Round 8: a fine way to spend Fathers’ Day
Following an intense afternoon of action here at Miller Motorsports Park in Round 7 yesterday, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, was right back in action here in Utah this afternoon, as the drivers returned to do battle in Round 8. This is an absolute gem of a facility, world class without a doubt, and the highly enthusiastic fans here in Tooele packed the stands right in. With partly cloudy skies and a nice breeze to balance out the warm temperatures, it was a great day to be at the races. Once again, the drivers put on some fantastic performances, and we again had a nice mix of dominant driving, very close and intense racing, and another first-time winner. All the fathers in attendance must’ve been enjoying spending their special day in such an exciting way, and indeed, so must have everyone else.
Once again starting things off with a bang were the Modified Karts, and today, it was rising star Trey Gibbs who grabbed the early lead in his #515 K&B Engineering/FT1 Trophy Karts machine. Christopher Polvoorde ran second in the #594 Horizon Solar Power Racing/The Palms River Resort kart, with points leader Travis PeCoy third in the #573 Action Sports Canopies/Adidas truck, Hailie Deegan fourth in the #538 Dirt Princess/Deegan 38 entry, and Broc Dickerson fifth in the #523 X-15/Walker Evans Racing Wheels & Shocks kart. Deegan passed PeCoy at turn one to move up to third on lap two, and after having to slow to avoid contact with Deegan in the next corner, PeCoy dropped another spot to Dickerson. PeCoy then passed Dickerson back at turn five, while up front, Gibbs was on an absolute tear; by the end of lap three, he was already ahead of Polvoorde by 1.68 seconds! A full course yellow then came out on lap four after Ronnie Anderson had come to a stop in turn three; Anderson got moving again with help from the track crew, and racing resumed on lap six. The field then botched two successive restarts, but after getting the third one right, it was PeCoy who got by Deegan coming out of turn three to get back up to third spot on the restart lap. The top five then held their positions through the Competition Yellow at the end of the tenth lap, at which point it was Gibbs, Polvoorde, PeCoy, Deegan, and Dickerson running in first through fifth places.
The running order further back in the pack needed some sorting under the yellow, and that situation wasn’t helped when five cars stacked up coming into turn five on the second yellow flag lap. However, everyone eventually got themselves into their correct positions, and racing picked up again on lap 15. Dickerson got by Deegan for fourth at turn four on that restart lap, with PeCoy then passing Polvoorde for second in the next corner. On the next lap, Gibbs bicycled in turn three, allowing PeCoy and Polvoorde to close right in and make it a very tight race for the lead. PeCoy out-braked Gibbs into that same corner on the next lap, and slid convincingly into the lead as the field rushed into the corner. Just down the order, Conner McMullen got by Deegan for fifth on that same lap (lap 17), but Deegan got the position back at turn four on the following go around. Deegan then dove down the inside on Dickerson going into turn three on lap 19, only to then see Dickerson go right back past coming out of turn four. The race for second spot was on in earnest now, as Gibbs, Polvoorde, Dickerson, Deegan, and McMullen were running nose to tail with just one lap to go. On the final lap, Polvoorde got by Gibbs for second coming out of turn three, and going into the next corner, Deegan wasn’t able to make the corner without running right into Gibbs, and she pushed their two karts across the corner, dropping them both well down the order in the process. At the finish, PeCoy came across first for a convincing fourth win of the season, ahead of Polvoorde, Dickerson, McMullen in the #588 Monster Energy/Kevin McMullen Fabrication & Transaxles machine, and Trevor Briska in the #559 JH Sims Trucking Co., Inc./Prolong Super Lubricants entry.
Pro 4 Unlimited
Once again, Kyle LeDuc scored the pole in this morning’s Pro 4 Unlimited qualifying session, just as he did yesterday, and again, the competition must’ve slumped collectively as his spotter drew a zero for the inversion for the starting grid, just as he did yesterday. LeDuc led the field away in his #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford, and was still out front at the end of the first lap, ahead of Bryce Menzies, Rob MacCachren, Eric Barron, and Brian Deegan. Carl Renezeder moved up to challenge Deegan for fifth spot by lap four, but after running closely behind for a few laps, a bicycle by King Carl in turn four on lap seven cost him a little ground. Renezeder got right back up on Deegan again on lap nine, but was still unable to make a move, with a full course caution then coming out at the end of lap ten thanks to debris at the entrance to turn five. Further debris needed clearing from turns three and four, but racing then picked up again on lap 13, and after a little melee in turn four, somewhat centered around another bicycle by Renezeder, Deegan managed to get past Barron for fourth spot. Doug Fortin then stalled in turn five, forcing a second full course caution, and on the restart lap, Renezeder went BIG over the tabletop between turns two and three, setting himself up to go by Barron for fifth into turn three, which he did. Menzies then bicycled in the next corner, which allowed both MacCachren and Deegan to get past him. Out front, LeDuc now had a bit of a gap, and the rest of the top five looked to have their spots relatively locked in. However, on the final lap, Menzies made a beautiful pass on Deegan going into turn four, moving himself back up to a potential podium finish. Deegan must not have liked that idea, as he then dove deep into the final corner, where he hit Menzies hard and shot him all the way over to the outside wall, nose-first. Menzies dropped to last and was actually unable to finish, and Deegan drew an immediate black flag for his actions. Following Deegan’s punishment, the final five drivers were LeDuc (who has now won seven in a row), MacCachren in the #21 Rockstar Energy/Makita Industrial Power Tools Ford, Renezeder in the #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Ford, Barron in the #32 Tonka/Icon Vehicle Dynamics Toyota, and Adrian Cenni in the #11 Wildman Bites/Maxxis Ford.
