the trucks in front of him and was back in the lead in no time. Greg Adler, who missed the practice sessions due to another commitment, had found his feet and was hounding Anderson, but nothing was going to keep the points leader from taking another win in the Rockstar Energy/Polaris RAZR truck, at the track where the took his first Pro 4 win a year ago.
“This rain brought us a curveball with no qualifying,” says Anderson. “I messed up in Turn 1 on the restart and Kyle [LeDuc] got into me. That must have been what gave me the flat. I went all the way to the back and we got lucky there was a caution, so we got time to change it and I came back out and just put my head down.”
Pro Buggy was the first of the two-wheel-drive classes to run, and it was all about Elliot Watson, who dominated in his Tom Watson Inc./BFGoodrich Tires Alumi Craft with Bud Ward and Chris Nunes following.
Pro Lite was a similar story, as points leader Ryan Beat, starting his Bilstein Shocks/Competitive Metals Chevrolet on pole because of that points lead, jumped to the front at the start and was never headed. The sole bit of excitement came when Mickey Thomas, running second at the competition yellow, got a bit out of shape in Turn 1 and was helped completely around by a trio of trucks behind him. Officials declared a full restart and put the field back in the order it was running prior, so Thomas got second place back, which he held to the end ahead of Heger.
Bradley Morris beat Brian Deegan to the Pro 2 pole by 15 thousandths of a second in qualifying, but ended up starting on the outside due to a two-position inversion. Deegan jumped into the lead, but Morris was hounding him from the beginning. Deegan held the point until after the competition yellow, then Morris went on full attack and took the lead in Turn 1 to run his K&N Filters/Kicker truck to the win, followed by Deegan and Jerett Brooks.
“I saw those clouds come up and I got a little worried, because the rain track at Wheatland wasn’t too good to us,” Morris said. “But it’s awesome that all these fans stuck around and Lucas brought the track back. It was an awesome race, epic battle, super clean. That’s how I love to do it. We’ve been testing so much and just got this thing dialed in and I finally feel comfortable.”
In the points battles with five rounds left, little changed. Anderson and Beat kept their leads in Pro 4 and Pro Lite, respectively, thanks to their victories. Rob MacCachren had a sizable margin in Pro 2, so his fifth-place finish didn’t hurt him much. The biggest move may have been Bud Ward in Pro Buggy, as his second-place finish, while points leader and two-time champion Darren Hardesty Jr. struggled, allowed he and Trevor Briska to put a big dent in Hardesty’s margin and make that points battle much tighter.
The next points opportunity comes at Utah Motorsports Campus in Tooele on Aug. 24-25. That will also be a night event, a doubleheader at the tight Utah circuit.
Pro 4: RJ Anderson
Pro 2: Bradley Morris
Pro Lite: Ryan Beat
Pro Buggy: Elliot Watson
Production 1000 UTV: Brock Heger
Turbo UTV: Corry Weller
Mod Kart: Ricky Gutierrez
Jr. 2 Kart: Connor Barry
Jr. 1 Kart: Lake Adler