Chandler, Arizona (October 23, 2016) - With all of the class championships decided for the 2016 season in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, it was now time for the final race day of the year: the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup. In these special, one-off races, the drivers would not be fighting it out for points, but rather, for big money, bragging rights, and momentum going into the off season. Unlike years past, when the starting grids would be based on the year end points positions of each driver, there would now be traditional qualifying for these races, and with the shortened track length this weekend here at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, an additional two laps were added to each class’ race distance here this afternoon. The weather was again hot here in Chandler, AZ, and once again, the racing action was even hotter, with tensions running high and drivers laying it all on the line all day long. The fans were again treated to some outstanding racing action, including the addition of a special race for the Production 1000 UTV class, and after today, both fans and drivers alike will have much to talk about during the long off season.
After a botched first attempt at the race start, the field got things right on the second go around in Modified Kart, and at the end of lap one, it was Nathan Barry leading the way, ahead of Hailie Deegan, Christopher Polvoorde, Conner McMullen, and Trevor Briska. On lap two, Trey Gibbs got by Briska at turn three to move up to fifth, but a full course caution fell before the end of that lap after Amanda Sorensen had come to a stop in turn one, and that meant that the last completed lap rule would come into effect, which put Gibbs back to sixth for the restart. On that restart lap, Mia Chapman moved up several spots to fourth, but once again, a full course caution fell before the end of the lap, and again, that last completed lap rule would come into effect. This time, the inciting incident was a much more scary one, as Cole Keatts and Briska got together off the big ski jump out of turn two, causing both drivers to land badly sideways. Keatts managed to get away, but Briska was sent into a violent rollover, and the full course yellow was more than justifiably thrown. Fortunately, Briska was alright, and was even able to continue, though he soon picked up a flat tire. Briska did restart in fifth, but was quickly shuffled back, and Gibbs now moved up to that position in his #515 KB Engineering/Temecula Motorsports kart, while up front, Barry was starting to open up a gap over second place Deegan. Deegan, meanwhile, now had her mirrors full of Polvoorde, and just behind them, Gibbs then got by McMullen late on lap four to move into fourth spot.
Another full course yellow fell on the next lap after Rylie Pierce had spun out and come to a stop nosed against the inside barrier at turn three, but with her kart quickly cleared and underway, racing picked up once again. After one more racing lap, yet another full course caution came out on lap six after a multi-kart incident in turn two, and on the restart lap, another yellow flew after Ricky Gutierrez rolled in turn three. Once Gutierrez had been towed off, racing resumed once again, with Polvoorde getting his #594 The Palms River Resort/Salazar machine past Deegan on lap eight to move up to second. On the next lap, Barry biked a bit in turn three, which allowed Polvoorde to close right in, and when Barry left the door wide open for Polvoorde at the same corner on the following lap, Polvoorde easily slipped by on the inside to take the lead. On lap 11, Gibbs was all over Deegan in a very close race for third, and just ahead, Barry was also putting a lot of pressure on Polvoorde in a bid to get back up front. On the final lap, Barry got a great run out of the final corner, and managed to get within half a kart length of Polvoorde at the stripe, but still came up just that half length short. Polvoorde got the big win in his final Modified Kart race; he will focus solely on the Pro Lite Unlimited class in 2017. Barry finished second in the #528 CBR Performance Products/VP Racing Fuels machine, with Deegan taking third in the #1 NOS Energy Drink/Odyssey Battery entry; she will also move up to Pro Lite Unlimited next season. Fourth went to Gibbs, and fifth was McMullen in the #588 Phoenix Commercial Electric/M&M Portable Toilets truck.
Production 1000 UTV
In a special showcase race ahead of their inclusion into the 2017 Lucas Oil Off Road national series lineup, the Production 1000 UTVs were up next. Already highly popular within our Regional Series events, this class is our most affordable class, and attracts lots of attention, especially from fans looking for a way to start their own off-road racing careers.
