Corona, CA (May 22, 2018) – Following a five-week break, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, returned to action this weekend, as the beautiful Estero Beach Hotel/Resort hosted Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2018 championship here in Ensenada, Baja California, México. This very unique track has evolved a bit over the years, as outside dirt has been brought in to be mixed with the natural sand that first made up the entirety of the lap. The result is a heavy, loamy track, one which develops a very heavy cushion, but which still gets torn up deeply on the preferred line in several of the corners. All this makes for a challenging course, but one which many drivers relish, and with the sun emerging just in time to make for a beautiful day of racing along the Pacific coast, it was a great day to be at the races.
First out on track today were the Turbo Production UTVs, and it was Corry Weller leading the pack after lap one in the #748 DragonFire Racing/Team Full Throttle Battery CanAm, ahead of Eliott Watson, Andy Ives, Paul O'Brien, and Robert Van Beekum. An issue on the left rear of Ives' machine allowed O'Brien to catch and pass him down the inside at turn seven on lap three, and that issue got a lot worse for Ives in the rhythm section on the next lap, as an entire shock came apart, collapsing the suspension on that corner, ending Ives' race then and there. The track stayed green through the end of the lap, though, and on that same lap, O'Brien got by Watson on the inside at turn five to move up to second in the #711 Weller Racing/AiM Sports CanAm. The full course yellow then flew due to Ives' being stopped in the rhythm section, and it would be Weller, O'Brien, Watson, Van Beekum, and Bradley Morris (filling in for Chance Haugen) in the top five for the restart. On the restart, Van Beekum got by Watson for third, with Trevor Leighton also moving up, as he passed Morris for fifth in the #703 Kryptek/Holz Racing Products Polaris. Later in the same lap, O'Brien got by Weller down the inside at turn seven to move into the lead, but two laps later, he got crossed up at the end of the rhythm section, which allowed Weller to get back by and re-take the lead. These two continued to battle it out over the next lap, as they also pulled away from the rest of the pack. However, at the start of the final lap, O'Brien then slowed a bit, allowing Weller to ease clear and take the win under less pressure. O'Brien still held on for second, with Van Beekum rounding out the podium in third in his #764 R-N-R Steel/Xtreme Machine & Fabrication Polaris, Watson in the #713 Tom Watson, Inc./Method Race Wheels CanAm, and Leighton.
Following a four-truck inversion of this morning's qualifying results, points leader Rob MacCachren would start first here in Pro 2 Unlimited this afternoon, alongside Brian Deegan on the front row. While Deegan would make an uncharacteristic backwards slide down the order over the opening lap, MacCachren got a great start, and led the way after lap one, ahead of defending champion Jeremy McGrath, this morning's top qualifier RJ Anderson, Bradley Morris, and local favorite Rodrigo Ampudia. Jerett Brooks moved his #77 Rigid Industries LED Lighting/Bilstein Shock Absorbers Ford past Ampudia for fifth in the early laps, while just ahead, Anderson was all over McGrath on laps three and four, with Morris lurking just behind, waiting to capitalize should either of those two make a mistake. Anderson got past McGrath through the rhythm section between turns three and four on lap five, and Morris nearly got by down the inside at turn four, but was just held off by McGrath. The Competition Yellow fell at the end of the next lap, and at this point, it was still MacCachren leading in the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Industrial Power Tools Ford, ahead of Anderson in the #37 Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR truck, McGrath, Morris, and Brooks in the top five. MacCachren made another nice start on the restart, but Brooks made an even better one, as he got past both Morris and McGrath to move up to third by turn two. Morris also got by McGrath, and managed to pass Brooks back down the inside at turn seven to move into a provisional podium spot, just ahead of a full course yellow. That yellow was brought out by an onboard fire for Brian Deegan; Deegan was out of the truck quickly, and the flames were extinguished in short order, with racing then resuming soon afterwards. After the restart, McGrath developed an issue on the right front of his truck, which caused smoke to begin billowing from that corner. The issue ultimately sent McGrath into the Hot Pits on lap 10, dropping him out of the top five. Over the final two laps, Anderson closed significantly on MacCachren, but couldn't get close enough to try for a pass, and so it was MacCachren who got his first win on this track, ahead of Anderson, Morris in the #24 K&N Filters/Kicker Audio Ford, Brooks, and Ampudia in the #36 Lucas Oil/Papas & Beer Ford.
