Under the sunshine of a brilliant northern Nevada afternoon, the drivers of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, took to the track for Round 11 of the 2012 championship. In this all-new venue, the Wild West Motorsports Park, some drivers have found success quite quickly, while others have been, shall we say, less fortunate.
The high speeds and large amounts of elevation change have been presenting a unique set of challenges for the drivers, but everyone has risen to the occasion to the best of their ability, and the local Reno-area fans, many of whom are seeing short course off-road racing for the first time, have been cheering loudly and smiling widely all afternoon long. To find out what went on here this afternoon, read on and see what all our new off-road fans will be talking about.
Pro 4 Unlimited
Following Opening Ceremonies, it was time for the first high horsepower class of the afternoon: Pro 4 Unlimited. Eric Barron, riding high on a streak of three straight wins coming into this weekend, was again out front early in the #32 LAT Racing Oils/Maxxis Toyota, followed closely by Carl Renezeder in the #1 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan, Todd LeDuc in the #7 Rockstar/Makita Ford, Greg Adler in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/BFGoodrich Tires Ford, and Kyle LeDuc in the #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford. Kyle LeDuc picked off Adler for fourth at turn three on lap two then got by his brother Todd into turn two on the next lap, moving up to third in the process. Adler then rolled in turn one two laps later, and although he landed on his wheels and was able to re-fire and continue, he did drop two spots to seventh, which moved Curt LeDuc up to fifth in his #43 KCHiLites/Truxxx Lift and Level Kits Ford. On lap six, the top three were in one big group through turns one and two, with Renezeder coming out ahead as they headed into turn three. Kyle LeDuc also got by Barron and into second, and no sooner had Renezeder and LeDuc gotten into the top two spots, the two quickly opened up a gap over those behind as they battled each other for the lead. Barron now seemed a bit off the pace, and Todd LeDuc quickly closed in on him, before getting by and into third just before the Competition Yellow. Under yellow, Barron pulled into the hot pits with what looked like a left rear flat, leaving a running order of Renezeder, Kyle LeDuc, Todd LeDuc, Adler, and Travis Coyne in the #5 ProComp/Team Associated Ford as the field returned to green flag racing. Up front, Kyle LeDuc was really putting the pressure on Renezeder for the lead, but as they approached turn one, the best passing spot, Renezeder always managed to have the preferred inside line, and was able to keep LeDuc at bay. On lap fifteen, however, LeDuc finally got a good enough inside run out of turn four, and was able to hold the inside line down the very long front straight and into turn one, where he was able to keep inside Renezeder and take the lead. Renezeder tried to take advantage when LeDuc over-jumped the jump at the base of the hill that leads up to turn one, but was unable to fully capitalize, and remained second. From there, LeDuc stayed steady out front as he brought it home for the win, his seventh of the season, and his first since winning six in a row at the start of this season. Renezeder was a close second, with Todd LeDuc also close in third, Adler fourth, and Coyne fifth.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
Pro Buggy Unlimited was up next, and it was Cameron Steele who had the lead after lap one in his #16 Monster Energy/Yokohama Alumi Craft. Doug Fortin ran second in the #96 Fortin Racing, Inc./Fox Racing Shox Racer, followed by Steven Greinke in the #23 SC Fuels/Concourse Racer, Jerry Whelchel in the #5 ProAm/Camburg Foddrill, and Dave Mason in the #65 Competitive Metals/Jamar Alumi Craft. Mason got stuck on the outside k rail of turn two on lap two, which brought out a full course caution to allow the safety crew to free him. When racing resumed, Mike Porter had moved up to fifth in the #8 Mickey Thompson/Speed Energy Alumi Craft, but on lap five, Porter pulled off complaining of back pain, moving Larry Job up to fifth in the #7 Supercross.com/Toyo Tires Alumi Craft. On lap seven, Steele was slow out of turn two, and after dogging the leader for several laps, Fortin seized his chance and took the lead. At the end of the lap, the race was red flagged when it was determined that Porter, who was now parked on the infield, would need medical attention before being removed from the track. Emergency crews attended to Porter, who was placed on a back board and taken from the track, looking otherwise alright.
