With five races down and the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series condensing the remaining schedule to two events, the tripleheader this weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona will play a big role in the championships. Making it even more exciting is the fact that no one has the advantage of running the track in the past, because it is completely redone from previous events.
While the basic layout would look a bit familiar viewed from above, the course has reversed direction, now running clockwise instead of counter. Not only is that new for this track, it’s new for the racers, period. No other track on the schedule runs clockwise. For the first time, competitors will have a mostly right-hand-turn track.
The new layout is also three tracks in one. While every track on the schedule has a shorter course for karts, Wild Horse Pass now has a kart track, and on the big track, there’s a split lane for Mod Karts, UTVs and Pro Buggy, and a gnarlier lane for the Pro Lites and Pro 2s. We asked series director Ritchie Lewis, who has spent a lot of time there overseeing the changes, to take us around a lap.
“As you come down the front straightaway, you’re going to go into Turn 1, a hard right-hander,” he explains. “You’re going to run parallel to the Interstate, then it’s going to split at Turn 2, and you’re going to split into a UTV track to the right, or Pro to the left, That’s going to be a launch and a sail, right into a big rhythm section that takes you into a left-hander. Then racers will be looking at the crossover trellis. It’s going to create a cool factor there, and you’re going to land and go down into a right-hander, and there are big drop-offs all the way down to where the RV section was, then into a big sweeping right-hander that brings you back onto the front straight.”
The race will be run without fans in attendance, but live-streamed on Lucas Oil Racing TV and broadcast later on CBS Sports and MAVTV. And since the race has to be run with no fans due to Arizona COVID-19 protocols, the original plan to run at night to beat the September Arizona heat has been scrapped. Instead, the races will start early in the morning. The only qualifying session will be on Thursday, to set the field for Friday’s races that begin at 7:30 a.m. Starting positions for Saturday’s and Sunday’s races will be determined by fast laps in the previous day’s contests.
For the fans who will be tuning in on Lucas Oil Racing TV or watching the delayed broadcasts, it’s sure to be interesting as the racers try to figure out the new track and discover how it races. And with only two points-paying rounds left after this weekend, some of the championships could be almost decided by Sunday.
Jerett Brooks (pictured, top) has won three of the five Pro 2 races so far, and has been close in the others, so his title defense is looking good. But it’s far from a done deal – Doug Mittag has a victory, three second-place finishes and a top five, so he’s only four points behind. And while two-time Pro Lite champ Ryan Beat is still looking for his first Pro 2 win, he’s still in the championship hunt should he connect well with the new Wild Horse Pass track.
Brock Heger was quite strong in the tripleheader at Lucas Oil Speedway in Missouri, and thus leads the Pro Lite points. Christopher Polvoorde has a win and three more podiums, but a rough finish in Round 2 has left him 13 points behind. Rookie Madix
Bailey has been on the podium in every round but one, and then he only just missed it. He and Cole Mamer, the only Pro Lite driver to win at both venues run so far, are still solidly in the championship fight.
Defending Pro Buggy champion Eliot Watson scored podium finishes in both Glen Helen rounds, then swept the tripleheader in MIssouri, so he has a solid 23-point lead in the championship over Trey D. Gibbs. Matthew Brister, the only other driver to win in 2020, is another nine points behind. Myles Cheek and Brock Heger have been hammering on each other in Production 1000 UTV all season, producing some spectacular racing. Cheek’s three wins to Heger’s two leaves him the championship lead by 13 points. Corry Weller is looking strong in her attempt to win her third-straight Turbo UTV title, but Ronnie Anderson has been on the podium as many times as she has, just not yet on the top step. As a result, Anderson is well within striking distance with only a 10-point deficit.
The action in Arizona starts early for West Coasters, with the junior classes heading on track at 7:30 a.m. Pacific on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Pro classes get underway at 9:30 a.m. Pacific.