- Jan 9, 2009
Round 1: Who struck first in 2016?
After a long off season, today was finally the day for the drivers of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, to find out just where they stack up after nearly five months of work to make themselves and their vehicles quicker and better. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, AZ, has re-taken its traditional role as opening weekend host, and the local fans flocked to the stands to enjoy a beautiful sunny day of racing. The action on track was fantastic, with the drivers putting on some terrific races for the fans, and it’s certainly safe to say that, in terms of season-long battles, today started things off strongly.
Getting the 2016 action started were the Modified Karts, and as they’ve started to do a bit more regularly, these young drivers took to the same full-length track as the full-size classes. Hailie Deegan and Christopher Polvoorde started on the front row, with Deegan leading Polvoorde, Conner McMullen, Trevor Briska, and Ricky Gutierrez at the end of lap one. The top five drivers held their positions through the end of lap three, when a full-course yellow came out after Nathan Barry rolled in turn three. Safety crews got Barry’s kart moving again, and at the end of lap five, racing resumed once again. On lap seven, pressure from behind may have pushed Gutierrez into an error, as he biked in turn three, allowing Cole Keatts to get by for fifth place. Briska then made a nice smooth pass down the inside of McMullen in turn five to move into third just before the end of the next lap, while up front, Polvoorde was now applying all kinds of pressure to the leader Deegan. Polvoorde kept the pressure on over laps eight, nine, and ten, while further back, Keatts began to slow on lap ten, before coming to a stop just out of turn one on lap 11, forcing a second full-course yellow. Under yellow, race officials called for a green-white-checkers, two-lap run to the finish once Keatts was cleared, and as the field picked up the green flag again at the end of lap 12, it was now Deegan, Polvoorde, Briska, McMullen, and Chris Nunes in the top five.
McMullen got back by Briska early on the restart lap to re-take third, and by the lap’s end, Timmy Moran had gotten past Nunes to take over fifth place. On the final lap, Polvoorde was looking for any chance to get past Deegan, and coming down into turn three, he dove deep down the inside and just touched Deegan door to door on the inside. Polvoorde edged just ahead, but Deegan pulled back even with him coming up to turn four, where she had the preferred inside line. Polvoorde tried an outside-inside move, which initially seemed to work, as he nosed ahead into the first of three big rollers between turns four and five. The two drivers touched, though, as they went over that jump, and Polvoorde got turned sideways. The entire field stacked up, and Deegan got away quickest, crossing the stripe first and looking like she’d gotten the win. However, officials had thrown a yellow flag before Deegan got to the line, and that meant that the field would line back up in the order they’d been in at the start of the lap, except for Polvoorde, who was sent to the back of the pack for causing the yellow. The field took the green again at the end of lap 15, with Deegan, McMullen, Briska, Moran, and Gutierrez in the top five, in a redo of the final lap. Moran spun in turn one and dropped well back, causing Gutierrez to drop back as well, while up front, there was no repeat of the chaos of the previous “last lap,” as Deegan sped home to open her 2016 account with a win in her #538 Dirt Princess/4 Wheel Parts kart. McMullen scored a solid second in the #588 Monster Energy/Phoenix Commercial Electric entry, with Briska third in the #559 JH Sims Trucking Co., Inc./TrophyKart machine, Barry fourth in the #528 CBR Performance Products/SDHQ Off Road Racing truck, and Nunes fifth in the #502 Fox Racing Shox/Maxima Racing Oils kart.
