Lucas Oil Rockstar Energy Cup Challenge
With the regular season of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Race Series wrapping up yesterday at the newly built track at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Arizona, today was the all-out war among short-course racers. Lucas Oil again held its final race of the year with monster payouts, even pitting classes against each other to create the ultimate end-of-the-year showdown in short-course racing.
The Rockstar Energy Challenge Cup races concluded the 2010 season today, boasting large payouts and unleashing massive racecar fields on the track. The unique races pitted unlikely competitors against each other – the Pro 4 Unlimited class would do battle with the Pro 2 Unlimited Class, and the Pro Lite class went to battle against the Pro Buggy Unlimited class. Yep, open-wheel buggies took on trucks. It was a wild and entertaining day of racing, and a few racers were fortunate enough to go home with some serious cash when all was said and one.
Pro Lite vs. Pro Buggy Cup Race
Pure mayhem might be the most apt description for the Pro Lite vs. Pro Buggy Rockstar Energy Challenge Cup race. With the Pro Buggies boasting more horsepower than the trucks, the Pro Lite field got a head start at the beginning of the race.
Mary Hart, fresh off his Pro Lite Championship yesterday, worked his way into the lead a few laps into the race. Although it took about five laps for the buggies to crack the top five, they eventually caught up to the trucks. Hart held the lead, followed by yesterday’s Pro Lite winner Brian Deegan and Matt Loiodice in third. The first buggy to really push the action was Justin Davis. By the time the mandatory caution came out, the top three were Pro Lites (Hart, Deegan, Loiodice, respectively), but Davis and Doug Fortin held the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
After the restart, the buggies went on the offensive. Fortin was able to move into the lead while Hart tried to hold off Davis. Deegan, who had fallen back a bit in the pack, had moved into fifth but made his move back to try and crack the top three. He and Hart battled for a time before Deegan was able to move into second. When all was said and done, Fortin held on for the win and the monster $20,000 first-place check. Deegan finished in second and earned $10,000, while Davis made an impressive showing with a third-place finish that earned him $5,000.
“I’m so happy, so happy for the team and everyone that works so hard,” Fortin said after the win. “Off-road racing doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. I think it is now, and if that race doesn’t get it I don’t know what will. Started back at 20th, I was just going one car at a time, one car at a time.”
Deegan, who earned an extra $1,000 for being the first Pro Lite across the finish line, was clearly frustrated he couldn’t come away with the win but considerate of his competition.
“First of all, second sucks super bad,” he said. “It was a good battle. Mad respect to all of the guys. That was probably the gnarliest battle I’ve ever been in – moto, trucks, whatever.”
Young Pro Buggy racer Davis earned himself the final podium spot in the hard-fought race.
“It was hard to get the super buggy through the Pro Lites, but I had a great time,” he said. “I have to thank all of my crew because I wouldn’t be out here without them. It was out of control. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in this car.”
Pro 2 vs. Pro 4
The Pro 2 vs. Pro 4 cup pitted a massive field of trucks on the track at the same time. Considering drivers often spoke of how tight the course was on Saturday, it was going to be interesting to see that many trucks on the new Firebird Raceway track.
The Pro 2 Unlimted trucks were given a headstart, as there were actually two pace trucks on the course – one leading the Pro 2s, the other about half a lap back leading the Pro 4 class.
At first, Kevin Probst jumped out to an early lead on the field, but a yellow caution flag for an accident slowed down the field. After the race got back underway, Probst still held the lead, but Bryce Menzies starting pushing for the lead and eventually took it. Kyle LeDuc in the #99 Pro 4 was working his way through the field, and after a red flag came out to clean up debris off the track, the racers were facing another restart.
On the restart, Menzies was still able to hold off LeDuc, with Probst in third, Carl Renezeder in his Pro 4 in fourth and Robby Woods in #99 Pro 2 truck in fifth. LeDuc finally found enough space and passed Menzies for the lead, with Carl Renezeder also getting past Menzies to move into second. Unfortunately for Renezeder, a right front flat made it tough to hold his position, and he fell back into third, batting with Kyle’s brother Todd LeDuc for third place.
In the end, Kyle LeDuc stayed out front and earned the big payday by taking home a $30,000 check.
“Firebird Raceway, I hope that was a good race, ‘cause it was insane to drive out there on that racetrack,” LeDuc said on the podium. “There was so much smoke and chaos. $30 Gs, how can you go wrong? Unbelievable. Lucas Oil, I appreciate it for hooking us up.”