The red flag period also served as the Competition Yellow, and when racing resumed, Fortin got a great getaway on the restart, pulling out several car lengths over those behind. Just shy of two laps later, Greinke pulled alongside Steele as the two came to the start/finish line, and Greinke got the inside line at turn one, moving ahead of Steele and into second place. Greinke then began to close down the gap on Fortin a little bit, but couldn’t get quite close enough to make a move for the lead. A bit further back, Whelchel hit a sudden issue as he came to the stripe to start the final lap, forcing him to the sidelines and out of the race. This moved Job up to fourth, but after working his way back through the field, it was Mason who got around Job to take fourth on the final lap. Up front, Fortin picked up his sixth win in seven races, and was followed home by Greinke, Steele, Mason, and Job.
Pro Lite Unlimited
A myriad of incidents meant that this afternoon’s Pro Lite Unlimited race was certainly one of the most confusing of the year, and it all began with a delayed start. The delay occurred due to some emergency track alteration on the first jump of the lap, a change that was called for by many drivers from multiple classes after they complained of back pain caused by the rough landing off of this jump. The takeoff was leveled down by about 20 percent, with drivers then getting a one-lap run over the re-shaped jump before the field was re-grouped for the start. With the trucks landing much more smoothly on the trial run, the race was given the green light to start.
Out front early, it was RJ Anderson in the #37 Monster Energy/Polaris Dodge, followed by Casey Currie in the #2 Monster Energy/Magnaflow Nissan, Noah Fouch in the #52 BFGoodrich Tires/Method Race Wheels Ford, Bradley Morris in the #24 GoldStar Asphalt!/K&N Ford, and Brian Deegan in the #38 Rockstar/Makita Ford. At the end of lap two, a full course caution came out after Chris Brandt was hit hard and came to a stop in turn three. Under yellow, Deegan pulled into the hot pits with a flat tire, and on the restart, it with Anderson having suffered a brief mechanical hiccup on lap two, the running order was now Currie, Fouch, Morris, Anderson, and Chad George in the #42 Discount Tire/Traxxas Ford when racing resumed. Matt Cook moved up to fifth on the restart lap in his #55 Supercross.com/Lucas Oil Toyota, with Morris getting by Fouch for second on the lap after that. Another full course caution then came out when Deegan’s truck came to a stop on the long uphill, which meant that he would need a tow from the safety crew (Deegan was able to continue shortly afterwards, though).
Several incidents had been going on throughout this big field of trucks, so when the full course caution came out, officials used the opportunity to address some of those issues, which meant that the caution period lasted several laps. Once things had been sorted out, racing resumed, and there was a mad scramble in turn one. As a result, Currie was still out front, with Anderson now second, followed by Cook in third, Morris in fourth, and Ryan Beat in fifth in the #51 Premiere Motorsports Group/eBay Motors Ford. These drivers held their positions for several laps, until lap thirteen, when Morris got by Cook for third. Cook then fell by the wayside on the next lap, moving Beat to fourth and George to fifth. On lap fifteen, a late Competition Yellow came out, and when racing resumed, there was a green/white-checkered called for by race officials, meaning that there would be just one lap of green flag racing left to run. The top five held their positions on the final lap, despite some very hard trying by Anderson, and it was Currie who got his first win of the season, followed by Anderson, Morris, Beat, and George.
Following a lengthy Pro Lite Unlimited race, it was time for Super Lite, and in this class, the drivers would face mother nature as much as they would one another. The wind out of the west was really picking up, and blowing hard down the hill which the drivers had to climb out of turn three and all the way up to turn four, making the lengthy strain on their engines that much worse. Add to that the fact that the sun was now hanging very low in the sky, and shining right in the drivers’ eyes as they climbed that very same hill, as well as the problem of air getting under the trucks off the jump out of turn one and the jump just at the top of the hill before turn four, and one could quickly see that whoever won this race would really need to drive a masterful race.