Pro 4 Unlimited
Following Opening Ceremonies, it was time for Pro 4 Unlimited, and the front row featured Kyle LeDuc and Bryce Menzies. LeDuc led Menzies, Carl Renezeder, Eric Barron, and Greg Adler after the first lap, but when Adrian Cenni came to a stop in turn four while still on his first lap, the full course yellow came out while the rest of the field was already into its second lap. The top five drivers were still in the same order as the green flag waved again at the end of lap three, but on the restart lap, Barron got a bit wide and clipped the outside bank between turns one and two, which allowed Adler to slip past for fourth place. Up front, smoke was starting to be seen from the back of LeDuc’s truck at various intervals, and as Menzies started to apply big pressure from second spot, the pace between these two was looking simply frantic. LeDuc still led at the halfway mark, but just afterwards, a big puff of smoke was a sign that something had given way onboard his truck, and LeDuc was finally forced to slow. After about a lap and a half of gradual slowing, LeDuc stopped just before turn five. However, at almost the exact same time, something let go on new leader Menzies’ truck, and with both trucks stopped on track, there was no choice but to throw a full course yellow. When racing resumed on lap 16, it was now Renezeder, Adler, Rob MacCachren, Barron, and Doug Mittag in the top five. On the restart lap, Adler had a spectacular rollover in turn three, as he first swapped ends, then caught a rut and started into a rollover, before cleanly clearing the k rail and then coming to a stop. Though out of the race, Adler was ok, and racing picked up again on lap 19. MacCachren tried for an inside pass on Renezeder at turn two on the restart lap, but made contact and spun himself out instead, forcing yet another full course caution. However, thanks to the timing of that yellow, MacCachren stayed on the lead lap, and when racing resumed, he simply had to restart at the back of the pack, which was now only four trucks long. MacCachren held station on the restart lap, but then got by Mittag at turn two on the penultimate lap to move into third. Just seconds later, Renezeder’s left rear beadlock let go of his tire, giving him a wild-looking flat, but Renezeder fought hard to keep his speed up and hold Barron at bay. MacCachren then passed Barron at turn five, and now had only the wounded Renezeder left in front of him. With a nice outside-inside pass at turn three, MacCachren took the lead on the final lap, and sped to victory in his #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Industrial Power Tools Ford. Renezeder was second in the #17 Lucas Oil Products/Lucas Oil Racing TV Ford, with Barron third in the #32 Mickey Thompson/Icon Vehicle Dynamics Toyota, and Mittag fourth in the #81 Jhonlin Racing Team/Maxxis Tires Ford. Despite scoring a DNF, Adler still picked up fifth place in his #10 4 Wheel Parts/Odyssey Battery Ford.
Pro Lite Unlimited
The biggest class of the afternoon, as usual, was Pro Lite Unlimited, and in this one, front row starters Jerett Brooks (outside) and Brad DeBerti (inside) ran one-two at the end of the first lap, with Brandon Arthur, Jeff Hoffman, and Ryan Beat filling out the top five. Brock Heger passed Beat for fifth on lap two, but from that point, the top five drivers all held their positions through the Competition Yellow at the end of lap seven. On the restart lap, Arthur moved his #6 Competitive Metals/Pro Traffic Services Chevrolet past DeBerti on the inside at turn two, and somewhat forced him wide in the process, allowing Hoffman to get by DeBerti as well. On the next lap, Arthur then dove very deep into turn three, and got by Brooks on the inside to take the lead. Further back, Heger and his #12 Icon Vehicle Dynamics/Ultra Motorsports Xtreme Race Wheels Toyota passed DeBerti for fourth, and on lap 12, Arthur then biked badly at turn three, allowing Brooks to get back by for the lead. DeBerti passed Heger back coming out of turn one to re-take fourth on the next lap, while up ahead, Arthur was all over Brooks to try and get the lead back. On lap 14, Arthur made a repeat of his inside pass at turn three, and he took the lead once again. Just behind, DeBerti then passed Hoffman coming out of the same corner to move back up to third in his #70 Mickey Thompson/QA1 Ford. Beat was also on the move, passing Heger for fifth on the penultimate lap, and then Hoffman at turn four on the last lap to move into fourth in his #51 Rockstar Energy Drink/Lunarpages Chevrolet. Up front, Arthur picked up a win that seemed very popular with the crowd, ahead of Brooks in the #77 Rigid Industries LED Lighting/General Tire Nissan, DeBerti, Beat, and Hoffman in the #47 Fox Racing Shox/Xtreme Machine & Fabrication Nissan.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
In Pro Buggy Unlimited, two young drivers, Eliott Watson and Darren Hardesty Jr., started on the front row. Watson moved into the early lead in his #3 Fox Racing Shox/BFGoodrich Tires Alumi Craft, ahead of Hardesty Jr., defending champion Garret George, Sterling Cling, and Taylor Atchison. The top five drivers maintained their positions over the first seven laps, but a spin in turn five by Keaton Swayne brought out a full course yellow on lap eight. On the restart lap, Kevin McCullough got by Atchison coming out of turn two, but Atchison passed him right back in the next corner. However, Atchison then rear-ended Cling coming out of turn one on the next lap, and when Atchison backed off, McCullough rear-ended him. Atchison lost control briefly and dropped to seventh, allowing McCullough to move up to fifth once again. Further ahead, Hardesty Jr. suddenly slowed coming out of turn five on the same lap, and quite quickly, he dropped out of the top five, before losing his entire right rear tire and slowing even further. This moved George to second, Cling to third, McCullough to fourth, and Atchison to fifth, and from this point on, there were no more passes within the top five. Watson drove a brilliant race while leading wire to wire en route to his first career National Series Pro Buggy Unlimited win- congratulations Eliott! Second was George in the #1 Redline Performance/King Off-Road Racing Shocks Funco, third was Cling in the #77 Cling’s Manufacturing/KyleGreenFabrication.com Alumi Craft, fourth was McCullough, and fifth was Atchison. However, after post-race tech, both McCullough and Hardesty Jr. were moved to the bottom of the results for not passing post-race tech. That moved Atchison up to fourth in the #30 Tonka Off-Road/AMA Plastics Alumi Craft, and Michael “Bud” Ward to fifth in the #17 Race Fuel Energy Drink/Kar Tek Off Road Racer.
