Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series Round 6
After a great day of racing for Round 5 on Saturday, Glen Helen was again abuzz with short-course off-road for Round 6 on Sunday. Some tight battles were fought in pretty much every class, and the day proved to one of redemption for some racers.
Check out the Photo Gallery from Rounds 5-6.
The Pro 4 Unlimited class saw Kyle LeDuc looking to redeem his DNF in the class the day before, which bothered him enough that he even mentioned it while on the podium in Pro Lite at Round 5. Adrian “Wildman” Cenni jumped out to the early lead but was forced to pull off after only one lap with mechanical issues. Even class points leader Rick Huseman had a tough start, spinning out early in the race and falling to the back of the pack.
This opened the door for LeDuc to jump into the lead while trying to hold off Carl Renezeder and brother Todd LeDuc. Huseman had worked his way back into fourth place after only two laps, and by the time the yellow flag waved for the halfway restart Renezeder had moved into first, Kyle LeDuc was second, Huseman third and Todd LeDuc was in fourth.
After the restart, the field stayed in place for much of the race until the last lap when Kyle put a move on Renezeder to take the lead and the eventual win. Renezeder had to settle for second, while Huseman was able to hold off Todd to earn third.
“It’s always a battle, and these guys haven’t seen a Pro 4 battle for a while,” Kyle LeDuc said. “We all were giving it all we had.”
Renezeder came off the track wondering if the fans had as much fun as he did.
“It was a great race. I hope the fans enjoyed that one, because that’s one thing you’re going to remember is three guys nose to tail like that,” he said. “It was as fun driving probably as it was watching. Kyle drove a heck of a race, and I hated to lose that one but it was a barnburner.”
Huseman wasn’t able to earn a victory over the weekend at Glen Helen after sweeping the class at the first four races, but he did make the podium both days in spite of some on-track challenges.
“It’s really hard to get a pass in on this track,” he said. “To try to get up with these guys you have to do everything you can.”
The spec Super Lite class seemed to pick up right where it left off yesterday. The action was fierce, and the racers battled so hard that many top contenders weren’t able to finish the race. A crash restarted the field right off the first turn, and once they were up and running again it was Dawson Kirchner holding off yesterday’s winner RJ Anderson for the lead. But Chad George was not far behind, and for a number of laps the top three racers battled within a few car lengths of each other.
Another crash forced a restart of the field yet again, and George had to hit the hot pits at restart and was unable to catch back up to the front of the pack. Kirchner and Anderson then battled for the lead until Anderson crashed toward the end of the race, handing the lead he stole back to Kirchner. Yesterday’s second-place finisher Patrick Clark was in the mix until losing his place up front toward the end of the race. Kirchner held on for the lead, Jessie Johnson moved into second, and Austin Kimbrell earned the final podium spot in third.
Winner Kirchner was happy with his performance, but he was also concerned about Anderson’s crash.
“RJ, I hope he’s ok, that was a gnarly crash. I hope he’s alright,” he said before being assured Anderson walked off from the accident. In regards to feeling the pressure during the race, Kirchner said, “No, I was singing a song in my head the whole time actually.”
The racers still had heavy hearts after the untimely death of one of the fellow competitors in Jeff “Ox” Kargola, who recently passed away in a tragic dirt bike accident. “I’ve got to dedicate this first race to Ox, he’s one of my brothers,” Kirchner said. “It’s so horrible what happened, and I wish he was out here racing with us and up here on the podium.”
After earning his first podium of the weekend, Johnson also noted that it was a wild race out there.
“It’s a crazy battle,” he said. “It’s a really competitive class. We’re all within a second of each other, so when you get us together and bunch us up it turns out pretty crazy.”
Kimbrell also noted the key to his third-place finish was just avoiding the carnage on the track.
“We’ve been staying out of trouble and made our way up through the pack and ended up in third place,” he said.
The Pro Lite class again provided some of the best racing of the weekend, though it had to feel a little bit like déjà vu for Chris Brandt. Brandt again jumped out to an early lead, holding off Brian Deegan, Rodrigo Ampudia Jr. and Kyle LeDuc. But after the restart at the halfway point of the race, Brandt lost his lead to Deegan.
On the second lap on the restart, Ampudia lost control going into turn one and launched up and over the wall, forcing officials to halt racing and restart the field again. Deegan managed to jump out front again, with LeDuc and Brandt battling back and forth for second place. The two bumped and rubbed around the course, and at one point, even though it may have been inadvertent, LeDuc came in contact with Brandt in the rhythm section and turned Brandt’s car almost completely sideways, and somehow, Brandt was able to recover without faulting, though it was jaw-dropping for those of us watching it closely.
When the checkered flag waved, Deegan earned his second Pro Lite victory of the weekend, LeDuc finished in second place, and a frustrated Brandt finished in third place. Deegan noted on the podium that he had to overcome some adversity at the start of the race to get back in contention.