Jessie Johnson got out front on the first lap in his #15 SoCal Super Trucks/Speed Energy machine, ahead of Cody Rahders in the #16 Toyo Tires/Superchips truck, Garrett Poelman in the #62 Supercross.com/Loctite entry, Sheldon Creed in the #74 A.M. Ortega/BFGoodrich Tires machine, and Brent Fouch in the #21 Fouch Racing truck. On lap two, Rahders got the inside line in turn four, and pulled alongside Johnson as the two crossed the start/finish line. Rahders then nosed ahead into turn one, and took the lead from Johnson, with Creed moving up to third and Drew Britt up to fifth on the same lap. Up front, the top three were now running very close together in a good battle for the lead, but a full course caution, thrown following one driver’s coming to a stop right at the bottom of the big hill out of turn four, put a temporary halt on that battle. Once that truck was cleared and racing resumed, Britt moved up to fourth on the restart lap in his #7 Quick Lane/Universal Technical Institute entry. On the next lap, Creed got around Johnson for second, while further back, Ryan Hagy moved up to fifth in his #27 Valli Construction/General Tire truck. On lap seven, Creed then got around Rahders and into the lead, but then came to a stop in turn three, suddenly ending his race in bizarre fashion; just what the championship leader didn’t need. Rahders re-took the lead, and at the Competition Yellow, he still led, followed by Johnson, Britt, Poelman, and Hagy.
On the restart lap, Johnson spun in turn one, which slowed several of the top runners, with Britt, Dawson Kirchner, and John Gable getting the worst of the holdup. This meant that at the end of the restart lap, the running order up front was now Rahders, Poelman, Fouch, Bryan Osborn in the #54 Kal-Gard Super Lubricants/Black Rhino truck, and Hagy. On lap ten, Osborn got alongside Fouch as they charged up the long hill to turn four, and got by in that corner, moving himself up to third as a result. Up front, Rahders had a decent cushion over his pursuers, while further back, Hagy had closed right down on Fouch in a battle for fourth. Fouch and Hagy then closed on Osborn, turning the battle for fourth into a race for third. In the end, though, all the drivers in the top five held their positions, with Rahders getting his first win inside the class- congratulations Cody! Second went to Poelman, third to a much-improved Osborn, fourth to Fouch, and fifth to Hagy.
Pro 2 Unlimited
The final race of the evening was Pro 2 Unlimited. With the sun now behind the hills to the west, the challenge of peering into the setting sun was gone, but the strong wind was just as bad as before, so the drivers would still have their work cut out for them. Brian Deegan grabbed the early lead in his #38 Rockstar/Makita Ford, and was chased by a formidable group made up by Greg Adler, Marty Hart, Rob MacCachren, and Jeff Geiser. On lap four, Hart got by Adler on the inside at turn one, and moved into second in his #15 ReadyLift Off Road Suspension/GearUp2Go.com Ford. On the next lap, a full course caution was thrown after Rob Naughton’s truck came to a stop just after turn three, but with track crews working quickly, racing resumed by the end of the same lap. On the restart lap, a big crash by Rodrigo Ampudia forced another full course caution, and while Ampudia was just fine, his truck was badly damaged, and in no way able to continue. Under yellow, both Deegan and Robby Woods pulled into the hot pits with flat tires, leaving Hart out front when the green flag dropped again. Behind Hart, it was now Adler in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/BFGoodrich Tires Ford, MacCachren in the #21 Rockstar/Makita Ford, Geiser in the #44 Tap It Brewing Co./Mickey Thompson Chevrolet, and Jeremy McGrath in the #2 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford. On the restart lap, Carl Renezeder moved by McGrath and into fifth in his #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan, just ahead of the Competition Yellow.
On the restart lap, Adler got by Hart and took over the lead, and was moving further ahead when another big crash, this one involving MacCachren, forced another full course caution. This time, the caution period lasted for several laps, as MacCachren’s truck had actually moved several sections of concrete k rail as it rolled over coming down the long, steep hill out of turn four. The crash actually could’ve been much worse, and although MacCachren himself was alright, his truck, like Ampudia’s earlier, was in no way fit to continue; a crushing blow indeed for the erstwhile championship leader. When safety crews had finally finished putting everything back in-place, there were only two laps of running left, and on the restart, Adler shot off like a rocket once again, and was looking great to pick up the win. On the last lap, however, Adler got his truck a little out of shape in turn two, and gave Hart room to get by and into the lead. Once back in front, Hart didn’t give Adler any chance of getting the lead back, and after a very rough Round 10 that had cost him the championship lead, Hart stormed back to take a class-leading fourth win of the season, putting him right back in championship contention. Adler finished a close second, followed by Geiser in third, Renezeder in fourth, and McGrath in fifth.
