Corona, CA (April 9, 2018) – As the season-opening race at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park quickly approaches, we here at the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, thought it might be fun to take a look back at the past couple of seasons to see what has happened before at the famous Chandler, AZ track. In each of the past two years, Wild Horse Pass has been the opening race weekend for the series, so it's even more appropriate that we analyze what went down at these races, to give us a bit of historical context heading into next weekend's races in this, the tenth season for our series.
Five classes were taking to the track on our race weekends back in 2016: Pro 4, Pro 2, Pro Lite, Pro Buggy, and Modified Kart. Modified Kart got things started each day, and in a relatively new twist, the young speedsters were allowed to race on the same full-length track as their full-sized counterparts. Round 1 saw Hailie Deegan survive a brush with Christopher Polvoorde between turns four and five on what would've been the final lap as the two battled for the lead, a brush which wound up causing Polvoorde and the rest of the field to stack into each other. The last lap was redone, with Deegan getting away clean to open the season with a win, ahead of Conner McMullen, Trevor Briska, Nathan Barry, and Chris Nunes. In Round 2, Round 1 winner Deegan and Briska got hooked together mid-race and dropped behind before battling back to fifth and fourth, respectively. Up front, McMullen got his first career National Series win, with Polvoorde and Trey Gibbs close behind in second and third. In 2017, Brody Eggleston was briefly passed by Cole Keatts in the early laps of Round 1, but got back by before the halfway mark, and despite Keatts hounding him for the remainder of the race, Eggleston picked up the win. Keatts was a close second, with Gibbs third, Connor Barry fourth, and Nunes fifth. Keatts and Eggleston swapped spots in Round 2, with Keatts passing Eggleston for the lead late in the race. Barry ran consistently in third, just ahead of some serious chaos behind, which resulted in Nunes taking fourth and Gibbs fifth.
Pro 4 Unlimited had good showings for the more veteran drivers in both Rounds 1 and 2 in 2016. Rob MacCachren won the opener after picking off Carl Renezeder on the final lap as Renezeder struggled with a flat tire, though Renezeder still finished second. Usual challengers Kyle LeDuc and Bryce Menzies both broke after leading early, so it was Eric Barron in third, Doug Mittag in fourth, and Greg Adler fifth. Round 2 saw a reversal of the top two finishing positions, as Renezeder won after running the entire race unchallenged. LeDuc and Menzies took each other out on the first lap, so MacCachren, Adler, Barron, and Curt LeDuc filled out the top five. The following year, Menzies got by Renezeder early before cruising to a dominant win in Round 1, with Renezeder then charging back to second following a mid-race flat. Third was Kyle LeDuc in the then-new Evvo truck, with class rookie RJ Anderson fourth and Bradley Morris fifth. Renezeder and Menzies were then in a class of their own in Round 2, with Renezeder even managing to pull clear of Menzies by 2.24 seconds in the final few laps to score the win, a repeat of his Round 2 win from a year earlier. Third was MacCachren, fourth was Mittag, and fifth was Barron.
Brandon Arthur swept the weekend in Pro Lite Unlimited, opening the 2016 season in the strongest possible way. Arthur and Jerett Brooks each had the lead twice in Round 1, but Arthur was simply too strong, and held off Brooks for the win. Brooks was second, with Brad DeBerti third, Ryan Beat fourth, and Jeff Hoffman fifth. Round 2 saw Arthur move from fourth to second in the early going, then into the top spot when early leader Gavin Harlien had a tire come off the wheel mid-race. Arthur pulled away for the win, but good racing in positions two through four ended up with Beat, DeBerti, and Brooks in those three spots, ahead of Casey Currie in fifth. For 2017, Brock Heger finally got the monkey off his back by getting an elusive first career National Series Pro Lite Unlimited win in Round 1 after leading from start to finish; Brooks, Beat, class rookie Hailie Deegan, and Brandon Arthur filled out the top five. Heger came back to score a very impressive double in Round 2, as he first charged back up the order to third following an early flat, before diving inside both Deegan and leader Brooks to go from third to first when Brooks biked in turn three on the final lap. Deegan and Brooks took second and third, with Harlien finishing fourth and Ray Griffith fifth.
In the open wheel ranks, Eliott Watson scored his first career National Series win after leading the Pro Buggy Unlimited field from start to finish. Defending champion Garret George was second, with Sterling Cling third, Taylor Atchison fourth, and Bud Ward fifth. Kevin McCullough and Darren Hardesty Jr. both failed post-race tech, but redeemed themselves by finishing 1-2 in Round 2 the next day; McCullough ran the race almost entirely unchallenged in front of his hometown fans. Cling and Atchison were again third and fourth, with Robb Harvey taking advantage of others' misfortune to finish fifth. 2017 then saw Watson sweep the weekend, leading the race wire to wire in Round 1 to get the win ahead of Hardesty Jr., Kyle Aarup, Trevor Briska, and Cling. Watson and defending champion Hardesty Jr. ran one-two all race in Round 2, and finished the same way, as they had the day before, ahead of Ward, Cling, and Broc Dickerson on this occasion.