Pro Lite Unlimited
In Pro Lite Unlimited, 2012 champion RJ Anderson had the lead at the end of lap one, ahead of fellow front row starter Ryan Beat, defending champion Sheldon Creed, outstanding rookie Cole Mamer, and another rising talent, Brandon Arthur. Arthur forced Mamer out wide at turn four by putting himself in Mamer’s line on lap two, and coming out of the corner, points leader Jerett Brooks got by Mamer as well. Arthur then passed Creed for third in the turn one/two complex on the next lap, before Beat suddenly came to a stop just a few corners later, the victim of a very sudden issue that put him out of the race. Beat’s coming to a stop brought out a full course yellow, and after racing back to that yellow, it was Anderson, Arthur, Creed, Brooks, and Brad DeBerti in the top five when racing resumed on lap six. On the restart lap, DeBerti made a beautiful inside pass on Brooks at turn three to take over fourth, before then passing Creed coming off of turn five as Creed recovered from an over-rotation brought on by his attempt to try and pass Arthur on the inside in that same corner. Lap seven then saw a second full course yellow, this time for on-track debris, and after the restart, it was Creed who was trying desperately to get his provisional podium back from the rookie DeBerti. DeBerti wasn’t having it, though, as he was driving brilliantly to hold Creed at bay. A rollover by DJ Noerr in turn four then brought a third full course yellow on lap ten, and on the restart lap, Brooks got by Creed coming out of turn five after getting alongside coming off of turn four and running side-by-side with Creed all the way through the rhythm section.
Arthur made a pass for the lead down the inside of Anderson at turn three on lap 14, but Anderson got right back by in the next corner. The following lap saw Brooks make a nice out-braking move on DeBerti into turn four to move himself up to third spot, and just behind, Creed was now hounding DeBerti again. Near the end of lap 17, Creed was finally able to get it done, as he passed DeBerti coming out of turn five after making several attempts at passes in the couple of preceding laps. After that, the top five drivers held their positions, and it was Anderson who grabbed his second win of the season in his #37 Loan Mart/BFGoodrich Tires Nissan to close up the already-tight points race. Arthur took another second in the #6 Competitive Metals/HRT Motorsports Chevrolet, Brooks finished third in the #77 General Tire/Synergy Electric Nissan, Creed was fourth in the #1 Traxxas/A.M. Ortega General Engineering Contractor Inc. Dodge, and DeBerti was fifth in the #70 Mickey Thompson/Hawk Performance Ford.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
The penultimate race of the weekend was Pro Buggy Unlimited, and this one saw Mike Valentine jump into the early lead in his #78 Mickey Thompson/Wiks Racing Engines Alumi Craft. Dale Dondel ran second in the #33 Roberts Racing/SAS Racer, with Chad George third in the #42 ASL Builders Inc./Gray Area Technologies Funco, Darren Hardesty Jr. fourth in the #99 Competitive Metals/Bilstein Shock Absorbers Alumi Craft, and Garret George fifth in the #71 Redline Performance/Slime Funco. A spin by Kevin McCullough up in turn three ended up catching out Taylor Atchison and Sterling Cling on the opening lap, and while all three drivers got going on their own, McCullough wasn’t able to do so before a full course yellow came out; front end damage on McCullough’s car then reduced his pace for the remainder of the race. On the restart lap (lap three), both of the George boys moved up a spot to second and fourth, respectively, and Atchison then passed Hardesty Jr. coming out of turn four and through the rhythm section to turn five on the next lap. Hardesty Jr. got the spot right back early on the next lap, though, and he, Atchison, and Cling then began a good scrap for fifth, which lasted several laps. On lap ten, Dondel suddenly pulled off coming out of turn two, apparently the victim of what looked to be an engine issue. Valentine still led the way, but he now had Chad and Garret George running second and third, with Hardesty Jr. and Atchison in fourth and fifth.
