Competitors faced a new circuit at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, AZ for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Super Clean Duel in the Desert Presented by Toyota. Some of them proved to master the new, unique-to-the-series clockwise course, while others were left scratching their heads.
The masters included Eliott Watson, completing his second tripleheader sweep in Pro Buggy and setting a new six-in-a-row record. Myles Cheek had the measure of title rival Brock Heger in Production 1000 UTV and took three victories. Ronnie Anderson swept the Turbo UTV races and took the points lead over Corry Weller. Jerett Brooks took two of three Pro 2 contests, but still left with a points deficit to consistent Doug Mittag, who finished second in each race. And while Heger saw nothing but the second step of the podium in Production 1000 UTV, he took two of the Pro Lite races to take a solid points lead into the finale at Glen Helen Raceway next month.
For the most part, competitors enjoyed the new course, reversed from its former direction but maintaining a similar layout. The series tweaked the course from driver feedback throughout the weekend, opening up the final turn, removing a roller and modifying some of the features. The general consensus was that while passing was difficult, the course was fun.
“This new track is rad,” said Mittag. “I like it. It gets beat up, it gets rough, but that’s what off road is all about. Love the new track, love what Lucas is doing.”
Other drivers felt that it needed to be opened up a bit, with Brooks saying it’s more like a Trophy Kart track, although he appreciates the series doing something different. Heger had a similar opinion.
“Its cool, it’s different, and I think thats what everyone kind of wanted, something different. It definitely needs a little bit of fine-tuning on some stuff and it’s very hard to pass. I know they’re thinking about adding some more stuff to make it more racy, To make a pass you have to slam someone, and I think they’re trying to avoid that,” he said.
That said, there was plenty of racing going on; competitors just had to choose their opportunities wisely, and starting up front was definitely an advantage.
Brooks looked unstoppable in Pro 2 on Friday, putting a big gap between he and his competition on the start and each restart. Mittag was pursuing him for the beginning of the race, but spun, handing second to Ryan Beat with RJ Anderson third. And it was the fight for the rest of the podium that kept the race interesting. Mittag would eventually reclaim third from Anderson and was pursuing Beat when Beat biked hard in Turn 1, putting the right side of his truck high in the air. Then Mittag hit the same rut, hit the same 45-degree angle, but slid into Beat who had slid into the wall and that set Mittag back on all four wheels. Mittag ended up with the better momentum and claimed the position, while Beat had to hit the pits. Brooks took a dominant win in the K&N Filters/General Tires-sponsored truck he calls “El Diablo,” followed by Mittag and Anderson.
“I wouldn’t say it was a walk in the park,” said Brooks. “That track is destroyed, After they ripped it – we weren’t expecting it to be ripped, and kind of set the truck up for later in the race – it was a handful, just trying to avoid the ruts and be consistent. I know Doug, he comes on at the end of the race, and that’s what we’re trying to set up our truck for, and it came into play – I was pretty consistent. We’ll try to find some more speed for later in the race tomorrow.”
Brooks didn’t really get the chance to find out. Competing on another freshly ripped track as the series tried to keep some moisture in the dirt for the end of the race and keep it raceable for the duration, Brooks was starting third. Up front, Beat started on pole and lost the lead to Mittag at the start, but only briefly; he was back in front with a pass in Turn 4 before the first lap was done. After that it was just a matter of keeping a tenacious Mittag behind him, which he did to take his first Pro 2 win in his Bilstein/Lucas Oil Chevrolet. Brooks had contact early in the race, and had his hood bodywork flapping in front of his face for much of the race, handing third to Anderson.
Brooks, who had to put an old transmission in his truck after blowing up his primary transmission, redeemed Saturday’s struggles on Sunday, seizing the lead from pole at the start and never looking back.
“Yesterday we were off pace; we just kind of missed the setup,” he said. “Today, we put the old school stuff in, the transmission, converter, gear ratio, we used all he stuff we used last year, and this thing held up. Today, a flawless run. This is the best the truck has ever been. I was just in my groove, clicking off laps. I was probably 60 percent the whole race, just checking out, Sometimes thats what you need to do in the Pro 2 – slow it down to get that traction.”
Instead, the drama was all behind Brooks, and a couple of his competitors made it a little easier on both him and Mittag. Anderson spun in Turn 2, collecting several trucks, and moving Mittag up a position. Later in the race, Beat biked in Turn 1, giving Mittag another spot. But Mittag never really had anything for Brooks, and scored his third second-place finish of the weekend, his fifth out of the last six races. But those six second-place finishes combined with a win and bad luck in a couple of races for Brooks means he and Brooks head into the final two points-paying races at Glen Helen in almost a dead heat.