Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Season Finale
With championships on the line, short-course off-road racers waged war today at Firebird Raceway in Arizona, as the regular season for the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series came to a close. Today’s racing was the conclusion of the 2010 regular season, and although a few of the classes had already crowned champions, the points chase in many classes meant this final race would determine the season champion.
Keep in mind, this isn’t the final race of the weekend. Tomorrow will feature the season-ending cup races – Pro 2s vs. Pro 4s, Pro Buggies vs. Pro Lites, and more. The races will feature the largest payouts of the year, with $30,000 going to the Pro 2 vs. Pro 4 winner, for example. With the racing on the track, you would have thought the cup races started today. The new, tight course built at Firebird Raceway kept the racing close, and the drivers were certainly making gaps for passing even if there wasn’t one. It was a day of all-out racing, and it’s hard to believe there’s even more to come.
In Pro 2 Unlimited, Rob MacCachren had already wrapped up the class championship held, but that didn’t deter him from putting it all on the line to earn another victory. There was, however, still a battle for second place overall, as Carl Renezeder clung to a three-point lead over third-place Bryce Menzies.
Rodrigo Ampudia jumped out to the early lead and worked to hold off a hard-charging Robbie Woods. As the race wore on, Ampudia looked to have strangehold on the lead and wasn’t budging, though Woods did make a mistake that pushed him back in the pack. MacCachren, Menzies and Renezeder had all moved up and were challenging for the lead up until the halfway point.
After the restart, it was the tale of two battles. Ampudia held the lead for a few more laps but eventually had mechanical issues and had to pull off, giving MacCachren the lead followed by Renezeder. The two battled hard for first place, while Robbie Woods moved into third and was battling with Menzies for the last podium spot. In the end, MacCachren was able to put an exclamation point on his season with another win. Renezeder finished in second and Woods held off Menzies to round out the top three.
“It was a really great race out there,” MacCachren said. “It’s a great track. It’s pretty tight, and being the last race of the year and we had the points championship sewed up, you know, everybody was going out there going for a win. In the beginning of the race, Robbie [Woods] and Rodrigo were out front, and I didn’t know how we were going to get by anybody, but the rougher the track got, people started making mistakes and we just worked our way through.”
Renezeder gave MacCachren a good battle, but he was unable to get past him and had to settle for second place.
“Yeah, it was great racing,” he said on the podium. “The truck worked really well, but after the midway point I couldn’t shift into third. Every once in the while I would go into third and I thought I was losing my linkage; it turns out I had a little friend riding along with me, a rock that happened to wedge itself between second and third.”
Woods, who started off strong, had a major error, but recovered nicely to finish third, was humble and gracious after the race.
“I couldn’t be more thankful to have my friends and family out here to watch me take on world-class champions like Carl Renezeder and Rob MacCachren,” Woods said. “I mean, these guys are the kings of the sport and it’s just an honor to be out on the same track doing battle with these guys.
Pro Lite Unlimited featured one of the closest points battles of the weekend, with Marty Hart leading the field with 620 points. In second place was Chris Brandt with 613 points, while Brian Deegan was in third with 593. It was definitely shaping up to be a tough race.
At the start, it was Matt Loiodice who jumped out to the early lead, rocking the new Impact Racing! logo on the side of his car, as his sponsor Mastercraft recently acquired the brand. While Loiodice set the pace for the first half of the race, Deegan and Brandt were not far behind. Just behind the top three, a close battle between Hart and Rodrigo Ampudia was waged.
Just after the restart at the midway point of the race, Brandt took the right line and moved past both Deegan and Loiodice for the lead. With Deegan later getting by Loiodice to move into second, the battle was then on for the lead. Both racers swapped back and forth, rubbing side panels in corners. Loiodice even got in on the action, as the racers were three-wide in a turn at one point. Deegan was able to rub his way past Brandt in the end to take the lead and eventual win, with Brandt finishing in second, Loiodice in third, and Hart in fourth.
“Track is good. Intense, tight … you just have to be aggressive to make it work,” Deegan said after the race, noting that he’s looking forward to tomorrow’s cup races. “Game plan [tomorrow] is all or nothing, go for the win. That’s pretty much what I’m doing here. I don’t care about anything else but winning races. So it’s time to go get on the podium for Pro 2. I learned all the lines, how to set up, I learned a lot and how the passes and momentum works, so I think I have a good advantage going into this race.”
Brandt wasn’t able to get back around Deegan for the win, and he understandably a little deflated on the podium.
“Winning the championship was a long shot, but I was really wanting to get the win for my crew for all their hard work,” he said. “I was trying to get up there. You know, Tony’s [Vanillo, LOORRS race director] was on the radio warning me for rough driving … what can I say? Then we get passed like that.”
Hart was able to still finish in a respectable fourth place, which was enough to secure the points championship.
“Man, it was a real stressful day, I’m telling you,” Hart said, as he also raced in his new Pro 4 truck earlier but rolled over in that race in the last lap. “I’m just ready to get out there tomorrow and unleash and see what I can do with it.
The Pro 4 Unlimited race for the season championship was already wrapped up by Rick Huseman. The battle for second place, however, was still very tight. Carl Renezeder was in second place in the standing and held a 12-point lead over Kyle LeDuc at 582. With the Pro 4 Unlimited class often being a battle of survival, the race was sure to provide some great racing moments.
Just as expected, it was a battle of survival, and Huseman keeps finding a way to not only finish races, but finish them in commanding fashion. Renezeder jumped out to the early lead but was forced to pull off with mechanical issues after halfway-point restart. Huseman, who had started in the middle of the pack, had worked up into second and moved into the lead when Renezeder bowed out. Adrian Cenni also was forced to pull off later in the race, and Huseman never really was challenged for the lead from there on out. He earned another victory in his championship season, while Kyle LeDuc earned second and Travis Coyne third.
“I love racing all these guys, and it’s so much fun,” Huseman said. “I think Kyle was on two wheels more than he was on four, so it was funny to watch that. I just can’t thank everyone enough for coming out. It was a great race, and the year’s been good to us.”
LeDuc, who ran the race on the edge of control, was able to finish with a respectable second place despite appearing as though he was going to crash a few times in the race.
“It’s an exciting track and I think we put on an exciting race,” he said. “You know, I think it’s the first time we’ve really put a big truck on a little track like this. I think we put on a good show, and I hope everyone enjoyed it.”
In the Super Lite class, crossover athelete Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg was atop the leaderboard in the points standings with 528, holding a 22-point lead over the accomplished UTV racer who moved into Super Lite this year in Chad George.
Although Colton Greaves jumped out to the early lead, both he and Jeff “Ox” Kargola had issues and were unable to stay at the front of the pack. That left the door open for Kyle LeDuc, who took the lead and never looked back. Dawson Kirchner stayed closebehind him but had to settle for second, while George rounded out the podium in third place.
In the end, “Twitch” took a conservative approach and stayed out of trouble to earn the championship at Firebird Raceway. Besides, tomorrow is where the big money is in the cup races.
“I just tried to be smart about it,” he said. “I’m not here to win the race, I could care less. I got that tomorrow. I just needed to stay consistent and get myself through the day and win the championship, and that’s what I did.”
The Pro Buggy Unlimited class saw another tight battle heading into the final race, as Larry Job led the field 606 points but only clung to a 9-point lead over teammate Cameron Steele. Class veteran Doug Fortin was in third place in the standings with 584 points and could potentially disrupt the top-two racers with a strong finish.
Yesterday, since Steele posted the fastest qualifying time, the additional point he earned meant he needed to finish four places ahead of teammate Job for earn the win. In the end, Steele ended up earning the victory on the day, beating out Jerry Whelchel and Boddy Pecoy in second and third, respectively. He wrapped up the championship as well, as Job finished in 11th on the day.
“Well no matter what happened we had to win to give ourselves a chance to win the championship,” Steele said. “It’s kind of like the Cinderella story – you come in not expecting to have a shot at the championship and you leave with the win and championship.”
Short-course veteran Whelchel had a solid day as well, moving up through the pack to finish in second place.
“Yeah, it’s kind of hard to come from eighth, it’s so even out there,” Whelchel said of the class. “I’m really happy to race with these guys, because they’re always clean.”
Be sure to check back in for coverage of the cup races tomorrow. It’s going to be all-out war on the track.