Chad closed in on Valentine a bit on the next lap, but wasn’t quite close enough to make a move yet. Hardesty Jr., though, had also closed in on the man ahead of him, in this case Garret George, and when Garret appeared to miss a shift at the end of lap 12, Hardesty Jr. was right there to shoot past and up to third spot. Less than half a lap later, Chad then had his right rear tire come clean off of the wheel going into turn three, and while his pace had to slow somewhat, he opted to stay out on track, knowing he was better off to keep running on three tires than to lose more time getting a new tire in the Hot Pits with just over two laps to go. Hardesty Jr., Garret George, Atchison, and Cling all got by Chad before the checkers, though, and up front, it was Mike Valentine who, after Chad’s misfortune, cruised home to take a well-deserved first career win in the National series- congratulations Mike! Second was yesterday’s first-time winner, 14-year-old Hardesty Jr., and points leader Garret George rounded out the podium in third. Fourth went to Atchison in the #30 Tonka Off-Road/AMA Plastics Alumi Craft, and fifth was Cling in the #77 Cling’s Manufacturing/L&D Power Alumi Craft.
Pro 2 Unlimited
Closing out the action this weekend were the Pro 2 Unlimiteds, and after starting up front, Jeremy McGrath ran first at the end of lap one in his #2 Loctite/Fuel Off-Road Wheels Nissan, ahead of Brian Deegan, RJ Anderson, Carl Renezeder, and Bryce Menzies. On lap two, McGrath just checked up a bit to avoid over-rotating in turn three, and behind him, Deegan checked up more to avoid a collision, and ended up spinning instead. This caught out several other drivers, and took Deegan down to last place; by the end of the lap, it was now McGrath, Renezeder, Menzies, Rob MacCachren, and Anderson in the top five. MacCachren then got by his former protégé Menzies coming out of turn four on the next lap, as Menzies got a little bit squirrelly coming out of the corner. On lap four, Eric Fitch bumped Anderson door-to-door at turn two to make a pass for fifth, while just ahead, Renezeder, MacCachren, and Menzies were running very close in a good race for second spot. A hard rollover into turn five by Mike Dondel then forced a full course caution as the field began lap five, and after a couple of laps to clear Dondel’s truck, racing resumed on lap eight. The end of that lap saw another full course yellow following an uncharacteristic rollover by Deegan in turn four; Deegan needed a little time to get re-fired after being righted, but he was able to continue.
Racing picked back up again on lap 12, and on that restart lap, Fitch got into Menzies hard in turn three, but wound up half spinning himself, and dropping back to last place in the process, while Menzies got away pretty much unscathed. Sheldon Creed moved up to inherit fifth place in his #74 Traxxas/Amsoil Ford, and up ahead, it was still a good three-way race for second between Renezeder in the #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Ford, MacCachren in the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Industrial Power Tools Ford, and Menzies in the #7 Red Bull/Discount Tire Ford. Renezeder got a little wild in the rhythm section on lap 14, but managed to hold his second place, despite his two rivals closing in even more. Renezeder then started to make a little ground on McGrath in the latter part of the following lap, while further back, Anderson was all over Creed in a good race for fifth place. Anderson got by briefly at turn five on lap 16, but after Anderson got squirrelly coming off the corner, Creed got back past just before the start/finish line. With less than three laps to go, MacCachren was all over Renezeder on lap 20, and coming out of turn three, MacCachren nicely out-jumped Renezeder into turn four to shoot ahead and into second. The two then made contact in the corner, causing both they and Menzies behind to slow, but they all held their positions as they got back up to speed. Debris in turn four then brought out a full course yellow at the end of the lap, and on the restart lap, Creed got by Menzies with a nice outside run at turn three, only to see Menzies go back past in the next corner. In turn five, several trucks piled brutishly into the corner in the battle for fifth, and Anderson came out ahead of the rest to grab the position, with Creed then collecting a banner on the final lap, which began to tangle up on his truck, and may have contributed to his failing to finish the final lap (he crawled to a stop less than 50 painful yards from the checkered flag). At the stripe, it was fan favorite McGrath who took a very popular win, his first since forming his own team last year, and his first since his first-ever win back in Round 11 at Las Vegas in 2011. Second went to MacCachren, third to Renezeder, fourth to Menzies, and fifth to Anderson in the #37 Polaris RZR/Traxxas Ford.
That brings our racing here at Miller Motorsports Park to a close, and it’s certainly been a very exciting weekend. A very big thank you to all the fathers who came out to participate with us today; whether it be as a driver, crew member, race official, or spectator, thanks for being with us on Father’s Day! Up next, the series returns to southern California and the legendary Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino for Rounds 9 and 10 of the 2015 championship. With just four weeks to go, the drivers and crews will be working overtime to get their minds and vehicles right as they rapidly approach the halfway point of the season. Join us July 18 and 19 for a return to night racing; get your tickets quick, as this one always packs the stands to capacity!