Thanks to a strict rules package that lends itself to some of the tightest racing found in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, it’s not a shock to see that the depth of talent in the Pro Lite division stands alone in the sport of short-course off-road. A year ago, Ryan Beat took the class by storm with a breakout season that carried him to his first championship. While the opportunity to seize control of the division has presented itself in 2019, no one has done so quite yet, and it’s created a wide-open battle for this year’s crown.
Through the first four rounds of the 2019 season, three different drivers have claimed a Pro Lite victory. Because of how deep the class is, consistency has been hard to come by, and winning has become even more difficult. With just five races remaining, including the season’s next stop at Wild West Motorsports Park in Sparks, Nevada, it will be interesting to see how this title fight continues to take shape.
Currently, Beat sits in the catbird seat atop the Pro Lite standings. He was absolutely dominant at the opening round in Glen Helen and cruised to victory, but since then he’s had to scrap for every result. His trio of podium finishes has given him the edge in his quest to capture back-to-back titles, and based on what we know from the veteran driver, he’s going to find a way to get in the mix every time the trucks take to the track.
Mickey Thomas has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the start of the season, and it’s carried him to a Wild Horse Pass victory, in addition to a runner-up finish. Those two marquee results have put him second in the championship, just three points shy of Beat. Thomas has been in the mix every weekend, and the prospect of a first career title is surely going to motivate him to keep up the strong drives we’ve seen thus far.
Ronnie Anderson hasn’t necessarily made a lot of noise in 2019, but his role as the dark horse driver in the division has put him in the middle of the title fight. His trio of podium finishes is only equaled by Beat, but the lack of a victory is ultimately what has him sitting 11 points out of the championship lead. Nevertheless, Anderson has built an impressive campaign thus far, finishing no worse than fourth. His confidence continues to grow, and given how each race has unfolded this season, there’s no reason to think he won’t remain in the hunt.
Chris Polvoorde had championship aspirations entering the 2019 season. The up-and-coming driver is bustling with talent, and he’s got one of the strongest efforts in Pro Lite supporting him. However, misfortune has hampered his ability to be closer to the top of the points thus far. While he’s been in the lead, or near it at every round, Polvoorde has come up empty in the win column through the first four rounds. He does have a pair of runner-up finishes to his credit, but he’s going to need to ramp up the consistency and take a checkered flag over the second half of the season if he hopes to chip away at the 19-point deficit he faces to Beat.
Things could not have gone better for Brock Heger at the last round of the championship in Ensenada, Mexico. The talented driver was in a class of his own south of the border, and ended up sweeping the doubleheader weekend. He’s the only driver in Pro Lite to earn multiple victories, and those wins have kept him within reach of the championship. While he’s still got an uphill climb to erase the 22-points that sit between he and Beat, Heger has the momentum and is the hottest driver in the division.
The remainder of the Pro Lite season is sure to be nothing short of intense. The combination of young talent and veteran experience has provided some of the best racing in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series thus far, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how things will play out during the stretch run of the championship.
There isn’t a class in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series where consistency plays as important a role as it does in Pro Buggy. While it’s never a surprise to see an array of drivers capture wins over the course of the season, the ability to be in contention each and every time the green flag waves ultimately pays big dividends in the battle for the championship.
Four different drivers have taken the checkered flag through the first four rounds, providing the highest level of parity of any class in the series. However, thanks to a bulletproof consistency that thus far has been unmatched by any of his fellow drivers, Eliot Watson has been able to distance himself from the field.
Watson did not take his first win of the 2019 season until the first race in Ensenada, Mexico, but he’s yet to finish off the podium in four rounds. That doubles the number of podium finishes for any other driver in the division, and it’s allowed him to open up an impressive 17-point lead in the championship standings.
Chris Nunes, who took the opening round win at Glen Helen, currently sits second, but he’s come up empty of another podium finish in the three rounds since. Behind him, Bud Ward is starting to turn things around after a slow start to 2019. The veteran mirrored Watson’s results at Estero Beach Resort, earning a win and a runner-up finish, and it’s moved him up to third, 20 points out of the lead.
The fourth driver to earn a win this season is Trevor Briska, who was stellar at Wild Horse Pass. Given how well he’s performed this season, Briska would likely be within striking distance of Watson. However, a disqualification at the first race in Ensenada prevented him from earning any points, and has placed him 62 points behind Watson. That seems like it might be an insurmountable deficit at this point in the season.
While Watson sits in control of his own destiny as it pertains to the Pro Buggy championship, there’s still a lot of racing left in the 2019 season. He’s shown no signs of weakness thus far, but rest assured his competitors are ready to do all they can to halt his momentum. Their first opportunity to do so comes at the end of July, when the championship heads to Sparks, Nevada’s Wild West Motorsports Park.