The 2010 Off-Road Championship Series Wraps up at Crandon
Crandon. No other single word in the world of off-road racing conjures up as many emotions, feelings, excitement and memories. Just say Crandon in a group of off-road race fans and you will see a glint in their eye as their brain floods with mental pictures of the Big House and the Borg Warner Cup, 10 trucks doing 100 mph through turn one, slip n’ slides in Jurassic Park and, of course, beer and brats.
The hot race action was set to begin on Friday with pro qualifying and sportsman racing, but Mother Nature had different ideas as the skies opened up and poured rain for several days leading up to the start and most of the day Friday. As a result the track was soft, slippery and full of standing water forcing TORC officials to cancel all on-track events for Friday. The Friday night sportsman races were also moved to Sunday morning. Qualifying for the pros was then to take place during the scheduled Saturday practice, but that too was postponed again due large puddles and poor track conditions. With no qualifying, the drivers drew numbers out of a hat for starting positions as part of a 900-horsepower crap shoot.
Since the racing weekend at Crandon represented the final two rounds of the 2010 TORC season, the championship points battles were on the line and all were extremely close. In Pro 4x4, Johnny Greaves held a small, two-point lead over Rick Huseman. In Pro 2wd, Ricky Johnson was two points in front of Rob MacCachren, and in Pro Light Casey Currie had five points on Andrew Caddell. Heating things up further, NASCAR’s Robby Gordon would battle the series regulars in Pro 2wd.
Round 11 began with Pro 2wd, and Jeff Kincaid grabbed the holeshot through treacherous turn one while Scott Taylor and Todd LeDuc tangled shortly after turn one and ended LeDuc’s day early. Kincaid battled with MacCachren and Johnson in the early laps and then began to check out. But despite leading most of the race, Kincaid went out with mechanical problems in the closing laps and left the points leaders Johnson and MacCachren to slug it out. The two were side by side off the launch zone jump with one lap to go, and Johnson set up MacCachren and made the pass as they crossed the timing stripe and he held his lead to the finish. Jeremy McGrath would round out the podium in third.
The next race on the track was Pro Light, which turned into the battle and story of the day. Points leader Casey Currie took the holeshot and ran out front in the clean air through the yellow and into the final lap, but close on his heels was second-in-points Caddell. Currie did not have an ideal line though the turn five hairpin leading to the finish and would give up much of the ground he gained on the rest of the track at the end of each lap. On the final lap, Currie was again on a slow line and Caddell made an aggressive move putting his left front into Currie’s right rear for a classic pit maneuver that caused Currie to spin and roll just 30 feet from the checkers. Currie was able to recover and crossed the line in second. Upon review by TORC officials, Currie was awarded the win due to Caddell’s overly aggressive driving.
“(Caddell and I) had some great side-by-side battles and in the last turn,” Currie said. “I went to the inside because I thought he was going to try to bonsai me on the inside, because I had been running on the outside every turn. He wants to win as bad as I do. It’s all good between us, but you know, it’s racing. We’ve got a championship we hopefully wrap up tomorrow, and game on!”
Caddell acknowledged it was hard racing, but he had no ill intent with the move.
“He’d been running the high side the whole time,” he said. “I came in there and I knew it was really slick down there because I tried it before. He got a little sideways. We’re both going for a championship, you know. I hit him in the right rear tire and he went over. Like (Currie) said, it’s hard racing and it is what it is.”
The final pro race of the day brought out the bad boys of short-course off-road in their Pro 4x4 machines. Steve Barlow grabbed the holeshot with Scott Douglas and Johnny Greaves within spitting distance. By the second lap, Greaves was in the lead followed by Barlow and Douglas going into the yellow. On the restart, Greaves held the lead while Barlow fell back with Huseman and Douglas fighting for second. Both Mark Jenkins and Barlow rolled in the last corner and Douglas pulled off to make smores as his truck caught fire, but all three drivers escaped their incidents without injury. Greaves finished first giving him a slightly larger points cushion heading into the final race. In second place was Huseman, and battling his way to third in his first TORC race of the year was the Wildman, Adrian Cenni.
The action would reach a boiling point on Sunday with Round 12 and the Amsoil Cup race (formerly the Borg Warner Cup). Pro 4x4s started the day and Ken Kincaid narrowly grabbed the holesot while being bookended by the Monster Toyota trucks of Greaves and Huseman. Kincaid soon caved to the pressure on lap one and the Monster teammates were left out front to fight for the win and the season championship. Greaves had the lead but Huseman capitalized on a small error and took the lead and would hold it all the way to the checkers.
Douglas held steady in third while Cenni and Kyle LeDuc were mixing it up for fourth. Cenni and LeDuc got together approaching the launch zone jump and Cenni lost control and crashed into the large concrete base of the jump’s sign. The crash removed a wheel from his truck which went into another lane of the track and was collected by Huseman’s front end. Fortunately, the damage was only cosmetic. Although Huseman took the win in the final race, Greaves’ second-place finish was enough to secure to the 2010 TORC Pro 4x4 Championship.