Junior 2 Kart
In addition to the great new full-length track, series head Tony Vanillo has also put together a terrific and challenging new track for our younger drivers, and the Junior 2 Karts were the first class to hit the course in a real race. Broc Dickerson got himself into the early lead in his #423 Driscoll’s Surf N Skate/Eibach Springs kart, with Parker Steele, Dylan Winbury, Shelby Anderson, and Hailie Deegan in-tow. Through the first half of the race, the top five drivers held their positions, leaving the second half of the race as the time when the big moves would take place. On the restart lap, Trevor Briska got around Deegan to take over fifth in his #459 JH Sims Trucking Co, Inc./Fiberwerx truck. Two laps later, Briska picked up another spot, as Anderson went wide at turn six, giving Briska a perfect space to get by on the inside and take over fourth. On the final lap, Briska again moved up, taking over third following a nice slide job on Winbury. Up front, the race looked to be all sewn up for Dickerson, until he nearly slid out at turn six, making himself very vulnerable to second-placed Steele. Unfortunately for Steele, he had to check up to avoid getting into Dickerson, and with Dickerson then shutting the door on Steele as the two raced down to the final corner, Steele had to remain content with second place. Dickerson managed to hold off Steele for the win, with Steele taking second in the #449 Steele Racing/Hoosier entry. Third place was Briska, fourth was Winbury in the #469 Famous Stars and Straps/Magnum Off-Road machine, and fifth was Anderson in the #405 Walker Evans Racing/Anderson’s Nu Power truck.
Junior 1 Kart
Next up were the Junior 1 Karts, the youngest field of drivers in our series, and it was Conner McMullen who jumped out to the early lead in his #288 Monster Energy/Hoosier kart. In second, it was Junior 2 Kart winner Broc Dickerson in the #1 KarTek/Eibach Springs machine, with Darren Hardesty third in the #231 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/KarTek entry, Blaze Nunley fourth in the #230 RC10.com truck, and Kamrin Dickerson fifth in her #223 Black Rhino/Racer X Motorsports machine. At the end of lap two, Broc Dickerson got alongside McMullen as the two crossed the start-finish line, and nosed ahead and into the lead at the beginning of lap three. At the Competition Yellow, the running order was now Broc Dickerson, McMullen, Hardesty, Nunley, and Kamrin Dickerson, but on the restart lap, Travis PeCoy got by the young lady Dickerson to take over fifth in his #211 Simpson/King Off-Road Racing Shocks kart. On the next lap, Nunley rolled in turn four, dropping him back to ninth place, while up front, McMullen had managed to get around Broc Dickerson to the lead. On lap nine, McMullen went wide at turn six, which gave Dickerson the opening he needed to get back in front. Dickerson went by on the inside, took over the lead, and never gave it back, as he raced home to pick up his second straight win in as many races this afternoon. McMullen finished in second, with Hardesty third, PeCoy fourth, and Kamrin Dickerson fifth.
