The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series enters its 10th anniversary season looking at some of the bigger changes the series has seen in its decade of existence. Although the years since the series sprung up to pick up the pieces after the collapse of Championship Off Road Racing in 2009 have seen classes and racers come and go, rule changes that saw stock crate engines come into Pro Lite and fuel injection in the big trucks, there are some big changes in store for 2019 as the series opens its season this weekend at Glen Helen Raceway Park in San Bernardino, California.
Much of that change comes in the Pro 2 class – arguably the premier, if not the fastest, class in short course off road racing – as the series seeks to integrate Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League (MWSCL) racers into its program. The MWSCL is what was left of TORC, the other organization that arose in 2009 that operated short course racing in the Midwest while LOORRS stuck primarily to the West. Pro 2 will allow racers running under the Midwest’s more restrictive engine rules to race, with a cup-style split-start gap back to the more unlimited engine LOORRS Pro 2 trucks. The idea is to allow them to compete on even footing.
“I think it will be pretty exciting,” says series director Bill Smith. “We know from the Cup races in general, even though there’s a pretty big disparity in lap time from a Pro 4 to a Pro 2, depending on track conditions, they usually prove to be very entertaining and exciting races. This should be no different. The disparity in speed should actually be very close when the classes mix towards the last lap or two of a race; you’re going to see some pretty keen racing.”
The other big change in the class is the introduction of DOT tires, replacing the hand-grooved “Project” tires that existed in the class before. DOT-approved tires have long been required in Pro Lite and Pro Buggy, and have been used in the Midwest for Pro 2 for a couple of years. It should open up the class to more tire manufacturers, and potentially more tire sponsorships for racers.
If the entry list for the season opener is any indication, the changes are already paying dividends. Sixteen early entries in Pro 2 are slated for Glen Helen, with possibly some late surprises. among the newcomers are Daely Pentico, who has made appearances in LOORRS before, but raced Pro 2 in the Midwest last season. Coming from regional racing are Troy Cox and Justin Suhr, and Ricky Gutierrez makes the leap from Mod Karts. Brandon Arthur made a a couple of starts last year with great promise; the Pro Lite standout, though, is still looking for his first Pro championship.
The favorites for a title, though, are to be found among the core group of returning racers, led by defending champion Rob MacCachren. MacCachren has been the dominant force in Pro 2 for years and comes into any season as the title favorite, but there are a host of challengers. Former champion Brian Deegan is still seeking his past form after a season off a couple of years ago. He sees the top of the podium every season, but hasn’t really been in a position to challenge for the title.
RJ Anderson has turned into a consistent winner and with a little more luck in 2018 might have claimed the Pro 2 title to go along with his Pro 4 championship. Jerett Brooks came into Pro 2 with a win his first weekend, but while he stands on the podium regularly, he hasn’t been able to win a title here as he did in Pro Lite. Bradley Morris had one of his strongest seasons last year that included a victory, but he continues to split his time between Pro 2 and Pro 4, the only driver currently doing so. Rodrigo Ampudia was more consistent in 2018, but hasn’t see the top step of the podium in several years.
There is one notable name missing — 2017 champion Jeremy McGrath. McGrath followed that title with a pretty rough, winless season, and it appears his other activities will take precedence in 2019. The best bets for a title this year boil down to MacCachren, Anderson and Deegan, with Brooks, Arthur and Morris as wild cards.