2011 Lucas Oil Challenge Cup [Video]
With the season championships decided yesterday at the Round 15 finale for the 2011 Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, today was about all about big paydays. That and carnage. With no more races left for the season, the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup offers large purses and unique race formats to cap off the season.
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Over $100,000 was on the line today at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Arizona, and the lack of fiberglass on many race vehicles at the end of the races was proof positive that everyone was going for it. Although Limited Buggy and Super Lite both featured enlarged purses but kept basically the same race structure, the same couldn’t be said for the other pro classes. Pro Lite and Pro Buggy were combined for a field of 27 racers, while the Pro 2 and Pro 4 Unlimited classes were combined for their Cup race.
In the Pro Buggy/Pro Lite race, the trucks were given a head start on the buggies. Although this head start meant mostly trucks stayed out front in the beginning, by the halfway mark the buggies had infiltrated the top 5 and were making a push.
Cory Sisler and Kyle LeDuc battled for the lead early in the race, while Chris Brandt and Casey Currie stayed in the mix just behind them. Eventually the open-wheel buggies made their way into the mix, as Justin “Bean” Smith and Doug Fortin started applying pressure to the top Pro Lite drivers. Smith pressured the drivers for the lead, and Sisler was forced to pull off with mechanical issues, and LeDuc got caught in traffic and feel back into the pack.
Smith was able to just out to the lead and hold off the Pro Lite trucks to earn the win, the third in a row for a buggy in this race.
“Ah man, we came in this weekend just wanting to concentrate on finishing the season strong, so we came out here and did it,” Smith said after the race. “To win the third consecutive shootout cup in a row, I can’t be happier. This Menzies Motorsports car has been backing me up for a couple of years now and I couldn’t be happier, so big thanks to all our sponsors, Competitive Metal, Metal Mulisha, BFGoodrich, Fox Racing Shox, Kroyer Racing Engines.”
Smith’s race went mostly well toward the end, but he did have his share or trouble early on.
“As soon as we started we had a good run going and we kinda got shoved into the K-rail, and I did a straight up skate 50-50 K-grind around the rail,” he said, referencing a skateboard-like trick his car did during the race. “We thought it was going to be over then but we managed to pull off of it and just fight our way up.”
Out of the chaos behind Smith emerged two consistent trucks throughout the race in Chris Brandt and Casey Currie. Although Brandt wasn’t able to finish off his 2011 Pro Lite season with the championship, as Brian Deegan finished ahead of him to earn the title, he did race a great race to be the first truck across the line and second overall. He took home $10,000 for his efforts.
Finishing in the final podium spot the Pro Lite truck of Currie, who had an up-and-down year in the class driving with a new V-8 motor in his truck. Like many racers, he bounced around positions during the race but was able to stay near the front to earn $5,000 for his third-place finish. A hood blocking his vision toward the end of the race couldn’t keep him off the podium.
“I was coming over that last step down it flew up and I looked out my driver’s window and I see the wall and knew to turn,” Currie explained as announcer Dave Arnold said he must’ve had Jedi-like powers. “I just held it to the floor and I figured if anyone’s in my way I got nothing to lose at this point.”
Pro Buggy vs. Pro Lite Cup Race
1. Justin Smith – Buggy, $20,000
2. Chris Brandt – Truck, $10,000
3. Casey Currie – Truck, $5,000
4. Doug Fortin - Buggy
5. Rich Ronco -Buggy
The spec-engine Super Lite class didn’t have to combine with any other classes, but the racers were still going for it. Looking like a repeat of Saturday, early on yesterday’s class winner Austin Kimbrell jumped out to an early lead with Kyle Lucas. But it was yesterday’s third-place finisher RJ Anderson who eventually took over the lead, holding it to the finish to take the $10,000 first-place check in the process.