“I can’t say enough about these people up here,” Greaves said during the title presentation. “They keep coming back and no matter how different this season seems from time to time … they keep coming back to see what we got for them. As long as they keep coming back to see us, we’re going to keep putting it on. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all these fans. It’s just a great day for us and I really got to thank my team back in the pit … and my family, my wife, (son) CJ, all these guys. They pour their hearts and souls into this. I get to do the easy job to sit up there and drive and look pretty sometimes.”
The Pro 2wd race would go off at high noon for a showdown in the Crandon Corral. With one final round of racing, Johnson was up five points ahead of MacCachren but a wily privateer veteran in the form of the Flying Dutchman would steal the show from the two superstars. Dan Vanden Heuvel nabbed the lead into the first turn and held it flag to flag, leaving the rest of the field to battle for second place. Scott Taylor and Johnson swapped paint throughout the race and trading positions a few times, but it was Johnson who earned the second-place finish and clinched the championship. MacCachren was caught up in a multi-car incident on lap one that also caught Chad Hord and Robby Gordon, who went on to do his best Cole Trickle impression hitting everything but the pace car until he lost a belt and pulled off the track. MacCachren somehow slugged his way back to fourth at the finish.
The day was full of up and downs for winner Vanden Heuvel. On the podium after the race, he said unless sponsorship money is found in the offseason he has probably run his final race. “What a place to (win), at Crandon, in front of all these fans where I’ve been racing for 34 years,” said an elated Vanden Heuvel. “My son was up here earlier today, my grandkids are here. My crew put together one heck of a truck.”
Johnson was elated to win the Pro 2wd Championship and was happy to avoid a major mishap at the final race of the season.
“We got into second place, and we were able to pass Chad (Hord) and I heard a little miss,” Johnson said after the race. “I don’t know if I took a rock into the header and it was missing on me, but I was thinking, ‘Oh, God, here we go.’ The championship was on the line, Rob was behind me, but after the restart I just said, ‘I gotta give it a go.’
“We worked our ass off,” Johnson said in regards to the season. “We lost the championship by a few points last year, but we got it this year. And finally, thanks to my mom and dad who are watching out there, thanks for putting me on motorcycles, to my wife, Stephanie, and to my kids, Luke, Jake, and Cassidy.”
In Pro Light, Currie again nabbed the holeshot and never gave up the lead, taking the wire-to-wire win and the championship along with it. Caddell broke early in the race ending the tight points battle long before the race reached the halfway point. Ross Hoek took second for his second podium of the weekend followed by Todd Cunningham in third. This race was also the final farewell to the high-strung four-cylinder powerplants of Pro Light, as the class will require V-8s in 2011.
“It was great to come to Crandon to finish the year here,” said an emotional Currie. “The crowd’s incredible, everyone’s incredible! We had a flawless weekend. We won the championship! My first ever!”
Currie went on to say he is planning to defend his title in 2011.
“I’m stoked for next year,” he said after the title presentation. “I cannot wait to wear that No. 1 plate next year. I’m staying in PRO Light for now, I think. I want to come back and do it again.”
With all the season championships decided there was but a single race left to conclude the action-packed weekend, the much-anticipated Amsoil Cup that would pit the Pro 4x4s against the Pro 2wds in a bar brawl for all the marbles in front of 40,000 of Crandon’s faithful fans. For 2010, Amsoil took over the title name on the famed cup from Borg-Warner and had a new trophy commissioned for the occasion. The new hardware is a true heavyweight, standing close to four feet tall and over 50 pounds. Its only superior in the professional sports world in terms of size and grandeur is the NHL’s Stanley Cup.
The Pro 2wds left the line with a 12-second head start on their 4x4 rivals, and Robby Gordon took the holeshot but he went out of the race on lap one with a twisted and broken driveshaft. Scott Douglas led the 4x4s through turn one and he had set his sights on the 2wds in front of him. Jeff Kincaid grabbed the lead from Gordon with MacCachren close behind, but Douglas, Barlow, Greaves and Huseman had other ideas as they picked off the Pro 2wd racers. By lap three, Huseman was in third overall but soon succumbed to mechanical gremlins and Douglas pounced in his absence. Douglas soon reeled in the 2wd leaders with Barlow inches away. With one to go, Barlow got loose and rubbed Greaves in the final corner giving Douglas some breathing room, but it would not last long as Barlow soon mounted another assault on the leader. In the final corner, Barlow threw is truck in hard but Douglas edged him on the exit and the two raced under the checkers with bumpers touching, giving Douglas the win in the inaugural Amsoil Cup and the honor of being the first name to be engraved on the perpetual trophy.
“I did it the way Jack Flannery would’ve did it,” Douglas said. “Wide open, throw it in every corner, totally commit, and don’t worry about nothin’ and that’s the way we did it!”
Douglas cracked his engine block in the morning Pro 4x4 race and had to fix it with JB Weld for the cup race and finished the race on only seven cylinders, making the win even more impressive.
“You’ve got such good competitors out here, we knew we had a good shot at it but the odds were wild that we were going to win this thing,” Douglas said after winning the cup. “We knew if we could run hard, get out front and get clear of the Pro 4s and start hammering on the Pro 2s we could do it. I had to make every corner stick, every pass count and commit no matter what.”
For more information on the TORC Series, visit http://www.torcseries.com/.