WSORR: Hoek, Greaves, Hord Headline Crandon World Championships
Skyjacker Suspension Ford PRO 2WD driver Ross Hoek (above, center), Monster Energy/Potawatomi Toyota PRO 4WD driver Johnny Greaves and Boss Snowplow Mazda driver Chad Hord were among the big winners during an exciting day of racing in the BorgWarner World Championships at Crandon International Off-Road Raceway in Crandon, Wisconsin, today.
Under perfect weather conditions and on fast tracks at short course racing’s “Big House,” all three men turned in stellar performances to headline a winner’s roll call that included several first-time World Champions and new Lucas Oil World Series of Off-Road Series points champions.
In PRO 2WD, the 37-year-old Hoek of Holland, Michigan, grabbed the holeshot and led all 11 laps of the feature race while fellow Skyjacker Suspension Ford drivers Scott Taylor and Carl Renezeder, and E3 Spark Plugs Chevrolet driver Kevin Probst engaged in a furious battle behind him. Bendix Chevrolet driver Dave Waldvogel ran second at the start of the race, but a blown transmission sidelined him before the race was three laps old.
It appeared as though Taylor might then have something for Hoek as the race wore on, but contact with Renezeder resulted in a cut left rear tire on Taylor’s truck, and it eventually let go in front of the Ford Skyboxes on the back straightaway. Taylor gamely pressed on, but an anxious Probst ran into Taylor (above) while trying to pass both him and Renezeder in one fell-swoop in the final turn just a few laps from the finish, turning Taylor sideways. Probst then slammed into the outside berm of the left-hand turn, seriously damaging his left front suspension and putting him out of the race. Renezeder was able to escape the melee and move into second place, but by then Hoek had built a substantial lead that he would hold to the finish to claim his first career World Championship at Crandon.
“It all came good, in one day,” a jubilant Hoek (above) said afterward. “I’ll tell you what, we’ve led a lot of laps at Crandon, but I don’t think we’ve ever led a lap in PRO 2WD. This has been a bad track for me, but I still love it. All I had to do was focus on not making mistakes and let the package underneath me work.”
Hoek’s title, which came in a truck built in his own shop, was the result of eight hard years of work.
“My guys in the shop built this truck, and man did it work,” Hoek said. “While I was out there, I started thinking about the possibilities, and I had to slap myself in the head to stay focused.”
Renezeder was lucky to not get too tangled in the collision between Probst and Taylor. In retrospect, he appeared to be relatively satisfied with second place.
“I was trying to go outside, and Kevin was trying to go inside, and kaboom!” Renezeder said. “All of a sudden I saw this black truck broadsiding Taylor. It’s hard here. I mean, where do you pass? You’re not going to pass on the outside. We like putting this Lucas Oil/Skyjacker Ford in the winner’s circle, but we’ll just have to save that for tomorrow.”
Taylor managed to hang on to finish third. Afterward, he was somewhat philosophical about the contact with Probst.
“Well, that’s racing,” he said. “Carl and I got together, and that was it. It was over. I felt the tire going down, and then the next thing I know, it was down. We were scratching for traction, and Carl was on me. I really couldn’t run a cushion line. I had to block the inside the best I could, and it didn’t pay off today. If I could’ve gotten around Ross, I could’ve run that line, but I never got there.”
In the meantime, Dan Vanden Heuvel of Appleton, Wisconsin, finished fourth and quietly wrapped up the Lucas Oil World Series points title in PRO 2WD.
“It has been a long time coming,” Vanden Heuvel said. “We’ve fought hard against all these guys for years, and we’ve always been the underdog, the under-funded team. This year we were the non-funded team, and we put it to ‘em. Today, me and my son [Mike Vanden Heuvel] are World Champions. I believe we’re the first father and son to do it, and we both wrapped it up a day early. That’s pretty cool.”
In PRO 4WD, Greaves (above) ran third early, behind Renezeder and leader Kent Brascho, who was running well in his Super Clean Chevrolet, which sported a wild, World War II flying tigers-themed paint scheme.
Renezeder was poised to overtake Brascho, but a flat right front tire spoiled his chances, and he was forced to pull in and change the tire. Once in second place, Greaves set off after Brascho and made his way past the Alabaman for the lead up on the top section of the course. Greaves then pulled clear and bagged the World Championship win.