After the first two classes of karts had finished their races, it was time to see just how much air could really be caught off the big ski jump out of turn three on this new kart track, as Modified Karts were next out on track. Cole Mamer got the early lead in his #535 Simpson/T.I.S.I. Racing kart, and was followed closely by Brock Heger, Sheldon Creed, Jeff Hoffman, and Blake Lenk. A full course caution came out at the end of lap one after several karts were caught out by an incident in turn six, and after a botched restart, the field finally got away cleanly and back into action. Lenk moved up from fifth to third in his #521 Team Associated/Walker Evans Racing truck on the restart lap, with Creed dropping to fourth, and Gavin Harlien moving up to fifth in his #555 Simpson/Full Tilt Trophy Karts entry. On lap five, Lenk and Heger tangled in turn six, dropping them back to the last two spots in the running order. This put Heger way out in front, and moved Creed, Harlien, Bradley Morris, and Hoffman into the next four spots. Morris moved up to third just before the Competition Yellow in his #504 Trophy Kart/K&N kart, and as the field slowed behind the Polaris Ranger Pace UTV, it was Mamer, Creed in the #574 Trophy Kart/KarTek Off Road truck, Morris, Harlien, and Hoffman in the #547 BRT Signs/Cactus Asphalt entry in the top five. On the restart lap, Morris again moved up, as he took over second from Creed, and the top three were now really closing up quickly. Mamer then picked up a couple more kart lengths on his two closest pursuers, who then ended their charge for the win when they got tangled up with one another in turn six, just a few short laps from the end. Once again Mamer was now well clear out front, with Harlien, Hoffman, Heger, and Brooke Kawell in the top five. From there, these five drivers held their positions, and it was Mamer who got the big win, ahead of Harlien, Hoffman, Heger in the #511 Kacon Framing Inc./DASA truck, and Kawell in the #508 Team Associated/SoCal Super Trucks machine.
With the kart track now thoroughly worked in, it was time for some drivers to try their hand, in a real race, on the full-length track here at Wild West Motorsports Park. Limited Buggy was the class that was given the honor of breaking this proverbial ground, and it was Kevin McCullough in the #389 Gear One/General Tire Geiser who led the field past the stripe at the end of lap one. Jordan Poole ran second in his #310 Riot Racing/GoPro Fraley, with Bradley Morris third in the #304 Lucas Oil/K&N Penhall, John Fitzgerald fourth in the #314 BFGoodrich Tires/Livestrong buggy, and Dillon Ayers fifth in the #398 Gear One/Fat Performance Lothringer. Morris moved up to second on lap two, then went by McCullough on the inside into turn one on lap three, and took over third as the field headed out of the corner. Just behind, Fitzgerald moved up to third on lap three, while a bit further back, an untimely right rear flat tire forced Ayers into the hot pits, a costly trip on such a fast track. This moved Lindsay Geiser up to fifth in the #395 Canidae/Mickey Thompson Geiser, and out front, Morris was now maintaining a small gap over those behind as he continued to lead. Morris held that gap through the Competition Yellow, at which time the running order in the top five was still Morris, McCullough, Fitzgerald, Poole, and Geiser. On lap thirteen, after several laps of running just behind McCullough, Fitzgerald finally started to make some headway, as he got halfway alongside the second-placed driver as the two headed up the long pull towards turn four. Fitzgerald couldn’t get the pass done on that lap, but on the next one, both he and Poole got around McCullough in turn two. At the white flag, the running order was Morris, Fitzgerald, Poole, McCullough, and Geiser, but on the final lap, McCullough did his best to make back at least one of the two spots he’d given up the lap before. McCullough got halfway alongside Poole as the two drag raced up the long hill, and then slid down and inside of Poole as the two came around the final corner. McCullough appeared to give Poole enough room, but Poole swung way wide as McCullough got alongside, giving McCullough the advantage in momentum as the two sped towards the finish line. McCullough came out on top in this battle, an outcome which Poole wasn’t exactly pleased with, while up front, Morris was the big winner for the second race in a row. Fitzgerald finished second, continuing his very impressive run this season, as he’s finished on the podium in 10 out of 11 rounds this season, with the only “blemish” being a lowly fourth place run in Round 5. McCullough rounded out the podium in third, with Poole fourth and Geiser fifth.
With that, a very successful first day of racing at this all-new track comes to a close. There is still Round 12 left to run here in Sparks, and with no further racing to worry about on Monday, drivers will be sure to put it all on the line as this season kicks into high gear in its closing stages. Be sure to get here and see the action in person tomorrow; gates open to the public at 9:00 AM, with Junior 2 Karts kicking off the racing action at 11:00 AM. Opening Ceremonies will start at 1:00 PM, followed closely by the first Pro class of the day, Pro 4 Unlimited, at 1:30 PM. Get here early to get the best seat you can; you won’t want to miss a moment at this fantastic new track.