The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series entered its 2019 season and a new era with its opening event at Glen Helen Raceway on March 16. The San Bernardino, Calif., event featured the debut of the RZR 170 UTVs for junior racers at a national event, an exciting new format for Pro 2 racing, and a Pro 4 contest for the ages.
Looking for a way to incorporate the spec 410cid engines used in the Midwest with its 900-plus horsepower unlimited rules engines in Pro 2, series officials came up with a split, standing-start format. The spec-engined trucks lined up on the start/finish line; the rest started between Turns 3 and 4 of the five-turn track — a distance equal in time to the difference in qualifying times multiplied by the number of laps.
At each subsequent restart, the trucks were lined up in two lines at start/finish, with the 410 trucks given the green flag, and the unlimited trucks given their own green a number of seconds later in an effort to maintain the gap that existed before the caution.
In theory, the lead 410 truck and lead unlimited truck should be mixing it up on the final lap. While the whole process may have been a bit confusing to fans, it almost worked perfectly.
Cory Winner was the fastest of two 410 trucks, with Daely Pentico in the other. Lining up well behind were Rob MacCachren, RJ Anderson, Rodrigo Ampudia, Jerett Brooks, Brian Deegan and Bradley Morris, headlining a good-sized field of Pro 2 trucks.
The first attempt at a standing start didn’t go so well, with Brooks making contact with MacCachren, and then with Ampudia. Brooks’ and Ampudia’s trucks wound up locked together, and it took some work to get them separated, triggering a red flag and a full restart.
The second attempt was more successful, especially for Brooks, who rocketed into second place among unlimited trucks while polesitter MacCachren slipped behind Anderson — who promptly looped his truck, but was able to continue.
Three laps in, Jeff Schons brought out a caution, and the first front-straight, time-split standing restart took place. Brooks found his way to the front; MacCachren slotted into second.
Pentico’s 410 was overtaken by the unlimited trucks by halfway and the competition caution, but Winner’s 410 was still out front. When the last caution flew for Morris’s stalled truck, the gap from Winner to Brooks was seven seconds. MacCachren ran in third, under heavy pressure from Deegan.
Subsequent contact between Deegan and MacCachren left the latter with a shredded tire, and he limped to the finish on a bare right-rear wheel.
On the last lap, Brooks had finally Winner and was looking for a way around. The fans were cheated out of a dramatic final-lap battle, though, as Winner’s truck died suddenly in Turn 3 just as Brooks attacked. Brooks sailed on to victory in his Rigid Industries/KMC Wheels Pro 2, followed by Deegan and Anderson.
“I passed [Anderson] and I was slowly catching Cory Winner, and it was pretty intense,” said Brooks after scoring his first Pro 2 win since his debut in the class at the opening round of 2017. “I was wondering when the laps were going to come down, because we only had so many laps scheduled. I finally caught him that last lap, and he went to block me on the inside, and I nailed that turn on the right hander.”
Pro Buggy had a first time winner in Chris Nunes. The young racer moved up from Mod Karts last year and had only a taste of success, but at Glen Helen he led start to finish in his Kicker Performance Audio Funco. Nunes was helped by Trey Gibbs and Bud Ward coming together at the start, and both Trevor Briska and Matt Brister fading with problems mid-race. Only Eliott Watson — who had to stop to remove a rock from his suspension after contact on the first attempt at a start — was left to really challenge Nunes, and although he did so at the end, Nunes held on for his first victory over Watson and Gibbs.
Ryan Beat opened his Pro Lite title defense in the best way possible, keeping his Bilstein Shocks/KMC Wheels machine out front flag to flag for victory. He had to survive attacks from first Brock Heger, who fell back into a scrum with Hailie Deegan, and then Christopher Polvoorde.
Beat was followed to the line by Polvoorde and Ronnie Anderson.
Pro 4 closed out the night, and it was a classic Pro 4 battle that featured a little bit of everything, including Greg Adler rolling not once, but twice, and continuing to finish on the podium!
Doug Mittag started on pole with Kyle LeDuc (photo at top) alongside. The lead pair battled in the opening stages until LeDuc spun in Turn 4 on the second lap, falling all the way to the back.
Being in last place at some point during the race, though, is certainly no guarantee LeDuc will not take the victory.
Mittag seemed to have the measure of the field, though, pulling away after each restart from RJ Anderson and newcomer Andrew Carlson, who was making an excellent first impression. LeDuc, meanwhile, was having trouble keeping his truck under him, looping it a couple of times more. But when Anderson biked in Turn 2, LeDuc was up to third behind Mittag and Carlson, and the truck seemed to have come back to him.
On what might have been the final restart — for Adler’s second roll — Mittag slid straight into the wall in Turn 2, something on the truck apparently broken. Now, LeDuc could see the possibility of a win. Without hesitation, he attacked Carlson in Turn 3, the two trucks banging hard on corner exit, but with LeDuc’s Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Pro 4 emerging out front when they came back to start/finish where the yellow waved for Mittag’s broken truck.
LeDuc held on after the final restart for a win in the first race of the season while Carlson had a flat that killed any chance of a podium finish in his first LOORRS race.
Anderson finished second, with Adler coming to the line third in his rather battered truck.
“I was putting it in the wrong spots and overdriving it,” said LeDuc. “Not driving what we had for tires. So we regrouped. We had a gnarly groove for the track, and I had to put it up on the cushion and run the high line, which is not what I’m accustomed to. But we made some killer passes on the bottom — patience, smarts, watching what they were doing, knowing spotters are telling them what’s going on, surprising them out of nowhere. Standard stuff that we’ve always done and its always worked and we put it together.”
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series heads next to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., for a night race on April 13. Look for coverage from Glen Helen in April on CBS Sports Network.
Glen Helen Race Winners
Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2: Jerett Brooks
Pro Lite: Ryan Beat
Pro Buggy: Chris Nunes
Production 1000 UTV: Brock Heger
Turbo UTV: Corry Weller