Menzies held onto his second-place spot to earn the $15,000 check along with a $1,000 bonus for being the first vehicle in the non-winning class to cross the finish line for the Pro 2s.
“We started fifth row, and we worked our way up,” he said. “It was a clean race and a lot of fun.”
Renezeder, despite riding on his front flat tire for three laps, was somehow able to hold off Todd LeDuc to earn the final podium spot and take home $7,500 for third place.
“There’s so much going on out there with all the dust, and a couple of the trucks were smoking – it was kind of like a combat zone,” Renezeder said. “I think today we made lemonade out of lemons, and that’s just because my team works so hard. I had a left front flat, and I still had a truck to drive because my team worked so hard.”
Super Lite Cup Race
The Super Lite cup race featured the spec-class field going for broke at Firebird Raceway, but it was a race of survival to earn the final payday. RJ Anderson jumped out to an early lead with Ricky James in hot pursuit. With so much aggressive driving on the track, it was no surprise that an early yellow flag came out.
At this point, Anderson was forced out of the race with a mechanical issue, and on the restart James had the lead followed by Kyle LeDuc and Dawson Kirchner. After a few laps, James got turned around after coming out of turn three in the middle of the track, leaving LeDuc and Kirchner to battle for the lead. Unfortunately for Kirchner, he was forced to pull off with mechanical issues and was unable to continue the race.
After the mandatory restart, LeDuc jumped out to snatch the lead. Colton Greaves and Chad George battled for second behind LeDuc, with George able to move into second place, leaving Greaves to fend for the final podium spot.
In the end, LeDuc finished off his stellar weekend with his second win in Super Lite at Firebird Raceway, earning a check for $10,000 in the process.
“It’s nice of them to let a pro come out here and battle with these boys,” said LeDuc, who noted how tough the field battled him all weekend. “I came from 13th so I’m not sure if you guys saw a good show but I had a hell of a lot of fun in that racecar. I just can’t thank the guys at So Cal Supertrucks enough.”
George was able to hold onto second place for Cup Race, earning $6,000 for the finish.
“You know, I was pushing that truck for every little bit that it had, and you know I made a couple of mistakes but I bounced back,” he said, complementing the winner in his next breath. “If you’re gonna lose, you might as well lose to the best.”
Greaves fell back a few spots at one point in the race but was able to fight back onto the podium to finish third and earn a check for $4,000.
Limited Buggy Cup Race
The Limited Buggy Rockstar Lucas Oil Cup Race saw a back-and-forth battle with the leaders. Jumping out to an early lead was Geoffrey Cooley, who recently turned 16 years old but had a tough day in Saturday’s race. He was actually loaned a motor by none other than Steve Menzies, owner of Menzies Motorsports.
As the race wore on, it was Menzies Motorsports driver Justin “Bean” Smith who gave Cooley a run for his money. Smith earned the championship in Limited Buggy the day before and was looking to make the most of the weekend by earning the $4,000 first-place check.
With racers pushing the envelope a little more since it was the last race of the season, a few more crashes were to be expected. That’s exactly what happened when Quentin Tucker and Kyle Lucas got tangled on the back straightaway, forcing an early mandatory restart.
Out of the gate, Cooley was able to retain the lead, but Smith was able to overtake him after a few laps. Although Smith appeared to pull away at one point, Cooley kept reeling him in. All the while, John Fitzgerald had moved up into third place. When the checkered flag waved, it was Smith who earned the victory and the $4,000 check despite his motor giving out after crossing the finish line. In fact, second-place finisher Cooley had to push his buggy up to the finish line.
“We worked our way up form the back, and the Menzies team put 110 percent in all year long,” Smith said. “We had a perfect car. The last lap, we started losing a spark plug wire, started losing power, coming down the front straight she was definitely only three cylinders, and I knew Geoffrey was back there. We were sweating a little bit but we felt we had enough of a cushion to make it happen.”
Cooley was happy to earn the win and the $2,000 check, especially after the hospitality of another race team – the team of race winner Smith.
“After blowing up the engine yesterday, Steve Menzies came along and let me borrow his engine, so it felt great,” he said.
Fitzgerald was able to hold onto the third-place position and earn the final check of $1,000.
“People were just driving out of control everywhere, just running into everybody, it was a mess out there,” he said. “We got all winter to fix it, so it’s all good.”
With the final race of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series for 2010 in the books, it’s time for racers to put their race vehicles back together and prepare for next season. Click here for the 2011 Lucas Oil schedule.