“I started second row and that first turn, man, everyone started just bashing each other, and I went back to like fifth or sixth place and I just had to dig deep and come through and be patient,” he said. “We’re so close in the top three up there, and everyone is so close to the same speed that the moves just have to be aggressive to get by pretty much.”
LeDuc said that the key to his race was about not pressing the action too hard in the beginning.
“Yeah it was kind of a play it safe,” he said. “I learned a little bit from the Pro 4s – just take your time in the beginning so you have something at the end. I wish everybody out there could see what I could see from my windshield with Brandt and Deegan, just scrapping, like it was for a million bucks.”
LeDuc also addressed the aggressive driving that was taking place and the front of the pack, though he did specifically note that he and Brandt might not be happy with each other but that he hopes they can brush it off and move on.
“Yeah, I feel bad because I’m the one that almost caused a huge wreck,” he explained. “You know, [Brandt and I] talked, and we’re going to hate each other for a little bit, but hopefully we’ll keep it clean. I don’t know about you guys but that was a sick race!”
Brandt, who had two podiums over the weekend but must’ve been frustrated he didn’t walk away with a win, played it cool on the podium and joked about his truck seeing a lot of the racetrack.
“I was doing a thorough track inspection,” he said. “I wanted to make sure it was all there. You know, what can I say?”
After holding the lead in Pro Buggy Unlimited on Saturday but having to settle for second at the end, Jerry Whelchel was able to better his finish yesterday in the class by taking home the win. He was able to hold off Justin “Bean” Smith to earn the victory despite Bean’s pressure. John Holmes was able to avoid some of the tangles and traffic to earn a solid third-place finish as well.
On the podium, Whelchel, similar to Saturday’s Round 5 interview, praised the clean driving by the field. “Yeah it was a great race. Everyone raced clean,” he said. “There were great restarts. Great track, too.”
Whelchel also noted that he was aware Smith was pressuring him during the race. “I always worry about Bean, man. I always feel him and I always hear him back there. This time we pulled one off on him, but hopefully we do well in Utah also.”
After moving up from Limited Buggy, Bean has struggled at times to learn his new car but things came together for him at Round 6.
“All year we’ve been trying to adapt and learn the car, but I tell you what we’ve had an awesome team all year long,” he said. “Yesterday we got ourselves into trouble with a DNF but I feel pretty good. We had some speed for Jerry in the beginning we just couldn’t get around him clean and he pulled away.”
The Pro 2 Unlimited race again closed out the action at Glen Helen. The packed, headliner field featured names like Jeremy McGrath, Carl Renezeder, Robby Gordon, Rob MacCachren, Rodrigo Ampudia, Brian Deegan and more. But big names aside, the action in the class was plain awesome.
Renezeder jumped out to the early lead and kept a stranglehold on it. The way he was driving, it looked like the battle was on for second. Ampudia, Deegan, Greg Adler, MacCachren and McGrath all either held second place for a time or were in close contention for it. Once the halfway point hit, Renezeder was in the lead, with Adler in second and McGrath in third. Gordon was forced to pull off again with truck issues, giving him a DNF in both races over the weekend.
On the restart, a big pileup just behind the top three slowed down the middle of the pack, specifically the four drivers in the wreck – Deegan, Woods, Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg and Robbie Pierce. This let the top three racers in Renezeder, Adler and MacCachren pull away from the pack. Although Renezeder kept the lead throughout, both Adler and MacCachren pressured him while they were waging their own war for second place. When all was said and done, Renezeder took another Pro 2 win, Adler earned an impressive second place and MacCachren finished with a solid third.
“Well this will definitely be a weekend that I remember for a long time,” Renezeder said after the win. “You know, coming in here I actually didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. We’ve been out here testing a lot, trying to work on some new things, and things just came together and it just was a lot of hard work with my team and everyone was burning the candle. But man, Greg Adler, you were turning the heat up, buddy!”
Adler, who had a giant crowd cheering him on during and after the race, was grateful for all the support of his team.
“The whole team at 4 Wheel Parts, that’s my race team, my family, my friends, all of our employees, our board of directors, just everyone supports this deal, and it just feels good to come home with some hardware the hard way here,” he said. “I could catch Carl in parts but I couldn’t pass him. We’re just so happy to get out on the podium for everyone that’s out here supporting us.”
MacCachren, who looked like a man on a mission in the race, was happy to earn the podium after battling hard the entire race.
“Yeah, you know turn five early in the race I got screwed up and caught a rut and got spun around, and there were so many people behind me I couldn’t pull back in so I had to wait,” he said. “I knew from then on we had to run hard and I drove the wheels off that truck and was taking a lot of chances out there and got up to second, and finally I started feeling vibration from the driveshaft and took it easy.”
The next Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing stop will be at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah on June 25th & 26th. For more information, visit LucasOilOffRoad.com.
To check out previous 2011 Lucas Oil Off-Road Races, see below: