Corona, CA (April 13, 2018) – As the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, heads into the first round of this, our tenth season, we felt it might be a good idea to give our fans a few things to keep an eye out for as they head into the stands to see this season opener. Of course there is always a lot to catch one's eye at any of our races, but we thought we'd give you a few specifics (certain drivers, vehicles, teams, and track features) to pay special attention to out at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park this Saturday.
Amongst the Pro classes, all eyes will likely be on defending champion Kyle LeDuc in Pro 4. LeDuc had a successful pairing with fellow builder and former driver Robby Woods with their "Evvo" collaboration last season, and the two have teamed up again to create another all-new truck for LeDuc to campaign this season. How different this new truck will be is still not widely known, but LeDuc's talent should help carry the new creation while any early season bugs are getting worked out. Bryce Menzies, who is injured and will be filled in for this weekend by Carl Renezeder (is this the world's shortest retirement?) should be a solid bet for a top result here, as a proven truck and near-faultless driver should help carry him to the front, but young hotshoes Doug Mittag and RJ Anderson should also give LeDuc and Menzies a push, as should returning veteran Scott Douglas.
Menzies (Renezeder) and Rob MacCachren (who will only be racing Pro 2 this season) should also be pretty safe picks for solid results in Pro 2, but this class will also being seeing one of its most stacked fields in years, and regular frontrunners like Brian Deegan and RJ Anderson should be right in the mix. Jeremy McGrath will be the man with the target on his back, and will certainly be out to prove that last year's championship wasn't a fluke. Jerett Brooks could also be a solid contender, as he will focus his efforts solely on this class in 2018, and class newcomer Brandon Arthur could also make things interesting.
With 2-time defending champ Brooks moving strictly to Pro 2 this year, a major void will be left to fill in Pro Lite, and Brock Heger seems the most likely driver to fill it. Heger had great speed and much-improved consistency and reliability in 2017, and as Heger will once again join forces with Jeremy McGrath in the JM2 team, there's every chance that Heger could have a dominant year in the class. However, other drivers like Ryan Beat and Brandon Arthur will certainly have something to say about that, as they should also be regularly finding themselves atop the podium this year, and young up and comers like Christopher Polvoorde, Hailie Deegan, and Ronnie Anderson should all be vying for consistent podiums and possible wins as well.
In the buggy ranks, another extremely consistent season for Darren Hardesty Jr. saw the young man take his second consecutive title last year, and there's every chance that Hardesty Jr. could make it a three-peat this year. However, Eliott Watson showed very good speed last year, as well as improved consistency, as did Sterling Cling, and it's these two who will likely give Hardesty Jr. the best run for his money in 2018. Bud Ward will also be a factor, and the wild card is almost certainly class rookie Trey Gibbs, whose very solid reputation in Modified Kart could help carry him into the upper echelon of this class.
In the UTV classes, defending Production 1000 UTV champion Brock Heger won't have to contend with one of his best adversaries, Brandon Arthur, this year, but will still have to stave off solid challengers Jason Weller and Paul O'Brien, as well as Ronnie Anderson and Myles Cheek, both of whom will need to add consistency to their speed in order to be real championship threats. Meanwhile, the new Turbo Production UTV class is wide open at this point, but drivers like Corry Weller, Eliott Watson, Ronnie Anderson, and Paul O'Brien should certainly make their presence felt right from the get-go.
As for the karts, the aging out of drivers like Trey Gibbs, Cole Keatts, and Chris Nunes from Modified Kart will certainly leave the opening up of opportunities, and Brody Eggleston and Ricky Gutierrez seem the most logical candidates to step up, though Connor Barry and Luke Knupp could also surprise some folks. By contrast, Barry seems the likely driver to walk away with the Junior 2 Kart top spot, though a hoard of other young drivers, including Ethan Ebert, Nick Plemons, and the incoming Broedy Graham (from Junior 1 Kart), among others, could all be spoilers. Junior 1 Kart looks more open, though Jake Bollman and Riley Hoffman both have experience running near the sharp end of the field.
Finally, we come to the track itself. Here in Chandler, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park has been trimmed down to become the shortest lap on the circuit in recent years, and also includes a unique mixture of high- and low-speed sections, as well as one of the series' best opportunities for passing under braking. Out of turn one, the field will streak at high speed up to the large, banked turn two, where drivers have several lines to choose from, making passing easy there within the first few laps, as well as after any restart. However, this corner also catches many drivers out, as late-race ruts begin to throw drivers out to the outside wall somewhat unexpectedly. Next, the drivers then soar over the large ski jump out of turn two, before braking hard into turn three. As mentioned before, this is perhaps one of the best spots on the calendar to make passes happen, so keep your eyes glued to this corner, especially in the closing laps of any race. Finally, the big bowl that is turn four leaves little chance for much passing, but desperate drivers have been known to make things happen here, as well as in the run off the corner and onto the front straight, so watch for some action here as well.
This track has always made for lots of exciting racing, and you should expect no less here this weekend. It's been a long off-season, made even longer by the unfortunate cancellation of our original Round 1 at Glen Helen, so our drivers will be ready and raring to go once the green flag drops this Saturday. Get out and enjoy the races; we'd love to see you here!
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