In the race itself, Keith Brooks led the way at the end of lap one, ahead of Dustin Nelson, Jeff Obering, Robert Vanbeekum, and Paul O’Brien. On lap two, Ronnie Anderson got by O’Brien to move into fifth in the #952 Walker Evans Racing/UTV Underground Polaris, and on the next lap, Vanbeekum dropped off the pace and fell down the order, moving Anderson to fourth and O’Brien to fifth in the #963 Fox Racing Shox/AEO Powersports Yamaha. Anderson then passed Obering for third coming out of turn one on lap four, with O’Brien then getting by Obering as well to move into fourth. Vanbeekum then came to a stop between turns one and two, forcing a full course yellow on lap six, and on the restart lap, Obering dropped to eighth, which promoted George Hammel to fifth in the #919 SuperCuts/O’Reilly Auto Parts Yamaha. Just afterwards, Nelson passed Brooks for the lead coming out of turn three. Two laps later, Nelson and Brooks made contact while making the landing off the big ski jump out of turn two, and unfortunately, that resulted in a big rollover for Brooks. Brooks’ car sustained heavy damage, and he was out of the running, but he was at least alright, and the incident of course brought out a full course yellow. On the restart, it was now Nelson, Anderson, O’Brien, Hammel, and Hailie Deegan in the top five, with, Corry Weller then passing Deegan on the inside at turn four on lap 11 to move up to fifth in her #948 DragonFire/Maxxis Yamaha. From there, the top five drivers held their positions through to the checkered flag, and up front, it was Nelson who took the big win and $1,000 in his #940 Yamaha Racing/DWT Yamaha. Second was Anderson, and he earned $500, while third place and $300 went to O’Brien; fourth was Hammel, and fifth was Weller.
Pro Lite Unlimited
Sporting a freshly-earned gold number plate, Jerett Brooks led the way after lap one in his #1 Rigid Industries/Bilstein Shock Absorbers Nissan, ahead of Ryan Beat, Jeff Hoffman, Brock Heger, and Bradley Morris. Morris received the black flag straight away for jumping the start, but refused to pull in and serve his penalty initially. On lap two, Heger got by Hoffman to move into third in his #12 Icon Vehicle Dynamics/Ultra Race Wheels Toyota, before on-track debris in both turns two and four forced a full course yellow on lap four. The top five held their positions on the restart lap, with Morris remaining out on track, and on lap five, the action was again put on pause, as a huge rollover by Wade Wyman off the big ski jump out of turn two forced a full course yellow. Fortunately, Wyman was alright, and while the field circulated under yellow, Morris finally pulled off track to serve his black flag, and that moved Jeremy Stenberg up to fifth in the #8 MavTV/Stronghold Motorsports Chevrolet. After the restart lap, Heger got past Beat on the outside at turn three to take over second on lap six, with Stenberg and Brandon Arthur then both getting around Hoffman for fourth and fifth on the next lap. The field settled in and ran hard yet even for several laps, but on lap 11, Arthur moved right up to Stenberg’s back bumper to challenge for fourth. Up front, Brooks was handily pulling away from the rest of the field, while further back, both Stenberg and Arthur were now up behind Beat in the race for third. However, no further passes were made within the top five before the finish, and at the checkers, it was Brooks who capped a fantastic season with another win, his eighth of the year, and $10,000 here this afternoon. Heger picked up second place and $5,000 in this one, with Beat taking third and $2,500 in the #51 Rockstar/Maxxis Chevrolet; Stenberg was fourth, and Arthur finished fifth in the #6 Competitive Metals/Toyo Tires Chevrolet.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
In the open wheel ranks, young Sterling Cling got out to the early lead in his #77 Cling’s Aerospace/Fox Racing Shox Alumi Craft, ahead of Kevin McCullough in the #62 DA8 Strong/Rigid Industries L.E.D. Lighting Foddrill, Eliott Watson in the #3 Fox Racing Shox/Tom Watson Inc. Solar Power Alumi Craft, Bud Ward in the #17 Ramona Tire/Fortin Racing, Inc. Funco, and Garret George in the #1 Gray Area Technologies/FK Rod Ends Funco. On lap two, George and Darren Hardesty Jr. touched in turn two, and while the contact appeared to be incidental, it was enough to send Hardesty Jr. into a rollover, which forced a full course caution. Hardesty Jr. didn’t rejoin the pack for the restart, but on the restart lap, Ward got around Watson to move up to third. Ward then dropped two spots to fifth at turn two on the next lap, but he then got by George to gain one of those lost spots back on lap four. A full course yellow then fell at the end of lap four after Mike Valentine and Kyle Aarup got hooked together in turn two, and on the restart lap, George got back past Ward at turn three to re-take fourth. The Funco battle continued on the next lap, as Ward got by George on the inside at turn two on lap six, before George then got back alongside at turn three. The two ran side by side all the way to turn one on the next lap, where George finally pulled back ahead and into fourth. Both George and Ward closed right in on Watson by lap 10, with George then getting by Watson on the inside at turn two on lap 11. Ward then spun Watson in the next corner, dropping Watson to sixth, before a full course caution fell on lap 13 when Valentine’s car ground to a halt between turns one and two. Watson got a great jump on the restart, getting back up to fifth before turn one, but he couldn’t quite get up to Ward to try and exact any revenge, as both George and Ward passed McCullough on lap 14. From there, no further passes were made within the top five, and at the checkers, it was Cling who got the big win, his first of the season, ahead of George, Ward, McCullough, and Watson. However, Ward was then black flagged after the race for contact while making his pass on McCullough, so Ward was moved to the last position on the lead lap in the race’s final results. This moved McCullough up to third, Watson to fourth, and Eddie Tafoya to fifth in the #51 Specialty Fasteners/Bonaco Hoses & Fittings Lothringer. As of the time of this writing, the results of this race are still provisional, as post-race engine teardowns were still being undertaken.
