Sparks, NV (July 19, 2018) – As the 2018 season of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, rolls up to the halfway point this weekend at Wild West Motorsports Park in Sparks, NV, just outside Reno, a lot will be on the line for the drivers in our series, and the stage set for the weekend will be a unique one. For starters, this will be a night race, which always brings its own unique set of challenges, and this weekend, there will only be one round of racing, rather than the usual two. In some peoples' eyes, that means there will be extra pressure to perform, as there won't be a second chance to bounce back on day two from a poor performance on day one. However, there also won't be a next day to worry about, so drivers will be less likely to hold anything in reserve once the green flag drops. Moreover, drivers will want to head into the second half of the season on a positive note, and a strong race here can help set the tone for a push to maintain a points lead in the second half of the year, or to try and bounce back from a rough start to the season. Of course every race is important, but with our shortened calendar of just 11 races this season, every race counts a little more, and the halfway point of the year will certainly be a race that no driver will want to do poorly in.
One of the closest championship races in the series right now is happening in Pro 4, with the top three drivers being separated by a scant nine points. Although winless so far this season, RJ Anderson's consistency has kept him atop the standings, though his lead is just four points over his closest friend in the series, Doug Mittag. Wins have been spread evenly amongst the field, with a different driver taking the win in each of our five rounds so far this season, but third placed Kyle LeDuc, our defending champion, will be looking to notch another victory after securing his new Evvo 2 truck's first official win in Wheatland last month. Just nine points back of Anderson, LeDuc will look to win in Reno, but Anderson will as well, and hopes the good fortune that brought him his first Pro 4 win at this very track last year will carry through to Saturday night's Round 6. Adrian Cenni and Scott Douglas have also scored a win apiece this year, and still have an outside shot at the championship, but will need to hope for some bad luck to hit the three frontrunners if they are to close the gap back down; Cenni and Douglas are locked evenly at 28 points back behind Anderson.
In contrast to Pro 4, the championship race in Pro 2 has, so far, been something of a one-man show. Rob MacCachren has dominated the field, winning four of the first five races, and finished fourth in the other, and while second placed RJ Anderson took the other win and has two poles this season, he already sits 21 points back going into Reno this weekend. Anderson will be looking to close the gap on Saturday night, and if last year's results at this track are anything to go by, Anderson may just do some damage, as he took a win here in Round 9 in 2017. MacCachren, meanwhile, finished outside the top five both days last year, and his next two closest points challengers, defending champion Jeremy McGrath and Jerett Brooks, had an average finish of second (a third and a win) and third (a fourth and a third) last year, so they could possibly claw back some points as well; they currently sit 33 and 34 points out, respectively. Lying a lowly seventh in the title race after some disastrous luck so far this year, Brian Deegan will also hope to turn the tide in Reno, where he took second and fifth last year.
Another class whose leader has stretched out a sizeable early gap is Pro Lite, where Ryan Beat is finally putting together the type of season that so many of us knew he's been capable of. Currently atop the standings by 22 points, Beat has three wins, a second, and a third- that's right, he's yet to finish off the podium this year! Behind Beat, Christopher Polvoorde and Brandon Arthur are just one point apart in the race for second, and both look to be the only other drivers who have a chance of challenging Beat for the crown this year. Mickey Thomas and Cole Mamer are 47 and 59 points back, and Brock Heger, whom many had pegged to win the title this year, is another driver whose suffered a run of bad luck this year, and currently sits 72 points out in sixth place. Last season, Heger was the most consistent driver on this track (besides Jerett Brooks, who has retired his Pro Lite this year), taking a win and a second place finish in 2017 (Brooks did the same); Beat, Polvoorde, and Arthur each had only one top five finish for the weekend during our last trip north to Reno.
Despite a tough first round, defending champion Darren Hardesty Jr. still heads the field in the open wheel ranks, and has a solid 15-point buffer over second placed Trevor Briska. These two have stolen all five wins so far this year, though Hardesty Jr. has four of those five, but drivers like Bud Ward (third in points, 26 points back) and Eliott Watson (fourth in points, 28 points back) are also very capable of grabbing wins, and all those behind Hardesty Jr. will need to make the most of Reno and beyond to try and reel him in, as Hardesty Jr.'s consistency has taken him to back to back titles, and his stated goal is to make it a three-peat at the end of this year. Sterling Cling grabbed both wins here last year, but after missing both rounds in Wheatland last month, Cling's title hopes are pretty well gone, and unfortunately for the rest of those hoping to make a run at Hardesty Jr., he was our next best finisher last year, as he took second place both days in 2017. Watson had a pair of thirds and Ward scored a pair of fourths, and they will need to improve on those results come this Saturday night, as will Briska, who finished outside the top five both days last year.