“After the mud cleared a little bit, and we got done sliding into each other, we could hold the track a little bit,” Greaves said. “Carl pushed Kent a couple times, but I finally stuck my nose in there and got him. Then I just let Kent think that I was going to dive inside him, and when he slowed down I just threw the hammer down, went around the outside, and it worked.”
Once in the lead, however, Greaves had to be careful not to blow his left rear tire, which was visibly shredding itself apart as the laps wore on.
“My guys told me to be careful because they thought that tire was going to go, so I babysat it a little bit, and here we are.”
Greaves’ win was a huge satisfaction for him and his team, which had to rebound from a grinding crash in a CORR race at Pomona just two weeks ago.
“I can’t say enough about my guys,” said Greaves, who still had blood in both eyes, a testimony to the violence of that Pomona crash. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. I really needed this as a confidence booster, but I’ll tell you what, that first turn was pretty hairy. I was really sideways, and that brought back some nasty memories of 2004, when we crashed here. I just put all that stuff behind me and went after them guys.”
Brascho’s (above) second-place finish locked up the Lucas Oil World Series title in PRO 4WD a day early.
“I hope these [CORR] guys didn’t think that they were going to just come out here and walk all over us,” Brascho said. “This truck runs good, and Goodyear and Lucas Oil really help us out. Those guys are fast, though, and you do have to step it up when they come here. It was good for awhile. It’s always good to have a clean visor, but when Johnny comes by you, you’ve got your work cut out for you, because he’s gone.”
Brascho’s run, today and all season, which included a big win in the Chairman’s Cup at Crandon this past June, is all the more impressive when you consider that his truck is an 11-year-old ex-Walker Evans ride. He was hardly conservative as he nailed down the PRO 4WD title a day early.
“This truck is old, but it still runs good,” Brascho said of his trusty Chevy. “We got the championship today, and that’s really good. Those guys told me that I should just set back and let them go, but I figured they could set back and let me go. Once the green flag drops, it’s all out there. We got second in the points last year and fourth the year before that, so we’re moving up. Now all we need is that BorgWarner Cup tomorrow.”
After running fourth through the first turn, Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Ford driver Kyle LeDuc (above) put in a consistent performance to finish third in his Crandon PRO 4WD debut.
“It was pretty exciting,” LeDuc said. “I’ve never run with these guys through turn one going 100 mph, so I was a little hesitant. I picked my way through it. I raced with Brascho a little bit because I want to learn what I need for the Cup tomorrow. It was pretty cool. I’m getting used to it. It’s going to be cool to run for the Cup.”
Renezeder was understandably disappointed to miss out on a chance for victory due the flat tire, a problem that seems to have plagued him all year.
“Another one,” Renezeder said. “I think that’s six or seven for this year. I went for years without one, and now every time I get breathed on, I get a flat.”
After winning the Decision at Sundown PRO Light Challenge last night, Traxxas/Potawatomi Toyota driver Jeff Kincaid appeared set to wrap up another win in today’s PRO Light race as he drove to the lead and set sail ahead of Steve Federico and Hord (above). Federico would then drop out, dealing his PRO Light World Series title hopes a serious blow. Kincaid continued to ride high until just past the halfway point, when his Toyota lost power. Hord blew past him and took a commanding lead, which he carried to the finish to earn the World Championship. Kincaid eventually pulled out of the race with what amounted to fuel starvation issues.
“It’s good,” Hord said. “When I pulled up here after the race, my dad hollered on the radio, ‘You get another ring. Now you’ve got four.’ So now each of my daughters gets two – it’s even. It was pretty wet out there, and we had to start on the second row, so I was eating a lot of dirt. I just took my time and got through people. I was hoping that Jeff wouldn’t break because I wanted to reel him in and get revenge for yesterday. I’m sure he’ll be back tomorrow, but hopefully we’ll be right back here again.”
Maxxis Ford driver Randy Eller bettered his Decision at Sundown finish by one position today, finishing second in the World Championship race, while E3 Spark Plugs Nissan driver Jon Probst was third.
No World Championship weekend would be complete without a full complement of Sportsman races, and today was no different. The Mad Croc 1600 Light Buggy race got the ball rolling in the morning, and Flying Dutchman Racing’s Mike Vanden Heuvel (above, left) of Appleton, Wisconsin, earned his seventh win in 11 races and simultaneously clinched the first World Championship and Lucas Oil World Series points championship of his off-road career. Jeff Virnig grabbed the holeshot in the seven-lap race, which was held on the 1.75-mile long course. Virnig led the first five laps with Vanden Heuvel all over his bumper. With two laps to go Vanden Heuvel passed Virnig (above, right) for the lead in the gravel pit while Jaime Kliekamp fought his way up to third, placing the top three in a tight pack. Vanden Heuvel held on for the final two laps to take the win. Virnig held off Kliekamp at the line to finish in second, relegating Kliekamp to the final podium spot.