Pro 2 Unlimited
In the final race of the afternoon, Brian Deegan and Carl Renezeder took the start from the front row of the Pro 2 Unlimited field. Renezeder got shuffled back in turn one after an error on his part, but Deegan quickly stretched his legs to take the early lead in his #38 NOS Energy/Mickey Thompson Ford. Bryce Menzies ran second in the #7 Red Bull/Discount Tire Ford, with Rob MacCachren third, Renezeder fourth, and Patrick Clark fifth. On lap two, Clark lost control and ran straight up into the outside wall at turn two, dropping him well back, and allowing Jeremy McGrath to move into fifth in his #2 Maxxis/Icon Vehicle Dynamics machine. Clark’s crash brought out a full course yellow at the end of lap two, and on the restart lap, a near-stack-up in turn one led to RJ Anderson getting by McGrath on the outside for fifth in his #37 Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR truck. In the next corner, Renezeder biked and dropped back to sixth when Anderson and McGrath got past him. Up front, Menzies pulled a beautiful inside pass on Deegan at turn one to grab the lead on the next lap, with a full course caution then falling at the end of the lap after Myan Spaccarelli had pulled part of a tire barrier onto the track when he hit it up in turn two. Racing resumed on lap eight, and Deegan seemed to be struggling somewhat for grip. MacCachren took advantage, driving by on the inside at turn one on lap 11 to grab second. Deegan bounced right back, though, and passed MacCachren back on the outside at turn three. Another full course caution came at the end of lap 12 for on-track debris, and after the restart, Renezeder made a pass in a very rare way, as he jumped past McGrath off the flat jump into turn two to grab fifth on lap 16. Renezeder was looking very quick, and he then passed Anderson at turn two on the next lap, where contact between the two resulted in Anderson spinning out and dropping to seventh. More on-track debris led to another full course yellow at the end of lap 18, and while Renezeder was still looking like he had another pass or two in him, the opportunities just weren’t presenting themselves. On the final lap, it was MacCachren who made a move, as he dove deep on Deegan into turn three, before coming up and over Deegan’s hood with one of his back tires as Deegan tried to dive back underneath him. The move sounds a lot worse than it really was, and officials allowed it to stand. Ahead of the drama, Menzies put in a fantastic drive to take the win, ahead of MacCachren in the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Industrial Power Tools Ford, Deegan, Renezeder in the #17 Lucas Oil/RC10.com Ford, and McGrath.
That wraps up the day’s action here at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Tomorrow, we’ll be back in action for Round 2 of the 2016 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series championship. Once again, gates open to the public at 9:00 AM, with qualifying starting at 9:30 AM, and the first race of the day at 1:00 PM. Get out here and enjoy the excitement with your fellow off-road enthusiast, you won’t want to miss it!
About the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series:
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series is the evolution of the long-standing support of short course racing by Forrest Lucas and Lucas Oil Products. Steeped in the Midwest tradition of short course off-road racing infused with a West Coast influence, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing brings intense four wheel door-to-door action to challenging, fan- friendly tracks. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series: This is Short Course. For more information, please visit www.LucasOilOffRoad.com.