“Yeah this one means a lot not only for me but for all my guys,” Anderson said after the race, thanking his So Cal Supertruck team who weren’t able to make it this weekend. Hats off to those guys. They couldn’t be here this weekend but I know they are watching. All my sponsors, Walker Evans Racing, Southpoint, Polaris, Dethrone Racing, Goodyear, Oakley, thanks to everyone, all my family, all my friends… they got me to this point and I appreciate everything they have done for me.”
Finishing in second place was Patrick Clark, who took home $6,000, and rounding out the podium in third place as Kimbrell, who earned $4,000.
Superlite Cup Race
1. RJ Anderson - $10,000
2. Patrick Clark - $6,000
3. Austin Kimbrell - $4,000
4. Brent Fouch
5. Ron Duncombe
Capping off the day was the wildest race of the day. Lucas Oil pitted the Pro 2 trucks against the Pro 4s, and all-out chaos ensued as soon as the flag dropped. With the Pro 2 trucks getting a head start ahead of the Pro 4s, Robby Woods jumped out to an early lead and managed to hold the rest of the 2 field despite pressure from Jeff Geiser. Carl Renezeder and Kyle LeDuc.
The rest of the battle was intense. With 25 trucks on the track, it’s no surprise a number of accidents occurred. Evan Evans crashed and forced the field to slowly proceed around the track under yellow flags. Woods appeared to succumb to the pressure and crashed out of the lead, leaving Renezeder and Pro 4 driver Adrian “Wildman” Cenni to battle for the lead. Todd LeDuc, with his hood nearly covering his entire front window, put forth a solid charge too. It looked to be anyone’s race at many points.
Renezeder fell back into the pack after an bump from Cenni, who was handed a black-flag penalty for his driving (Cenni appeared to have nowhere to go but didn’t appear to let off the gas). The door was then open for Rob Naughton, who had patiently waited for the carnage to clear the way for him. Even at the end, Renezeder got tangled up with Jeremy McGrath nearing the finish line. It was a fitting end to a crazy race.
After the chaotic finish, the top three finishers were not fully clear. Although it seemed apparent that Naughton had won the race, it first announced that Carl Renezeder was in second place and Brian Deegan in third. However, after a few more minutes and a change in decision from Lucas Oil’s Tony Vanillo, Renezeder was penalized for aggressive driving against McGrath, moving Renezeder off the podium, Deegan to second and McGrath up into third place.
“That was the most exciting race I’ve been a part of,” Naughton said. “And my game plan was, there’s going to be carnage, there’s going to be attrition, I was in all of it yesterday, so just stay out of it, stay out of it, stay out of it, I drove wide lines and I just charged. I have no idea what next year holds for me so I wanted to make sure I stamped this season with a win, and we got it!
“I just wanted to be the first Pro 2, because I didn’t think the Pro 2s could beat the Pro 4s … I wasn’t even worried about the 4s. My game plan going in was give it up to the 4s, you’re not racing those guys. That’s all I did, whenever they were inside of me I would just give it to them, and it worked out in the end.”
Pro 2 vs. Pro 4 Cup Race
1. Rob Naughton – Pro 2, $30,000
2. Brian Deegan – Pro 2, $15,000
3. Jeremy McGrath – Pro 2, $7,500
4. Jeff Geiser – Pro 2
5. Nick Tyree – Pro 2
In the Limited Buggy Lucas Oil Cup race, Geoffrey Cooley jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. He was able to hold off the charges of John Fitzgerald and Quentin Tucker, who both finished second and third, respectively.
“Yeah, last year I got second place I knew this year I had to step it up a notch and get first place so I had to come out here to win,” Cooley said. “First lap I knew I had to go straight to the front and then I wouldn’t get caught up in all that mess out there.”
Limited Buggy Cup Race
1. Geoffrey Cooley - $4,000
2. John Fitzgerald - $2,000
3. Quentin Tucker - $1,000
4. Dave Mason
5. Kevin McCullough
Be sure to mark your calendars for the 2012 Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series schedule. For more on this year’s season of racing, check out more Lucas Oil Off-Road action below: