Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series Round 5 from Glen Helen
Short-course off-road racing made its return to Southern California for rounds five and six of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series. The LOORRS series returned again to Glen Helen after last year’s first event at the new So Cal venue. Plenty of off-road race fans packed the venue, as dirt bike racing also took place on the world famous motocross track just across the way, but Lucas Oil was prepared by doubling the parking and seating available to race fans.
Check out the Photo Gallery from Rounds 5-6 at Glen Helen.
After the morning of practice, Kart, UTV and Limited Buggy racing, the opening ceremonies kicked off the racing for the pro classes. Saturday’s ceremonies honored fallen off-road racer Jeff “Ox” Kargola, who recently passed away during the “Rip to the Tip” dirt bike ride in Mexico. Kargola, an accomplished dirt bike racer (recently winning the SCORE San Felipe 250 in March) and freestyle rider, won his first Super Lite race this year.
To honor Ox, friends and family gathered to pay tribute to him during opening ceremonies. Close friends Cameron Steele and professional surfer Sunny Garcia spoke to the crowd, while family and friends joined them on stage to honor Ox. Dana Zamalloa of General Tire, one of Ox’s main sponsors in short-course off-road racing, presented Steele with a watch made for Ox to commemorate his first win at Round 2 of this year’s Lucas Oil Race. A video was also shown chronicling Ox’s joys in life – racing, dirt biking and enjoying time with friends – and doves were released as well.
Despite the heavy hearts of everyone in attendance, an emotional Steele reminded the crowd, “Have an awesome day. Have fun watching the races. Don’t be sad ‘cause Jeff wouldn’t be sad. He’d be here having a good time, and he knows that we’re all here thinking about him. I love you guys.”
Steele hopped in Ox’s Super Lite truck for one lap around the track, and then the full Super Lite field took the track. To honor Ox, the field left one spot open on the front row to start the race. Once the race began, Jacob Person ran out to an early lead, but a crash by Jason Ellis slowed the action. After a few laps, RJ Anderson worked his way up from mid-pack to take the lead, holding Chad George off in second and Patrick Clark in third.
After the restart, chaos ensued when a four-car crash (including early leader Person, Brent Fouch, Austin Kimbrell and Luke Johnson) at the end of the whoops rhythm section stopped racing. Almost nearly at the same time, George, who was able to overtake Anderson for the lead, appeared to lose steering and ran straight into the wall before the final turn. The crashes forced official to red flag the action for a full restart.
Once the race was underway again, only a few laps were left to decide the winner and Anderson was able to hold on for the win.
“I’m pretty surprised, this is the first time I came back with my truck in one piece,” he mused. “I lost second gear at the end, and I knew Patrick [Clark] was knocking on my back door so I had to drive smooth after that.”
Clark earned second place after holding off third-place finisher Jessie Johnson. “All these drivers are so fast, and everyone is so close that the top five guys are so close,” Clark said. “Everyone here is racing in memory of Ox. It’s very sad what happened.”
The Pro 4 Unlimited class took the track next, and right off the line it looked like Carl Renezeder was in for a long race after his front-row position was essentially ruined when he got bumped into the rail in the first turn. Rick Huseman took his usual spot out in front in the class after earning the wins in each of the first four races. Adrian Cenni settled in behind him in second place and Todd LeDuc held third. A few laps into the race, Cenni fell out of contention with mechanical issues as did LeDuc. This put Curt LeDuc in the mix along with a hard-charging Renezeder who had worked up through the pack.
After the restart, the battle was on between Huseman and Renezeder. Huseman came out of the restart with the lead, but Renezeder was able to make his move into first and make it stick. The rest of field tried to survive as Renezeder earned the victory, his first of the season in the class. Huseman finished out of the winner’s spot in second place for the first time this season. Ken Brascho, one of five of the 11 racers to finish every lap of the race, earned the final podium spot with third.
“I was real diced out on turn one, you know, I’m like ‘Oh gosh here we go, the start of the race,’” Renezeder said of his bump into the rail on turn one. “During an interview down here I actually thought about it and it was a little bit of a relief for me ‘cause I needed some time to come from the back. When times get tough, we try to get tougher. It doesn’t always work out that way, but we keep trying.”
Huseman battled some issues down the stretch of the race, but he was happy to earn a solid finish in spite of mechanical issues.
“Yeah, I think we have a left front shock that went out,” Huseman said before his young son tried to steal the microphone. “He was going to eat it. The [truck’s] nose dug and I rode that front bumper for a while – that was pretty scary. But congratulations to Carl, he ran a great race.”
The Pro Lite race featured non-stop action throughout. Chris Brandt jumped out to the early lead and held it for the first half of the race. The action behind him shuffled a number of times, and at one point during a yellow flag even Cameron Steele, Corey Sisler and Jimmy Stephensen were penalized for going around a an accident too quickly.
Once the mandatory yellow flag came out, Brandt again jumped out front, but Deegan had overcome early struggles to sit in second place. For the second half of the race, Rodrigo Ampudia Jr. battled with Deegan for control of second place. Ultimately, Deegan held off Ampudia to hold onto second. Brandt held the lead for the entire race until the final lap. Deegan got close enough to Brandt on the final lap that when given the inside line, Deegan jumped inside, took the lead and held off Brandt for the win.
“It was such a battle. Those guys were racing so good,” Deegan said. “I got up to Brandt and I said ‘Ok here we go.’ Sometimes you just have to go for it on the last lap, and in the end Brandt put up a good race and he really had me nervous.”
It must’ve been a disappointing finish for Brandt after leading most of the race, but he seemed to take it in stride.
“Sometimes that competition yellow is not always your friend, but when you’re on the other end of the stick it’s alright,” Brandt said of his huge lead at the halfway point of the race. “I gave him a little room so he could get in front of me there, and maybe I shouldn’t have, you know?”
After a rough race in Pro 4, Kyle LeDuc came back to earn a hard-fought third place in ultra-competitive Pro Lite.
“That was one of the ugliest races ever,” Leduc said, noting the track conditions were not ideal. “Some of the turns out there were so nice, and some were just disastrous – you were just trying to get through it.”
The Pro Buggy race saw Bobby Pecoy jump out to an early lead, holding off Jerry Whelchel in second. Unfortunately for Pecoy, he got tangled up with another racer and flipped his buggy, allowing Steven Greinke to jump into the lead. Whelchel was able to keep the racing close until he passed him for the lead. The two battled hard for the next few laps, with Doug Fortin and Justin Davis battling for third place behind the two.
Greinke was able get by Whelchel again with only a few laps remaining to earn the win, while Fortin was able to get back by Davis on the second to last turn to earn the final podium spot.
“It was a really fun race,” Greinke said. “Jerry and I were going back and forth, and I’m really happy on my second win in a row out there.”
When asked how Greinke was able to get back around him, Whelchel said, “I don’t know. He was driving really good today, driving clean. You know, I was really happy with the race the way everyone was racing today. He just was faster than me today and hopefully I can get him tomorrow.”
Ending out the day of racing at round five was the Pro 2 Unlimited race, which featured a field of 17 racers. Along with the typically packed field of racers, NASCAR driver and off-road racer Robby Gordon even made his first appearance at the series this year. Renezeder was on the front row with Gordon, and though the two battled for the first two laps, Gordon was forced to pull off with engine trouble, ending his return to short-course racing prematurely.
Renezeder used the opportunity to stay out in front, but hard-charging Rob MacCachren didn’t make it easy. Rob Naughton also got into the mix along with Ampudia and Deegan. Unfortunately for Naughton, a flat tire ruined his shot at a podium finish, and Deegan was able to get by Ampudia to earn his second podium of the day. Although MacCachren put forth a solid effort, Renezeder was able to earn his second win of the day.
“Well especially I do feel good about this team because we’ve been testing a lot and working really hard and trying to get our stuff to work good, and we did,” Renezeder said. “That was a tough race because I knew I had Rob behind me, and I was trying to think ‘Ok, what’s Rob’s next move?’ It was like a chess game out there. It got dicey there for a while and it was anybody’s race but he raced me totally clean like always, and it was an awesome race. I’ll remember that one for a long time.”
MacCachren rebounded from a rough opening weekend to earn back-to-back wins at rounds three and four. Although he didn’t get the win today, another podium is important for the championship points race.
“Yeah once we got up to second we tried to get Carl and we tried him low a few times and he started protecting the inside like he’s supposed to,” MacCachren said. “I started going high and got close to him a couple times and finally I tried too hard in turn two I got up too high, I got sucked in and let two guys get by me there and then I just tried to dig out of that hole I got myself into.
Deegan was able to earn his second podium of the day, battling hard with the competitive Pro 2 field to earn third place.
“Yeah it was a serious battle there,” he said. “I started out not so hot. I didn’t have foam in my lens and I was eating dirt in my eyes. I ended up getting into a bumping deal and I lost my tire and I had to pull in and get a flat changed, and fortunately my crew was fast and laid it down and got me back out there in last place and started picking my way through.”
Check back for more action from Round 6 at Glen Helen tomorrow. For previous rounds of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, see below.