1999 CORR Winter Series Championship
For the second time in as many years, The 1999 Winter Series finished up a hard fought season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in (where else?) Las Vegas NV. While the inaugural 98 event was plagued by enough problems, missteps, and sheer incompetence to jade even the most adamant fan or racer from the possibility of a return visit, they bit the bullet, buckled down, and hoped for the best in 99. After all, this is Vegas right?
What's a trip to Vegas without a little gambling? And let's face it - 50/ 50 are pretty good odds in this town. Unfortunately the 1999 CORR Winter Series came dangerously close to being a repeat of the disaster that was the 98 event. Rather than an unraceable mud bog caused by a freak snow storm, there was an unraceable mud bog caused by overzealous watering of the track surface. Rather than the media having to fight with CORR and Vegas Speedway officials for credentials and on track photo passes, there was a "sharing" of the photo passes between members of the media. Fortunately for the fans and racers, the seemingly endless string of problems and difficulties came to a close by Sunday, but only after a large number of fans showed their displeasure by abandoning their seats, leaving in disgust the night before. Improvement? You be the judge.
The Highlight of the CORR Winter Series made for one of it's saddest moments as well. Off-Road racing legend Walker Evans emerged as the 99 CORR "Pro 4" champion - the pinnacle of short course racing, but that championship will be his last. After over 20 years, hundreds of wins, dozens of championships, and multiple Baja 1000 victories, Evans is hanging up his trademark hat. At 60 years of age, Evans is stepping down from competitive driving to pursue his interests "behind the scenes" in the world of off-road motorsports.
With mechanical difficulties having forced Evans into a DNF on Saturday night, he returned with a vengeance on Sunday afternoon, fighting a furious battle with 98 champ Jack Flannery through lapped traffic to finish the event a little worse for the wear, but solidly seated in second place. The question was, "Would second place be good enough for the season championship?"
While the Saturday Pro4 race proved to be an exercise in attrition, the final event on Sunday resulted in surpassingly few drop outs. Notably absent when the checkered flag fell was Las Vegas' own Rob MacCachran, who came back from a gas & transmission fire the night before, only to take himself out of the race when a hard contact pass on Evans for second place resulted in one too many broken parts. Big Mac could only sit and watch as his narrow point lead and the season championship went up, quite literally, in a cloud of smoke before his hometown crowd.
Former CORR/SODA Champ Curt LeDuc found himself smothered in slower traffic throughout the day, unable to make any progress the Flannery / Evans duo. Faring even worse was Scott Douglas in the Rancho Ford F-150. Douglas' early slip up cost him a left front wheel, and although it eliminated him from any hope of a championship, he soldiered on regardless to capture precious finishers points in the hopes of a higher ranking in the final standings.
As the laps wound down, Flannery began losing ground to Evans, who began rapidly closing the gap. Unfortunately for Evans, time ran out, and Flannery crossed the line in 1'st place. Despite losing the battle however, Evans won the war, ending what was perhaps the most illustrious career in the sport of off-road racing with one last title - "Pro4 Champion of the 1999 CORR Series".
In Pro2, it was all Scott Taylor. Scott and the tiger striped Exxon F-150 did their sponsors proud, distancing themselves from the rest of the field lap after lap. Taylor finished up the season ending Winter Series with another runaway; a total 253 points besting 2nd place Dan Vanden Heuvel by an incredible 36 points. With Taylor winding it up on the track, the Exxon Superflow Tiger was winding things up in the stands. Halloween costume contests for the kids, and a seemingly endless array of t-shirts and trinkets for the fans kept the 'tween race action flowing.
While Taylor took the lions (tigers?) share of attention on saturday, friday night belonged to Vegas' own Carl Renezeder. Renezeder proved as proficent on the short course as he is in the desert, driving his Chevy Pro 2 into the winners circle with room to spare.
A body would be hard pressed to pick "the" race of the Winter Series, but if pushed, one would likely give that honor to saturday's Pro Lite battle royal perpetrated by the dynamic duo of Johnny Greaves and Jason Crowder. Lap after lap, bump after bump, Greaves and Crowder traded mud, paint, and eventually fiberglass, each never far from the others sights.As the laps wore on and the mud built up, it grew harder to tell one red racer from the other. In the end, Johnny Greaves took the flag by the narrowest of margins. Crowder's last minuet charge came on strong, but it was too little to late.
And for 2000?
At this point it's anyones guess. First, Ford pulled out of the CORR series, and now Chevrolet has aparently pulled the plug as well. Wildly popular in the midwest, short course racing hasn't really been a driving force in the western states since the glory days of Riverside.
No one in the racing community really knows what's going on behind the doors of Marty Reid's offices, but the defection of factory involvment, and less than stellar turnout at the Vegas venue (due in part to the forementioned problems 2 years running) point to a very rocky future.
While ESPN2 has done a fantstic job of event coverage, and midwestern fans are as enthusiastic as ever, it would appear that the problems predicted to come out of the SODA / CORR split have at last reared their ugly heads.
Solutions? Unknown at this time, however Reid is a master of promotion, and certainly no stranger to the up and down world of off-road racing.If good money were to be bet on the outcome, Marty's horse would be a good place to bet it on.
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