With the largest championship lead of any class so far this year, Brock Heger heads the Production 1000 UTV standings by a massive 28 points over second placed Jason Weller, and by 32 points over third placed Myles Cheek. Heger has scored three wins and two poles already, and scored the win both days here in Reno last year, so the rest of the field has their work cut out for them if they hope to start hunting Heger down. These three have really emerged as the championship hopefuls; Robert Stout sits fourth, another 25 points behind Cheek, and as far as Weller and Cheek are concerned, Weller was the only one who scored a top five finish here in Reno last year, after finishing fourth in Round 9; Cheek was unable to compete here in 2017.
In our newest class, the championship race couldn't be closer, as Paul O'Brien and Corry Weller are locked at 250 points apiece atop the title standings, with the current nod going to O'Brien, who has two second place finishes to Weller's one (both drivers have one win apiece as well). Further back, it's another close race for third, with Eliott Watson and Trevor Leighton just three points apart at 212 and 209 points apiece, respectively. Leighton also has one win this year, while Watson's best result this year is a single third place finish in Round 3 at Estero Beach. As this class is in its first season as part of the National Series, there are no results to analyze from this track last season, so it's anyone's guess to know what will happen on Saturday night; most drivers in this field are still dialing in their vehicles, so the opportunities are wide open for Round 6.
With just three races in the books so far this season (kart classes don't go to our Estero Beach events), there are just three points between championship leader Mason Prater and second placed Brody Eggleston. Further back, Bronsen Chiaramonte sits third, another 19 points back, Luke Knupp is fourth, 30 points off the lead, and John Holtger is fifth, another two points behind Knupp. Between our two frontrunners, Eggleston has the far superior record here last year, with a pair of second place finishes, while Prater finished ninth both days, and Eggleston also has two wins to Prater's one this year, so things look promising for Eggleston. However, Prater has found some terrific consistency this year; his two non-wins were a pair of second place finishes, while Eggleston's non-win was a sixth place- indeed, both drivers have a lot of positivity to draw on as they head into Saturday night's Round 6.
Junior 2 Kart has been all about Connor Barry so far this year, as the young hotshoe has scored convincing wins in all three rounds, leaving him with a commanding 22 point lead heading into Reno. Second place is Ethan Ebert, who has a pair of third place finishes, and third is Holden Heitritter, who has a pair of second place runs; Heitritter is six points behind Ebert. Rhyan Denney (35 points back), Braydon Bentley (42 points back), and Broedy Graham (43 points back) are all also within one win of Barry, but everyone behind Barry will have to step their game up substantially if they hope to make a run at him; in terms of championship leads, Barry's is the most impressive of any class, as he has managed to put 7.3 points per race between himself and the rest of the pack, while Brock Heger (Production 1000 UTV) has moved ahead by 5.6 points per race, tops in the adult classes. Junior karts didn't run here last year, so there aren't any results to analyze or use to project what might happen in either of these classes this year.
It's a close race at the head of the Junior 1 Kart pack, with just four points separating Jake Bollman (161 points) from Ayden Ford (157 points). Bollman has two wins to Ford's one, but Ford has a pair of second place runs, while Bollman's non-win was a fourth place. Our other two championship challengers, Lake Adler and Bergen McGrath, are locked on 142 points apiece, but will need to improve their speed if they hope to challenge Bollman and Ford in Reno.
Unique in several respects, Wild West Motorsports Park is a favorite of many drivers. With only four corners to contend with, this track is much more about wide open, high speed running, and your vehicle's ability to get up and down the massive elevation changes as quickly as possible. From the start/finish line, the track almost immediately climbs steeply uphill to a tight 180 degree left at turn one, and drivers like Kyle LeDuc will be backing their trucks into the corner from midway up the hill or earlier, almost 200 feet before the apex. Once through turn one, drivers leap off of a big jump and down a steep hill, landing just in time to try and set up for a tricky tabletop jump that puts the drivers into a tight, 180 degree right at turn two. After a small jump and a short straight, drivers then enter a long, opening, sweeping, uphill 180 degree left in turn three, where track builders have often put small finger jumps along the inside line, while leaving the outside smooth, in order to give drivers multiple options and tactics for making passes in and after the corner. Out of turn three, the drivers then head up a long, steep uphill pull, which is broken up by a couple of jumps, the second of which sends the drivers into turn four after some 15-20 seconds of hard, wide open uphill pulling, a real test of their engines' durability. Turn four, a downhill, sweeping open hairpin left, is very important to get right, as it's easy to run wide and out into the guard rail, or to loop out and spin down the inside off the corner. Assuming you get it right, the track then heads steeply straight downhill for a long ways, before hitting a tricky tabletop just seconds after the track levels out again. After the tabletop, the drivers have a short sprint to the start/finish line, where they'll be hitting their top speed, well in excess of 100 mph in the faster classes, before starting the lap all over again. Passing is tricky here; the only real braking zones are into turn one and turn four, and most passes occur in these two spots, but any mistakes are critical, and often result in one or more position losses, as the running here is usually very close. Tactics in and out of turn three are also important, as a pass can be made down the inside in the corner, but without enough momentum for the long uphill pull that follows, that position will almost certainly be given right back. It's an exciting track for night racing, and all those in attendance will certainly be treated to some quality racing action when the show rolls into town on Saturday night.
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