Next up were the Production 1000 UTVs, and it was defending champion Brock Heger leading the way in the #1 Maxxis Tires/Icon Vehicle Dynamics Yamaha at the end of lap one, ahead of Paul O'Brien, Myles Cheek, Keith Brooks, and Ronnie Anderson. Lap two saw O'Brien bounce off track to the left and spin in the rhythm section, dropping him clear back to last place. Heger inherited a big lead as a result, but that gap was short-lived, as a full course caution fell at the end of lap two when Josh Bergman rolled in turn four. It was now Heger, Cheek, Brooks, Anderson, and Mickey Thomas in the top five for the restart, which the field botched and had to try a second time. On the second go around, Jason Weller moved his #948 DragonFire Racing/Lucas Oil Racing TV Yamaha up to fifth, and despite having to battle closely with Thomas for that position over the next lap, Weller came out ahead, still holding that fifth place. The next lap saw Anderson make a nice inside pass on Brooks at turn five to take over third in the #952 Walker Evans Racing/Holz Racing Products Polaris, and when the Competition Yellow fell at the end of that lap, it was now Heger, Cheek in the #957 Walker Evans Racing/CMI Precision Machining Polaris, Anderson, Brooks in the #942 Raceline Wheels/Eibach Springs Yamaha, and Weller in the top five.
Weller got by Brooks for fourth on the restart lap, but Brooks passed him back in turns two and three to re-take the position. Thomas then passed Weller in the rhythm section on the next lap to move into fifth, while up front, Cheek was now all over Heger in the race for the lead. A full course yellow emerged at the end of lap seven after Trevor Leighton had broken his front suspension and come to a stop on track. On the restart lap, O'Brien got by Thomas briefly early on the lap, but then rolled in the rhythm section, bringing the caution flag out once again. On the subsequent restart, Thomas and Travis Rasmussen were both black flagged for jumping the previous restart, so when Weller passed Jacob Rosales on this most recent restart, it was essentially for fifth place, as Thomas then hit the Hot Pits to serve his black flag at the end of the lap. Up front, the top three were very close at the end of the lap, but over the next lap, Heger and Cheek began to move clear of Anderson to make it a straight dog fight for the lead. Cheek got alongside Heger out of turn seven on the penultimate lap, and was only half a car length behind as the two hit the front straight. Heger's car just had the legs, though, and pulled ahead once again as they began the final lap. Further back, Nathan Barry had moved up to fifth, but then rolled hard in the rhythm section on the final lap, forcing yet another full course caution. The field then botched the restart yet again, this time sending Johnny Spar up onto the right side k rail. The field got the next restart right, though, and with only one lap remaining, Cheek had to try and make something happen. Cheek made his move at turn four, diving inside with a very nice attempt, but Heger countered with a skillful outside-inside sweep to go back past Cheek as they exited the corner. From there, Heger held control, and brought it home for the win, evening the win tally with Cheek at one apiece for the season so far. Cheek finished second, with Anderson third, Brooks fourth, and Weller fifth.
After having missed the opening round at Chandler due to funding issues, Kevin McCullough was back here in Ensenada to see if he could add to his record of winningest Pro Buggy driver at this track. McCullough led the field, unsurprisingly, at the end of lap one in the #62 DA8/Stapleton Roofing Foddrill, with Darren Hardesty Jr. running second in the #99 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/Off Road Warehouse Alumi Craft, Bud Ward third, Eliott Watson fourth, and Trevor Briska fifth. Watson got past Ward for third with an inside pass at turn seven on lap two, but the field then held their positions, at least amongst the top five drivers, all the way to the Competition Yellow, which fell at the end of lap five. Watson and Ward had been hounding Hardesty Jr. on laps four and five, but they weren't quite as close after the restart. Meanwhile, Briska over-rotated at turn two and dropped back several spots on the restart lap, which moved Trey Gibbs up to fifth in the #15 KB Engineering/Kicker Audio Alumi Craft. Two corners later, the leader McCullough ran just a bit wide into turn four, which gave Hardesty Jr. a chance to bully his way by a bit and take the lead. Perhaps a bit rattled, McCullough then gave up second to Watson, who got by on the inside at turn five, with Ward then quickly following suit as they exited the corner. McCullough had suddenly dropped from first to fourth, but was right back up and challenging Ward for third on the next lap. On lap nine, Watson then over-rotated exiting turn four, which let Ward slip by, and McCullough then got by as well into the next turn. From there, the top five again held station, and it was Hardesty Jr. who got the win, ahead of Ward in the #17 Ramona Tire/Horsepower Ranch Funco, McCullough, Watson in the #3 Tom Watson, Inc./BFGoodrich Tires Alumi Craft, and Gibbs.