“This is my first championship,” the 22-year-old Vanden Heuvel said. “I’ve been running this class for five years, and I finally got my stuff together. It has been an amazing year, with lots of wins and no trouble. With the points on the line, I just took my time and waited for the right time to pass. I just stayed out of trouble, and it was good enough for a win again.”
Eric Ruppel (above) of Chetek, Wisconsin drove his Phil’s, Inc., Truck Parts Ford to the win in the Mastercraft Stock Pickup class. Ruppel fought by the machine of Craig Metz on the second lap of the eight-lap race on the long course. Metz ran in second for a few more laps before dropping out with mechanical problems. Don Demeny and Al Konitzer inherited second and third, respectively, and they battled for several laps until Konitzer took over second. Their battle allowed Scott Beauchamp to close the gap and fight Demeny for third. On lap five, Beauchamp took third but couldn’t hold it as Demeny fought back and retook the position on lap six. Over the final two laps, Konitzer led a tight pack to the line, finishing in second, with Demeny right behind him in third. None of them were even close to Ruppel, who scored his fourth win of the year.
“We got a lucky start,” the 37-year-old Ruppel said. “We were probably about three inches from going into the rhubarb. Me and Demeny got together, and that’s what straightened me out. Then they told me that Al [Konitzer] and Demeny were coming, so I just put ‘er to the wood, because that’s what I do. We don’t change anything, we drive it hard and see what happens.”
The win gives Ruppel a 19-point lead in the Stock Truck points standings headed into the final round tomorrow. When asked what winning the title would mean to him, Ruppel responded: “We’ll talk about that tomorrow.”
After rebounding from a crash at one of the Bark River rounds earlier in the season, Mark Steinhardt (above) of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, came into today’s Baumgart 1600 Buggy race with a tenuous three-point lead over Mike Seefeldt Jr., but Steinhardt stretched that lead by claiming his fifth win of the year. The Phil’s, Inc. Truck Parts-backed Steinhardt led the start in his Terminator VW before making a mistake in the gravel pit and handing over the lead to Brad Erickson of Wilson, Michigan. But the 43-year-old Steinhardt kept the hammer down and caught back up to Erickson, making a pass for the lead over the General Tire jump on lap five to retake the lead. Erickson tried to run down Steinhardt, but Steinhardt pulled away to earn his ninth career World Championship ring at Crandon. Erickson was second, well ahead of rookie 1600 Buggy driver Bob Kinner of Eagle, Wisconsin.
“That wreck at Bark River kind of took me out of the points lead, but I fought my way back, and now we’ve put a little distance on these guys [for the WSORR class title],” Steinhardt said. “They’re all great competitors. I just got a good start. Brad had an awesome run, but I just kept pressuring him, and I got him.”
Goodyear-shod Monster Energy Drink Chevrolet driver Keith Steele (above) of Madison, Wisconsin, closed out the Toyo Tires Super Truck era in the World Series by picking up where he left off last night and claiming another win to earn a World Championship ring in the class. Steele grabbed the holeshot in the 11-lap race on the long course and never looked back. Mole Lake Casino Ford driver Dan Baudoux and Potawatomi Chevrolet driver Ben Wandahsega were right behind Steele, the three running in fairly close quarters for the first half of the race until Baudoux pulled off with problems, giving Wandahsega the opportunity to run down Steele for the lead. Wandahsega began to cut into Steele’s 3.5-second margin, but his engine let go just as he crossed under the white flag at the finish line.
Steele cruised on to victory, followed by Revtek Suspension Ford driver Don Williams and Wandahsega who, despite not reaching the checkered flag, was the first driver in the class to complete 10 laps. The win was Steele’s eighth in 12 races in which he finished off the podium only one time.
“It’s all about your team, and I’ve got a great one and some great sponsors behind me,” Steele said. “This is my first World Championship since I won in Stock Pickup in 2004. It has been awhile since I had one. This is my second year in this truck, and it has been awesome. I couldn’t script a better season than this one.”
