Tough Glen Helen keeps Lucas Oil Off Road racers on their toes

Images by Richard S. James

Tough Glen Helen keeps Lucas Oil Off Road racers on their toes

Off Road

Tough Glen Helen keeps Lucas Oil Off Road racers on their toes

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The regulars in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series faced a new Glen Helen track that proved challenging for many and downright diabolical for others. An altered layout that left drivers no time to rest with six turns and constant features was part of the test. Lots of new dirt formed big ruts and holes as the races went on, while heat and dust made things especially trying for the drivers fighting hard on the last double race event of the year in which to garner championship points.

Sunday’s Pro Lite contest was a perfect example. With a six-place inversion after qualifying — fast qualifier Brock Heger started sixth while Ronnie Anderson started on pole — the stage was set for drama. At the start, Anderson slid back while Christopher Polvoorde claimed the point, followed by Cole Mamer, Ryan Beat, Mickey Thomas and Heger.

It looked like Polvoorde might have an easy go of it, but then things began to get dicy. By the time the first caution waved for Kyle Knott’s rollover, Mamer was in the lead. Potential challengers kept hitting problems: Thomas had a flat, as did Ryan Beat, putting the two at the top of the points well back in the order.

Mamer looked ready to run to the finish until he hit a rut in Turn 4 that sent him into the k-rail and ended his day. Polvoorde was back in front, but now Heger — by this time already a two-time winner in Production 1000 UTV for the weekend — was all over him.

Another caution interrupted the battle, but when it resumed for a one-lap shootout, Heger was primed and ready. He got by Polvoorde in a move that started around Turn 2 and wasn’t complete until Turn 5, taking the victory in the Maxxis Tires Pro Lite followed by Polvoorde and Anderson.

“Towards the end, it was super dusty, so you couldn’t see any of the holes,” said Heger on the podium. “I was in second and thought, ‘I’ve got to get by Christopher so I can see those holes.’ It was a long race. I started sixth and wasn’t sure I was going to make it back to the front with all the carnage. We made it somehow. That pass on Christopher was pretty gnarly; I don’t think I could do it again, but I’m sure I would try.”

Thomas had taken the win on Saturday in his Stovall Pro Lite, with Jimmy Weitzel second and Heger in third. With points leader Beat having a weekend to forget, the points race is now tightened considerably, with Thomas, Beat and Heger all having a good shot at the championship in the single-round finale at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in three weeks.

A familiar face returned to the Pro 2 ranks for the first time this season, and made good use of his time at Glen Helen. Jeremy McGrath stepped away from full-time racing in 2019. The 2017 Pro 2 champ had an outing at Crandon International Raceway for the now-defunct Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League event on Labor Day Weekend, and decided to come back for his hometown race as his daughters took on the karts.

“I have a more … opportunistic look at racing when I don’t race all the time,” explained McGrath, a seven-time Supercross champion before he stepped into trucks. “I want to be here more. It took me eight years to get the championship, so after I won it, I said, ‘That’s it, no more racing for championships. We’re just racing for fun.’

“I raced my whole life,” McGrath continued, “and sometimes I sit at home and feel selfish, I feel guilty about racing. I want to help my kids pursue what they like and be more involved in what they’re doing, which we are.”

For McGrath, the 410ci Midwest-spec engine was the right choice for his Glen Helen home track.

McGrath chose the 410ci Midwest-spec engine for his truck, and it turned out to be the right one for Glen Helen. With the Midwest-spec trucks getting a time advantage and McGrath having a wickedly fast truck, there wasn’t much the Unlimited engine trucks could do. Points leader Jerett Brooks was the best of that bunch, and while he got close, he had to settle for being the best of the Unlimiteds and pad his lead in the championship.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for McGrath, though. On Sunday, fellow Midwest-spec racer Cory Winner gave him hell on every restart and subsequent lap. Given that there were many cautions, Winner had a lot of opportunities to harass McGrath; but had to settle for second with Brooks third.

“I knew my truck would be good, but these guys have been racing all year, so it does feel good to compete and run at the front. The track suited us. We switched between a couple of different tires that Maxxis has — between the Razr MT, which is a little more of an all-terrain tire, and the Bighorn, which is what I ended up with. It’s a mud tire, and since (the track) was kind of soft and loamy, it really made a difference,” said McGrath after the Saturday victory.

Kyle LeDuc looked to be in control of Pro 4 on Saturday, until he locked up his gearbox in Turn 2, collecting RJ Anderson in the process. Fortunately Anderson’s Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR truck was unharmed, and he went on to win as Doug Mittag had already suffered a flat and subsequently fell out of the race with mechanical issues.

Gearbox woes cost him a Pro 4 win on Saturday, but LeDuc rebounded on Sunday.

LeDuc came back swinging on Sunday, and led flag to flag in the Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Pro 4. Anderson was out of the race after getting the tabletop between Turns 1 and 2 wrong, leaving Mittag to harass LeDuc.

Mittag gave it his all on the jump between Turns 3 and 4, but caught the berm on landing and rolled.

Unless a lot more trucks show up at the Wild Horse Pass finale and it all goes wrong for LeDuc, the lead he carries into Arizona should give him back the title that Anderson claimed last year.

Nunes won both Pro Buggy races on the Southern California track.

Chris Nunes was never headed at Glen Helen and won both Pro Buggy races in his Kicker Performance Audio machine. Those wins, as well as solid performances by Matt Brister, tightened the championship battle a bit, but it will be very difficult for either driver to overtake Eliott Watson.

In other championship battles, Robert Stout finished second to Heger both days in Production 1000 UTV to take a small lead into Arizona. And while Ronnie Anderson had a good weekend at Glen Helen in Turbo UTV, splitting victories with Trevor Leighton, Corry Weller still maintains a solid margin heading into her home track.

The event at Wild Horse pass on Oct. 26 will feature a unique format. For the first time, the championship battles will be decided during the day on Saturday in all the national classes. Then on Saturday night, the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup races with big purses will be held. First up will be Pro Lite, then a Turbo UTV vs. Production 1000 UTV Cup race, followed by the always-epic Pro 4 vs. Pro 2 finale.

Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series
Glen Helen Raceway, San Bernardino, Calif.
Oct. 5-6, 2019

Saturday Winners
Pro 4: RJ Anderson
Pro 2: Jeremy McGrath
Pro Lite: Mickey Thomas
Pro Buggy: Chris Nunes
Production 1000 UTV: Brock Heger
Turbo UTV: Trevor Leighton
Mod Kart: Braden Chiaramonte
Junior 2 Kart: Caden Martin
RZR 170: George Llamosas

Sunday Winners
Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2: Jeremy McGrath
Pro Lite: Brock Heger
Pro Buggy: Chris Nunes
Production 1000 UTV: Brock Heger
Turbo UTV: Ronnie Anderson
Mod Kart: Trey Eggleston
Junior 2 Kart: Talan Martin
RZR 170: George Llamosas

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