Pro Lite was a relatively quiet affair this afternoon, and it was Christopher Polvoorde leading proceedings after lap one in the #94 Steel-It/TIS Wheels Nissan, with Brandon Arthur sitting second in the #6 MAVTV/Toyo Tires Chevrolet, Cole Mamer third in the #35 Falken Tires/Bilstein Shock Absorbers Ford, Ryan Beat fourth in the #51 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/KMC Wheels Chevrolet, and Brock Heger fifth in the #12 Maxxis Tires/Lucas Oil Ford. Over the first four laps, Polvoorde and Arthur started to move clear of the pack in a race for the lead, but the top five all held their positions through the Competition Yellow, which came out at the end of lap five. On the restart lap, Mamer biked in turn two, which allowed Beat to get by and take over third. The next lap then saw Arthur get very close down the inside of Polvoorde at turn five, but Polvoorde managed to keep Arthur at bay. Arthur was still very close two laps later, but couldn't get quite close enough, as Polvoorde kept his head and stayed out front to collect his first win in Pro Lite Unlimited- congratulations Christopher! Second was Arthur, third went to Beat, Mamer finished fourth, and Heger rounded out the top five.
The opening lap of Pro 4 Unlimited saw early leader Doug Mittag over-rotate at turn two and catch the inside burm (and a large tractor tire) at the exit of the corner, causing him to roll. Rob MacCachren and Scott Douglas also piled into the scene, but didn't sustain any serious damage, and the whole incident brought out a full course yellow. Despite this all happening on the first lap, the field, which had kept racing clear to the end of the first lap, went into single file order under the full course caution that then fell, and restarted in the order they were running in at the end of that first lap. That meant it would be Greg Adler, RJ Anderson, Kyle LeDuc, Adrian Cenni, and Randy Minnier in the top five for the restart, and on that restart lap, LeDuc got by Anderson at turn two to take over second spot. Three laps later, smoke was now visible from LeDuc's exhaust, but the issue didn't seem to slow the defending champion. Further back, Douglas had now moved up to fifth, ahead of a full course yellow, which fell at the end of lap five. On the restart lap, LeDuc got by Adler coming out of turn five to take the lead, before he then began to pull away out front on the next lap. Anderson then began to hound Adler over laps seven and eight, before getting by with a nice low line into turn one on lap nine. Meanwhile, MacCachren had now gotten by Douglas for fifth, and on laps 10 and 11, he then closed right in on Cenni in the battle for fourth. MacCachren had to check up at turn five to avoid hitting Cenni, though, and dropped back a bit, easing the pressure on Cenni, if only slightly.
Up front, Anderson had slowly been catching LeDuc, but suddenly, on the final lap, he got by LeDuc in turns one and two to take the lead. LeDuc chased back in the rhythm section, and forced his way down the inside at turn four, hooking his left side over Anderson's right rear as the two slid to a sideways stop in the middle of the corner. Adler piled in sideways right behind them, and while the two frontrunners then re-fired and continued, Adler struggled to get moving again, which allowed Cenni and Douglas to get by. Anderson looked to now have a solid cushion over LeDuc, but he suddenly slowed out of turn five, as a serious mechanical issue had struck his truck. LeDuc swept by and into the lead, which he held up to the checkered flag. However, LeDuc was then given the black flag for his part in the final lap contact between himself and Anderson, and that put LeDuc back to the last finishing position, sixth, of those who'd completed all twelve racing laps. This moved Cenni, who'd gone by the limping Anderson around the outside in the final corner, the win, his first in many years, in the #11 Phit Alkaline Drink Mixer/Maxxis Tires Ford. Anderson finished up second in the #37 Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR truck, with Douglas third in the #27 AMSOIL/Rusty's Off-Road Products Ford, Adler fourth in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/AMP Research Ford, and MacCachren fifth in the #21 Makita Industrial Power Tools/Vision Wheel Ford.
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