It appeared as though 2007 Super Buggy Champion of Canada was going to have a great battle with Tim Lemons (above) of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the eight-lap Super Clean PRO Super Buggy race. Nierop took the early lead in the race, but Lemons caught him just as the field was about to catch the five-lap sign. The two drivers made heavy contact off the final corner, and Nierop’s buggy suddenly burst into flames, forcing him to make a hasty exit from the track and all but hand the win to Lemons.
“It kicked a rod out the side of the block,” a disappointed Nierop said. “That was a brand new engine. We just put it in today. What a shame. I can’t believe it. We’ve come so close to winning this race so many times. I guess it just isn’t to be.”
Lemons went on to score an easy, finishing 3.25 seconds ahead of Corry Heynen of Canada. Ryan Mulder of Channing, Michigan, finished third.
“This is my first World Championship, but I’ve been doing this for a long time,” the 36-year-old Lemons said. “I’ll tell you what, it’s pretty sweet to be winning the World Championship. It’s something I’ve always wanted. When I’m older and my grandkids ask grandpa about his racing, I’ll be able to tell them that I didn’t just race but that I was the World Champion.”
John Mason finished fourth in his Mendeola-backed Jimco Toyota, but that was good enough to lock up his first career Super Clean PRO Super Buggy class championship. The title caps a season in which Mason has finished off the podium only two times in 11 races with only tomorrow’s race remaining.
“I didn’t want to push it today and mess up anything,” the 34-year-old Mason said. “Now tomorrow I can have fun and go for the win. I’m pretty excited. I’m just glad to get this day overwith and move on to tomorrow.”
Rob Weiland (above) of Hortonville Wisconsin won the eight-lap Nortrax Classix race in his North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters-sponsored Chevrolet Blazer. Shane DeGroot controlled the race early, but last night’s Classix winner Justin Keehner reeled him in over the first three of the eight laps. DeGroot then went over the barn jump a little hot and made contact with the wall on the following turn and rolled over. Keehner rolled by taking over the lead. Weiland also passed DeGroot to move into second. DeGroot refired and got rolling but a flat tire slowed him up, and Brent Anderson passed him for third.
Keehner then had mechanical problems on the next lap, allowing Weiland, Anderson, and Kurt Schuch to pass. The final four laps were uneventful for the top three, with Weiland cruising in for the win with a comfortable lead for his fifth career World Championship. Anderson finished second, and Schuch crossed the line third.
“Last night I just took it easy with the truck because I don’t have a lot of spare parts,” Weiland said. “I just get a little bit of money from my local union, and that’s all I get. I don’t really have the horsepower to run up front, but I played my cards right today. This class gets tougher every year because the competition gets tougher.”
Tim Moeller (above) of Rosemount, Minnesota won the Formula 4x4 race in the Amsoil Ford. Dave DeMaegd held the lead for most of the eight-lap race, but he rolled coming out of back loop, allowing Moeller to pass him on the final lap. Amazingly, DeMaegd landed on his wheels and kept rolling but could not close the gap to Moeller and challenge for the win. In the final turn, DeMaegd had more troubles, spinning and coming to a stop facing the wall. Before he could back up and straighten out, 73-year-old Jerry Bundy motored around the outside to claim second. DeMaegd finished third. Moeller’s win marked his first career Crandon World Championship.
“Unfortunately, it will probably also be my last in this class,” the 47-year-old Moeller said. “I’m buying an Ultra 4x4, and I want to come back in two years and win another World Championship.”
Matt Dale won the Enduro truck race in his Stanley Steamer/Superior Stoves and Fireplaces Ford. The early laps of the eight-lap race were laps of attrition with the top three trucks dropping out with mechanical problems or receiving black flags. When the dust settled out, Dale was in the lead. Brandon Rouse and Larry Manske chased in second and third. The top three raced hard over the final several laps but nobody had anything Dale who took the win. Rouse held onto second and Manske finished third.
“The track was great,” Dale, 30, of Marquette, Michigan said. “It was a little slick at first, but it came around. I’m happy. I can’t wait to get back to my family and tell them about this. This is something else. We work hard every day, put in long hours and then come and do this. I guess this is our reward.”
The final round of the Lucas Oil World Series of Off-Road Racing at Crandon gets underway tomorrow and culminates in the BorgWarner Shootout for Super Trucks, PRO 2WDs and PRO 4WDs.