In the final class of the day, Bryce Menzies took the lead from Brian Deegan fairly early in Pro 2 Unlimited, and stayed ahead to take the opening round win. Rob MacCachren got by over Deegan's hood on the final lap in an incident that sounds worse than it really was, and which moved MacCachren up to second; Deegan finished third, and Carl Renezeder and Jeremy McGrath rounded out the top five. On Sunday, Renezeder picked up his second win of the day after taking advantage of a small mistake by Deegan in turn three on the penultimate lap. MacCachren also got by Deegan on that same lap to finish second, with Deegan finishing third, RJ Anderson fourth, and Mittag fifth. 2017's Round 1 was a real thriller, as early leader Menzies had to fend off McGrath in the early going, while further back, class rookie Jerett Brooks quietly working his way up to second by just after the halfway point. Brooks then lost his rear brakes, but was still able to get by Menzies late, with Menzies passing right back. Brooks then rear-ended Menzies into turn three and got under Menzies' truck on the penultimate lap, and when Menzies tried to force Brooks wide in the next corner, he wound up spinning himself wildly into the infield. Brooks then barely managed to hold off both McGrath and MacCachren, the latter of whom got by McGrath in the final corner, and nearly got by Brooks on the final straight as well. It was a very close Brooks-MacCachren-McGrath podium, ahead of Deegan and Eric Fitch in fourth and fifth. Anderson led Round 2 almost the entire way, with MacCachren hounding him from behind before passing for the lead and pulling away late in the going. A flat for Anderson then let Menzies by as well, but Anderson did manage to take third, as well as hold off McGrath and Brooks, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
2017 saw the return of the Junior 1 and Junior 2 Kart classes to the series lineup, as well as the addition of Production 1000 UTV. Junior 2 Kart saw Carson Etter get the Round 1 win after leading from start to finish, with Holden Heitritter moving up to second after Lane McDonald was black flagged for contact with Nicholas Plemons. Ethan Ebert finished third, with Megan Mitchell taking fourth and Plemons fifth. Round 2 saw Ebert and Mitchell run 1-2 all race, before finishing in the same order, ahead of McDonald, who got past Heitritter just before the Competition Yellow when Heitritter slowed for the flag too soon. Heitritter would finish fourth, and Niko Lopez rounded out the top five.
In Junior 1 Kart, Brayden Fischer led early in Round 1, but was passed by Brody Graham on lap four when Fischer got squirrelly. Fischer got back by on lap six, though, and stayed ahead for the win, with Graham taking second; Irie Bailey was third, Bryanna Fischer was fourth, and Rhyan Denney was fifth. In Round 2, Jake Bollman led the field wire to wire for the win, but the other positions within the top five were shaken up when several drivers jumped the restart after then Competition Yellow. The restart was allowed to stand, though, and so it ended up being Denney in second, Brayden Fischer in third, Gus Hamblin in fourth, and Bailey in fifth.
The new Production 1000 UTV class was consistently the largest in the series in 2017, with nearly 30 UTVs taking the track in Round 1. Brandon Arthur had things figured out in this class on the first race weekend, as he moved up from fourth to first in less than one lap early on in Round 1. Arthur led the rest of the way to get the win, ahead of Myles Cheek, Dustin Nelson, Jason Weller, and Brock Heger. Arthur needed a little longer to get to the lead in Round 2, but managed to get there from third nonetheless, before taking the win once again to sweep the weekend. With several name drivers adding this class to their schedule in 2017, Paul O'Brien was something of a dark horse surprise in second in this one, while Heger took third, Ronnie Anderson fourth, and Keith Brooks fifth.
History doesn't always repeat itself exactly, but it can certainly help predict some possibilities for the future, and even if next weekend's races at Wild Horse Pass give us several all-new stories, it's still fun to look back at where we as a series have come from. We'll be taking a look back at each of our tracks during the year, so be sure to look for the next Blast from the Past article, ahead of our Estero Beach rounds, sometime next month.
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. Our events can be seen on CBS, CBS Sports Network, MAVTV, and Live all season long on LucasOilRacing.TV. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series: This is Short Course! For more information, please visit www.LucasOilOffRoad.com, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter in our Newsletter Signup section of the home page.
Written by Scott Neth for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series