There are three points-paying round left in the 2019 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, and two of them are this weekend at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino. Not only will racers have to deal with their on-track competitors as they try to stay in or get into the championship hunt, but they’ll have a different course than the one they’ve raced on since Glen Helen’s revival as a short course off road venue in 2010.
“We would like to spice the tracks up and keep them a little fresh and new,” explains Bill Smith, series director for LOORRS. “I think the racers in general and the fans like to see something new and exciting. We like to continue with events at certain venues to keep the local crowd happy and excited about the series year after year. If we change the tracks a little bit it seems a little fresh, a little more exciting. The drivers have to relearn it, maybe change some suspension settings, maybe gearing.”
Other tracks on LOORRS schedule have undergone big changes; Wild Horse Pass was changed fairly radically several years ago with the elimination of a dual-lane section and turning two turns into one long banked sweeper. Before it was dropped from the schedule, the short course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was shortened with the elimination of one section. The new option at Glen Helen, though, adds just a bit of length, loses the challenging rhythm section and adds a couple of features.
“It’s a little more technical, a little bit longer; the drivers are going to have to use their heads a bit more. There’s some places where if you overdrive it will probably cost you some time. After Turn 2, it follows what was the old kart track into a 90-degree right and heads back to the right-hand turn that used to be Turn 3, with a couple of little rhythms there to keep the trucks upset. Then when you come out of what used to be Turn 4, there’s a decent-sized tabletop jump, then there’s a little left-right chicane as you head into the final turn, with a small jump kind of heading into that final turn,” says Smith.
The result is a track that one racer who has tested there describes as probably the busiest circuit the series races on. It also preserves the elements of the old track, meaning the series could possibly switch back and forth if it continues to use the venue for multiple weekends during the season.
A little different circuit makes noting who won at Glen Helen in the season opener almost a moot point. That includes Pro 4 points leader Kyle LeDuc, working to preserve what’s currently a 312-294 point lead over 2018 champion RJ Anderson. But it’s not just Anderson that LeDuc has to worry about, as Doug Mittag is only one more point behind. Whoever masters the changes to the track could be in a very good position entering the season finale at Wild Horse Pass later this month.
Jerett Brooks also won at Glen Helen in March and he has two other victories to go with it. But it’s still practically a four-way dead heat for the Pro 2 championship, with just over a 20-point spread among the top four. Second is the impressively consistent Rodrigo Ampudia, who made history by becoming the first driver to win in a Midwest-spec truck at Reno. Brian Deegan also has a victory in 2019, as does Rob MacCachren. The latter two are multi-time former Pro 2 champions, and can hardly be counted out with three races left.
Three Pro Lite drivers have two wins apiece in 2019, and they’re at the top of the standings. The spread is a little bit wider than that stat would indicate thanks to a bad second round for Brock Heger, who sits 24 points behind defending champion Ryan Beat. In between, six points behind Beat, is Mickey Thomas, who really began to come on strong at the end of 2018 and now goes into the final third of the season in a good position to fight for the championship.
Eliott Watson sits at the top of the Pro Buggy standings, 19 points ahead of Chris Nunes. In addition to those two, Bud Ward and Trevor Briska also have victories. Sitting in the middle of the quintet that has only a 30-point spread is Matthew Brister, whose consistency leaves him in the thick of the title fight with the other four.
This weekend’s races, the Golden State Off Road Nationals, at Glen Helen are daytime races on Saturday and Sunday. Gates on both days open at 10 a.m. The races will be broadcast live at 5 p.m. Eastern on LucasOilRacing.tv, with tape-delayed airings on CBS Sports Network and MAVTV.