Pro 2 Unlimited vs. Pro 4 Unlimited
In what is arguably the single most anticipated race of the year here in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, the Pro 2 Unlimiteds and Pro 4 Unlimiteds took to the track to do battle with one another in the final event of the season. With a 15-second head start and limited passing opportunities here at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the 2WDs looked like they might have a good chance this year, but the 5-2 record in favor of the 4WDs in past editions of this race was also tough to ignore. Any yellow flags within the first four laps of this race would result in a complete restoration of the 15-second start gap, and opening lap incidents within the 4WD field forced two full restarts of the race. However on the third try, things finally got going, and amazingly, the rest of the race went without a single yellow flag! RJ Anderson, Brian Deegan, Jeremy McGrath, Patrick Clark, and Doug Mittag were the early frontrunners in the 2WD field, while nearly half a lap behind, Eric Barron, Rob MacCachren, Kyle LeDuc, Carl Renezeder, and Adrian Cenni were the first five runners amongst the 4WDs. LeDuc got by MacCachren on lap two, and with only the first five 2WDs running strong in their field, Barron was up to sixth overall by lap four. On the next lap, LeDuc got by Barron on the inside at turn four, making himself the leading 4WD, but there was still a sizeable time gap between he, the other 4WDs, and the five frontrunning 2WDs.
Further down the order, Greg Adler got by Cenni to put himself into fifth in the 4WD ranks late on lap seven, and early on the next lap, MacCachren passed Barron to move himself up to the second spot in the 4WDs. LeDuc was already fairly clear of the other 4WDs, though, and on lap nine, he got by Mittag for fifth outright, and then Clark on the inside at turn four to move up to fourth. Renezeder pulled off on the next lap, as did Deegan on lap 12, and Deegan’s exit put LeDuc up to third, MacCachren to fourth, and Clark to fifth. LeDuc got by McGrath on the inside at turn three on that same lap, and now he had only a few seconds’ distance and Anderson between himself and the lead. A left rear flat dropped MacCachren out of the running on lap 13, and put Clark and Mittag back up to fourth and fifth overall, while up front, LeDuc then closed in quickly on Anderson on lap 14. On lap 15, LeDuc suddenly dove from well back into turn four, trying to force an inside pass on Anderson. LeDuc couldn’t quite stick the move, though, and had to back out of it, which allowed Anderson to stay alongside as the pair exited the corner and raced down to turn one. However, LeDuc and Anderson hit door to door a couple of times as LeDuc cut down the inside at turn one, and after the contact, LeDuc pulled ahead for good. Further back, Doug Fortin had gotten by both Mittag and Clark to move up to fourth overall, and on the final lap, Mittag literally flew past Clark off the final jump to edge him by a nose at the line for fifth. Up front, LeDuc capped an outstanding season with his second career Challenge Cup win, and brought home $30,000 in the process in his #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford. Second was Anderson in the #37 Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR truck; Anderson got $15,000, plus a $1,000 bonus for being the first finisher in whichever class didn’t win the race overall. Third place, as well as $7,500 went to McGrath in the #2 Maxxis/Icon Vehicle Dynamics truck; fourth was Fortin in the #96 General Tire/E3 Spark Plugs Toyota (4WD), and fifth was Mittag in the #81 ProAm Racing Products/Amsoil Ford.
After an exciting, grueling, and memorable 2016 season, the drivers and crews of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series have finally reached the end of the year, and can kick back and enjoy some down time in their well-earned off season. However, these folks won’t be resting on their laurels too much, as there are only five months between now and the first race of the 2017 season, which will get kicked off in March, under the lights at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park in southern California. The opening weekend for next season will be here before you know it, so start making your plans now to be there when it all starts up once again, and in the meantime, keep up with all the latest series developments at lucasoiloffroad.com.
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.