Lucas Oil Off Road Utah: Pro 4 battle tightens up

Images by Richard James

Lucas Oil Off Road Utah: Pro 4 battle tightens up

Lucas Oil Off Road

Lucas Oil Off Road Utah: Pro 4 battle tightens up


Perhaps the only thing more shocking than the closeness of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro 4 points race is the fact that Kyle LeDuc wasn’t in it.

Coming into the General Tire Off Road Nationals Presented by Optima Batteries, it appeared to be a two-man race between RJ Anderson and Doug Mittag. In the first round at the Utah Motorsports Campus, Mittag took a big chunk out of Anderson’s lead; in the second, it was LeDuc’s turn to close the gap on both of them.

Until this weekend, Anderson, Mitttag and LeDuc both had a win apiece, but Anderson had been more consistent to build up a 15-point lead. LeDuc had some early-season struggles with his new truck and some bad finishes left him trailing.

In Friday night’s contest, Adrian Cenni led early, but bobbled and gave it up, leaving Mittag and Greg Adler to battle for the lead while Anderson chased in third. A few laps in, Anderson bobbled and biked his truck, which died upon landing back on all fours, letting LeDuc past. That race was far from over, as LeDuc and Anderson would end up racing for the position and made contact, sending LeDuc to the pits for a new tire.

Adler, running second, rolled in Turn 4 and stalled, bringing out a yellow and putting Anderson in second behind Mittag, with Scott Douglas in third. But Adler wasn’t done; he went on a charge and got past Douglas and Anderson to claim second. Mittag, meanwhile, was well out front and safe in the Jhonlin Racing Team/Maxxis Pro 4, contact from the lapped Cenni aside.

“Going toward the [last] restart, I actually lost brakes,” said Mittag. “I go into Turn 4, and all of a sudden Cenni is banging doors with me. I was like, Dude, you’re about to mess up this whole deal.”

Said Anderson: “[I caught] every bit of carnage on that track. That race, if you want to call it that, was gnarly. I don’t know what happened at the end, I guess Doug caught a bit of the No.11 too.”

The following night, LeDuc started out front and cruised to a win almost unchallenged in the Monster Energy Drink/Toyo Tires Pro 4. On the first lap, it looked as if Anderson might regain the gap he lost the previous night when Mittag came off the big jump on the back straight sideways, hit the k-rail and rolled. But the safety crew got him back on his wheels, and he was able to continue. Then Anderson hit a mechanical issue on the second lap after the race restarted. With both Mittag and Anderson facing troubles, and LeDuc winning, followed by Adler and Cenni, the race for the championship tightened up even further with three points-paying races left. Anderson still leads, but by only four points ahead of Mittag and 10 in front of LeDuc.

“It’s never over. It’s going to be a nail-biter to the end of the year,” said LeDuc. “I’ve been letting myself, my team and some of my sponsors down lately. It’s tough when you start losing races and making mistakes and having $10 parts fail. To be back up here on top takes some risks. The guys at Toyo Tires helped me get up here today. We were hooked up, we were fast. We’ve got to be on our ‘A’ game in this Pro 4 class, all these guys are getting better. We keep selling fast trucks to fast drivers and it just keeps getting better.”

Pro Buggy
Bud Ward has been the fastest guy in Pro Buggy qualifying several times this season, but he hadn’t been able to convert that speed into a win until Friday night. In the early going it was Darren Hardesty out front, with Broc Dickerson following in his Pro Buggy debut and Ward running third. But Ward soon found his way to second, and pounced on a mistake by Hardesty. Hardesty charged hard and stuck his nose inside Ward on several occasions, but could never regain the lead and Ward took his first series victory in the Horsepower Ranch/Ramona Tire Funco.

“Luckily I was able to capitalize [on Hardesty’s mistake],” Ward said on the podium. “Darren ran a great race after that. I felt someone pushing me, I’d drive away a little bit and sure enough, I made a little mistake but was able to keep it under control and keep the car on all four.”

Saturday night it was all Eliott Watson in the Tom Watson Incorporated AlumiCraft, with Hardesty once again finishing second to preserve his points lead.

Pro Lite
Ryan Beat has been near unstoppable in Pro Lite in 2018. He has four wins and has been on the podium every single race. He repeated that feat in Utah, but neither time on the top step. Instead, it was a couple of racers that have a lot of wins, but hadn’t seen the top of the podium this season. Brandon Arthur started on the pole for the Friday night race thanks to a six-place inversion and was never challenged for his first victory of the year in the MAVTV/Pro Traffic Services Chevrolet. Beat was second and Ronnie Anderson third.

“We can’t say its been a bad season, but it definitely hasn’t been the season we wanted,” said Arthur. “We’ve had a lot of podiums, we’ve had a lot of good runs, but unfortunately we haven’t got the win until tonight. But we caught a lucky break and started on the front row and just put our heads down. After that halfway caution, I knew Ryan was there and knew I had to run a really clean race because he was going to be putting the pressure on, We always have a great race and always try to run each other clean.”

On Saturday night it was Brock Heger, starting outside of the first row alongside Mickey Thomas, who led flag to flag, with Beat and Anderson finishing second and third again. Thomas ran a solid race and would have been on the podium but for a flat on the last lap.

Pro 2
Like Beat in Pro Lite, Rob MacCachren has been dominating Pro 2 this season, and Friday night in Utah was no exception. He put his Rockstar Energy/Makita Power Tools Pro 2 out front immediately and pulled away. The sole bit of drama was RJ Anderson nearly spinning in Turn 3, and Brian Deegan spinning in avoidance. Anderson managed to salvage second, with Rodrigo Ampudia finishing third.

“It’s tough for me, its a tough spot to be in,” said MacCachren. “You’re leading the points and you don’t want to throw that away and blow it. We qualified first, drew a 0 inversion, that put us out front. So the pressure was on me to stay clean and try not to make any mistakes, As RJ said, the track was very slippery and I was really worried about spinning out in 3 myself.”

MacCachren looked like he was going to repeat on Saturday night, setting off in the lead followed by Jerett Brooks and Deegan. The first yellow of the race came when Brooks rolled in Turn 3. The second came when Anderson came off the jump a little too much to the outside and tore down some trackside banners. Through it all, MacCachren remained out front with Deegan in tow, until MacCachren landed off a jump sideways and ripped a tire off the bead. He caught a bit of good fortune, because just as he ducked into the pits another yellow came out for Bradley Morris, who had rolled, so he was able to stay on the lead lap.

Out front, Deegan was leading but had to defend against a strong challenge from Jeremy McGrath, who historically has been quite strong in Utah. But McGrath had to give up the fight with a mechanical problem that slowed his truck. That left Deegan solidly in the lead in the Monster Energy/Mickey Thompson Tires Toyota. MacCachren, meanwhile, tore through the field to finish second.

The next event is a nighttime doubleheader at Glen Helen Raceway. Those races could prove critical in several of the classes, and some drivers might emerge from the weekend with a lock on their respective championships. After the Glen Helen races on Sept. 21-22, there is only single points-paying event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park to determine the champions. A 56-point lead going into that finale is an absolute lock on the championship, but in reality it can be much less depending on the number of entries. In Pro 4, a 12-point lead might seal it, while in Pro Lite it could take much more.

Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series
Utah Motorsports Campus
Tooele, Utah, Aug. 24-25, 2018

Aug. 24 Results
Pro 4: Doug Mittag
Pro 2: Rob MacCachren
Pro Lite: Brandon Arthur
Pro Buggy: Bud Ward
Production 1000 UTV: Myles Cheek
Turbo UTV: Paul O’Brien
Mod Kart: Mason Prater
Junior 2 Kart: Connor Barry
Junior 1 Kart: Jake Bollman

Aug. 25 Results
Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2: Brian Deegan
Pro Lite: Brock Heger
Pro Buggy: Elliot Watson
Production 1000 UTV: Myles Cheek
Turbo UTV: Corry Weller
Mod Kart: Brody Eggleston
Junior 2 Kart: Connor Barry
Junior 1 Kart: Lake Adler

Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series
Pro Class Points
After eight of 11 rounds
Pro 4: RJ Anderson, 389; Doug Mittag, 385; Kyle LeDuc, 379
Pro 2: Rob MacCachren, 416; RJ Anderson, 362; Rodrigo Ampudia, 351
Pro Lite: Ryan Beat, 423; Brandon Arthur, 391; Christopher Polvoorde, 365
Pro Buggy: Darren Hardesty, 381; Eliott Watson, 368; Michael “Bud” Ward, 365